OK. So maybe I like old tools. I have plenty of perfectly good chisels. But there’s something about old straight sided firmer chisels that just feels right to me. I don’t know if it’s their lower center of gravity (compared to socket chisels and my Ashley Iles London pattern chisels), their lighter feel (again compared to socket chisels and my Ashley Iles London pattern chisels), their looks, or a combination of all three. Something about these old chisels just appeals to me though.
So several months ago, I spent a couple of months putting together a set of 12 good users from Ebay. None of these chisels cost me more than $10 (including the shipping), and all have very good steel. Many of their handles, however, leave something to be desired. So I decided to re-handle them all. These are tang style chisels with a forged, tapered tang. You might think rehandling them is a simple matter of boring a plumb hole in a turned handle and jaming the chisel in the hole. But every tang has a different taper, and most of these tangs are not perfectly in line with the rest of the tool due to the nature of the hand forging process. So there are a couple of tricks to getting everything just so.
The style of handle I’m making for my set are the same style described in “The Joiner and Cabinet Maker”. They are a tapered octagon shape, but the octagon is not regular (equal on all 8 sides). Each handle is 1/4″ wider than it is thick, and the corner “faces” are not planed as wide as the front and side faces. The handles also graduate in size from the biggest chisel (2″) to the smallest (1/16″). After using this style of handle for awhile on several other old chisels I have, I’ve really grown to like it a lot. The shape keeps the chisels from rolling, they are comfortable in the hand, and the balance of the tool is nothing short of perfect. Of course you can use the tricks I’ll show you in the video for turned handles as well. But if you don’t have a lathe, or you just want to try something different, I think if you try this style, you just might grow to like it more than turned handles too.