Friday, February 1, 2019

Re-Handling Two Socket Chisels

I've needed to make new handles for two chisels for a long time.  I found them both at a garage sale a couple years ago.  One of them had a detached handle and the other had no handle at all.
Stiletto at top with loose handle, unknown maker "Made in USA" at bottom
A while back, I experimented with making a handle sans lathe and had some success, but it was far from perfect.  Now with the bungee lathe it was finally time to make real handles.

First a little about the Stiletto chisel because it's interesting.
This (roughly) 1/4" chisel is quite long ...
... and very thick in cross section (this is a side view)
The part of the handle that fits in the socket was much shorter than the depth of the socket would allow
The heel of the handle has leather washers and a steel ferrule
This combination of back end hardware indicates to me that this chisel was meant to be struck with a metal hammer.  I don't believe this is a mortise chisel.  Look at this side view of the two chisels next to each other.
Stiletto at top
My best guess is that the Stiletto is a light duty mortising chisel - perhaps a sash mortise chisel.  Anyway, on to the re-handling of these chisels.
Take a known diameter rod and insert ...
... to see how far in it went (I did this with 3/8" and 7/16" dowel rods)
Got a model of the socket's interior
Then make a model of the handle and note key diameters
Mark the key locations on the blank
First thing to do is to shape and fit the socket portion.
This took multiple iterations of shaping and testing the fit.
Once the socket part fit properly, shaping the rest was reasonably easy
(and this was literally about the third piece of wood I've ever turned)
I first made a practice handle in some scrap oak.  That came out so well, I almost used it as the final handle.  But it had some plugs that filled holes, so it didn't look very elegant.  And I wanted to use some cherry for looks.
A final fitting before adding some finish
A still-wet coat of BLO - used three coats total over three days
(Excellent use of binder clips, huh?)
The old Stiletto handle was quite short.  I made the new one about an inch longer.
Old and new handles for the Stiletto
And finally, here are the two chisels with freshly made handles.  I'll have to see over time how the cherry holds up.  But I might not be bashing them with a mallet too much.
Glamour shot


  1. Nice work with the bungee lathe. I like the paper clip tip too.

  2. Thanks, Ralph. Those big honkin' binder clips can really come in handy!

  3. Grrr. Ipad, switched to my phone ...
    That Stiletto is indeed a sash mortise chisel, and a very good one indeed :-)
    There should be a small gap between the top of the socket and were the handle transition from handle to wedge shape for the socket. That small detail protect the handle from splitting at the bottom. Gap is roughly 1/8 in or so. Otherwise the shoulder at the bottom of handle would be driven into the socket causing splits.

    Bob on the road. Man its coooocold

    1. Hi Bob - thanks for the verification on type of chisel. I was shooting for a 1/16" to 1/8" gap at the handle transition. I've done three of these now and I get it a little different each time. But each one does have a little gap.

  4. Nice work! I am new to turning also, but have found that the foundational skills of hand tool Woodworking have helped me easily acquire lathe skills. I really liked the way you used known diameters and depth to figure out the taper. I've turned a few tool handles from maple but not a socket chisel (yet). Did you use a skew chisel?


    1. Thanks for the comment, Dusty. I mostly used two small gouges and a straight 1" bench chisel (for scraping cuts on convex areas). I have two small skew chisels - one is about 1/4" wide and the other 1/2". So far I suck at using the skews. They've worked for a few things, but I've also caught it on the wood and left a spiral miscut on a couple pieces. Gotta work on that.

  5. It's amazing the uses for those big paper clips. I use them to run power cords through the eye to help keep them organized.

    For determining the interior diameter, I once read a Chris Shwartz posting. He crmpeled in aluminum foil. Just pointing it out in case it is hand.

    1. I used that aluminum foil technique a couple years ago when trying to make a new handle for a socket chisel without a lathe (though I got the tip from a fellow blogger, not CS). The method works well to get a rough shape/angle, but there's a lot of trial and error in the fitting.