Making Chisel Handles
I was asked recently why re-handling old chisels involves so much black magic - and the truth is, I don't know if there is any magic involved... I've never found it too difficult, unless the quality of the chisel was poor. A friend asked if I could document how I make them, so here it is...
I use a lathe - though there are others who make handles without one, I find using a lathe simpler for me. But it isn't like I have taken out any large sums of money to finance a turning addiction. I'm not into turning bowls, or anything fancy, but a lathe comes in handy for a lot of things including finials, spindles, bed post, and yes, tool handles. But I didn't want to spend any large amount on the things, so what I've got is a Harbor Freight lathe that I bought for $180:
It's mounted on a small bench that's bolted to the wall, which holds it pretty steady. A lathe isn't much good without tools, so I bought a "vintage" set of craftsman turning tools for $35:
They include (from left to right) a parting tools, a round scraper, a pointed scraper, a small spindle gouge, a medium spindle gouge, a large roughing gouge, a small skew chisel and a large skew chisel. I wouldn't recommend the Craftsman brand to anybody - the steel in these is pretty poor. That said - this is basically the same set I learned on years ago, and serves my purposes well. That is my entire gamut of turning tools. If I were to do more than the utilitarian turning I do, it might not be enough.
Tool handles need to be made from good, solid wood such as beech, ash, or hickory. I've glued some up with good results when I haven't had any wood thick enough on hand, but aesthetically its always better to start with wood that is the proper thickness. 5/4 thickness is sometimes enough, but I prefer to start with 6/4. On recent trip to dad's place, he let me have some native North Dakota ash that's perfect for handles:
I square up some pieces to 1-1/2" square or so, cut them to about 7-1/2" in length, and chuck them up in the lathe. I then use my roughing gouge with the lathe set at a slow speed (about 600 rpm) to get the stock to round.