Be sure to visit the Hand Tool Headlines section - scores of my favorite woodworking blogs in one place.  Also, take note of Norse Woodsmith's latest feature, an Online Store, which contains only products I personally recommend.  It is secure and safe, and is powered by Amazon.


Forming the Handle

The remainder of the handle is formed using some very basic hand tools:

Rasps and files, followed by sandpaper.  Some people will look at this stage of the project as drudgery - but I find it the most exciting.  It's during these sessions that you start to discover some of the old "tricks" of the trade, many now lost to time only to be rediscovered accidentally by the occasional woodworker engaging in pursuits such as these.  Don't worry, I won't wax philosophic about that crap, I'll let the read engage it on their own.

The first round in shaping the handle is using the coarsest rasps to remove the most material, as above.  I like the light from a north facing door to help me see the contour develop.  One thing to watch out for here is spelching (yes - that is a real word! - I'm just not sure on which planet...).  Spelching is basically where the end grain is crushed - where it may feel smooth, it has that "messed up " look to it.  It's caused by using too much pressure, then not removing enough wood with the file to cover the damage done with the rasp.  I tried to get a photo of it, but couldn't get a satisfactory one - but if you use a rasp, it is something you know about.

After the rasps, files are used to finish out the shape and smooth the coarse cuts left by the rasps (and spelching, hopefully!).  The process is continued on both sides of the hand grip.

After the grip is formed, I add a few small details, like rounding off the bottom of the handle where the blade protrudes:

You need to be careful not to cause tear out - use the file from each side, working towards the center... Hey!  Is that one of those "old tricks" mentioned above?

I also use a file to create a pair of reveals at the top of the handle where the back protrudes:

Why were these put there?  mostly in case the slot for the blade was off center.  Putting a reveal like this would make it less visually apparent.  Another "old trick"!

When finished shaping, I sand the handle starting with 80 or 100 grit sandpaper, finishing with 150 grit if I want to do any carving on the handles, or 220 grit if I don't.  If I'm not going to do any carving on the handle, it's ready for the finish, which I'll cover in another segment.