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L. & I. J. White

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Tool Talk with Bill Rittner

  Installing a Handle on a Tanged Chisel by Bill Rittner 1 of 2  


Re-handling a tanged chisel is a little more complicated than re-handling a socket chisel.


But it is not above the capabilities of the average woodworker. If you can turn wood then you can accomplish this task.

The chisel and the new handle blank laid out for drilling.

Select a blank big enough to make the handle you want and an inch or so longer than you need. The wood can be just about any hardwood that you like. I find ash, hickory, and hornbeam to be good choices, but certainly not the only woods that would be suitable.

The blank needs to be milled straight and square with ends perfectly square to the sides. If this is not possible, as in my case where I am repurposing an old hickory maul handle, you must round the blank between centers and then cut the ends square to the blank. This is necessary to ensure that your handle blank is parallel to the drillpress spindle which will produce a chisel handle that is straight to the chisel.

The tangs on chisels are most often of rectangular cross section and taper from the bolster to a point.

Three different sized holes are usually sufficient for a good fit. However if the tang is unusually long you may need four or more different sized holes.

This chisel has a 2-5/8″ long tang and three holes are fine for that length. Using dial calipers, a micrometer, or some other accurate means of measurement, measure the narrow width of the tang about 1/4″ from the point. Select a drill bit this size. Then measure the narrow width at about the midpoint of the tang and again about 1/4″ from the bolster and select the appropriate drill sizes to fit these measurements.

Next layout, and mark on your handle blank, the depths of the three drills. The depth of the smallest drill should be about 1/8″ to 1/4″ deeper than the tang is long, approximately half the length of the tang for the midsize drill and about 1/4″ from the end. Now it is on to the drillpress.


Ready to drill the holes for the tang in my hickory handle blank.

Start with a center drill big enough to drill a center whose diameter is just slightly bigger than the measurement across the widest points on your tang at the bolster.

The object here is to leave enough of a center to engage your tailstock live center after final fitting of the tang into your handle blank. Now drill the holes starting with the larger drill, then the midsize drill and finally the smaller drill.

Heating the chisel tang in preparation to burning it into the new handle blank.

Now it is time to get out your propane torch. Put the chisel in a bench vise and hold it near the bolster. The mass of the vise will wick off much of the heat minimizing the possibility of taking the hardness out of the chisel. Put the point of the inner blue cone of the torch flame to the base of the tang. Work the flame all around the tang and up and down its length. You want to concentrate the heat on the base of the tang because this is where most of the metal is.

You do not need to get the tang cherry red. In fact you donít want this as this may take some of the hardness out of the chisel. You only need to get beyond the flash point of the wood which is about 570ļF. When you move the flame up to the point of the tang and you begin to see the metal turn slightly red it is time for the first burn in.

1 of 2  

D. R. Barton

Buck Bros

Winsted Tools


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