Chisel Handle wood choices

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I recently picked up a set of old socketed chisels with very nasty handles. I am planning to make a new set of handles on the Delta lathe I just bought. What is the best choice of wood for the handles. Someone suggested ash. Is there other options to consider? Also, is the leather rings on the end of the old handles for hand protection or just for ornamental purposes?
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Hi Mike,
Ash is a great wood for handles that have to take a bending stress - it's particulary tough in this direction. That's why you'd use it for the spokes of cartwheels or pickaxe handles. However, it isn't particularly hard when you're bashing it on the end grain as you would if you were driving it with a chisel.
The preference for chisels which had to take this kind of punishment - in the UK at least - was boxwood - this is a hard, dense wood derived from a shrub, rather than a full-blown tree, usually.
Having said that, many chisels designed for hard work - like mortice chisels, for example - had beech handles. Not as hard as box, but I have a set of beech-handled mortice chisels which must be 80 years old at least, which are still giving sterling service.
The leather washer found between the bolster and the handle of older chisels was designed to act as a shock-absorber on those chisels which were designed to be used with a mallet for heavy work.
All in all, I'd say that if you're designing handles for light hand work, rather than mallet work, you don't need the leather washer and you can get away with any hardish wood which won't split when you drive the chisel tang in. I have chisels with handles made from apple, holly and walnut, as well as the box and beech I have mentioned. The Japanese use Red Oak.
HTH,
Cheers,
Frank

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Mike asks:

Ash is good. Hickory is good. Boxwood is great (if you can find it and afford it). Purpleheart is excellent. The list really goes on. Among others that might do well are hard maple, Pacific madrone, pau rosa, pau marfim, degame, American hornbeam, hackberry, greenheart, satinwood, canalete, dogwood, persimmon, and a true host of others, including white and live oaks.
Charlie Self "Politics: A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage. " Ambrose Bierce
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Charlie Self wrote:

Speaking o' which... I see lots o' references to boxwood in various contexts. Is this some British/Euro tree species I've never seen, or is it the same as the ordinary, ubiquitous boxwood shrub I have growing in front of the house?
The thing is rather sad, I've not had much luck rejuvinating it, and it's getting decidedly ugly. If I could turn it into some good handles, that would be an argument in favor of replacing it with an oak-leaf hydrangea or other similar.
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Silvan asks:

Don't know if it's the sampe species you've got aorund the house--Buxus sempervirens. AKA Turkey boxwood, Abysinnian Boxwood, Circassian boxwood. Grows in Europe, North America, and western Asia. Tree grows to a height of 20-30 feet, max. Anything over 8" diameter is nearly impossible to find.
If you find your own, dry it slooooooooowly (otherwise, it splits, surface checks and just generally doesn't work out). Nicely stable once dry, though.
Hard to work because it's hard and sometimes has irregular grain. A very light yellow, fairly uniform throughout, with heartwood and sapwood hard to tell apart.
American boxwood is another name for our flowering dogwood. Uses include things that make me want to bang my head on the desk for all the dogwood I've trimmed and tossed over the years. Use to be used for spools and bobbin threads, pulleys, golf club heads (shades of persimmon!), similar jobs that demand a hard, tough wood that doesn't come in large sizes. I'm going to cut down my wife's favorite some day...yeah, sure I am.
Charlie Self
"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers." Thomas J. Watson
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Charlie Self wrote:

Yeah, Buxus... It's a Buxus something, but nowhere near as big as what you're talking about. It has to be 30 years old, and the largest trunk is only a couple inches in diameter. Total height maybe 5', and I haven't pruned it in years. Definitely a shrubby habit.

Nah, I know what dogwood is. I'm not a complete idjit. It *is* the state flower in this and many other states after all. Plus I have a bunch of them on my property.

Reminds me. One of my Arbor Day dogwoods died after getting badly damaged in a storm. I saved the trunk for some reason. It's been laying around for a few years now. I think that wil be turned into something interesting on my lathe one day soon.
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Silvan writes:

There are your handles, then.
Charlie Self
"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers." Thomas J. Watson
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Charlie Self wrote:

Oh, that was the OP. I don't need any handles yet.
Is it really worth putting the dogwood back for some day when I do?
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Silvan asks:

Unless you have a better use for a super hard, nearly shockproof wood at the moment, it sure is.
Charlie Self
"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers." Thomas J. Watson
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Charlie Self wrote:

Hmmm... Well, that answers that pretty decisively. I'll hang onto it until I need it.
Maybe I'll re-think the decision not to prune my dogwoods too. I *am* getting sick of mowing under them. :)
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On 05 Nov 2003 14:04:37 GMT, snipped-for-privacy@aol.comnotforme (Charlie Self) scribbled

So you don't piss off your SO too much, Lee Valley has dogwood shuttle blanks. :-)
http://www.leevalley.com/wood/page.asp?SID=&ccurrency=1&pageC230&category=1%2C250%2C43217
Luigi Replace "no" with "yk" twice in reply address for real email address
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Luigi Zanasi responds:

I knew that. It just went away a year or so ago (mentally). And they are cheaper than a divorce (DAMHIKT).
Charlie Self
"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers." Thomas J. Watson
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Grows in Europe, North America, and western Asia. Tree grows to a height of 20-30 feet, max. Anything over 8" diameter is nearly impossible to find.
+ + + It is supposed to go up to 40 feet in the right spot, but good luck finding it! Buxus sempervirens is not native to the America's
Chisel handles for heavy use (mortise chisels) around here were either boxwood or hornbeam (Carpinus betulus). The latter is still used. I am sure Blue beech (Carpinus caroliniana) and hop hornbeam (Ostrya virginiana) would do well also. For a bench chisel there is no end of suitable woods. PvR
I'd keep away from ash for something that will be handled often.
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On Wed, 05 Nov 2003 08:17:42 -0500, Silvan

Probably (our European timber and hedge plant are). It's easy to find, but harder to find in useful sizes. _Very_ expensive to buy.
-- Die Gotterspammerung - Junkmail of the Gods
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have some.
I have some old chisels with elegant original handles that appear to be pearwood. These were made by L. & I.J. White, of Buffalo, NY. A set of patternmakers' incannel gouges have no leather. A pocket chisel has leather. I think the leather is meant to be struck (lightly) with a mallet, which would not be done with the gouges.
The above all have tine and ferrule attachment. A firmer chisel from the same maker has a socket, a plain beech handle, and a steel ring around the striking end. It has been pounded enough to flare the steel. The beech, this protected, has held up fine.
HTH
Rodney Myrvaagnes NYC J36 Gjo/a
"WooWooism lives" Anon grafitto on the base of the Cuttyhunk breakwater light
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Rodney Myrvaagnes wrote:

Nice tools. Even tough they were made in Buffalo, they are very hard to find in this area.
-- Jack Novak Buffalo, NY - USA (Remove "SPAM" from email address to reply)
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I agree (and I think Rodney is guilty of a drive-by). I have a 3" L&IJ White slick (very nice but it weren't cheap), a couple double plane irons (need to make planes for them), and a nice 2" wide bevel edge socket chisel (which, on-topic for this thread, needs a handle; how 'bout a picture Rodney?).

How's the availability of D.R. Barton tools from down the road in Rochester? They're nice too!
Cheers, Mike
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On 5 Nov 2003 19:04:38 -0800, half snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com (Mike) wrote:

posting a picture, and if we get a digital camera better than the keychain camera we have now I will do that.
Sooner or later I will have to go digital just to catalog the collection, but it costs $$$ for a digital camera that will use our macro lens.
The bevel edge socket chisel sounds most like the one I have with a plain beech handle, which may not be original, although it is old. Our bevel-edged chisel, the one I called a "pocket chisel," has a tang and brass ferrule, not a socket.
I guess pictures would make all this clearer. I can make slides with a film camera and mail them to you by snail mail if that would help. Or, if there is a place I can post to, I could scan slides. I have never put pix on the web. I know people do that, but don't know how.
Rodney Myrvaagnes NYC J36 Gjo/a
"WooWooism lives" Anon grafitto on the base of the Cuttyhunk breakwater light
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(Mike) wrote:

Drive-by Gloat. Brother of the Stealth Gloat and cousin to the ordinary Neener.

Well, I certainly understand not having a digi camera. Every time I consider buying one I think about how many tools I can get with that money and then decide to postpone the purchase.

Thanks for the offer but I can probably find some pictures on MJD's archives or via the standard route......Google.
Cheers, Mike
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On 6 Nov 2003 08:08:27 -0800, half snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com (Mike) wrote:

OK, I understand. Yes, gloatable tools. On closer examination this AM, the handles are box, not pear.
The socket chisel handle is beech, and much rougher. It may be a replacement.
Rodney Myrvaagnes NYC J36 Gjo/a
"WooWooism lives" Anon grafitto on the base of the Cuttyhunk breakwater light
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