Purpose of leather shock washers

I recently finished removing (4) 1/2" layers of fir from a pair of glulam beams (for my workbench, but that's another story). I did this by making lots of 1/2" deep saw cuts across the beam faces, then using some bench chisels to waste away the majority of the wood. Lots of pounding involved.
My query revolves around the durability, or lack thereof, of the leather shock washers on the striking ends of the chisel handles. I need to preface my question by noting that the chisels have been passed down to me from my great-grandfather's toolbox. He was a carpenter who built his own house in 1906 in California. The chisels have the original handles and leather shock washers, and most likely date back to somewhere around 1900. Unfortunately, even though I was using a wooden mallet, I destroyed one of the washers before I noticed, and the second chisel's washers are pretty beat up, too.
I thought the washers were supposed to protect the handles. Were they falling apart because they're 100 years old, or because they do that anyway?
Now I need to replace the washers. Should I use some kind of leather again, or maybe switch to brass rings? Metal rings might protect the handles, but would beat up the mallet. Any idears? Also, if leather is correct, what is the best kind? I possibly have a source of free shoe sole leather scraps, which would seem to be ideal, being fairly hard and tough.
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Personally, if I had a "heritage" tool, I would restore it to as close to original condition as I could. I would go with the sole leather. Glue the leather first, then a light oil of neatsfoot on the leather tip should do it. Make sure you oil it; dry leather is brittle leather.
I am not being ugly here, but why were you using nice chisels to do a nasty chore like table top removal? For something like that, the old beaters (you probably have) sharpened on the grinder would have worked better as you could have used a regular hammer and beat the hell out of them.
Just wondering...
Robert
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1) I didn't expect the washer to come apart like that. I stopped beating on it before the handle was ruined. I'll be able to rehab the butt end still.
2) I'm not a tool collector. I'm a tool user. I have multiple copies of some planes and chisels, but the most I have of any one tool is may (4) #4 planes, two of which are real crap (like Sears Handyman) that I use on dirty wood. All of my tools are users, not museum items. The best thing I have is a Lie Nielsen jack rabbet plane, a birthday present, but I feel that in general, tools were made to be used, so I use them. I have a lathe, and I can make new handles if I break them.
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Scritch wrote:

I don't have an answer to your question, nor do I really care... but that is the coolest thing ever.
--

-MIKE-

"Playing is not something I do at night, it's my function in life"
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Sounds as though you were abusing the chisels.
The leather may be under warranty though, Check with the manufacturer.
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Ed Pawlowski wrote:

Uh, what part of "100 years old" did you miss?
--
--
--John
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"J. Clarke" wrote

Ed has been known to exercise some dry wit from time to time.
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Well, if it's dry wit, it's so dry that it's thoroughly mummified.
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it was sort of a "shift of wit", I think..
mac
Please remove splinters before emailing
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Lee Michaels wrote:

But there are people who do not recognize humor unless they can hear the canned laughter. I have lived with one for thirty something years.
--
Gerald Ross
Cochran, GA
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Gerald Ross wrote:

Perhaps you need to work on your delivery?
--
--
--John
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ahh... Jay Leno fans.... if the canned stuff doesn't work, the shoulder shrug and outstretched hands might..
mac
Please remove splinters before emailing
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Uh, none at all. Did you hear a whooooshing sound?
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I fear that this is a very well-known old wive's tale.
I have it on the authority of a chisel manufacturer that the difficulty of fitting a handle so that it perfectly abuts the flange of the tang is so great that a leather washer is inserted to accommodate/disguise any small error.
To me this is the only explanation that makes sense.
Sorry to be a nay-sayer,
Jeff
--
Jeff Gorman, West Yorkshire, UK
email : Username is amgron
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Bah! You just destroyed the last illusion I had in life. Go away and don't come back.
:)
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It was my impression that the original poster was referring to the striking surface, on the butt of the handle, which (to prevent splintering) was often turned down so that a leather torus could be centered, and glued onto the end-grain, then lacquered to stiffen it. I've made such handles, with a bit of shoe-sole-like leather, and it's not hard to do, nor should repair be difficult. The hard part is finding a suitable punch to make the center hole in the leather (the outer edge can be trimmed/sanded smooth against the handle after assembly).
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". . .suitable punch to make the center hole in the leather" A piece of metal tubing same O.D. as center peg, then run a countersink in it until sharp. Alternately, just spin the O.D. on a grinder, with the I.D. being same size as peg. Former method preferred.
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I'd buy the Craftsman line of pounding chisels with the black platic handles and shank all the way thru. Although they do not sharpen up as deadly sharp as a good paring chisel, they are very tough and reasonable price. Also: free replacement if you bust 'em, and I have. Save the heirloom set for a bit lighter work, such as finishing rabbets or splice joints in timbers. And, yes, I would try to replace the leather with belly hide from a shoemaker or harness shop, put on wet and let to shrink onto the center peg.
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