Erik Antonberg

Making a Chisel Handle

Making a Chisel Handle

Look around in an antique mall or visit a couple garage sales and you are bound to find a number of socket chisels. Usually they’ll be in pretty rough shape – blades chipped from years of being used to open paint cans and rough, handmade handles (or even handles that have been painted weird colours). As with any chisel, the blade is an easy fix. What sets socket chisels apart though, is that with some basic turning skills you can get yourself a set of beautiful chisels with custom handles for only a few dollars.

Erik Antonberg, Jernbolaget, Chisel, EA Berg

The E.A. Berg chisel I picked up from a garage sale for 50 cents.

I picked up this beautiful 1 1/2″ chisel for 50 cents at a garage sale, along with a few others. It’s an Erik Antonberg chisel, made in Sweden and highly sought after. I decided it was time to make a handle worthy of the steel. I had a small piece of figured cherry that I decided to use for this. The cherry piece was around 1.5″ square and around 4″ long. The length of the stock uses depends on personal preference, but extra length doesn’t add much to the utility of a socket chisel handle.

Lathe Calipers, Gedore

These are my Gedore WWII era calipers that work remarkably well.

A little tip to get a stubborn handle out of the socket is to grab the socket and whack a solid surface with the wooden handle. This should get it nice and loose. The first step is to figure out the dimensions of the tenon at the top of the chisel. There’s two ways to do this – if the old handle fit the socket well, the dimensions can be taken directly. Otherwise a piece of paper rolled to fit the socket and taped will provide a pretty exact dimension of the inside of the socket. I used the old handle, with a bit of tape wrapped around it – better to make it thicker than thinner, and the sanding stages will reduce the thickness further.

Lathe turning chisel handle

Figured cherry stock for the handle

Another important dimension is the outside diameter of the end of the socket. Ideally the diameter of the handle right below the tenon and the outside dimension of the chisel should be the same. With the dimensions taken on calipers/dividers, it was time to centre and set up the work piece on the lathe, and round the  stock using a spindle gouge.

Turning chisel handle, lathe finishing

Turning complete, finishing the handle.

I like to mark key locations of anything I turn using a pencil first, such as the top and bottom of the handle, the start of any coves, beads or patterns, the starting point of the tenon, etc. I then use a parting tool to bring those lines down to their final dimensions, using the calipers to check. Of course, for the top and bottom of the chisel the idea is just to bring the thickness down to a certain level, not so much as to destabilize the work piece.

Homemade chisel handle

The completed handle

With that done I used my spindle gouge to create the shape of the chisel, and my skew to smoothen it. I then sanded up the grits, from 220 to 400 to 1000, followed by burnishing with the wood shavings. I finished the handle with a coat of tung oil followed by several coats of shellac. The final thing to do (after sawing off the handle) is to chuck the handle in the socket and give it a couple sharp raps on the workbench, and it’s done!

Beautiful Chisel handle for socket chisel

Another view of the finished chisel.

Posted by Prairie Artisan Woodshop in Restorations, This and That, Tools, 1 comment