Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Handmade Bench Chisels

I enjoy dabbling in wood working because this allows me to justify owning more tools and making a mess. The essential tool of any woodworker has to be chisels. Which seems odd as many youngsters don't know how to use them and have never owned one of any quality. Most commercial chisels sold today are garbage, a waste of precious resources. I wanted a fine set for my shop but realized I couldn't afford to buy a hand crafted set. So why not make one? I decided on bench chisels with a 6" blade with a 5" handle, 01 tool steel from New Jersey Steel Baron and basic sizes of 1/4", 1/2", 3/4", 1" and 2" (this one is 1075). As with most things in life I don't let a lack of knowledge stop my endeavors, learn by trying. Everything but making the dowels was done in my shop including heat treating of the steel.
Basic shapes cut out of bar stock 2" is .25" thick
the rest are .187"
Rough profiles ground and tangs rounded

The handles caused me a lot of grief in the planning phase as I don't own a lathe. My solution was to go with Japanese style handles with copper ferrules. Bell Forest Products sells exotic hardwood dowels, so round wasn't an issue. I cut them to the length I needed then made a jig for my drill press. This is easy by drilling a hole in a 2x4 scrap and then cutting it in half with a pull saw. The kerf allows me to clamp the dowel on my drill press and make a hole for the tang.
How to make a ferrule? I looked high and low and could only find one offering from Lee Valley Tools, but the shipping was outrageous to Alaska (as usual) so plan b. I discovered that 1/2" copper pipe caps have exactly 5/8" opening which is a size of plug cutter I own already. Used my dowel jig again and the plug cutter to form the piece that will fit inside the ferrule.

Excess wood removed and ferrules fit

I removed the excess wood on the bandsaw by setting the fence up and rolling them trough the cut. I used a belt sander and some steady hands to shape the bottom of the handle into a slight taper down to the ferrule and also round the top off. The handles are affixed with epoxy, sanded to 400 grit and then given two coats of boiled linseed oil and a top coating of wax.
The pattern on the blades was from the clay coating placed on the steel for heat treating to keep the steel from de-carbing. I liked it so didn't clean them up except for the cutting edges that are polished.
As with any first time project I learned a lot and this won't be the last set I ever make. Now I have my own set of  pretty chisels! 

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