Chisel Handle Fit & Design


If you’ve been woodworking for any length of time, you probably can look back at a chisel or set of chisels that you found easy to use and comfortable. If those were your only chisels, consider yourself lucky because most woodworkers get stuck with hand tools that cause problems.

There is a lot that goes into chisel handles – it’s not all about the wood or steel. Design and fit of chisel handles to your hands are key to comfort; if the tools are not comfortable in your hands, you won’t practice with them. If you don’t practice, you cannot master the craft.

How Dowels Can Help

(Fig. 1) How you grip a dowel provides much of the information needed to properly fit a chisel handle to your hand.

With some chisels you have to constantly adjust your hold. If the chisel sits too far back in your hand, so that your thumb reaches to the bolster or beyond, your control is off as is your comfort level. That’s not good. Also, if you grip a chisel with your thumb properly located and apply pressure, say to pare away dovetail waste, and the chisel slips back into your palm, that’s when blisters appear. You don’t want that, either. There is a proper fit.

Walk into your hardwood supplier or a home-center store and pick up a dowel (Fig. 1). That simple exercise is going to provide you with most of the information you need when it comes to proper chisel handles. A short length of the dowel is even the best story stick for when you turn your own handles.

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5 thoughts on “Chisel Handle Fit & Design

  1. Ron, Before turning ,any tricks you use to get the sizes/pattern for the tapered end to go into a tapered bolster end?….When you do not have the original for a pattern.

    1. Robert,

      Ron’s piece is simply a warm up to how to actually turn the handles and fit them to chisels. The idea was to understand how a tool handle should fit your hand and grip. This part of replacing handles is the same whether you’re turning a replacement for a tang chisel or one with a socket. Next month Ron turns handles and fits both chisel styles.

      1. And Glen means next issue, not next month. There’s already too many other great things in store for next month to overwhelm everyone with more Ron.

  2. No comments about beech? The importance of grain runout?

    There is a big hole in this video–not a word about fitting the handles to sockets or tangs. I have done a fair amount of this, but would love to get another perspective. I hope that you have another video in progress to address this issue?

    Lastly, do only “guys” listen to Ron?

    1. Bill,

      Ron is listing his choice of hardwood based on what is available and what he has as scrap in the shop. A better discussion of grain run out would have been more informing. If, however, you look at the wood examples he shows, he infers that straight-grain woods should be your choice.

      As I mentioned in an earlier comment, in Ron’s next video he turns and completes the re-handling process.

      The term “guys” is all but generic. Would you have preferred he say “woodworkers” or “folks” instead? I can’t imagine using the words “ladies and gentlemen.”

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