My First Socket Chisel Handle (Whee)

Everyone seems to make a handle for a handle-less socket chisel that somehow escaped the wrath of mushrooming by way of hammer. In my case, I had a 1.25″ Stanley 720 sitting around asking for some attention. I thought, hey, well, if I ever have a chance to sit down with a lathe, maybe I’ll make one.

Then Bagathon rolled around, and I asked Tom Conroy about what’s involved in making one, because he actually turns stuff and always has good advice. He said that a lathe is not really necessary, and the socket fit itself always needs a bit of tweaking, so I might just try to make one without turning.

So I decided that is what I would do, and I finally got around to it. I dug out the handy block of yellow birch that I used for my pigsticker handle, cut off a piece, marked lines through the center of each face, and then cut what sort of looks like a square tenon for the cone where the socket fits:

After tracing the approximate angle line onto each face here, I used my saw rasp to take it down to a cone. This sounds trickier than it is; all you do is work the corners first so that you have an octagonal shape, then refine it until you have a cone.

Then to fine-tune the chisel’s fit, I put the chisel on top of the cone and twisted a little:

The grime inside the socket left marks on the high spots that I could then pare off:

After a few iterations, the chisel fit, and it was off to shaping. I didn’t know what pattern to use, but I like the general contour of those yellow-handled Lee Valley chisels, so I traced that to a piece of paper, then traced that pattern onto each face:

Next time, before doing anything, I’ll mill the block down to its final extent so that I don’t have to remove as much. Because the block was much wider than the ultimate handle width, I had to saw two parallel faces off and re-mark the pattern.

But even with this, the shaping went relatively quickly, first getting down to a squarish profile:

Then doing the octagon thing again to get to a refined curve, and finally some files and sandpaper to get it smooth, I had something that looked like a handle. Here’s the more-or-less end result before finishing:

It’s not perfectly round, but it’s fairly close. I’m not sure I want perfectly round. The next handle I make will probably have a sort of oval profile.

Tom was right. This wasn’t hard at all, and it didn’t take much time, either. The only thing that was a little bit of a pain was holding the handle in place when it began to take final shape. I had to improvise some jaws to fit in the vise for that.

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