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Thread: What is your favorite handle profile for bench chisels?

  1. #1
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    What is your favorite handle profile for bench chisels?

    You guys use your hand tools and, particularly chisels, far more than do I. As a part of my efforts to simplify my shop function, rid myself of tools I rarely use, and shed some of the wood I have accumulated, I sold my beloved Blue Spruce dovetail chisels.

    I still have a 4 piece set of standard Narex chisels I have had for several years that I use for day to day tasks. For the money, they are hard to beat - except for the handles, which are cumbersome IMO. I will grind the side bevels of the 6mm and 12mm for any occasional dovetail type work, and convert the 18mm to a fishtail, though I donít foresee much of that in my future.

    That will leave me without bench chisels, so I have ordered the six piece set of Narex premium unhandled chisels and will turn handles for them. But, before I proceed I would like input on your favorite profile for a bench chisel and why you feel that way. Thanks in advance for taking the time to comment.

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  2. #2
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    Realizing that each of us has a different subjective feel about individual handles or handle types and sizes, all I can speak for is what works for me. I specifically chose the Ashley Iles bench chisels for the rounded, slightly "fattish" feel of their handles to my hands. I sold off some older Sorby chisels that probably had the same quality steel in them simply for the better feel of my AI chisels. I have regular sized hands, so someone with large hands may say they don't feel any "fatness". Their length works out for me as well. I wish you luck John in chasing this down.
    David

  3. #3
    John,

    David gave a good answer. The end result needs to be "balanced" whatever that is. Balance is kinda like porn, you may not be able to define it but you know it when you feel it. My chisels with the best "balance" are my pre-war Marples with Boxwood carver handles. Which BTW are very much like David's AI chisels.

    chiselHandle.jpg

    Click it to big it.

    If the maker did not have a lathe (I know you do) the Swiss Made on top is a good alternate.

    ken

    P.S. I just want to add, the best wood is Hornbean. The Boxwood is great but with Hornbean you do not need to worry about using metal hammers unless you go all Conan on your chisels.
    Last edited by ken hatch; 09-04-2020 at 9:04 PM.

  4. #4
    I like these. Don't even need a lathe.

    IMG-7714.jpg
    "For me, chairs and chairmaking are a means to an end. My real goal is to spend my days in a quiet, dustless shop doing hand work on an object that is beautiful, useful and fun to make." --Peter Galbert

  5. #5
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    This is my favored shape when the lathe is cooperating:

    New Handles.jpg

    These handles are seldom tapped with a mallet. The one on the right is a short chisel and often driven with the palm of my hand.

    John, did you like the handles on the beloved chisels? Would those be hard to copy?

    jtk
    Last edited by Jim Koepke; 09-04-2020 at 10:16 PM.
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

  6. #6
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    I got a set of the narex richter a few months ago and really like the handle shape. Like you I found the standard handle to be pretty beefy. I don't like the old 750 socket chisel handles they are too small. In general I realized I prefer a handle that is at least the full length of my hand and slightly rounder than a broom stick, maybe 1 3/8 or so diameter.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Voigt View Post
    I like these. Don't even need a lathe.
    Steve,

    Nice handle. What is the chisel, it looks to be pre-war.

    ken

  8. #8
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    I appreciate the input you guys have given. The undhandled Narex won't arrive until sometime next week, so I still have time. I probably will use ash as I don't have any hornbeam, and I will prep some blanks once I make a decision on shape.

    David, is this the profile of your AI chisels? They do look comfortable and simple to do.
    IMG_5435.jpg

    Ken, those appear to be very similar to the AI chisels, and the octagon shape is very much like the Pfeil, which is this one -
    IMG_5434.jpg

    It is similar to the octagon one that Steve posted, but has more of a swell in the overall shape. I have several Pfeil carving gouges and they are comfortable to use, but they are not used like a bench chisel might be.

    Jim, I like the shape of yours, but I suspect I will be using a mallet on these chisels so the grip on them will be quite different. This is the chart for Blue Spruce handle options.

    IMG_5432.jpg
    Mine were the standard handle, and were comfortable, as well, but again, since they were dovetail chisels and used for that purpose almost exclusively, I wasn't sure they would be right for bench chisels, but......

    This is the handle of the Narex Richter, which Michael has.
    IMG_5433.jpg

    It is very similar to the Blue Spruce standard handle, though a bit fatter in the area close to the ferrule. I have seen some reviews that are positive on this handle. The general shape of the body is also similar to the AI except for the flared portion entering the ferrule. So, at this point, that might make the best choice, perhaps with a couple of flats lined up with the blade??

    Since these chisels will be my primary users, I am still open to other suggestions before making a decision.

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  9. #9
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    I should add that the unhandled Narex do come with ferrules.

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  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by ken hatch View Post
    Steve,

    Nice handle. What is the chisel, it looks to be pre-war.

    ken

    Hey Ken,
    It's Marples, most likely pre-war; they phased out the octagonal bolsters in the late 40s.
    I also like the plain boxwood handles of the type in your pic. If i get one of those and the handle or ferrule is not damaged, I leave it on.
    "For me, chairs and chairmaking are a means to an end. My real goal is to spend my days in a quiet, dustless shop doing hand work on an object that is beautiful, useful and fun to make." --Peter Galbert

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Voigt View Post
    Hey Ken,
    It's Marples, most likely pre-war; they phased out the octagonal bolsters in the late 40s.
    I also like the plain boxwood handles of the type in your pic. If i get one of those and the handle or ferrule is not damaged, I leave it on.
    Steve,

    Thanks.

    I thought it was but with my bad eyes I couldn't make out the stamp. You may know I'm queer for pre-war Marples and will buy them anytime I see one that looks in good shape. I like the London pattern Ash handles as well but they are hard to find. Big thing on both is how light and, there is that word again, balanced they feel in hand when meeting steel to wood.

    ken

    BTW, in good shape means the back of the blade isn't pitted.

  12. #12
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    I am drawn instinctively to the Marples. On one hand it is a visual thing - a simple line (I think that they are beautiful). It looks and feels comfortable in the hand.

    But, every time I use them, I feel something is missing. My hand slips forward, and there is nothing to prevent this.

    The Veritas and the Blue Spuce handles provide a rest for the fore finger and thumb. I find that this increases control. While the BS handle is slightly shorter than the Veritas, they feel very similar. Both nestles in the palm. Very comfortable.

    The chisel on the right is one of a set of Stanley 750s, which I re-handled (and re-ground the lands). This handle is closest to the Marples, but with the addition of a rest for the thumb - a bit of all worlds in one.

    Regards from Perth

    Derek

  13. #13
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    Chisel_1.jpg
    The chisel on the left is an Ashley Iles MKII, next is a replacement handle I turned, next Ashley Iles Butt chisel, next same, but with handle I turned. The Ashley Iles MkII feel much better in the hand than you would think. On the butt chisels my handle feels much better to me.

    Chisel.jpg
    These are LN chisels with the original on the left and the larger Walnut I did for the whole set on the right. The walnut set were for a good friend.

    Also all the handles I do have been stabilized.

    0312191852_resized.jpg

    The two Bubinga(Ashley Iles) chisels in the middle are showing the original size(no longer available) and the newer MkII. The original felt too large in my hand, the MkII is much more comfortable.

    Tony
    Last edited by Tony Joyce; 09-05-2020 at 1:13 PM. Reason: add info
    "Only those who have the patience to do simple things perfectly will acquire the skill to do difficult things easily.Ē Friedrich von Schiller (1759-1805)

    Woodworking since 1972

  14. #14
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    Yes John, those do look like my AI chisel handles. I measured a 3/8" and 1" chisel and came up with the following dimensions:

    * OAL 3-13/16" to 3-7-8" (measuring showing wood only from upper end of ferrule to end of handle)
    * Diam just above ferrule 7/8"
    * Diam at widest point (approx mid handle length) 1-16"
    *Diam at handle end just before it tapers down smaller at the very end 15/16"

    If I were a turner, I would be tempted to turn one of the AI shape and one with the AI shape that has the finger stop shoulder Derek shows for comparison. I don't notice a lack of a finger stop, but could very well like it if it was there. Or, it could p**s me off. The Sorby chisels I used for years had handles octagonal shaped that felt OK, but they had a turned-down-to-round end with a hoop groove and hoop in place that was uncomfortable when working in harder woods.
    David

  15. #15
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    The comment about having a finger stop is interesting. I’ve got chisels with several different styles of handles. I don’t have a strong preference for one or the other, but I think I like the shape of the Stanley’s the best. For chopping I don’t notice much difference, but they especially feel better when paring. I like how the end is more rounded than the Lie Nielsen handles. I don’t have large hands and all of these seem to be a good size to me.

    D81D5F40-E3C9-46DE-819B-A55A2E583607.jpg

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