• We invite you to join UKWorkshop.
    Members can turn off viewing Ads!

Handle wood omnibus

UKworkshop.co.uk

Help Support UKworkshop.co.uk:

D_W

Established Member
Joined
24 Aug 2015
Messages
6,174
Reaction score
640
Location
PA, US
Not sure if the term omnibus comes up much there, but in the US, it's a term for catch all (often used with spending bills). If you want funding for space toilets next to funding for bridge rivets, it's in the omnibus.

I'm embarking on making a bunch of chisels, and still puzzling over a few details, but one of the fun parts is faffing with different woods that I wouldn't normally use making anything else. So this ominbus will be chisel handle woods. Some normal, some less so.
 

D_W

Established Member
Joined
24 Aug 2015
Messages
6,174
Reaction score
640
Location
PA, US
Louro Preto (this one may be my favorite, and I found it by accident because a store here told me long ago that this was cocobolo. I knew it wasn't, didn't know what it was and never used it until now - almost 15 years later). almost like rosewood but with the medullary rays of mahogany. About 2200 hardness or so - only a step softer than something like boxwood or brazilian rosewood.

20210106_161824.jpg
 

D_W

Established Member
Joined
24 Aug 2015
Messages
6,174
Reaction score
640
Location
PA, US
chakte viga - like louro preto, something I never used before. But has a wonderful fine texture and feels like boxwood even though it doesn't look like it. I'd go so far as to say it feels nicer than boxwood.
20210119_075006.jpg
 

D_W

Established Member
Joined
24 Aug 2015
Messages
6,174
Reaction score
640
Location
PA, US
leopardwood - like lacewood but hard (like as hard as the two above, much harder than domestic hardwoods).

I dinged up the ferrule on this chisel a little bit not thinking, but it's a chisel for me so it doesn't matter. This is the first chisel I've had luck getting a forge weld on the bolster (haven't done many, but too much heat and hammering and the whole chisel just breaks or cracks at the weld)
20210119_152414_copy_868x1777.jpg
 

D_W

Established Member
Joined
24 Aug 2015
Messages
6,174
Reaction score
640
Location
PA, US
Thanks, James - they're sort of copies (not exactly, but to some extent) of various chisels I've looted from your tool dealers and ebay.uk. Just my favorite type and the simple handle style that marples called "carver" style is my favorite.

Leaving the oxide from quenching on the chisel would be considered (very) unrefined by factory standards, but I like the way they look and glazing them to a finish does nothing for the function. They are crisp feeling. These are a very doable thing for a hand tool woodworker and can be done without much equipment.
 

dannyr

Established Member
Joined
12 May 2019
Messages
317
Reaction score
71
Location
Sheffield UK
Nice chisels - and a good discussion topic -- I have boxwood, laburnum, mahogany, kingwood and ebony from recycled sources in UK (woodpiles and skips, especially when a 100-year-old neighbour who'd been a cutlery canteen maker threw out his off-cut pile). You're encouraging me to get down to the long-planned chisel handle making - afraid I'm not going to make such great own-made blades as DW, but do have a good collection of Ward, Greaves etc to handle.

For the chisels I'm going to whack, I think I'll stick to fast-growth ash and recycled broken hickory sledge handles (maybe also oak - what's the best oak for such?).

Why was beech used so much for English chisels handles? - doesn't seem to take abuse very well - where you find an old user-replaced handle it's more usually ash.
 

Bedrock

Established Member
Joined
12 Feb 2014
Messages
286
Reaction score
2
Location
Hampshire
I have re-handled a set of 4 bevel edged chisels with elm. Not sure whether it grows in the States, but it has a good interlocking grain, and takes a deal of abuse. We lost a lot of elm trees back in the 70s to Dutch Elm Disease, but I have been able to buy from time to time. Used for seats for Windsor chairs, coffins and u/g water pipes, by the Romans apparently.
Also have an old chunk of Hawthorn - not sure whether it would work but it is a good hard timber with a very twisty grain. Anybody used it?
 

D_W

Established Member
Joined
24 Aug 2015
Messages
6,174
Reaction score
640
Location
PA, US
Nice chisels - and a good discussion topic -- I have boxwood, laburnum, mahogany, kingwood and ebony from recycled sources in UK (woodpiles and skips, especially when a 100-year-old neighbour who'd been a cutlery canteen maker threw out his off-cut pile). You're encouraging me to get down to the long-planned chisel handle making - afraid I'm not going to make such great own-made blades as DW, but do have a good collection of Ward, Greaves etc to handle.

For the chisels I'm going to whack, I think I'll stick to fast-growth ash and recycled broken hickory sledge handles (maybe also oak - what's the best oak for such?).

Why was beech used so much for English chisels handles? - doesn't seem to take abuse very well - where you find an old user-replaced handle it's more usually ash.
I'm guessing beech was used because it has some interlocking and it's cheap and smooth, no pores or roughness. But it's a bit light feeling for handles if a chisel user is a handle gripper. The virtue of making handles out of something cheap is if they break, you can just make another one, and beech is kind of a dead sounding wood, so it's not loud or irritating to use (which makes it more comfortable on hands in a plane, too - it doesn't vibrate much).

You're definitely ahead of me if you have good salvage woods. I've been buying handle materials generally from places that specialize in exotics or wood for instruments (the wood tends to be straighter in turning blanks and musical instrument blanks). There's a big local exotic lumber dealer here, but they're likely to be higher in price and it's through a high traffic area for me and would be a 2 hour round trip.

as to the oak, your oak is different than ours in feel and appearance. I think if you put a strong ferrule at the butt of the chisel and a good one down by the tang, there shouldn't be much chance of breakage. I like the feel of the end rounded without a ferrule, and a mis-strike at the corners could certainly break something off, but making another one wouldn't be an issue. I had "handle anxiety" with nice sets when I'm not the maker of the tools - if something breaks, then you have a mismatch. If you ever decide to sell the set with a mismatch, 90% of prospective buyers will move on to find a match. I try not to keep tools at this point that I can't feel comfortable using, though, and even if something I make is technically nicer than some of the lower cost options in the open market, I feel free license to use it hard and break it and not constantly look to make sure it's close enough to the center of the bench, etc.

That said, I haven't broken any handles with a urethane mallet, and I like that type of mallet the best as the feel and sound are a bit smoother than a wooden carver's mallet or something else hard. Not a huge fan of the japanese tradition of striking loud handles with steel hammers.
 

D_W

Established Member
Joined
24 Aug 2015
Messages
6,174
Reaction score
640
Location
PA, US
I have re-handled a set of 4 bevel edged chisels with elm. Not sure whether it grows in the States, but it has a good interlocking grain, and takes a deal of abuse. We lost a lot of elm trees back in the 70s to Dutch Elm Disease, but I have been able to buy from time to time. Used for seats for Windsor chairs, coffins and u/g water pipes, by the Romans apparently.
Also have an old chunk of Hawthorn - not sure whether it would work but it is a good hard timber with a very twisty grain. Anybody used it?
I think there are probably a couple of elms here - not sure of their population, but at least one of them is known as the pizz elm. When you burn it, it smells like urine. We never burned much of that stuff when I was a kid, though - red oak is something that grows large fast in second growth wooded areas, as well as pin oak and other white oaks, and they split wonderfully and burn clean. Elm is the wood of the down rounder old timers here.

down rounder being the term for someone who can manage to see you doing something well and then work on telling you that it's not that great. "you're pretty good with that splitting axe, but you'd be no good with it in elm". Hickory of anything less than dead straight is a real booger to split by hand, too. It looks like it should split easily, but it never does - each time you get a piece partially split off, there's 50 little hangers on that make it so that you can't come close to pulling the pieces apart by hand. Add branches (lots of small cross branches in it) and it gets worse.
 

D_W

Established Member
Joined
24 Aug 2015
Messages
6,174
Reaction score
640
Location
PA, US
sweet.....
again wish we could get wood like that here....
keep em comming...DW.....
All it takes here is wasting money - one of the things where you are that's probably cheap that's on the higher end of the prices here is olivewood, which makes nice smooth handles and turns and polishes nicely. I'd guess the average cost of the handles above is around $3-4 accounting for the blank cost (like chakte viga) to around $10 -$15 (for true boxwood or kingwood - there's no organized market for old boxwood bushes here, so even if there are good thick branches or stumps, they don't end up anywhere other than a shredder, burn pile or dump). I like kingwood a lot, but it's also become prohibitively expensive.
 

dannyr

Established Member
Joined
12 May 2019
Messages
317
Reaction score
71
Location
Sheffield UK
I'm not 100% sure what I have is kingwood - it's from that 100yearold cabinet maker - it's way denser than water, very hard, dark slightly reddish brown with slight brown black close straight grain, totally rot resistant (his wife took one of the poles and had it in the English weather in the garden for her washing line for years - looks almost like the ones he kept in a dry shed). Sadly too late to ask him, but I know he was treasuring it - looks like the 4 posts of a fancy 4-poster bed. I just seem to have eliminated all other woods. Apparently a relative of rosewood and Louis XIV favourite so they took it all to French royal ebenistes - thus the name and present protected status.

The ebony I have is also poles - from an African guy who had to close shop to return to Africa - it's certainly black right through, dense and hard but I know there are different 'ebonies'.

Despite being all over southern Europe, olive wood is expensive in UK. Hawthorn is an interesting wood for tool handles - everywhere here, but you have to cut it yourself (usually an old over grown hedge) or make friends with a tree surgeon (arborist) - the latter often deal with very interesting woods in city gardens. I got some big laburnum from such - looks very tropical but grows well here - anyone used that for tool handles? (beware, there may be toxicity issues).
 
Last edited:

D_W

Established Member
Joined
24 Aug 2015
Messages
6,174
Reaction score
640
Location
PA, US
tons of different ebonies - gabon is fairly easy to spot because it doesn't seem to have any stringiness at all - it's like compacted powder almost and when you plane it (even smooth planing) some amount of it crushes and leaves a slightly rough surface and a bunch of black dust.

I recall seeing a video on youtube years ago of a guy cutting a large ebony log in africa to throw on a fire. It's africa, so he was cutting it with an old worn out handsaw. It was a minimum of $150 of wood at retail (but one would guess in africa, that's about $3 in log form).

all of my blanks are newer, so they don't always look like the really old wood. Indian rosewood is very black if it's first growth with tiny growth rings. The stuff that is sold here now as second growth has huge wide growth rings and a more brown and sometimes brown purplish color. I like it quite a bit, but it doesn't look like the original stuff that wasn't planted on purpose and fed.

I have two exceptions - one piece of cuban mahogany that's close to the density of water, and in the past, I had a giant billet of bois de rose (at least giant for bois de rose - big enough to make an infill plane and handle and cut around the bug damage in it). I wish I hadn't wasted that, but didn't know what it was. It smelled like cocobolo but had a deep red color that quickly turned to brown after finishing (within a year, it was all brown and you'd have to cut into it to see the red again).

The kingwood that I've had has only been in short small boards or 2x2 size blanks, etc. I don't think it's often available in large pieces, but it's very distinct and orderly looking, and waxy/polished looking and very resistant to hand planing even for its hardness.
 

JimB

Established Member
Joined
26 Apr 2014
Messages
557
Reaction score
22
Location
Victoria, Australia
Also have an old chunk of Hawthorn - not sure whether it would work but it is a good hard timber with a very twisty grain. Anybody used it?
Hawthorn is excellent for handles. When I was a kid in the UK we used it for catapult forks.
A similar wood if you can get hold of any is cotoneaster and don't forget pear wood especially for carving tools.
ps there used to be an elm water pipes on display in a York museum.
 

marcros

Established Member
Joined
11 Feb 2011
Messages
11,124
Reaction score
648
Location
Leeds
All it takes here is wasting money - one of the things where you are that's probably cheap that's on the higher end of the prices here is olivewood, which makes nice smooth handles and turns and polishes nicely. I'd guess the average cost of the handles above is around $3-4 accounting for the blank cost (like chakte viga) to around $10 -$15 (for true boxwood or kingwood - there's no organized market for old boxwood bushes here, so even if there are good thick branches or stumps, they don't end up anywhere other than a shredder, burn pile or dump). I like kingwood a lot, but it's also become prohibitively expensive.
it will be months away, but I have some nice pieces of English boxwood here. when I come over next time I will put a couple of handles worth in my case and put it into your postal system for you.
 

D_W

Established Member
Joined
24 Aug 2015
Messages
6,174
Reaction score
640
Location
PA, US
That'd be much appreciated, but only if it's not too much trouble. I think the ticket to getting boxwood here is befriending landscapers and arborists. Here in the burbs (but technically in the appalachians) there are trees standing dead and laid over everywhere. You can burn wood for fuel, but I have generally seen arborists here roll the cost of shredding the trees they fall into their estimate. They will literally take apart large mature trees and then cut and split them so that they can fit them in their shredder. Coming from a rural area, this is a bizarre thing to me - but I guess nobody wants to deal with the wood and nat gas here is really cheap - cheaper than heating with wood.
 

Jester129

Established Member
UKW Supporter
Joined
16 Feb 2020
Messages
133
Reaction score
59
Location
Northwest Leicestershire
it will be months away, but I have some nice pieces of English boxwood here. when I come over next time I will put a couple of handles worth in my case and put it into your postal system for you.
BEWARE!
You will get stopped by Customs as you're not allowed to take such items to Australia IIRC?
HTH
 

D_W

Established Member
Joined
24 Aug 2015
Messages
6,174
Reaction score
640
Location
PA, US
Not sure about boxwood here. Definitely no foreign fruits, bugs, ivory or tortoise shell, though. The former is for fear of pathogens and emerald ash borers, etc.

EDIT: i checked customs rules here. There's nothing that suggests boxwood would cause a problem, but there's a requirement in the US to declare and provide for inspection any plant, wood, straw item to customs to inspect. Probably not worth the trouble (never had anything seized by US customs that wasn't supposed to be - which translates to never having anything seized. Had a contract customs service in the UK seize and auction off a norris no 2, though. ).
 
Last edited:

D_W

Established Member
Joined
24 Aug 2015
Messages
6,174
Reaction score
640
Location
PA, US
Katalox- extremely hard, odd grain in places so you have to approach final turned size with some care....

...and surprisingly boring looking with a light uninspiring color.

Will do another with linseed oil soak to see if better color is to be had.
20210122_121146.jpg

20210122_121153.jpg
 

Latest posts

Top