leather washer or no?

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D_W

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I've noticed a leather washer in a lot of newer chisels. I'm making a set of four chisels right now and put the washer in with the filed bolster.

No big fan of the look and I don't think I'll continue to do it unless I can really compress the washers. my tangs are tapered, so it's not like a newer straight tang drilled into hole where there isn't a taper to stop the handle from advancing.

What do you folks think? I have a bit of a deficiency in my chisels still, and that is that the bolsters are shrunk on, but they're not forge welded yet. In order to forge weld in my shop, I need to use oxy and mapp in a cutting forge (coal forge is out of the question and nothing else gets to heat in a reasonable amount of time.)

I think the leather washer idea is out. It's subtle but not a good subtle.
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G S Haydon

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I've got some old chisels, workman-like. They have leather washers that have bulged. Yours I can barely notice. I think you're at the point with your tool making where it's up to you.
I don't have the Seaton book to hand but I guess the leather washer is more of a 19th/20th century thing?
 

D_W

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The leather washer is more of a round bolster thing, no?

I'd say that's where I've seen it most. Which makes me think it's partly intended to account for a non-tapered tang and to prevent the handle from splitting.
 

D_W

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I've got some old chisels, workman-like. They have leather washers that have bulged. Yours I can barely notice. I think you're at the point with your tool making where it's up to you.
I don't have the Seaton book to hand but I guess the leather washer is more of a 19th/20th century thing?

Yes on the washer being a later thing. I doubt the seaton types worried about having to make a replacement handle.
 

Tony Zaffuto

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For what its worth, you mentioning the washer, drew my eye to it. Inspecting tang chisels I have, it seems more present on modern chisels rather than vintage. One of the strangest, were my Sorby paring chisels, that are only pushed, with no need of a washer to absorb shock.

Anyhow, the chisels look great!
 

Argus

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I was never sure about leather washers either…… shock absorbers, decoration or a bit of both.

However, going back in time a bit it was, at one time, customary in this country to buy chisels and handles separately – old catalogues showed a range of handles penny-plain to tuppence-fancy and way beyond up to the most expensive ‘London’ pattern. In each case the craftsman bought the blank handle along with a chisel and mounted it himself, with or without a washer, perhaps! I must confess that I have lots of pre-war chisels, (pre-Boer-War) some of them, - all without washers.

I used to buy carving gouges and other chisels without handles and turn my own on the lathe. I was taught a ‘traditional’ carver's method of mounting chisels onto new handles. If the tang is tapered and each side equal, then the tapered tang was used to cut its own seat, each configured exactly to its own shape.

The handle blank was drilled along its axis with a pilot drill – usually on a lathe – about 1/8 inch deeper than the tang’s length. Next, a series of stopped holes of diminishing width was added to the pilot hole so that an excavation was made along the internal axis that mimicked the rough shape of the tang inside the handle.

The tang, which was usually rough-forged, was next addressed with a file along the edges to give a sharp edge. The chisel was then mounted in a vice, tang upwards and the handle blank tapped lightly into place. It was rotated by hand a quarter turn, then half turn, tapped again, rotated and so on, occasionally taking it out and tapping out the dust. Eventually and with some practice, the handle would be down to about 3/16 inch or so above the bolster. At this point (and it’s optional) I usually give the metal of the tang a wipe with linseed before knocking the handle the final distance until it seats tightly on the bolster.

Hope I’m not teaching grannies to suck eggs!
 

D_W

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Argus - you just described how I install the handles on these chisels. I tried other methods, even the burn in method (which works fine but really makes the wife mad), but stepped holes and some feel for when to stop and drive the chisel in the rest of the way is the best method.

My bolsters are not forge welded, they're shrunk, so I'm always scheming ways to keep them from moving a little bit (even though they will just stretch a little down the tang and whoever has the chisels can just stick wax in the little gaps if some show up). That's where the washer idea came up, but i didn't do my due diligence!!

I only drill the holes in about 2 steps and I do it freehand with a cordless drill and by eye. since I'm making the tangs by hand, each is a bit different in size and length - freehanding with a cordless drill and slowly turning the handle while looking down it prevents variation due to bit wander or the need for a jig. Sooner or later I will end up slipping at the start of the cut and drilling a hand maybe!!

there's literally nothing else about your process that isn't the same, and I sharpen my chisels first and really nail them into wood when driving the handles home as an opportunity to see if they will chip and need any further tempering, or fold and need rehardening. If someone hits them any harder in use, well, I guess that'll be up to them.
 

D_W

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For what its worth, you mentioning the washer, drew my eye to it. Inspecting tang chisels I have, it seems more present on modern chisels rather than vintage. One of the strangest, were my Sorby paring chisels, that are only pushed, with no need of a washer to absorb shock.

Anyhow, the chisels look great!

Thanks, tony! I love the sorby chisels - in terms of shape and proportion for all of the modern ones. I bought three different sets (and have resold all of them at this point). They're a bit soft, two sets other than the gilt edge type had washers in them. I'd bet that if they're putting them in parers, they have a machine that puts the chisel into the handle with the leather all at once.

I didn't copy proportions off of those sorby chisels, but just out of comfort, my chisels are about the same length (slightly lighter, but not much in the blade) and feel of the basic round bolster bench chisels. They're just a classic feel that's great for someone who doesn't grip the tip of a chisel like a pencil.
 

Tony Zaffuto

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Thanks, tony! I love the sorby chisels - in terms of shape and proportion for all of the modern ones. I bought three different sets (and have resold all of them at this point). They're a bit soft, two sets other than the gilt edge type had washers in them. I'd bet that if they're putting them in parers, they have a machine that puts the chisel into the handle with the leather all at once.

I didn't copy proportions off of those sorby chisels, but just out of comfort, my chisels are about the same length (slightly lighter, but not much in the blade) and feel of the basic round bolster bench chisels. They're just a classic feel that's great for someone who doesn't grip the tip of a chisel like a pencil.

I have 4 Sorbys, one was really soft, another a bit soft, and the remaining two, good. After grinding back about 1/4”, both softies were fine. The chisels feel really nice in hand, but the washer? Paring chisels are pushed! I find it funny how some brands introduce paring chisels that are anything but! Length alone does not make a parer.

But you seriously ought to market a few of yours! To me, they’re far more attractive, than, say Blue Spruce.
 

G S Haydon

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The I Sorby firmer. It was a heavily used tool when I bought it from the local . I cut 12mm of the handle to get rid of the damage. Note the bulging leather washer. All original from what I can tell.

I agree with Tony. I'm not in the market for chisels but they are attractive and would be appreciated by people who appreciate fine hand made tools.
 

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D_W

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I have 4 Sorbys, one was really soft, another a bit soft, and the remaining two, good. After grinding back about 1/4”, both softies were fine. The chisels feel really nice in hand, but the washer? Paring chisels are pushed! I find it funny how some brands introduce paring chisels that are anything but! Length alone does not make a parer.

But you seriously ought to market a few of yours! To me, they’re far more attractive, than, say Blue Spruce.

I once said something like "what are you getting with a blue spruce chisel when it appears to just be A2 bar stock stuck in a modern looking ferrule to hide the connection. "

I made a certain person very unhappy by saying that - but it may be safe here on the UK board. There is a humanity and artfulness in the UK chisels that went on very long, and that didn't just involve having a set up machine cut one blank after another out of bar stock.

Maybe I'm being idealistic, but beyond that, there's something sweet about the steels that hand work well - forgeability usually comes with plainness in the steels and plainness leads to a chisel that doesn't hold a were edge long and has very good grain fineness. But it definitely doesn't come along with steel well behaved in a quench!

If I start selling chisels, I'll have to shut up, but also, I wouldn't do it until I get consistent with forge welding the bolster in place (which I have done a few times, but it's a bit of a three handed operation with two hands (forge running, then cutting torch to bring just the bolster area to welding heat ,and then a quick couple of taps to forge weld and a careful temp cycle to bring the toughness back to the steel after it cools. )

But the bigger problem vs. just making a set a month or two sets a month and dumping them on etsy to learn from "Actual customers" is that it becomes a business and that implies a bunch of things that I want to avoid (not being able to talk openly about the chisels as it's seen as advertising, having to get some kind of commercial insurance for the basement and declaring the income). So I operate as a hobby with large losses :)

There's a whole lot in the tank yet, though. I'm going to ultimately go back to three things - one specific model of heller farrier rasps (to get consistency on file alloy - they really differ a lot, even in little things like forgeability and resistance to the hammer at the same heat, which leads to different tempering, etc. and - and then probably two steels - O1 and 52100 so I can really perfect temperature cycling to get the steel at the business end like butter fineness. )

Planes taught me the joy of making one thing and getting a little better at it so that it becomes half mindless exercise, but of a pleasant type. I'm looking to get there with chisels. I hope when I retire (which would be in about a decade if I'm lucky) that I can make tools full time for a while, and if I do that, I'll go bonkers making them traditionally, and maybe get a power hammer.

AS it is now, I plan on making a few tapered irons for wooden planes as it's something I've always wanted to do, very easily doable hand and eye (but without lamination - that requires a power hammer). The biases in the sheffield and early american tools make both for a good fitting bias in the tool and a bias in favor of the maker making things.

There will always be a group of folks who really like a surface ground piece of bar stock and a modern look, and I think that's fine. There's a place for all of it, but the aesthetics of those tools that look like they've been styled to fit equipment or assembly, it's not for me. Anything more complex than O1 in chisels, again, not for me.
 

D_W

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The I Sorby firmer. It was a heavily used tool when I bought it from the local . I cut 12mm of the handle to get rid of the damage. Note the bulging leather washer. All original from what I can tell.

I agree with Tony. I'm not in the market for chisels but they are attractive and would be appreciated by people who appreciate fine hand made tools.

Interesting given that it's not robt. Sorby. I don't know that much about the sorby (I, I&H, Robt? are there others?) stuff other than the robt stuff can be a bit soft (even all the way back in norris planes with adjusters). That chisel has great style.

There's no need on the integral and forge welded chisels to protect the bolster, but i wonder if someone found that the wood lasted far longer if there was a leather washer involved.
 

G S Haydon

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I'm no expert. Andy T is very good on that stuff. I just love the logo. I've not noticed it being soft but I've not used and reviewed to the extent you have.

I don't "need" 90% of the old chisels I pick up from various sources. But if I like the cut of their jib I pick them up as an object to appreciate and occasionally put them to use.

You can pick them up for less than a fancy coffee over here. Likewise with honing stones. I'm looking forward to browsing the reclamation markets and boot fairs when we're safe to do so.
 
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D_W

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There's not as much on the ground here now (thanks to ebay and pickers) but stuff is still around in spots, and sometimes a hoard becomes available for a short period. I can find chisels for $1-$10 at a honey spot that I pass on the way to my parents, but quite often, they're not chisels I want.

It's funny about exposure and luck - my dad would often go to flea markets and gaze. He'd come back with something like a millers falls miter box for $10 or a fantastic huge simonds miter box saw for $2 and say "there was a guy with about 20". At one point, he'd dull a saw and be willing to pay me by giving me one of his other saws (so I got the saw in my 75 miter box by sharpening another saw for my dad). He thought I was an silly person for sharpening all of the small teeth for a saw that "you could just get another one for $2".

He's out and looking and I'm not. Two or three dry trips and I'm headed to the grinder instead, but it does cost me about $15 to make a chisel. It's likely that a good picker can find better chisels than I can make for less, and they have the credibility of being "real" whereas my ultimate goal is to make chisels that meet the 6 foot rule. They look professionally made at 6 feet. To some, they would at zero feet, but I want to fool the people who know at 6 feet. and I want them to work a certain way.
 
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