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Making your own chisels

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ydb1md

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Whilst dreaming about future projects, I happened upon the idea of making my own chisels. There are a number of chisels that I like (Lie Nielsen and Ashley Iles American Pattern come to mind) but none that combine all of the features that I'm looking for.

I prefer the socket construction of the Lie Nielsen's but $50 each makes me choke at the thought of a set of four or five.

Is there anywhere to source the chisel steel -- old or new?
 

Frank D.

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Hi ydb1md,
I'm in the process of making some chisels. I bought my steel from a steel supplier that is also a dustributor for Crucible Steel (that's where I got their address, on Crucible's website www.cruciblesteel.com ). You can also try metal supermarkets ( http://www.metalsupermarkets.com/ ), they have distributors throughout North America (if I remember correctly you are in N.A.). Otherwise, you can also find suppliers in the yellow pages under "Metal".
You might be a little hard pressed making socket chisels unless you have some experience in hand forging (as well as a forge and forging tools). However, tang chisels with ferrules are just as strong, or you can also use bolsters.
I bought some A2 bar stock and am now grinding the bevels to finish the blades. My tangs are shaped. I also have to taper the sides of my mortise chisels, which I'm still figuring out how to do with my equipment. It's a lot of work, but not too hard. The price of the LN chisels was also a factor that got me started making my own. Most of what I'm making are detail, dovetail and specialty chisels. With the steel, wheels, new grinder, etc, I'm probably close to $450 in expenses (not counting my time), but I will have some steel left over to make plane blades and other tools. And that's not counting the heat treaters which will cost me around $80 or $100 (you could use O1 steel and do the heat treating yourself).
So my advice is, unless you plan on making other tools and blades and want to acquire some metalworking experience, making one set of chisels from scratch may not be such an economical solution.
HTH,
Frank
 

Noel

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Frank, very interesting. Any chance od a few pictures?

Rgds

Noel
 

Frank D.

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Sure Noel,
The daughter's gone with the camera for a few days, so I'll put some up when she gets back.
BTW I edited my first message to get the addresses right)
 

Ed451

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I just finished making a few marking knives, and I got my steel from Metal Supermarkets (I used the one in Nova Scotia because there's none in this province). Their price was ok and the shipping was quick. I'd suggest you use O1 tool steel since you can do the heat treating yourself at home to save money. That's what I used, and I'm seriously thinking about getting some more steel and making a set of skew chisels to use when I'm cutting dovetails.

As for handles on my marking knives, I just inletted two halves of the handle, put the blade in and epoxied everything back together. For your chisels, I'd expect you'll need something more solid if you intend to persuade them with a mallet, here and there. Maybe a ferrule and bolster would work for you? Should be pretty easy to make. The paring chisels I make won't be struck with a hammer, so my epoxy method will work fine.

I find it's nice to use tools you made yourself.

Ed :)
 

Frank D.

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Hi Ed,
I did the same myself. I've made a few knives with old sabre-saw blades. You can also use lawnmower blades, jigsaw blades, old steel shovels, and old razors (very good steel). I also used the cut-in-half-insert-the-blade-and-epoxy-together method. As you mentioned chisel handles can take some abuse. There are several methods to insert the blade, one of the easiest being to drill a hole in the handle, cut a dowel in half and chisel out space for the blade (sandwiched in the wood, like our marking knives), then inserting the blade in the dowel into to hole in the handle with epoxy. The tried-and-true method is with a tang that you heat red-hot, then you bang the handle onto the tang with a mallet (the handle still has to be pre-drilled). They even used this method for socket chisels, which have little tangs all the same. With a ferrule the chisel should last a lifetime, and I have some old mortise chisels with no ferrule, just a tang and bolster which are over a hundred years old (they probably saw at least one career of use).
I have this pic up on another site, it's useless but I'll just stick it in anyways as I usually do :wink: (notice that you don't need a lathe to make comfy handles, although it does take more time):
 

Ed451

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Hi Frank,
I really like the shape of your handle. I just made mine sort of oval. It works nicely, but doesn't have the beauty yours does. This is what I like about forums, a person can try something, then compare notes with other people that have done the same thing. I'll post a couple of pics once SWMBO returns with the camera. Also, I'm kind of against sanding, so I did almost all of my shaping with a drawknife and then a wood rasp and file. I did, however, break down and sand in order to finish smoothing the wood.

What wood is that, rosewood? I used purpleheart for mine, but I've since obtained some bloodwood that's going to be nice.

Great work.

Ed :D
 

Frank D.

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Hi Ed,
Thanks and yes, it's cocobolo (poor man's rosewood). I did use sandpaper but just to smooth out the final shape. I consider sandpaper to be a hand tool (I hardly ever use power sanders), albeit a modern one (didn't they use shark skin way back when, or lizard skin, or dinosaur skin?). Bloodwood should look really nice for a handle.

Ydb1md,
You sure work quickly! I'd have trouble lighting a match in the time you forged all those chisels! Great job, they look just like the LN ones!
 

MikeW

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By the way, Gang,

The stepped drill for Miller Dowels works great for drilling a handle for a knife or chisel that has a tang.

In the picture you'll see the first knife I made (about 1977). Split handle back enough to slip a blade made from a scraper. Two small nails provided the rivets. The handle was from a birch tree I had cut for firewood. It's been used for a few years.

The chisel is an old Sandvik that had a plastic handle which made it through building the cabin, but didn't make it through my first paying woodworking job. The handle is rosewood.

The stepped drill is there...and something is in the picture for a certain someone who apologizes ( :wink: ) when a measurement is given that I may not understand :lol: .



Mike
 

Chris Knight

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I am guilty of heating tangs to insert in new handles but I believe it's not the "official" method which advocates drilling near size in one or two steps then tapping the handle and rotating it, tapping and rotating etc to "drill" with the handle until the last quarter inch when you whack the handle hard.

Alf will advise...

BTW my heated tangs haven't actually let me down yet.
 

MikeW

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waterhead37":23acr1vs said:
...Snip...
the "official" method which advocates drilling near size in one or two steps then tapping the handle and rotating it, tapping and rotating etc to "drill" with the handle until the last quarter inch when you whack the handle hard....
That's why the stepped drill. It does several increasingly larger diameters from the tip up the shank in a single drill.

They have two sizes. That's the larger. The smaller one is good for carving tools, etc.
 

Alf

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MikeW":1yk0qhvf said:
The stepped drill for Miller Dowels works great for drilling a handle for a knife or chisel that has a tang.
D'oh! Why did that never occur to me? #-o Trouble is I have the largest size of all, which will probably be too big. :(

MikeW":1yk0qhvf said:
The stepped drill is there...and something is in the picture for a certain someone who apologizes ( :wink: ) when a measurement is given that I may not understand :lol: .
:whistle: I was trying to be considerate :p

waterhead37":1yk0qhvf said:
I am guilty of heating tangs to insert in new handles but I believe it's not the "official" method which advocates drilling near size in one or two steps then tapping the handle and rotating it, tapping and rotating etc to "drill" with the handle until the last quarter inch when you whack the handle hard.

Alf will advise...
Dunno about it being the official method; certainly I've never rotated the tang. I just drill a suitably stepped whole and whack on the handle. No problemo, except for the time I didn't allow for the extra hardness of my first boxwood handle and came to halt just short of being flush. A bit of leather can hide a multitude of sins though... 8-[ Maybe if I had the means to heat the tang handy I'd do it that way, but I don't. Never had a tang come loose yet. Wish I could say the same about socket handles which I find are a major PITA in comparision to the "less desirable" tanged variety.

Cheers, Alf
 

MikeW

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Alf":2dtjiyll said:
D'oh! Why did that never occur to me? #-o Trouble is I have the largest size of all, which will probably be too big. :(
Yeah, I think it would be. But the 1X size one works great for every chisel tang I've had the misfortune to meet. The mini works well on anything smaller than a typical chisel.
Alf":2dtjiyll said:
I was trying to be considerate :p
Oh now. I think I mentioned in some thread I'm fairly metric literate. It's a much easier system. And besides, a mm is easier for me to see than a 32nd on my rulers and tapes, so that's what I use a lot of the time.
Alf":2dtjiyll said:
Wish I could say the same about socket handles which I find are a major PITA in comparision to the "less desirable" tanged variety.
Cheers, Alf
I just use a few drops of a type of super glue. Came from a crafts store and though it bonds extremely well, it remains a little pliable. The shock of bashing the chisels have never knocked it loose. I figure if I split the handle I'll drill/scrape the bonded wood out and replace the handle--but I'll glue it in too.
 

Derek Cohen (Perth Oz)

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Here are a couple I made recently:

Firstly, a marking knife and awl set made from a spade bit. Jarrah handles patterned on Patrick Leach's version.

http://www.wdynamic.com/galoots/4images/details.php?image_id=1900

Secondly, a set of dovetail chisels made from Berg chisel steel. These were reground to size, and the sides given more acute angles. Handles made from Jarrah. Blades beveled at 20 degrees. I have a few sets of chisels (Bergs, Witherbys, Japanese, Stanley, Nooitgedacht), and these are my favourites. They pare like nothing else!

http://www.wdynamic.com/galoots/4images/details.php?image_id=1798

Regards from Perth

Derek
 
A

Anonymous

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There's no reason why you cant but 0-1 tool steel and heat treat like so,
http://www.reil1.net/minifor1.shtml

Shipping might not be cheap to the UK you can try these sources:
mscdirect.com
mcmastercarr.com
toolanddie.com

0-1 toll steel is relatively cheap in the states, if these companies won't ship international, email me and I'll ship it. The 0-1 is annealed so its relatively easy to shape, but you'd have to have tanged chisels as a socket is out of the question. Tool and die price as an example 5/16" thickx 1/2"wide x 18" long = $11 USD

Cheers
 

Pete Maddex

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