Monday, May 28, 2018

Re-Handling Swedish Steel - VIDEO

I have a weakness when it comes to Swedish steel. I literally have a bucket in my Munich shop that says, "Swedish Chisels."

The last time I was there, I grabbed a couple that needed re-handling and brought them to where I am now living in Spain.
I'm pleased.
They turned out pretty good. They aren't in any way original to how they would have been handled in Sweden, but it is a way I have learned to do it , and they are very comfortable to hold and use.

A big problem occurred when I started this post three days ago. I had so many pictures in the post that it detracted from the quality of the post (more than usual). Therefore, I decided to put them in a video. I haven't done a video in a while.


The freaking video took longer to put together than the actual woodworking did. I apologize in advance, if I have a post like this in the future, I'll just post a zillion pictures instead.

The video turned out OK, so I hope you enjoy it:
I had some special brown oak that was sent to me by a fellow InstaGrammer. I am working on another project with that stuff, and I wanted to see what it would look like finished. It is really cool.
Brown oak. I laid out the handle in line with the grain, rather than the face of the board. It split nicely.
Now that I'm looking at my favorite Finnish chisel, I think that it might need a new handle, too.
Next victim.


  1. Great video and impressive soundtrack :-)

    1. I think all classical music should get a chicken track.

  2. Oh and great job on the chisels as well.

  3. I loved the video. Thank you. Could you please describe the drilling process for the tang? Do you use several size drill bits?


    1. Hey Joe! Thanks for the nice comment. I'm sorry I didn't elaborate more in the post. I meant to, but after three days of frustration trying to post this one, I really didn't have it in me anymore.

      Here goes:

      I like to start with an oversize block of wood, just in case the tang isn't straight. Normally on these factory made ones it's pretty good, so you can get away with a drill press or a factory made handle, but lots of awesome blacksmith made chisels have tangs that point who-knows-where.

      I like to drill the hole in the same direction as the grain of the wood. If you see the above picture, you can see my layout lines follow the grain rather than the edge. It's weird at first, but there really is no need to square up a piece of wood like this since you don't need any of the edges as references.

      I used an eggbeater drill. I really like this better than a drill press, because there is nothing weird that needs to be done to drill a hole along the grain. Just aim that way, and drill it. I'm sure it could also be done with a hand held electric drill.

      I did make a stepped hole using different bits. I used brad point bits, so it is important to start with the biggest one and end with the smallest bit. If you use a twist drill bit, it probably doesn't matter.

      I drill the hole just a little deeper than the length of the tang. Once the hole is drilled, I stick the chisel in there and twist. The twisting scrapes the sides of the handle hole to make a tapered hole. How much you twist probably is up to the kind of wood used. I went a lot closer to the bolster before pounding on it with a mallet than I would with beech.

      Before I have had good success in driving the chisel home and then shaping the handle with the chisel mounted. This prevents splitting. This time I thought I would save my block plane's blade by finishing the handle and then driving it home.

      It probably would be on stronger if I did the former, but this works, too. If you are careful.


      All in all, there is a lot of eyeballing, guesswork, and hoping involved.

  4. Great use of the William Tell Overture but I was disappointed that there wasn't a Hi Ho Sliver at the end.

    1. The William Tell Overture is one of my favorites. It brings back memories because it was the song of the Billings Bighorns, the local hockey team in my hometown. Sadly, the team doesn't exist anymore, but I have many fond memories of watching games there with my cousin. Mostly we goofed off in the arena until our attention was brought back to the ice with a fight.

  5. I just got the following email from Frederik. His Wordpress wasn't playing nicely with Blogger, so I'll post his comment, with my response below:

    Hi Brian,
    great to read that you are back to woodworking.

    I really like the shape of your new handles. Because I also have a chisel to redo I am curious about one thing. How do the ends of you handles keep up with the beating from your mallet?

    Hope you don't mind if I snatch the design?

    Best regards

    I would have commented on the blog, but blogger vs wordpress...

    Hi Frederik!

    Thanks for the nice comment. The design is not mine to be selfish with, it is traditional (albeit probably not traditional to Sweden). I first learned about this style from Bob Rozaieski's old blog.

    I don't see any reason why it wouldn't hold up to as much abuse as any other chisel handle design. In fact, to seat the ebony handle on the second chisel, I pounded the handle as hard as I've ever pounded any chisel to seat it. I was absolutely sure I was going to crack it, but it held.

    I had intended to use that chisel mostly for paring, and very little mallet work. However, the oak handle one should get plenty of time with the business end of my mallet.

    I think probably the species of wood to use is the most important thing here. Beech is a great wood for chisel handles because in Europe it is so cheap. If it breaks, it costs virtually nothing to make a new one.

    However, traditional woods for chisel handles include hornbeam (weissbuche), which is used on Lie-Nielsen's chisels. If you can get that, it probably would work. I imagine a wood that resists splitting like elm would also be a good choice. Other traditional woods are (what I expect are woods that are cheap and available) ash and maple. The great part of non-exotics is they are light, and keep the balance of the chisel down toward the metal bit, whearas the ebony bit of my handle is a bit heavier. Fine for paring, but a day of chopping dovetails with that chisel would tire my poor hands out.

    Have fun, and send some pictures of your chisel!


  6. Nice work.
    I have some flea market chisels which need a new handle.
    About pounding on the handle, have a chisel as sharp as possible, tap gently and stop when the sound change (Tap, tap, ..., thud). So no music or other noises when making a mortise. (sound feedback as Paul Sellers would say)
    For those like me who have desperately been waiting for a Veritas router, there is hope: the one I ordered via Dictum on the 22'd of February was finally delivered today (29 th of May).

    1. Congratulations on the new router! They seem to be in short supply.

  7. That ebony chisel is a looker! I really like this style of handle, and while all of my chisels have handles, and I really can't justify any new additions, I will tuck this away "just in case" an orphan follows me home someday.

    1. Hey Jeremy! Thanks for the comment. I'm really pleased with the ebony one. It could have been a waste of wood.

      I like the style of handle, too. They are very ergonomic.

  8. I enjoyed your chicken's William Tell Overture and wondered if it was the same chickens the did the recording of "in the Mood" also a favorite.

    1. Haha! Thanks, Lee! I'll have to see if I can find the recording you mention, it sounds fun.