My goal here is to document how I make handles for tanged chisels. This came up on my Facebook page and I was asked to document my process, which you will find below.
The wood for this set of Butcher firmers is hard maple. Traditionally, this probably would have been beech, but the only beech I have on hand is some primo 12/4 for plane making and I didn't want to cut any up for this small job.
The block in this case is 4 1/2" long and is just over 1" square. For my chisels, I like to make a handle that is twice as big at the top as the diameter of the bolster. When combined with a 4 1/2" length, this gives a pleasing and consistent taper across the entire set.
I drill the hole in the block in the exact center. I typically do this using a small hand-held gimlet, as this enables me to ensure the hole is straight down the length of the block. How you may ask? I simply start the gimlet, then I spin the gimlet while holding the gimlet's shaft. By carefully watching the rotation of the block, I can see if the hole is veering to one side or the other and can make course corrections. If this isn't clear, I can get more pics of this.
I then simply use that smaller hole as a pilot hole for successively larger brace-mounted gimlets and shell bits, although in this case my small gimlet was approximately the right size for the last 3/8" of the tang.
The orientation of the bolster is the key to this method. I want the square sides of the bolster to align with the flats of the handle blank because the chisel itself should align with the bolster, as you can see in the above photo (the perspective makes it look a little funny, but it is straight). Sometimes the chisel wants to twist as you drive it on, so stop often and check your progress.
With the handle driven all the way on, it is time to taper the blank. Because I want the end of the handle that is closest to the blade to be the same size as the bolster, I simply carry up the bolster size with a pencil.
Remember that the chisel tapers on all four sides, meaning that you will have to lay out and cut tapers on the adjacent sides as well. Basically, do these operations once, rotate the chisel 90 degrees, then do them again.
This will leave you with a square handle that tapers on all four sides. Now, the bevels must be cut. I simply take a pencil, lock it against my pointer finger at a pleasing distance, then run the finger like a fence along the tapered faces. You will make eight lines this way. What I do is make four lines with the chisel edge facing me, then flip the chisel so the chisel edge faces away without putting down the pencil or changing the "setting". This enables you to make all the lines easily.
After you have the lines, it is a simple matter to either pare them down with a chisel, cut them with a plane, or perhaps even rasp them down. I typically prefer to pare them with a chisel then finish with a small plane.
In the above picture, the woodwork is finished. All that is left is some shellac, some wax, and this chisel will join the roll of Butchers that I use on a daily basis.