Bit Braces

W. & S. Butcher


Working with Hands - James E. Price

  Making Tapered Octagonal Tool Handles the Traditional Way 1 of 11  

In about a month and a half I will be doing a frontier coffin making demonstration at Cumberland Gap National Park and will be using original tools that were in use at the time Daniel Boone and others guided thousands of settlers westward through The Gap.

The target dates are circa 1785-1815. I have some 18th Century chisels with original handles but I do not want to use them so I am putting handles on some that are not quite so historically significant.

I selected a William Butcher chisel and will make a tapered octagonal handle for it. It is a decade or two later than 1815 but will look enough like an earlier chisel that it will pass as one. I selected a piece of dense dogwood for the new handle. It is so dense that it almost looks like boxwood.

Dogwood can take a beating and not chip or splinter. In several posts I will show how I make octagonal handles without any power tools. This is the way I was taught by the oldtimers.

Lying on the dogwood stock is the William Butcher chisel that will have a new tapered octagonal handle. Scattered about are some of the tools I will be using to make it.

First a deep scribe line is cut on all four faces of the dogwood. I know someone will ask about the stop on the square blade. It is a counterweight so I can simply lay the square on the wood and it will balance there.

The counter weight keeps the square handle level when the square is unattended on the workpiece. Bruce Debo taught me how to do that.

Next I use a chisel to cut an inclined scarp to the line in which the saw will rest.

This assures a perfect 90 degree end once sawn. The saw will slide down the incline and nestle against the scribed line making a true cut.

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