Bit Braces

W. & S. Butcher


Working with Hands - James E. Price

  Tool Handles 1 of 2  

A handle is a necessary part of most traditional hand tools.

Handles provide a means by which a human hand with its four fingers and an opposing thumb...

... can grasp a tool and exert force and leverage on a cutting edge. They provide a way to protect metal as in the example of tanged and socketed chisels. They increase force through inertia created by swinging an axe or adze on a long handle. They allow a comfortable and controlled means to grasp and guide saws and planes.

Handles have been an important part of our technology since sharp stone tools were first affixed to wooden handles for exerting extra force. Throughout time craftsmen learned how to take advantage of the natural strength, shape, and texture of wood, bone and other materials found in their natural environment.

This practice continued into our recent past but very few modern craftsmen take advantage of using natural materials with minimal modifications to serve as handles. Perhaps members of this group will find interest in looking at a few tools with handles made with minimal modification. I selected some tools from my shop that illustrate this practice and perhaps it will inspire some of you to make some simple handles from hickory saplings, corncobs, and animal horns as was done in the past.

The three tools above have pieces of hickory saplings as handles. The top specimen is an early socketed splitting wedge with a handle made with a minimal number of blows with an axe. The middle specimen is a closed scorp with a curved piece of hickory with the bark remains on it. The bottom specimen is a wheel traveler with a handle fashioned from a straight piece of hickory sapling with the bark on it.

This is a detail of the socketed wedge handle.

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D. R. Barton

L. & I. J. White


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