Round chisel or gouge handles are prone to roll off the bench onto the workshop floor; if this is unforgiving concrete there’s a very good chance that the edge may be severely damaged. The ‘London’ pattern, octagonal chisel handle is much less likely to roll, as no matter how it’s placed, it will always come to rest on one of the flats.
Simple turning techniques are used for this project. Boxwood is the traditional wood but any dense, close grained timber is suitable, such as English walnut, or pink ivory as in this How-To. A small ferrule is used as it allows greater ‘flare’ on the handle.
What you'll need
Machine the blank 25mm square, mark the centres at each end.
This must be done accurately or the flats on the handle won’t be parallel.
Make a small planing jig, using the router table and 45° cutter. Use the jig in the vice to plane away the corner until an octagonal blank is produced; the measurement across the flats should be identical.
Mount the blank accurately in the lathe between centres and then remove the tailstock centre and replace it with a chuck. Use a HSS drill to suit the tang of the gouge or chisel and drill the hole to the required depth.
Replace the tailstock after which a slightly overlong recess should be turned so that when the ferrule is fitted, it’s a tight fit. If it’s slightly loose, use a small dab of gap filling, quick setting epoxy ensuring that the inside of the ferrule has been cleaned with some fine, worn glasspaper.
Using a soft pencil, mark out the limits of the curved section of the handle and then remove octagonal flats to leave a cylinder with the largest possible diameter.
Using a spindle gouge and round nosed scraper, turn the flared portion of the handle, ending crisply at approx 90° to the ferrule.
Using the soft pencil, mark off the overall length of the handle and turn another, larger recess with a curved shoulder. The end of the recess is partially rounded off with the spindle gouge and fully formed into a dome using hand tools when the handle is finally removed from the lathe.
The ‘V’ shaped notch between the curved section and the flats is produced using a three point tool and once that’s done, the basic shaping of the handle has been completed.
All that remains is to sand the wood as well as the ferrule, finishing at around 400g and then part it off from the lathe in order to complete the dome.
Remove the waste at the ferrule end using a sanding block and clean up the octagonal flats to retain their sharpness and apply a finish of choice. On this handle, Liberon Sanding Sealer is used followed by an application of Chestnut Microcrystalline Wax.
Mount the blade vertically in a metalwork vice, tang uppermost and fit the handle, tapping with a mallet and twisting it slightly at the same time. The final 2mm should be a straight tap with a mallet to seat the handle securely on the blade.
Proceed with caution with very hard woods, as the timber is not so forgiving. You may also need to drill a few wider holes to accommodate the broad section of the tang.
‘London’ pattern octagonal handles look very impressive on a blade and although they initially look difficult to make, in reality they’re quite easy and don’t take that long to turn.