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Making and Using Tools - Chisels, Gouges, and Carving Tools


My Handmade Small Tools by James D. Thompson

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I got the scratch awl bug the other day, and I've been experimenting with making them. The secret is in making the shaft.

I have learned that I can do a really good job of tapering a round piece of steel down to a point, and make it look good. I chuck the piece of round into a drill chuck and spin it against a revolving wheel on the bench grinder.

In the past I always held the piece at a right angle to the wheel, but the results were not exactly what I wanted. Now I hold the piece exactly in line with the wheel, and move it back and forth and in and outward. When I see that the taper is just about perfect, I move it to the flat side of the wheel to straighten out any imperfections. Then I polish by spinning it against progressively finer grits of paper.

Top, Desert Ironwood with a shaft of HSS, second, Black Acacia with an 0-1 shaft,
third, Apricot Wood with an 0-1 shaft, and bottom, Desert Ironwood with a HSS shaft.
I have been using different types of ferrules, store bought, compression nuts, and tubing.

I had a very long HSS drill that broke, and I cut it into 2 pieces, then tapered them. These got Desert Ironwood handles. The other pieces are 0-1. After they are to the shape I want them I harden and temper them. HSS is faster because I don't have to harden it. I am keeping an eye out for long HSS drills now. 3/16" seems to be the perfect size.

Notice that they all have a ball on top. That's for the palm of the hand. Then there is a flare out just above the ferrule. That's for the thumb and forefinger to rest against. Holding one in your hand tells you that this is the right way to make them.

I am having trouble keeping these. I showed them at my Woodturning club meeting, and they were a hit. Everybody wants one, and I have been giving them away. I had to take a picture before they all disappeared.

Here are some other small tools I made recently.

To make my micro turning set, I used some HSS reamers that I found at an estate sale, 6 for a dollar. At first I thought of grinding off the reamer part and using just the shank, but then I realized that I could just epoxy the reamer end into the handles. I measured each reamer and drilled the correct size hole for each one.

The bottom tool has not yet been ground. Grinding HSS does not hurt the temper
of the metal, not even if you turn it red on the grinder.

Homemade skew chisels for woodturning. The bottom 3 are HSS, while the top one
is the 7/16" diameter shaft out of an old shock absorber. The bottom tool is
a micro turning tool.

Carving knives that I made from High Speed Steel power hacksaw blades.
Handles are cocobolo.

Learn how. Discover why. Build better.

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L. & I. J. White

Winsted Tools

D. R. Barton


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