Turning a Chisel Handle – Without a Lathe

My Grandfather Cecil made his living as a Carpenter in the mines (among other skills he self-taught himself).  I inherited a couple of old toolboxes from him that I like to go through every now and again. If I knew then what I knew now, I would have loaded up a few truck fulls of items from his basement workshop (Oh, yeah! He build his own house).  Anyway, I only have the boxes of tools.  I go through them from time to time for inspiration, education and sometimes I grab one of the tools to see if I can’t breathe some life back into it.

While rummaging through the boxes the other day I found a couple of old chisels.  One was concave and the other was a small, but badly bruised straight chisel.  The blade was rusty and banged up — but serviceable, but the handle was about gone.  I found my project!

I don’t have a lathe, so this was going to be a learning experience.

I wanted the new handle to withstand more hammering, so I grabbed a small 2×4 oak board that was left over from a recent pallet build.  Did I mention I DON’T HAVE A LATHE?  Yeah, this was going to be fun.

I cut the board down and cut the corners off on my band saw.  After quickly realizing I was not going to make any progress whittling the handle, I remembered seeing others use a drill press as a vertical lathe.  I tried it, but the drill press was nowhere near fast enough.  I ALSO remembered seeing others change the speed on drill presses by changing belts and pulleys in the top.  This was my father’s Sears Craftsman drill press so I had no idea if it could do the same.  IT COULD!  I was in business!

Or so I thought.  My chisels still weren’t working because I don’t have a solid tool rest.  I even tried just SANDING the piece down.  It’d probably work, if I didn’t mind working on it for 6 months.

That’s when I got the idea to try using a small cheapo plane from Harbor Frieght.  Man, did THAT do the trick!!

I’m still working on the finish and the blade, but here’s the chisel with the new handle.  I’m really bad at not taking before and after photos.  Here’s an after, at least.