Hello and welcome to my blog! In this post I will be describing the process of creating a replacement handle for a Japanese chisel, by hand, and without a lathe. I have a set of Kikuhiromaru chisels, new old stock, that I have been using for just about two years now. The chisels were stocked with rosewood handles, and while beautiful, are wearing quickly.
The types of wood used for Japanese chisel handles typically includes; gumi, akagashi (Japanese red oak) and shiragashi (Japanese white oak). Oire-nomi (butt chisels) handled in ebony or rosewood come with a caveat that the wood is not ideal for use on striking chisels, as was the case with these Kikuhiromaru chisels.
Ideally, the wood chosen for a handle offers durability, strength, resistance to splitting, and elasticity. Having had the experience of using all of the above options in wooden handles over the past few years, my preference has shifted toward the traditional handle materials; akagashi, shiragashi and gumi. My favorite of those being gumi handles, with a core in the center.
Gumi handles of the highest quality are made from branches, these branches have the core in the center and have grain running perfectly straight from end to end. Second to that are handles made from a larger piece of wood, still the grain should be running from end to end.
By chance a fellow woodworker, John Aniano, contacted me asking if I might know wether or not Japanese gumi and goumi, which is found locally, are the same. As it would turn out they’re both names for the same species; Elaeagnus multiflora or cherry silverberry. John happened to have a few splits of Goumi that he had harvested and kindly offered to give me one of the splits to use for making handles.
My work begins by cutting a section of the split just slightly longer than what is needed for a handle.
Next I took measurements at the top, middle and bottom of the current handle.
Japanese chisel handles are slightly tapered toward their centers. This taper allows the hoop to remain tight as the handle wears and the hoop is continuously driven lower.
Next I remove the existing handle from the chisel, and then remove the hoop and ferrule from the handle. I happen to have a car part which fits perfectly under the hoop allowing me to drive the hoop off of the handle.
The hardware, currently lacquered to remain silver in appearance, just will not do for a light colored handle. Light colored handles are typically paired with blued hardware, where dark handles are usually paired with light colored hardware. I removed the lacquer and finished the parts to a point at which they can be evenly blued to a dark appearance.
This is also a good point to check to ensure that my ferrule and hoop have been deburred.
The old handle, having been separated from its hoop can now be used to transfer measurements. After doing so my next step is to take a coarse set plane and turn the goumi from a triangle shape into something closer to round.
The handle was further refined with a spoke shave, giving it a slight taper toward both ends. The next step, cutting the tapered receiver for the ferrule, starts by marking the handle with a kebiki gauge.
I shaved away the handle with a knife until the ferrule seated completely. Applying graphite to the inside of the ferrule to amplify the high spots during test fitting.
Next, I drill a hole in the handle to receive the chisel’s tang. The hole is made square and the fitted to the tang with a 6mm chisel.
Finally the step, or shoulder, above the ferrule is removed; a process I’ve detailed in a previous post. The handle is scraped smooth to remove any noticeable facets and last the hoop installed as detailed here. Three down, seven to go.
Thank you for following along, and I look forward to your comments.