Upcycle Chisel Handles For a Fully Functional Tool

For more information on chisels, see our beginner site Common Woodworking.

A Fully Restored London Pattern Gouge Handle for Free  DSC_0203

Chisels and gouges just turn up from nowhere with sadly abused handles mashed on the end, split down the centre or with short grain that split off a chunk from the side. I seem to accumulate these waifs and strays on a regular basis and unless I do something with them they quickly become a waste of space. For the main part all are repairable though and rarely is the steel beyond working with. Handles on the other hand may seem more questionable and problematic. Here is a gouge we restored for cope cutting and carving with. The steel aspect came quickly back to working condition, but the handle!!???


Step one is to remove the poor split to a flat surface and this we do with a good sharp #4 smoother. It must be dead flat to make a good mating surface with an add-on piece of the same wood. DSC_0165 In this case the handle is ash; it could have been beech or box. These three woods are the most commonly used of all handle woods here in the UK. For this repair I used another chisel handle in ash beyond such repair. Planing a second dead flat surface over the existing split gave me a good match in wood and so I glued the pieces in the vise, clamped them on the outer edges to guarantee good seating and meeting and left them overnight for the glue to set up. DSC_0167

I cut away the bulk of the waste parallel to the width and opposite side fot eh gouge handle and also to length. DSC_0168 Now I must round the handle. this one is easy because it’s not barrel shaped like some handles are.

DSC_0169 First I removed the corners with a spokeshave and planed the radius with both the spokeshave and my smoothing plane.


I refined the cut with a rasp and thins card scraper and used a rasp to refine the corners and marry them to the existing edge of the original handle. DSC_0174

DSC_0175 Sandpaper refined this further and the main shaping was done.

This work takes about 20 minutes all in all.

After all the shaping and sanding was done I added in the cut lines DSC_0186 that score the circumferance of the handle. I first used a knife to get the lines to meet and then deepened them with a fine Zona model saw. DSC_0189

I applied a couple of coats of BLO for a final stage and now i have a useable gouge. DSC_0198



  1. Wow, I love seeing old bits, odds and ends being put to good use again rather than begin thrown away. My poor SWMBO will have to suffer even less things being thrown away 😉

  2. Great way to reduce waste! I’ve found awesome tools like that at estate sales : )

    1. Our goal is to help people gain confidence to tap into the plethora of tools that are readily available inexpensively via almost any secondhand market. My background with these tools and techniques over 50 years helps me explain what works and how to make them work. Simple and effective!

  3. Paul that was a wonderful post. I have several screw drivers and a carving set with these type of handles that are all cracked and broke. I was thinking about buying a file handle for them… not anymore.Thank you.

  4. Paul this comes at a timely manner as I have several older chisels in dire need of handles. However the majority of mine our older Witherby, Buck Brothers, Greenlee a couple James Swan socket chisels. I don’t have a lathe and don’t have enough experience using just hand tools, I do like the London Pattern handles any thoughts on that.


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