Leather-capped Chisel Handle, Greenlee Chisel Restoration

  • Advertise with us
Project by DrTebi posted 02-15-2016 09:59 PM 2632 views 0 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch

First of all, a big thanks to everyone who responded to my thread asking about how to make leather capped chisel handles.

Second, I would like to mention that this is only the third time that I turned anything on my Shopsmith lathe, I only have a couple of very old Shopsmith turning tools and do not have a roughing gauge or spindle gouge. That made it really tough to get the blank round, and into the shape I wanted…

Anyway, I am quite satisfied for now, but the next one will be better.

The handle is quite large, and may look a bit funny like that on a butt chisel, but that was actually on purpose. I have large hands, and I don’t like small handles that don’t fit the entire palm of my hand.

The chisel itself was first de-rusted with electrolysis, then sanded and polished by hand, and finally sharpened with the “scary sharp” sandpaper sharpening system—which works great, my left arm is a lot less hairy now. Compare to the last two images from the original eBay ad.

To make the leather ends, I used the tips from the thread mentioned above. There were a couple of different methods, and I went this route:
- Turn the handle, with oversized “pin” for the leather
- Cut leather pieces and drill 1/2” hole into them
- Glue leather pieces onto pin of handle
- After a day, sand the leather end smooth on a disc sander (or belt sander)

The last part is what I didn’t like. When sanding the leather end, it’s very likely that one will sand the finished part of the handle as well, and essentially ruining the smooth finish and shape. That’s why my finish looks a bit uneven, I had to do a lot of hand sanding to get the disc sanding marks out.

Next time I will go this route:
- Turn the pin for the leather end first
- Cut leather pieces and drill 1/2” hole into them
- Take the blank out, glue the leather onto the pin end, wait a day
- Put the blank with the leather back onto the lathe and turn the handle, including the leather end
- Smooth everything out on the lathe as well, finish it etc.

I think that will work better. I also will put more effort into the shape of the handle, and make it less tapered at the (leather-) end.

The handle is finished with shellac by the way; I like the feel of a shellac’d handle, it’s smooth, but still has a good grip.

I am now waiting for a nice roughing gauge and spindle gauge. Soon I will make more handles…

5 comments so far

View Woodknack's profile


13559 posts in 3498 days

#1 posted 02-15-2016 11:16 PM

Nice, the leather looks sharp.

-- Rick M,

View bch's profile


304 posts in 3807 days

#2 posted 02-16-2016 04:52 AM

I have a dozen of these waiting for me to refurbish and I think yours are fantastic. If I can get mine to look like yours, boy, I’d be a happy man. Great job! Thanks for the commentary on process so I can hope to repeat.

-- --bch

View shampeon's profile


2167 posts in 3301 days

#3 posted 02-16-2016 06:48 AM

Hey, that turned out well. I think you’ve got the right idea for the next one. With a decent roughing gouge, you should be able to shape the leather and the end of the handle at the same time.

-- ian | "You can't stop what's coming. It ain't all waiting on you. That's vanity."

View DrTebi's profile


402 posts in 4384 days

#4 posted 02-17-2016 04:00 AM

Hey, that turned out well. I think you ve got the right idea for the next one. With a decent roughing gouge, you should be able to shape the leather and the end of the handle at the same time.

- shampeon

Yes, and I found a thick hickory broom stick, too. I think hickory would be nicer. and probably easier to turn than maple.

Putting the leather ends on was actually the easiest part, I didn’t expect that.

Anyway, the nicest part for me is, that I brought life back to an old, but very good quality chisel. I tried it on some teak, and even across end grain it made some smooth little curls!

View Ted Ewen's profile

Ted Ewen

187 posts in 2184 days

#5 posted 02-19-2016 09:35 PM

Pretty. I prefer your handle to the original.

-- Show us a man who never makes a mistake and we will show a man who never makes anything. The capacity for occasional blundering is inseparable from the capacity to bring things to pass.

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics