Hand Tools Archive

File Handling Tip

William Duffield
Tool making, not secretarial skills. :D

For 20 years I have been working on improving my methods for installing turned wooden handles with ferrules onto tanged tools, most often files and rasps, but also chisels, carving gouges, marking knives, and turning tools. This is a variation on the old square peg in a round hold quandary. I've burned them in, epoxied them in, strengthened and filled the gap using the split dowel method, drilled multiple small holes at small angles, etc., etc., and so forth. I've also refined my ferrule installation methods and more or less dealt with air bubbles trapped under epoxy poured into the handle hole. Up until now, my best method was to inject liquid epoxy into the hole using a Monoject 412 syringe, but I only get one use out of them with epoxy, and even in bulk they are 50¢ each.

This tip is the final simplification in a long journey. I'm still working on explaining and illustrating it, which I hope to complete before the coronavirus gets me. For now, however, I am just sharing my latest, and perhaps best improvement, which was finally proved experimentally last night.

In summary, the complete process consists of:

- drilling a hole in the end of the handle blank that the tool's tang will fit into,

- selecting a ferrule that will fit the tang,

- making a mandrel from a HSS drill blank,

- gripping the mandrel in a chuck in the lathe headstock,

- mounting the ferrule and handle blank on the mandrel,

- turning the end of the handle to fit the ferrule,

- permanently installing the ferrule,

- optionally turning and polishing the ferrule,

- turning the handle between centers to fit my hand,

- backing off the tail stock to finish the butt end of the handle,

- sanding and finishing the handle,

- pulling the handle off of the mandrel,

- fitting and gluing the tang into the completed handle.

Plumber's epoxy is the discovery that makes this last step, which had been an extreme annoyance, instead easy, quick, and foolproof. This stuff comes in a tube, like grey cookie dough, in two concentric layers, resin and hardener. You cut off as much as you need, kneed the two parts together, roll it out into a worm that fits into the hole in the handle, drop it in, shove the tang in behind it, make sure the tool and handle are aligned, cut off whatever squeezes out, and leave it for about 20 minutes to harden and cure.

I've got about six more files out in the shop waiting for handles. I hope to get a few more clear, illustrative pictures of the process.

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