Renaissance chisels

It’s virtually impossible to make a 100% accurate re-enactment kit. Especially on a low budget. Sandra and I decided to start with a basic set and improve it over time.

Replace, add and remove materials, clothes, cutlery, tools and accessories.

High on my list were my chisels. Some of my most important and valued tools. The old set of Nooitgedagts inherited from grandpa is very dear to me. So dear that it felt uncomfortable to bring my most precious chisel to events, losing it would devastate me.

Fleamarket finds

I am always on the lookout for tools. Especially old chisels and gouges by Nooitgedagt, E.A.Bergh, John Bull and Kirschen. No matter in what state they are in, it’s always possible to derust and upholster them.

Like these two sorry pieces. One is by Nooitgedagt, but saw a lot of abuse over its life. It was grinded until there was almost nothing left. And their last function seems to have been the opening of paint cans. The handles were split and beyond repair.

So after a though cleaning with vinegar (they were too far gone for just elbow grease).

I wanted the handles to be correct for my time period. The planes in my kit are modelled after a woodcut “Der Lautenmacher” by Jost Amman (ca. 1550). The chisels would also be a good candidate.
At the workbench we see a couple of chisels/gouges with hexagonal handles. Much like modern Pfeil carving tools, but with a wider end.

Last week I saw some fine examples at Batavialand in Lelystad. They were found in the remains of a ship that sunk in the Zuyderzee (now IJssellake). It came up when parts of the lake were made dry to create new land.

I have made handles like this before and prefer them to be irregular in shape. It helps to steer them while working. You never have to guess how you hold them.

Wagon wheel

Like the ones in the woodcut and the Zuyderzee examples, these chisels need a ferrule at the top. But every woodworker knows the phenomenon of loose ferrules. The handle dries and shrinks, causing the ferrule to fall off.

To counter this I decided to try something different. The end of the handle is turned on a lathe. Slightly larger than the inner diameter of the ferrule. Then I heated the ferrule (a piece of iron pipe) with a propane torch. This causes the metal to expand. The hot ring is placed over the handle and quickly cooled down. The metal shrinks back to its original dimension, fitting the ring snugly to the handle.

I stole this technique from a cartwright.  They use it to fit the metal band around a wheel.

A hole is cut in the center with a tapered drillbit and the blade hammered into place.

A light coat of beeswax completes the chisels. All that’s left to do is sharpening…

This entry was posted in Events, History, Re-enactment, Research, Think different, Tools, Uncategorized, Woodworking, Workshop and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Renaissance chisels

  1. martin spaink says:

    Hi Jan, been there and done it! I have been whacking off plastic handles, making new ones from all kinds of wood. Usually I heat up the stem (doorn) of the chisel as well before I tap them in, with a full bucket next to me. If you’re in to it, I have more old chisels than I care to restore, all of them old, boxwood handles etc. Have a look when you pick up those Schaller guitar tuners.


  2. Fjodor says:

    no idea how historically correct it is. but if I’m fiiting new handles on my files I drill a hole that the file will go into and then drill a small hole perpendicular to it, about where the hole for the file stops. so it basically makes a tube witha bend in it. then soak the handle in water for a day. when you heat the part of the file that will go into the handle till cherry red and then push it into the handle, it will form a really snug fit and will never loosen. the small hole you drilled is to let out steam on the other side of the handle, otherwise this steam can push the file out again.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.