Designing for Functionality

In my last article, I detailed how I made a replacement slick handle.  In this article, I will describe how I decided what size and shape to make the handle.  (Thanks to Steve Taylor for the most excellent suggestion!)

I had a basic idea of what shape I wanted to make the handle from those I’d seen on other slicks.  I wanted to turn the handle, mostly for efficiency and because I didn’t see any necessity in making a faceted handle (octagonal or otherwise).  The wide blade prevented the tool from rolling.

I knew that I liked to push chisels with my shoulder.  Even when I carved with a gouge like the one pictured at the bottom in the picture below, I used my shoulder to drive it.  For comfort, I wanted a large pad at the end of the slick’s handle to distribute pressure.  The scrap maple suitable for the handle was about 2″ square, so I made the pad that large in diameter.

To determine length, I held the slick with the old handle in a comfortable position.  My hand rested on the wooden handle a few inches back from the socket.  I measured the distance from my shoulder to the top of the socket, then added a couple inches for the tapered tenon.  My midi-lathe didn’t have quite enough capacity so I made the handle 1/2″ shorter than I had measured.

I first turned the blank round, then laid out the tapered tenon using calipers and marked the size of the pad at the butt end and the widest part of the grip by eye.  I put my hand around it to see how it felt.  It felt good – neither too large nor too small (thankfully).  I knew I wanted the pad to be as large as possible so I simply rounded it over in both directions.

I tapered the handle from the widest point (a few inches back from the socket as established when determining length) to the base of the pad, and towards the tapered tenon.  I used a pair of calipers set to the diameter of the top of the slick’s socket to accurately size the base of the handle.

Then I stepped back and had a look at the handle.  It looked substantial without looking too heavy or clunky.  I sanded it smooth and finished it with a light coat of oil.  All that was left to do was stamp my initials on the butt end.

To learn how to fit a tapered tenon to the socket and remove or install a handle  for a socket chisel, read my previous article.

4 thoughts on “Designing for Functionality

  1. Great Job, Chris. A well thought and well made tool is a more often used tool, right? The time and energy spent are worth it.



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