Woodworking On-the-Go with Modified Knives

Anytime I go somewhere and anticipate the possibility of having some free time, I like to have a knife with me to carve.

My First Modified Carving Knife

I started with a German #8 chip carving knife with a fixed blade. I modified the blade to extend the cutting edge right to the handle, and to reduce the overall blade length. Since the blade didn’t fold, I drove it into a wine cork and used that for safe carry. This is a very nice carving knife, and it has become my shop knife, used for everything from opening packages and quick scribing rapid material removal (like a small one-handed drawknife) and carving.

The synthetic cork shown here is the second or third guard that the knife has had, as they sometimes get lost. I find that this synthetic cork does hold together better than the first natural cork, since the blade width is about half of the cork diameter.

Two Folding Knives: One for Carving, One for General Work with a Chisel Tip

A Folding Knife for Carving

The German fixed-blade knife got replaced as a pocket carving knife when I acquired a folding Opinel knife with a broken tip – the perfect opportunity to make a folding carving knife, which is safer and more convenient to carry, and equally suitable for carving.

I like the Opinel knives because they are lightweight, comfortable to hold, have a simple lock that secures the blade in the open and closed positions, and feature a taper-ground high-carbon steel blade that takes and holds a fine edge. They are also very affordable.

To modify the knife for carving, I shortened the blade length, reshaped the back of the handle for comfort, fit a piece of wood inside the handle to keep the blade from closing too far, and put it to work.

 

A General-Purpose Folding Knife with a Chisel Tip

The knife that I carry with me most often is a cheap Gerber with a stainless steel blade. I like it because it has a handy spring clip, is easy to open with one hand, and features a stout blade with a solid frame lock. The blade is bevelled on both side, so this is more of a utility knife for me – I use it for opening packages, trimming my finger nails, and most recently, to assist in some impromptu joinery clean-up/furniture repair (dowels were too long and needed trimming).

As a reader of my blog, you likely know my affection for chisels. Knives are very useful, but chisels afford more control, and the force is applied inline with the blade. So, I decided to modify my stainless steel folder to include a chisel tip as an experiment. First, I wanted to see if it was possible, and how it would look. Second, I wanted to find out how useful this chisel grind really would be, and if it would restrict the capabilities of the knife in ways I typically use it..

I used my bench grinder and 120-grit wheel to first blunt the tip and grind it straight (I was surprised at how quickly the metal disappeared). Then, I angled the tool rest and ground a 25 degree bevel by eye (length of the bevel is about twice the height). I refined the bevel with my diamond plate, then polished it with a felt wheel charged with honing compound, which was mounted on the other end of my bench grinder.

The modified blade looks good and the ~5/8″ chisel tip seems useful, though I haven’t had a real-world application to test it. I did notice that the actual edge is not straight. This is a result of the shape of the blade – as supplied by the manufacturer, the un-ground back section of the blade is flat, the primary bevel is hollow-ground, and then there is a secondary bevel. The result is a chisel with a slightly hollow back and two trimmed corners – kind of like a lazy W shape. This chisel isn’t intended to replace a proper one, but hopefully will prove handy when one isn’t available. I will continue to carry this knife and test it at every opportunity.

Adding Chamfers

There was certainly a little creativity and cleverness that I put into the design of this box. Because of that, I have enjoyed the process of making them. Yesterday, I had three batches in various stages of completion and began detailing one group.

Anniversary Box Open

Chamfering the Edges

The first step was to chamfer the edges. This detail makes the edges stronger, more comfortable to handle, and more tidy in appearance.

For my prototype, I simply used a file to add the 45-degree bevels to all the edges. It was a slow process – if I had to guess, I’d say it took 20-30 minutes to add the chamfers to one box.

That time requirement was too much for my timeline and budget, so I searched out a carbide chamfer bit with the smallest pilot available. I found this bit with a brass pilot at Infinity Tools. I buried most of it in a scrap piece of particle board for maximum support of the workpiece and safety.

IMG3479

The router bit helped speed things along immensely, but since each box had 68 edges which needed to be chamfered, it still took a while. When I found my rhythm, I found that I was able to chamfer the edges of one box in about 90 seconds.

Some Rejects Due to Damage

In the process of detailing, I found some problems with tearout from a previous operation. This box was rejected because of that.

IMG3480

Not All Damage Results in a Reject

In many large-scale production environments, a box like this would likely have been rejected. But this wasn’t your average production environment – I set this one to the side. I haven’t decided yet what to do with it, however.

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Finishing the Chamfers

The router bit did the bulk of the work and created even chamfers. It did not reach into the corners, so I had to clean up the 16 corners of each box by hand, using a file.

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I later switched to a chisel to cut the chamfers and continued to use the file to fine-tune as required.

This was a 1/4″ butt chisel that I modified, by cutting off the handle and regrinding the blade, for chopping dovetails. For this application, its short length was the greatest benefit that allowed easy one-handed control.

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Fun Shots

While detailing the boxes, I got inspired to take some pictures with my camera and tripod.

I am a member of Inlet Artists, a group of Port Moody artists working together on a project called Hands That Shape Our Community. The project celebrates local artists with photos of them creating their art and including their hands in the photos.

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A Reminder

I am offering these boxes for only $50 until the end of November. This price includes shipping within North America and I am donating $5 from the sale of each box to the Canadian Cancer Society.

The Anniversary Box has a way of fascinating people who handle it and I know that, as a reader of my blog, you’ll appreciate it.

Your investment in an Anniversary Box shows your support for my blog, my career, and cancer research. I expect to ship the boxes around the end of November.

Links:

Fundamentals: Understanding Wood Grain and Using a Chisel

This Thursday, I am teaching a seminar called Understanding Wood Grain. In this seminar, I discuss various methods of reading the grain and demonstrate how to use this knowledge to work wood efficiently. For the hands-on component, I guide students through a variety of situations and explore a multitude of practical techniques using a bench chisel including paring, chopping, sculpting, and opening cans of finish. Okay, maybe not that last technique.

Chisels are one of the simplest and most useful woodworking tools. I use them every day in the shop for a variety of tasks including fitting joints, splitting out shims, rough sculpting and fine shaping, trimming and more. To use a chisel effectively, I need to be acutely aware of the properties of the wood I am working and, most importantly, the direction of the grain.

Skills are transferable

This knowledge isn’t relevant to chisels alone. Drawknives are essentially really wide chisels with handles on the sides and planes are just jigs to hold a chisel at a fixed angle with a limited amount of blade exposed to the wood. Carving gouges are chisels that are shaped in curves or other profiles. If you can effectively use a bench chisel, you have the ability to control nearly any hand-held sharp-edged tool.

Chisels etc

Of course, sharp tools are a must for quality work so I demonstrate my favourite sharpening techniques as well.

Links:

Connect the Dots

Get Woodworking Week 2013 Banner

Inspiration fuels me.  When I am inspired, I have seemingly limitless energy.  When I’m not inspired, I employ a few strategies to try to rekindle that fire.  One of them is experimentation which is fun and a good way to practice woodworking.

I usually start with a piece of wood about 18″ long and square in profile.  Then, using straight edges, drawing bows, and french curves, I draw a line on each of the faces of the wood.  With a sharp 1″ chisel oriented bevel down, I remove the material between each pair of lines.  On the examples shown, the crisp edges are where my layout lines were.

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This simple exercise utilizes scraps of wood to improve chisel technique, knowledge of wood properties, and my design sense.  Most importantly, it’s a quick activity that gets me into the shop creating!

Maple Trestle Table, Session 16 – Angled Mortises and Tenons

On the morning of Sunday, April 15th, Morton and I exchanged ideas about trestle tables, spurred on by a recent sketch of a table on which he was working.  That got me yearning to build a trestle table.

I documented my progress live on Twitter which was useful because each update had a time stamp so followers could see the rate at which I progressed.  Here is a list of the previous Sessions:

Session 1 – Flat Boards are Boring;
Session 2 – Playing with Slabs;
Session 3 – From Two Slabs to One Table Top;
Session 4 – Clamping Odd Shapes and Sketching on Wood;
Session 5 – Routing Pockets for Battens;
Session 6 – Making Battens and Installing Countertop Connectors;
Session 7 – Installing Battens and Flattening the Underside;
Session 8 – Make Your Tools Work for You and Flattening the Top;
Session 9 – Mortises the Slow Way (or Why I’m Buying a Domino XL);
Session 10 – Curvy Legs are Always Good;
Session 11 – Straight Lines on Wonky Surfaces;
Session 12 – Fitting the Mother of all Mortise & Tenon Joints;
Session 13 – Making Things Better, Worse, then Better;
Session 14 – Battens and Complicated Tenons, Again; and
Session 15 – The Trestle Comes Together

(If you are not familiar with the format used on Twitter, every update, or “tweet” below starts with a username, being the author of that tweet.  Sometimes, you see two or more usernames in a tweet.  The second (and third, etc) usernames are preceded by a @ symbol and are people to whom the author is talking.  The other symbol you see is #, which serves as a category.  I try to remember to categorize all my tweets pertaining to this project under #flairww.)

FlairWoodworks I’m back in the shop working on a game plan. #flairww -11:21 AM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I’m going to start by shaping the tenons. #flairww -11:28 AM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I used a melamine jig to guarantee a straight shoulder.#flairww -11:33 AM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks If I had a tenon saw, I would consider cutting this joint by hand. #flairww -11:34 AM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Awesome! I just found a dust collection shroud for my Milwaukee routers! #flairww -11:40 AM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Using a router is awkward. It seems faster and easier to cut the tenon by hand, even without a saw. #flairww -11:56 AM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks One thing I really like about hand tools is how easy it is to be accurate. Hand tools register off knife lines. Power tools don’t. #flairww -11:59 AM May 15th, 2012

TheGravedigger: @FlairWoodworks If you’ve only got one or two to do, it’s definitely faster. -11:59 PM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Agreed. #flairww RT @TheGravedigger: @FlairWoodworks If you’ve only got one or two to do, it’s definitely faster. -12:00 PM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks The tenons would have been easier to cut before attaching the stretcher… #flairww -12:00 PM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks … but I couldn’t accurately lay out the tenons until after gluing up the stretcher. #Catch22 #flairww -12:01 PM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I chopped out the bulk of the waste from both edges, working down to the baselines but crowning the centre. #flairww -12:12 PM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Now I need to flatten the hump. #flairww -12:13 PM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I’m cutting the tenon close to length. #flairww -12:18 PM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Cutting the tenon to length allowed me to scribe a line on the end grain. #flairww -12:21 PM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks My medium shoulder plane looks tiny on this big tenon. Even a large shoulder plane would look small. #flairww -12:24 PM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I can use the shoulder plane to clean up the area next to the shoulder, then any other plane to flatten the rest of the tenon. #flairww -12:26 PM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I need to clean up the shoulder next. #flairww -12:33 PM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks To start the second cheek, I’m using a Dozuki to cut the shoulder. #flairww -12:42 PM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Appropriately enough, as I use the handsaw, Rage Against the Machine’s “Take the Power Back” is playing on the @993thefox. #flairww -12:43 PM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I’m chopping across the grain to avoid causing splits. #flairww -12:49 PM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Time to flip the leg over and chop from the other side. #flairww -12:58 PM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks There wasn’t much material to remove on this side so it went quickly. I’ll flip it over and finish the cheek. #flairww. -1:04 PM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I had to take a break to take care of some phone calls and emails. Just two more steps to finish the tenon. #flairww -1:31 PM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Because the grain would cause the wood to split if I worked from the end, I cut kerfs to control splitting. #flairww -1:38 PM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks You can see that the short segments still wanted to split into the tenon. The kerfs stopped that from happening. #flairww -1:40 PM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks There is just one more shoulder to cut! #flairww -1:45 PM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Here, the grain runs slightly uphill towards the shoulder so I don’t need the extra saw kerfs (just one at the shoulder). #flairww -1:47 PM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks One tenon is done! #flairww -1:51 PM May 15th, 2012

asliceofwood @FlairWoodworks nice work. Looks really smooth. -1:54 PM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I’m going to turn on the camera and cut the other tenon. #flairww -1:58 PM May 15th, 2012

asliceofwood: @FlairWoodworks livestream or footage for later? -1:59 PM May 15th, 2012

HalfInchShy Be sure to use a stunt double for safety! RT @FlairWoodworks: I’m going to turn on the camera and cut the other tenon. #flairww -2:00 PM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks If you think your shop is small, try putting a camera in it! #flairww -2:01 PM May 15th, 2012

HalfInchShy switch to a telephoto lens the other is too wide #badjokes MT @FlairWoodworks: If you think your shop is small, put a camera in it! #flairww– 2:06 PM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Well that was a miserable filming session. I had to work in too many awkward positions to allow a decent view. (The resulting video was not worth editing and publishing.) #flairww -4:12 PM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks As result, it took twice as long as it should have (there was also a phone call in there). I’m going for lunch. #flairww -4:13 PM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I’m back from lunch. My next task is to cut mortises in the feet. #flairww -5:20 PM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I drilled out the centre. I’ll chisel the rest. #flairww -5:29 PM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Cutting an angled, 7/8″ x 4″ mortise is slow but I’m getting there. #flairww -5:59 PM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks And the fitting process begins… #flairww -6:13 PM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I just discovered that the back of one of my most-used chisels is convex. Not cool. #flairww -6:17 PM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks It’ll be footage for later, provided it’s usable. #flairww RT @asliceofwood: @FlairWoodworks livestream or footage for later? -6:24 PM May 15th, 2012

Aolas @FlairWoodworks Loving your stage by stage photos. -6:24 PM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Thanks for the feedback! #flairww RT @Aolas: @FlairWoodworks Loving your stage by stage photos. -6:24 PM May 15th, 2012

BCcraftmaster @FlairWoodworks is [the bent chisel] really that big of an issue? You’ve built some pretty nice pieces using it! Did you not lap the back when you got it? -6:25 PM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks @BCcraftmaster The convex back made it very difficult to get plumb mortise sidewalls and meant a LOT of extra clean-up. #flairww -6:28 PM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks @BCcraftmaster I did lap the back of the chisel when I got it. I either did a poor job or it has bent/warped since then. Thoughts? #flairww -6:28 PM May 15th, 2012

BCcraftmaster @FlairWoodworks check your stones! They may need to be flattened. -6:29 PM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I use a diamond stone… #flairww RT @BCcraftmaster: @FlairWoodworks check your stones! They may need to be flattened. -6:30 PM May 15th, 2012

BCcraftmaster @FlairWoodworks sooooo… is it flat? -6:31 PM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Yes. #flairww RT @BCcraftmaster: @FlairWoodworks sooooo… is it flat? -6:31 PM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks @BCcraftmaster I checked my diamond stone two weeks ago. It is flat. Good question! Never assume! I like it! #flairww -6:32 PM May 15th, 2012

BCcraftmaster @FlairWoodworks maybe you just invented the first “scrub chisel” -6:35 PM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks If only…. It’s a shallow bent-chisel. #flairww RT @BCcraftmaster: @FlairWoodworks maybe you just invented the first “scrub chisel” -6:37 PM May 15th, 2012

BCcraftmaster @FlairWoodworks then, huh! Im clueless. Can steel warp without extreme temps? -6:37 PM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Perhaps unseasoned steel? #flairww RT @BCcraftmaster: @FlairWoodworks then, huh! Im clueless. Can steel warp without extreme temps? -6:37 PM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks @BCcraftmaster I know that unseasoned cast iron or improperly stress-relieved steel can warp. #flairww -6:38 PM May 15th, 2012

BCcraftmaster @FlairWoodworks save that chisel and reshape it with your grinder into a tiny little dovetail chisel -6:45 PM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I’ve finally got one foot fitted. #flairww -6:45 PM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks @BCcraftmaster Well, I do need a long marking knife. Maybe I’ll grind a spear-point on the end. #flairww -6:46 PM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks So now I need to cut the mortise in the second foot. #flairww-6:48 PM May 15th, 2012

BCcraftmaster @FlairWoodworks or just re-lap it… -6:49 PM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks @BCcraftmaster Uh… no.  See – it’s really warped. #flairww -6:51 PM May 15th, 2012

BCcraftmaster @FlairWoodworks ohhhh convex, the length of the blade, I thought you meant convex across the blade. I would guess it’s from chopping with it. -6:54 PM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks @BCcraftmaster It would be sad if these chisels were so soft that they bent in use. #flairww -6:55 PM May 15th, 2012

SMeekWoodworks @flairwoodworks How the heck did that happen? You using your chisels to open paint cans again? -6:56 PM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks @SMeekWoodworks My paint can lids aren’t on that tightly ;) -6:56 PM May 15th, 2012

BCcraftmaster“@FlairWoodworks: Cutting an angled, 7/8″ x 4″ mortise is slow  but I’m getting there.” That may have something to do with it… -6:56 PM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Rather than drill one row of 1/2″ holes, I drilled two rows of 3/8″ holes this time. #flairww -7:12 PM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I don’t have a bit larger than 1/2″ that is also long enough to pass through the foot. #flairww -7:12 PM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Oh, how I wish I already had my @FestoolUSA Domino XL. #flairww -7:13 PM May 15th, 2012

BillGriggs @FlairWoodworks I was gonna ask why but you already explained it. -7:17 PM May 15th, 2012

SMeekWoodworks @flairwoodworks You are going to love it! It’s perfect for the furniture you make. -7:18 PM May 15, 2012

FlairWoodworks @SMeekWoodworks Have you used one? #flairww -7:19 PM May 15, 2012

SMeekWoodworks @flairwoodworks We have one at GPD. Used it to make 33 interior doors. Pretty sweet. -7:20 PM May 15, 2012

FlairWoodworks @SMeekWoodworks How long did it take to cut all the joints? I can’t wait to get my Domino XL. But I must. #flairww -7:22 PM May 15th, 2012

SMeekWoodworks @flairwoodworks I think there was at least a day spent cutting all the mortises. Somewhere around 2000 of them. -7:24 PM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks And the fitting of the second foot begins! #flairww -7:53 PM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Getting closer. #flairww -8:07 PM May 15th, 2012

BCcraftmaster @FlairWoodworks are you going to draw bore? -8:08 PM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I want to wedge the tenons. #flairww RT @BCcraftmaster: @FlairWoodworks are you going to draw bore? -8:09 PM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Ha! I got it! #flairww -8:20 PM May 15th, 2012

thewoodbug @FlairWoodworks @BCcraftmaster wedge on Sir. Wedge on -8:22 PM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Here’s the base put together, inverted on the table top. #flairww -8:23 PM May 15th, 2012

Tumblewood: @FlairWoodworks DAMN!! That looks good!! Great job on this, Chris!! -8:26 PM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Thanks, Vic! It’s nice to see it taking shape! #flairww RT @Tumblewood: @FlairWoodworks DAMN!! That looks good!! Great job on this, Chris!! -8:26 PM May 15th, 2012

BCcraftmaster“@FlairWoodworks: I want to wedge the tenons. #flairww RT @BCcraftmaster: @FlairWoodworks are you going to draw bore?” Contrasting wood? -8:27 PM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks @BCcraftmaster The wedges will be under the feet, only visible when the table is flipped upside down, so it doesn’t reallly matter. #flairww -8:28 PM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I use carpenter’s pencils a lot in the shop, mostly for shading material to be removed. #flairww -8:35 PM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I need to cut reliefs into the undersides of the feet to make the table more stable. #flairww -8:42 PM May 15th, 2012

TheWoodBug @FlairWoodworks I will wait for the big stuff, looking incredible Chris, can I help with the finishing?? -8:51 PM May 15, 2012

FlairWoodworks @TheWoodBug Sure, Dan; I’d love your help. #flairww -8:52 PM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I used a framing square to mark the feet 2-1/2″ in from the edge of the table. #flairww -8:53 PM May 15th, 2012

TheWoodBug @FlairWoodworks Nice then I get to see the finish project in person, Violet dye might be nice then you can market it as Purple heart -8:58 PM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks A dye might look nice on the table top! #flairww RT@TheWoodBug: Violet dye might be nice then you can market it as Purple heart -9:02 PM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I cut the ends of the feet at 5 degrees. #flairww -9:03 PM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Five degrees didn’t look like enough so I recut the ends at 10 degrees. #flairww -9:08 PM May 15th, 2012

Tooltutor @FlairWoodworks Looking pretty sweet. You must be so ripped now. -9:11 PM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I just want to get the feet glued and go for dinner! #flairww RT@Tooltutor: @FlairWoodworks Looking pretty sweet. You must be so ripped now. -9:11 PM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks My bent chisel works fine for splitting out wedges… #flairww -9:21 PM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks One wedge done… I don’t think I’ll be able to glue up the feet without disturbing the family. #flairww -9:22 PM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I’ve got the four wedges cut. I’ll cut slots for them and stop there for the night. #flairww -9:40 PM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Last picture of the day! #flairww -9:53 PM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I’ll do the glue-up next time. #flairww -9:54 PM May 15th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I just remembered that I have a hollow chisel mortiser with a tilting head that would have worked well for mortising the feet. #flairww -10:23 PM May 15th, 2012

FestoolUSA @FlairWoodworks Yeah, the wait is never the fun part, Chris. Just two more weeks until it’s available. 5:05 AM May 16, 2012

DozersWorkshop @FlairWoodworks fantastic! Coming together fast, now! 7:22 AM May 16, 2012

Do you like how the table is taking shape?  Have you ever seen chisels take curvature over time?  Let me know in the comments section.

Next time, I’ll glue the feet onto the legs!

How to Listen to the Wood – Carving, Day 2

Sunday afternoon, I started a project with a board of butternut (I thought it was walnut at first).  The idea was to let the wood dictate the end result.  I documented the process of building and mounting wall brackets live on Twitter and what you see below are the updates from Day 2: Monday (you can read the first day of this project in How to Listen to the Wood – Carving, Day 1).  This was useful because each update had a time stamp so followers could see the rate at which I progressed.

(If you are not familiar with the format used on Twitter, the @ symbol indicates a username.  Every update, or “tweet” below starts with a username, being the author of that tweet.  Sometimes, you will see two or more usernames in a tweet.  The second (and third, etc) usernames are people to whom the author is talking.  The other symbol you will see is #, which serves as a category.  I tried to remember to categorize all my tweets pertaining to this project under #flairww.)

FlairWoodworks So this is where I left off yesterday. Follow along with #flairww  -12:24 PM Feb 13th, 2012 pic.twitter.com/8mmHxwDo FlairWoodworks In this tight area I’m able to hold the chisel like this and move it diagonally in the direction of the arrow. #flairww -12:55 PM Feb 13th, 2012

ravinheart @FlairWoodworks LOL .. hey, I see him now -12:25 PM Feb 13th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Working in restricted spaces is one of the biggest challenges. #flairww -12:50 PM Feb 13th, 2012

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FlairWoodworks This section is now shaped. #flairww -1:07 PM Feb 13th, 2012

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FlairWoodworks If a curve feels fair, it’s fair. I use my sense of touch to judge my progress. #flairww -1:12 PM Feb 13th, 2012

FlairWoodworks As I work on this carving, I feel the need to add some colour. What do you think? Paint? Dye? Stain? Nothing? #flairww -2:24 PM Feb 13th, 2012

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asliceofwood @FlairWoodworks maybe a little darker or something to make the grain “pop” -2:28 PM Feb 13th, 2012

FlairWoodworks You think that’s all it needs? #flairww RT @asliceofwood: @FlairWoodworks maybe a little darker or something to make the grain “pop” -2:35 PM Feb 13th, 2012

asliceofwood @FlairWoodworks yeah. I’m a fan of natural. The design looks great. -2:37 PM Feb 13th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Thanks, Tim. #flairww RT @asliceofwood: @FlairWoodworks yeah. I’m a fan of natural. The design looks great. -2:37 PM Feb 13th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I have to figure out what to do about this crack which is about 3/4″ deep at the near end and gets shallower. #flairww -2:45 PM Feb 13th, 2012

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FlairWoodworks I love textures. #flairww -2:50 PM Feb 13th, 2012

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FlairWoodworks This crack just won’t work. I’m going to cut it out and reassemble the two pieces. #flairww -3:04 PM Feb 13th, 2012

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FlairWoodworks Here is the result of one cut on the bandsaw.#flairww -3:08 PM Feb 13th, 2012

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FlairWoodworks I’m taking advantage of the easy access with the bottom removed and carving the otherwise restricted areas. #flairww -3:13 PM Feb 13th, 2012

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FlairWoodworks The trick with the ribbon is to make it look delicate without being delicate. I bevelled the ends. #flairww -3:24 PM Feb 13th, 2012

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FlairWoodworks I use my thumb and finger to gauge the thickness. If it feels right, it’s right. #flairww -3:26 PM Feb 13th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Because the ribbon is fragile, I used a piece of plywood to support it while carving the back. #flairww -3:55 PM Feb 13th, 2012

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gvmcmillan @FlairWoodworks Good idea – the grain direction looks like it would make it even more fragile. #flairww What’s the project? -3:57 PM Feb 13th, 2012

FlairWoodworks @gvmcmillan The project has been evolving since the get-go. Right now, it looks like a runner crossing the finish line. #flairww -3:59 PM Feb 13th, 2012

FlairWoodworks @gvmcmillan I’m just carving and letting the piece lead the way. #flairww -4:00 PM Feb 13th, 2012

gvmcmillan @FlairWoodworks Cool! I’ve never tried that before (abstract isn’t my gift). -4:07 PM Feb 13th, 2012

FlairWoodworks When using a gouge across the grain, one side of the cut is always with the grain and the other side against. #flairww -4:15 PM Feb 13th, 2012

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FlairWoodworks When shaping convex surfaces, often a wide, flat chisel (and not a carving gouge) is the best tool. #flairww -4:16 PM Feb 13th, 2012

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FlairWoodworks I removed most of the material from the back of the ribbon then glued the two pieces back together. #flairww -4:55 PM Feb 13th, 2012

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FlairWoodworks I have to wait for the glue to cure, so It’s a good place to stop for the day. #flairww -4:58 PM Feb 13th, 2012

To be continued…

How to Listen to the Wood – Carving, Day 1

Sunday afternoon, I started a project with a board of butternut (I thought it was walnut at first).  The idea was to let the wood dictate the end result.  I documented the process of building and mounting wall brackets live on Twitter and what you see below are the updates from Sunday (the project wasn’t completed in one day and so there will be more to come).  This was useful because each update had a time stamp so followers could see the rate at which I progressed.

(If you are not familiar with the format used on Twitter, the @ symbol indicates a username.  Every update, or “tweet” below starts with a username, being the author of that tweet.  Sometimes, you will see two or more usernames in a tweet.  The second (and third, etc) usernames are people to whom the author is talking.  The other symbol you will see is #, which serves as a category.  I tried to remember to categorize all my tweets pertaining to this project under #flairww.)

“The inspiration for me was this irregular butternut board and a table by Jennifer Anderson called Pattern Study 1 but I was willing to listen to what the board I had on hand wanted me to do.  By the end of day one, it was clear that I was not making a table.”

Pattern Study 1 by Jennifer Anderson

FlairWoodworks I’ve got this walnut board that tapers in thickness and has a live edge. Follow my inspired process with #flairww -12:29 PM Feb 12th, 2012

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FlairWoodworks I’ve surfaced one face which revealed long checks (cracks) on it. Cutting them out would be wasteful. #flairww -12:31 PM Feb 12th, 2012

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FlairWoodworks This is going to be a carving exercise to incorporate the checks into the design. There are no defects. #flairww -12:35 PM Feb 12th, 2012

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FlairWoodworks I started by defining the edges with a V-gouge. #flairww -12:38 PM Feb 12th, 2012

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FlairWoodworks I used a series of gouges to excavate between the V cuts. From left to right: 5/12, 7/10 and 9/10 gouges. #flairww -12:45 PM Feb 12th, 2012

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FlairWoodworks My 9/10 gouge is used extensively for roughing – much like a scrub plane. #flairww -12:58 PM Feb 12th, 2012

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WatkinsWoodWork @FlairWoodworks Very cool…can’t wait to see the finished product of your inspiration. -12:59 PM Feb 12th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Same here! RT @WatkinsWoodWork: @FlairWoodworks Very cool…can’t wait to see the finished product of your inspiration. -1:00 PM Feb 12th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I had intended to have more cuts terminating in wide curves at the near edge but it’s already quite busy. #flairww -1:20 PM Feb 12th, 2012

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FlairWoodworks Here’s my new plan. #flairww -1:24 PM Feb 12th, 2012

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FlairWoodworks This deep relief visually reduces the thickness of the board. I think I still need to go deeper though. #flairww -1:36 PM Feb 12th, 2012

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WatkinsWoodWork @FlairWoodworks Yup…I agree. A bit more depth should give a nice flow. -1:39 PM Feb 12th, 2012

FlairWoodworks My 9/25 gouge is for when I’m serious about stock removal. My 9/10 is in the background. #flairww -1:39 PM Feb 12th, 2012

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FlairWoodworks I think this looks awesome! Notice the shine on the carved surface. #flairww -1:46 PM Feb 12th, 2012

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FlairWoodworks This end is done for now. I think I need to make the other end scoops deeper now. #flairww -1:56 PM Feb 12th, 2012

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TomsWorkbench @FlairWoodworks Is this a new Br’all design? -1:58 PM Feb 12th, 2012

FlairWoodworks No sir! RT @TomsWorkbench: @FlairWoodworks Is this a new Br’all design? #flairww -1:59 PM Feb 12th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Parts of this walnut are surprisingly hard! Sections feel like hard maple. #flairww -2:00 PM Feb 12th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I’m not really happy with this scoop. I want the curve to be steeper but don’t have the required thickness. #flairww -2:07 PM Feb 12th, 2012

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WatkinsWoodWork @FlairWoodworks Very nice -2:20 PM Feb 12th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Okay – I’m back after getting a bite to eat. The carving is certainly lacking but I’m not sure what it needs. #flairww -3:17 PM Feb 12th, 2012

FlairWoodworks It’s coming along but I’m still trying to figure out where it’s going. #flairww -3:46 PM Feb 12th, 2012

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“At this point, I was not at all happy with how it was turning out.  To me, it looked like a board with one live edge, a big crack, and a whole bunch of random scoops taken out of it.  Yuck.  If I hadn’t been documenting the progress live on Twitter all along, I might have tossed it in the firewood box.  But I kept working on it, hoping that something would emerge.  Eventually something did emerge.”

FlairWoodworks I rounded over the shoulders of the cracks that I was unable to carve out. #flairww -3:57 PM Feb 12th, 2012

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cobwobbler @FlairWoodworks I like this process, letting the project evolve organically. -3:59 PM Feb 12th, 2012

cobwobbler @FlairWoodworks That’s looking good. How easy was it to cut? -4:01 PM Feb 12th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I don’t think enough people allow it to happen. RT @cobwobbler: @FlairWoodworks I like this process, letting the project evolve organically -4:02 PM Feb 12th, 2012

FlairWoodworks @cobwobbler Some parts are easy, some areas are harder and challenging. -4:02 PM Feb 12th, 2012

cobwobbler @FlairWoodworks Now it’s flowing like a river bed. Nice. -4:04 PM Feb 12th, 2012

cobwobbler @FlairWoodworks yes that works, it’s got a real flow and almost a sense of movement. -4:06 PM Feb 12th, 2012

WatkinsWoodWork @FlairWoodworks I like it. The check was distracting. -4:09 PM Feb 12th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I used a wide chisel, bevel-down, to extend the rounded corners. #flairww -4:09 PM Feb 12th, 2012

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FlairWoodworks I like the part I just did but the rest looks lacking. I might use a saw to cut more “checks” into the board. #flairww -4:19 PM Feb 12th, 2012

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FlairWoodworks Pay attention to the wood. This little knot is a signal that the grain may change direction. #flairww -4:26 PM Feb 12th, 2012

MichaelAgate @FlairWoodworks Chris, perhaps it is fine just like it is. Sometimes knowing where to stop is the challenge :) We all like it here :) -4:26 PM Feb 12th, 2012

FlairWoodworks @MichaelAgate Thanks for the input, Michael and company. However, I feel it is not done yet. Onwards! #flairww -4:28 PM Feb 12th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I feel that I am on the right track. That’s good because it’s very difficult to undo carving ;) #flairww -4:33 PM Feb 12th, 2012

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asliceofwood @FlairWoodworks looking good! Like all these little tips. -4:39 PM Feb 12th, 2012

FlairWoodworks It was still looking too blocky so I went to the bandsaw and made a series of cuts. Now I’ll refine it with carving tools. #flairww -4:58 PM Feb 12th, 2012

FlairWoodworks For unrestricted access to the edge, I clamped a short 2×4 in my vise and clamped the workpiece to it. #flairww -5:04 PM Feb 12th, 2012

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FlairWoodworks I’m really not happy with how uniform it looks. Time for some adjustments on the bandsaw. #flairww -5:09 PM Feb 12th, 2012

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FlairWoodworks When I come across an inconsistency like this I have to decide whether to incorporate or eliminate it. #flairww -5:19 PM Feb 12th, 2012

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HighRockWW @FlairWoodworks I like the looks of the rest that I can see. -5:24 PM Feb 12th, 2012

MansFineFurn @FlairWoodworks character -5:24 PM Feb 12th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I’m starting to see something! Can you see it? This is #exciting! #flairww -5:27 PM Feb 12th, 2012

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ravinheart @FlairWoodworks Yup I can see it it’s in there just keep letting it out -5:30 PM Feb 12th, 2012

MansFineFurn @FlairWoodworks yes -5:34 PM Feb 12th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I’ve learned to embrace sanding as sometimes it, just like any other technique, has its place. 1 side sanded. #flairww -5:46 PM Feb 12th, 2012

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FlairWoodworks Having dust collection nearby doesn’t catch all the dust but it gets most, if not all, of the airborne dust. #flairww -5:54 PM Feb 12th, 2012

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ravinheart: @FlairWoodworks a tree within a tree, water, and motion #flairww -5:56 PM Feb 12th, 2012

FlairWoodworks We must remember to be patient with the creative process. #flairww -6:00 PM Feb 12th, 2012

MansFineFurn @FlairWoodworks A highway interchange, Dr Seuss’s horns from the Grinch, fine carving work, your mad skills, and my lack of artistry -6:14 PM Feb 12th, 2012

MansFineFurn @FlairWoodworks I keep asking myself: “but what’s it DO?” #TheEngineerLooksAtArt -6:17 PM Feb 12th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Ha ha ha! I was doing that too. #flairww RT @MansFineFurn: @FlairWoodworks I keep asking myself: “but what’s it DO?” #TheEngineerLooksAtArt -6:17 PM Feb 12th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Would anyone else care to share what they see here? #flairww  -6:19 PM Feb 12th, 2012

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ravinheart @FlairWoodworks a running man would be in motion :) -6:22 PM Feb 12th, 2012

Flairwoodworks If you were closer I might throw him at you! ;) RT @ravinheart: @FlairWoodworks a running man would be in motion :) -6:23 PM Feb 12th, 2012

FlairWoodworks @ravinheart sees a tree, water and motion. @MansFineFurn sees a highway interchange or Grinch horns. I see a runner. #flairww -6:25 PM Feb 12th, 2012

ravinheart @FlairWoodworks there will be no throwing :P

FlairWoodworks Ok. Dinner break. #flairww -6:29 PM Feb 12th, 2012

Tooltutor @FlairWoodworks Looks like a tree on its side being struck by a meteorite…or a flowing river being hit by a meteorite =P -6:40 PM Feb 12th, 2012

Seanw78 @FlairWoodworks something between antlers and a blowing wind -7:15 PM Feb 12th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Thanks for sharing! #flairww RT @Seanw78: @FlairWoodworks something between antlers and a blowing wind -7:18 PM Feb 12th, 2012

FlairWoodworks So I’m back after dinner and thinking about some major material removal, as indicated by the scribble. #flairww -8:19 PM Feb 12th, 2012

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FlairWoodworks I think Andrew @RavinHeart may have inspired me to make this cut by hand instead of the bandsaw. #flairww -8:35 PM Feb 12th, 2012

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FlairWoodworks Two cutouts complete. I’m going to do some shaping next. #flairww -8:44 PM Feb 12th, 2012

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FlairWoodworks The correct sweep of gouge is determined by which part of the edge engages. The corners should not engage. #flairww -8:56 PM Feb 12th, 2012

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FlairWoodworks Out damned crack! I know it doesn’t go through but I can’t tell how deep it is. I’ll keep going… #flairww -9:03 PM Feb 12th, 2012

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FlairWoodworks I’m defining what I think is a ribbon running horizontally across what I think is the waist of the runner. #flairww -9:33 PM Feb 12th, 2012

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FlairWoodworks I’m using a 15/6 (60-degree V) gouge to undercut the ribbon. #flairww -9:49 PM Feb 12th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I want to remove this narrow bit that I’ve shaded but I know it will mean a lot more work. It’s worth it. #flairww -10:12 PM Feb 12th, 2012

FlairWoodworks A good tool solves problems without causing any. This Knew Concepts fret saw is certainly a good tool. #flairww -10:16 PM Feb 12th, 2012

Tumblewood @FlairWoodworks fun to watch your creative improvisation. -10:34 PM Feb 12th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Thanks, Vic! #flairww -10:37 PM Feb 12th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I finished roughing the cutout. Now to refine that confined space. Not fun. #flairww -10:42 PM Feb 12th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Time for another break! #flairww -11:00 PM Feb 12th, 2012

The carving is continued in How to Listen to the Wood – Carving, Day 2.

Every Workshop Needs a Br’all

This post is part of Get Woodworking Week, an initiative started by Tom Iovino of Tom’s Workbench, to build interest and participation in woodworking.

I know that every one of my readers except for Paul-Marcel, for whom I made the first one, is scratching their head wondering what the heck a Br’all is, what it does, and why they haven’t heard of it.

A Br’all is a shop accessory that I think every shop should have.  I designed it to do one thing and one thing only.  It does not require a great investment in either time, tools or materials to make, so it is a great Get Woodworking Week project.

The first video is the one you should definitely watch.  I show you how to make a Br’all using different hand tools, techniques and the purpose of the Br’all.  (Duration: 13 minutes, 14  seconds; the high-speed segments are 2x speed.)

The second video shows the letter carving I added.  (Duration: 7 minutes, 12 seconds; the high-speed segments are 4x speed.)

Here are some pictures of my bench-clearing Br’all.

Shiny Handles Suck

Many wooden-handled tools that you can buy come covered in a tough, shiny finish.  These tools look so perfect and pretty and would look right at home in a glass display case under a spotlight in the Museum of Modern Art.  While the shiny handles are pretty and easy to wipe clean, they are slippery and not very comfortable to hold.

One day, I got fed up with the lacquered handles on my chisel handles.  I took a piece of coarse sandpaper (80-grit, I think) and removed the shiny finish.  I palmed the handle and knew immediately that I had done the right thing.  I was able to grip the chisel with more control than ever before, and with less effort.

Lacquered and Stripped Handles

Later, when I decided to strip the finish off the remaining chisel handles, I decided to try something different.  Instead of using sandpaper, I used a spokeshave.  The result was a faceted handle that felt better in my hand.

Working on a Chisel Handle

Although I could have left the naturally-oily rosewood handles bare, I chose to add a coat of oil finish.

Refinished, Faceted Handles

I also removed the finish from the handles of my spokeshave and finished them in a similar fashion.

Refinished Spokeshave Handle

With the slick, glossy finishes removed, the tools were much more comfortable to use and looked even better, in my opinion.

Slicks and Handles for Socket Chisels

A slick is essentially a large chisel that can be used to pare or trim projections in the middle of a large surface.  Many slicks have cranked handles (angled upwards) to provide the necessary clearance.  They are often used in timber framing but their size makes the overkill in the shop.  Useful or not, it’s a neat curiosity.

A few weeks ago, I arranged a trade with Tom Iovino of Tom’s Workbench.  I sent four assembly squares his way in exchange for a slick he didn’t need.  It arrived with the short, squarish handle shown in the middle.  (The full-size carving gouge is for scale.)

In use, I wanted to be able to brace the butt end of the handle against my shoulder and the old handle wasn’t long enough to be comfortable so I decided to turn a longer one.  I started by removing the old handle so that I could take measurements off it as I shaped the taper.  Since this is a socket chisel (meaning that there is a socket in the metal that the wooden handle fits into), removal was easy with the right technique.  I gripped the blade, with the edge safely away from myself, and whacked the handle against my bench a couple of times and the handle popped out.

I found a suitable piece of wood for the handle (Western maple) and installed it between centers on my lathe.  I first turned the blank round, then used a parting tool to define the size and shape of the taper using the old handle as a guide.  A tight fit is important, so I intentionally left the taper slightly oversized.  I went ahead and shaped and sanded the rest of the handle.

The handle-to-blade connection is purely mechanical (a friction-fit) so I wanted to make sure I got a good, solid fit.  Back at the bench, I test-fitted the handle in the socket.  It didn’t fit that well, but I twisted it around a few times before removing the handle.  A discoloration was left where the wood rubbed against the metal and I used a rasp to remove the marks, then tried again.  When I got an even wear pattern, I fully seated the chisel by driving the butt end of the handle down on my bench top and inertia secured the blade.

I would have left the handle unfinished, but the curly maple I pulled from my firewood box was begging for a finish so I applied a light coat of an oil/varnish blend to showcase the figure.

If you look closely at the joint between the handle and blade, you will see a slight gap between the blade and shoulder of the handle.  This is important as without that gap, the blade could bottom out on the should and not fully engage with the socket.  That means the handle could separate from the blade.  Not good.  Fortunately, if care is taken to ensure a good fit, the handle should lock on very securely.

Before starting work for the day, it’s good practice to rap the butt end of the handle on the bench to ensure that it is indeed fully seated.  If this seems like too much bother, you could apply some shellac to the taper just before you install the handle.  When the shellac hardens, it will lock the handle in place but it can still be removed by applying heat to soften the shellac.  (Thanks to Jeremy Tomlinson of Lie-Nielsen Toolworks Inc. for this tip.)