I have some circa 1870s morticing chisels that came from my great-grandfather, a joiner in Scotland. I wanted to ask if I dare put them to use, considering the condition of the handles. There are four attached pictures. The first three show different views of the handle of a 3/8ths wide "pigsticker." As you can see, cracks are present and there is very old tape around the mouth. The fourth picture is of a 1/4 inch chisel, with the handle in better shape, but still showing a crack. I am willing to make temporary reinforcements to the wood.
I want to complete just a single project, a 3/4 scale two-panel door, using as many of my great-grandfather's tools as possible (I also have planes). if these chisel handles are too fragile, can anyone suggest a source for temporary handles I could use? The blade tangs have rectangular cross sections that taper to points.
I assume that these chisels have great value to you as family heirlooms. I would keep them carefully preserved so that they may be enjoyed by future generations. I would probably go so far as to build a display fox for them.
Looks like the other guys already brought up the big issue: will these end up being tools to use or are they more heirlooms? If you plan on actually using them it would be pretty simple to make new handles and get going, but if they're more of an heirloom thing it'll be a little more difficult thing to get them usable
Tang handles are easy to make with a copper or brass tube section on the end of a hand carved branch. I found some lilac branches that would make perfect handles. You can file the shape to suit the ferrule inside diameter. Drill hole in the end to suit the tang, start with a smaller size then increase it at lesser depths. Pound the handle on with a mallet resting the blade on a hardwood block for resistance.
The way i like fitting handles is to take whatever im using for the handle and drill a hole whose diameter is the size of about the middle or so of the taper on whatever it is im adding a handle to. Drill this hole down to about %90 or so the depth of the taper. Now take a blowtorch and get the tang nice and hot, but for the love of god, be careful with this step. Watch the steel, if you see color bands extending past the tang, take away the heat. Anyway, get the tang as hot as you can without those pesky color bands, and press the handle slowly but firmly onto the tang, letting the metal burn its way into the handle, backing off every so often.
The end result is a handle with a taper that exactly matches the tang. Ive used this to fit handles to chisels, files and the occasional knife. The only real issue using this for your case is those handles arent coming back off after theyre fitted!
Consider your great grandfather having his hands "all over" those tools, building and showing his knowledge and talents! Those are IMO rare and precious items from a family member that has lived on through time, and can NEVER be replaced. It is best to honor him & his unique craft by building a tool display case for other generations to enjoy. Be safe.