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Sunday, 23 August 2009

Stamjarns and Teardrops (fixing a very old problem)

People sometimes ask me how I select products for Workshop Heaven and I have always had difficulty giving them a straight answer. Traditionally retailers look for shiny, nicely packaged products that are heavily marketed and available at the drop of a hat from the manufacturer or wholesaler. I will forgoe all the above for a product that is made right, or has fixable issues, and is preferably not widely available.

The Swedes are naturally blessed with some of the purest iron ore on the planet, they make excellent high carbon steel from it, which they forge into really solid chisels that will last a lifetime. Then they put atrocious uncomfortable handles on to deter rational people from buying them. It has always been so, whether its a 90 year old A.E. Berg or a new C.I Fall, the handles let the side down every time.

I asked C.I Fall if they would consider having a redesigned handle made, similar to their (surprisingly good) turning handles, a very polite 'not at the moment' came back from Anders Fall - one of the most down to earth guys you could ever want to meet by the way. Much to Anders' dismay a purchase order for tangs followed and my quest began to find the perfect handle.

The original handles are assymetric and I wanted to retain this feature as it would mean the handle could be rotated 90 degrees and used for the morticers as well - matching set sir? Very nice.

I liked the knurled ferrule on the originals so that will be staying although the square section, clarty dipped finish and the hoop are all deeply and profoundly wrong so all of those concepts have been binned. That left me with:

*an oval section,
*a rounded top,
*something that would be suitable for heavy malleting
*would work with bench chisels and moticers.

Then it clicked, teardrops! Mouthwateringly comfortable, directional, very traditional, sold!

A couple of calls with Colin in Sheffield and the deal was done. They will be double turned from beech, which fits with the best bits of the Scaninavian ethos. Carefully sanded, fitted with thick knurled brass ferrules, given a good soak in tung oil and then hand rubbed to a soft sheen. I've bought a thumping great cast iron Victorian lever press by W.B. Haigh of Oldham to fit them, which reminds me, I must remember to get Len Cooper to machine me a new part for it.

All in all, not too much effort to fix something that has dogged Swedish chisel manufacturers for well over a century. The grinding is still miles off from cabinetmakers chisels but good quality bevelled firmers that can take a thwacking are a surprisingly rare treat these days, so with a bit of a marketing to let folks know about them, they should be quite popular.


  1. I'm going to be in the market for a couple of Mortice Chisels soon Matthew so eagerly await these new handles. I assume you don't stock the CI Turning tools?

    Tom (wizer)

  2. Hi Tom,

    Thanks for your message. I don't carry them in stock, but if you let me know what you'd like, I can add them on to one of our regular orders.

    As with the others the grinding is a little rough and ready but most people have their own preferred grind for turning tools anyway.