While most newly-purchased chisels are supplied together with their integral guard, any vintage tool, mortise chisels, corner chisels, and all gouges do not come with such protection.
A few years ago I wrote about a technique to protect the edges of your chisels and gouges using cardboard and rope to make a tailored-made guard. But recently I developed an even better system and one that is easier to work with. Shrink tubing or shrink insulation is an electrical wire and cable insulation technique where a heat reacting plastic tube is put over the exposed wire and with the help of the heat gun the tube shrinks over the Wire and insulates it. I have used shrink tubing for a variety of purposes, from building a makeshift handle grip over a piece of steel rod to fixing the frayed charger cable of my Mac computer. Recently I came up with the idea of using heat-reacted plastic to form the perfect cap over my edge tools.
My method, step by step:
- Wrap a blue masking tape approximately ¾” away from the edge of your tool. This build-up of tape will cause the opening of the cap to flare out and consequently help in sliding it over the tool.
- Cut a piece of heat shrink tubing to length and mount it over the edge tool. Most tubings will shrink to 50% of their diameter so you will have to make sure to use the appropriate diameter – not too narrow and not too wide. The length of your sleeve should extend from the edge of the masking tape to about ¾” past the edge of the tool.
- You can oil or wax the edge of the tool to prevent the tubing from grabbing too tight upon shrinking.
4. Heat the tubing with a hair drier or heat gun. Move the heat around to shrink the entire tubing surface and to prevent overheating the tubing or the steel.
5. When you think that the tubing has shrunk tight around the edge pinch the excess tubing (the amount that exceeds beyond the tip) with pliers. I used a picture framing canvas pulling pliers but any knurled pliers will do. This pinching creates a nice grip tab to help in pulling the cap off as needed.