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In my school’s woodworking program, we have a variety of chisels, ranging from wood-handled to plastic-handled. We even have a chisel without a handle, which is a full-tang hybrid between a cold chisel and a woodworking tool.

One particular type of plastic handle we have is a composite of hard, transparent plastic wrapped with soft, rubbery cushioning elements. Over the years, these handles have deteriorated, with the plastic chipping away or becoming gooey and sticky. They have become a pain to use and to service. To remedy this, I cut off the plastic handle and replaced it with a wooden handle from a chisel that had run its course and become too short due to many years of use and sharpening. If you do not have a wooden handle to retrofit on the tang of your plastic chisels, there are a few online sources where you can buy wooden handles for striking tools.

Preparing the Broken Handle

Start by using a hacksaw to cut around the tang and remove the bulk of the deteriorating plastic handle. Then, use a dull chisel to push the remaining plastic collar away from the tang. Next, measure the diameter of the round tang, install a bit slightly narrower than the tang into your drill, and drill the replacement handle. Before installing the handle over the tang, rasp and smooth its striking end, which might be deformed due to many years of use.

Installing the New Handle

If, after sanding the back of the handle, it still feels too fibrous, I recommend saturating it with some thin super glue to solidify the beaten-up area. Once the handle is prepared, place it over the old tang and strike it back home.

While I mentioned that the hole drilled in the handle should be a tad smaller than the diameter of the tang, this recommendation assumes you have a drill bit set that includes a variety of sizes. If you rely only on a basic drill set, the differences between sizes might be too significant, and the hole you drill might be too narrow for the tang to go in without cracking or splitting the handle. Therefore, I recommend having a full set of drill bits that vary slightly from one to the other to help you maneuver this fitting process successfully.

Here are three sources for buying wooden handles for your chisels, owls, gouges and more:

Casey’s Wood Products 

H. A. Stiles 

Mark Newton


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