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So I’m mortising this benchtop this morning when I hit a patch of epoxy and bam! My chisel’s helve split like a Twix bar. Dang, this epoxy is tough stuff.

– Christopher Schwarz

P.S. The above is a work of satire. Epoxy has neither the ability nor the ill will to damage your chisels. The Epoxy Institute claims , and I believe them because they advertise , that epoxy can be chiseled, sanded and makes a great addition to a RoTel dip. Go epoxy!

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Showing 26 comments
  • Araldite

    Epoxy is a general term for a very wide range of products with a very wide range of properties. You can have a soft epoxy highly filled with wood flour that is as carvable as any soft wood. You can have a hard epoxy highly filled with silica that you can smack all day with a hammer and nothing will happen. Most people have no idea what they have when they say "epoxy".

  • Try using a leather mallet, consisting of a wood handle with a bolt sticking out of it and rawhide rings stacked one on top of each other. When you get to the end of the bolt, put a big fender washer and a nut on to squeeze the rings together. Makes a great mallet that will take a beating.

    Jim Abernethy

  • Christopher Schwarz
  • John Walkowiak

    I think it was just a defective handle. A leather washer might have helped, most antique mortise chisels have them, there must have been a reason. A couple years ago I punched 4" deep, 5" wide mortises in cherry with my 1/2" Isac Greaves MC. My go to mallet – Wood is Good – would just bounce off so I resorted to one made of Lignum Vitea. The only damage was to the nerves in my wrist. If you have a junk transitonal or wooden jack or jointer plane it would be a good place to salvage a seasoned piece of beech for a new handle.

  • Steve

    One of these days, you’re going to wake up to find a blob of hardened epoxy, in the shape of a horse’s head, at the foot of your bed, courtesy of the Epoxy Institute.

    And it will still be warm.

  • Julian

    Please tell us some details about your square mallet that we’ve seen in so many of your photos.

  • Jim S

    So tomorrow are you going to change your story and tell us that is WAS the epoxy?

  • An appropriate ending to this would be to make a mould for the pigsticker handle, pour it full with epoxy and set the chisel on/in it so that the handle is a large formed hunk of clear epoxy.

    Then you should be able to hit it as hard as you want.

  • Virgil

    Do you really need a handle? Many an old chisel I’ve picked up over the years has no handle but a lovely mushroom effect on the what otherwise would be too small steel handle on the non-chisel end. That mushroom is so much eaier to hit than the point I’ve seen on non mushroomed versions….


  • Raymond

    Ouch! Epoxy can be tough stuff. I have moved away from epoxy unless using it certain areas where I need that type of bonding. I’ve started using a product called Thermelt Knot Filler instead of epoxy since it cuts like wood. Do you make your own handles? I’ve made some and do what Bill recommends, putting a ferrule at the ends to help resist splitting.

  • Using the word Epoxy is like using the word vehicle. Among woodworkers, it seems that there is only one type epoxy available. Some epoxies are fantastic bonding agents while others are just plain crap, depending what is being bonded.

    My point is, if we aren’t a little more specific when discussing epoxies, some people who might be new to epoxies might get the impression that epoxies shouldn’t be used.

    Just my 3.5 cents.

  • Bill Larsen

    It looks like it is time for a little lathe action. Enough banging around. Make a nice new helve and this time put a nice piece of copper tubing as a ferrel around the top and bottom. My Swiss Made Large carving chisels have this nice feature and I beat the heck out of them carving seat bottoms.

  • Jeremy

    I’m sensing a theme here re: the inexplicable toughness of epoxy. I propose a combination of memes. I think the magazine should start marketing "Chuck Norris brand epoxy – so tough it’ll break your tools from INSIDE THE BOTTLE!"

  • Paul Stine

    Just wrap some copper wire around it and then some duct tape – good as new.

  • Jeremy Kriewaldt

    It looks like the chisel was handled without a leather washer between the bolster and the handle. I find that washer is the key to being able to wang away at your pig stickers like you need to. Derek Cohen has a great article at his website on rehandling pig stickers and he tells all about leather washers:

  • Mike Siemsen

    Seems to me that you could glue it with epoxy.
    I have decided to refrain from comment on Shannon’s diaper, just too many places to go and none of them good.

  • Jerry McCaffrey

    Chris, if you didn’t stay totally on the "flat-side" at NWA you would have seen Marilyn Campbell’s workshops on using epoxy during Totally Turning. You have to widen your world 🙂

  • Christopher Fitch

    So Chris is that a Ray Iles pigsticker?

  • Christopher Schwarz

    A beech mallet — at least the ones that we have here — would not drive the chisel effectively in the very hard and brittle cherry. Believe me I tried.

    I’ll rehandle it. No big deal. It’s wood.


  • Niels Cosman

    Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

    Beware the dread-epoxy! It’s downright nasty stuff. Black as Hades’s beard and twice as spiteful. Hide your tools and your children!

    You’re definitely going to need a bigger chisel (railroad spike, John Henry?)


  • joel

    This is a fine example why you always want to use a mallet with a head softer than the chisel. ‘Tis cheaper to replace a $17.00 mallet than a chisel handle. With a nice soft beech mallet you would have split the mallet long before splitting the handle.

  • Thomas J. Hamernik

    There’s no better reason to run out and buy a new tool!

  • Al Rossi

    Quit blaming the epoxy – it was clearly the fault of that fancy schmancy mallet you’re using….

  • David Hite

    Thanks. Now I know what a "helve" is.

  • Shannon

    You need to stop breaking your tools for comic effect. I use my Iles chisels a lot, but always wipe them with a diaper and set them back in their shrine at the end of the day.


    That, in a nutshell, is why I no longer hit my mortising chisels with my biggest mallet. I dunno what it’s made out of, some weird inherited Australian wood but it has killed two beech handles so far and shown no signs of stopping.


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