Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Thoughts on chisels

I have two sets of chisels, purchased at very different times in my woodworking hobby.

The second set is a no-longer-available set of eight Wood River bench chisels from WoodCraft.  This set is pretty much the six smallest chisels, although the handles look a little different.  I bought them not long after I started trying to actually learn woodworking, when I decided it would be nice to have some tools actually designed to do what I wanted. 

They're decent.  Not super high quality, and they've got some odd quirks (every single one of them has a handle that's about one degree out of parallel with the blade, tipped up away from the flat back of the chisel -- I have no idea why, but they all do it), but they're serving me well.  I like them, but they're not much good for chopping mortises.  They're not exactly paring chisels, but they're also really not designed as mortise chisels, and whaling away at them makes me nervous.

This morning, I had a brainstorm:  I remembered my first set of chisels.  I bought them at Sears years ago, when I needed to reshape a 2x8 to fit around a pipe that stuck out of the ceiling.  Long story, don't ask.  These things (though I got a 4-piece set, which appears to no longer exist) are ugly.  Short blades.  Big lands on the sides.  Oddly tapered.  Black plastic handles, with steel butt caps.  But... they're thick, solid blades.  There's no way the handle is going to split:  that steel end cap should make sure of that.  So I dug one out.  It turned out to be a half-inch, which was fine.  This was just a test.  Time to find the rest later.  I flattened the back (which took surprisingly little work -- it actually was essentially flat to begin with), and put a new edge on it.  Then I grabbed a scrap of pine, and started bashing away.

And you know what?  I don't need to buy those Narex mortise chisels right now.  These aren't fantastic -- they won't hold an edge all that long, for one thing -- but they work a LOT better than the Wood River ones ever did for mortises.

And all this for something like $20.  I now have, if I can find them all, 1/4, 1/2, 3/4, and 1" mortise chisels.  I'd be happier with just a 1/4 and a 5/8, but hey... these'll do.  And they don't require me to spend more money right now, which is worth quite a lot.  Who knew?

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