Hand Tools Archive

Re: Cost of chisels
Response To:
Cost of chisels ()

david weaver
Warren, let's be fair. A bushel of wheat back then was probably equivalent to about 10 or 20 times that now.

Ag commodities across time aren't really comparable because of mechanization and agricultural practice (e.g., corn on typical land being a 175 bushel proven yield vs. a quarter of that 100 years ago).

The real question in terms of the chisels back then would've been tied more closely to how many man-days of labor would it have taken to get the stock and the chisels made and put in the hands of a merchant. No employee benefits, no real regulation, and taxes were probably limited to small local duties and tariffs.

Just looking back to 1960, the real cost of wheat vs. the average wage (a way to normalize to the average income to try to gauge productivity or man-time spent) is about five times what it is now. Farming was well mechanized (I'm sure you're aware), but more in a two cylinder tractor and probably 100 acres farmed on average. My grandfather was running 330 acres back then and trying to go to 550, and he was criticized for being a pig for wanting to do that.

I don't have data prior to 1960s, but the cost of wheat 230 years ago would've been astronomical. Probably several days' wages.

We can still buy chisels for less than an hour's wages. Even the iles chisels, which are better than chisels made in 1790 (not everything now is, but I can say in use of the iles chisel, I would pick them over old chisels except for perhaps ward/i.sorby, etc, made after chisels switched to all steel), are about one hour of the current hourly wage. They do, of course, come with handles, which few probably would've paid to have made for them in 1790.

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