Hand Tools Archive

A different take on chisels

Bill Tindall, E.Tn.
There has been a lot of focus of late on chisel steel properties. For me that is 3rd on the list of priorities. First comes the blade shape and second the handle shape. Any moderate to high priced chisel is going to have steel good enough so this is the variable I would sacrifice to the other two more important.

I just banged out 40 case dovetail sockets for this desk. That's about 5 hours of chisel in hand doing work. Feet, yes, nearly 20 feet of dovetails remain to complete the drawers. If the chisel shape doesn't fit seamlessly where it needs to fit to clean out waste no steel property will redeem the chisel.

Same for the handle. If the handle isn't comfy and able to nimbly direct the chisel and chiseling force to its target, nuisances of how the steel feels on the stone will not be front and center on your mind.

A relatively short, side beveled chisel meets all my needs. A barrel shaped handle is also preferred. Your results may differ. I would never recommend buying a set of chisels without first buying one and seeing how you like it in use.

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