Hand Tools

I think it's a fractured bunch of stuff...

David Weaver
..there is something that predates what I suggested that causes some tension with warren (joel's blog, maybe? I haven't gone back and read it other than maybe a brief glimpse, but vaguely recall it saying that pigstickers were rounded over).

There is little on the ground from the mid 1800s in England other than a marples catalog showing pigstickers, and it doesn't appear that any of the marples chisels have the round over. Most of the used versions don't, either. Also with that, their pigstickers have a less tall cross section (I've guessed from use that the taller that the chisels are, the more sense it makes to have the top of the bevel rounded over).

Warren took exception to the fact that I suggested some of the makers rounded these chisels over at the top from the factory because chisels before them don't show a round over, marples doesn't, and then there's a vacuum of what you'd find from ward or I sorby or ibbotson (i think the ibbotson were also rounded over, but ward and i sorby all have this similar roundover if it's done neatly (when a user chases a bevel back and redoes the roundover, it doesn't look as neat).

My supposition also with these is that I've used some with and without that have a tall cross section and the ones that have a sharp transition at the top of a thick (tall in profile) chisel are miserable to use and they don't move very easily inside a deep mortise. As soon as you go to rotate them, you have to fight them to move up or down to adjust where you're rotating (for example, to pull them up just slightly to sever a section of chip off where it doesn't break loose easily and just pulling harder may chip the edge off of a chisel). Chisels that have a nice gradual roundover move around very well in rotation in the bottom of a mortise, but to get a feel for it, the mortise has to be pretty deep, or the angle of attack shallow.

It's a stark thing inside of a deep mortise, and you cannot tell just how stark it is until you use one next to another with and without the roundover.

The next issue was whether or not the whole bevel profile was traditional - 25 degree primary more or less, the roundover, and then a steep small secondary bevel. I think the answer to that is yes for two reasons - friction and penetration. If you leave the cross section on a 3/4" tall chisel as a single flat pane (especially if the chisel is laminated), riding the bevel in a mortise creates a huge amount of friction - it's very obnoxious.

I have no proof of anything, and frankly, nobody seems to. We have one catalog from that era and most of the chisels from that brand look like they did in the catalog. The others that don't look like those, we have no catalogs showing pictures of them or drawings of them (ward and ibbotson), but the round over on a chisel that's not short always looks far too neat for the average person to maintain, and when full length, the top roundover has the same finish as the rest of the chisel (suggesting it's never been stoned or reground unless it was part of a concerted refinishing effort by someone very skilled).

This leads to another question - why are there so many of these chisels near full length? They couldn't have been cheap, especially the larger ones with really nice quality grinding work and precise proportions. I think it's because the bevel setup that works well for fast work in deep mortises (getting off the full bevel and riding only a small part of one) pushes the roundover on the back of the chisel so far away from the tip that the depth of the mortise at the ends needs to be significant for them to be worth using.

We're left with a lot of supposing. Supposing that catalogs from different eras or different makers are proof that the roundover wasn't factory, and supposing that so much consistency from those with roundovers is proof that they were factory created. The thinness of literature from mid-1800s england vs. mid-1900s doesn't answer much.

In terms of getting actual questions answered, the UK forum wasn't worth too much other than to clarify that there really isn't a lot of catalog literature from that time and the only real chance of finding pictures of factory ground chisels like that is to start buying books made about each brand where they're available.


(my guess in all of it after improving penetration with bench chisels by rounding over the edge and modifying the rest of the bevel is that the same modification on a mortise chisel as that has a lot to do with what I'm looking for - to reduce the amount of work it takes to do a given task).

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