Hand Tools Archive

I've really got to avoid discussions like this!!
Response To:
Voids in steel ()

david weaver
There is a lens that you view this kind of stuff through once you've put a few hundred board feet of rough lumber through a plane and saw. The sharpening economy becomes more important than the alloy to some extent, unless the alloy prevents a reasonable sharpening cycle. Shavings get thicker, and the plane wears you out a couple of times before it actually needs to be sharpened, as opposed to the other way around (which by some stroke of magic, seems to happen to beginners and people who never plane more than planer chatter in any quantity).

As I was making trails through HAP tools, HSS muji irons, etc, and looking for harder and harder chisels, one thing stuck out in my mind. That was, in FWW - the old one where the articles were written more by pros and less based on pushing tools at beginners - most of the shops had sort of utilitarian planes and the most seen chisels in all of the actual articles were blue handled marples chisels (pre china), or another version of the marples chisels. I've had a couple of sets of them in the past, and the grind on the older ones is divine, but one can be a dud now and then. It was sort of like the double iron irk....I liked single iron and bought into that, but I couldn't reconcile why double irons eliminated single irons and did so at a higher cost. That doesn't make sense.

Now we're a lot of years forward, I still don't do more than a couple of hours of woodwork per week, but it often involves sawing and planing rough lumber and hand joinery. I have no use for heavy planes, the next promise in super edge retention or the next soft sharpening stone either becomes a major nuisance if it's contaminated, needs flattening (which isn't an especially productive part of the sharpening cycle), or is hard and isn't that flat (lots of diamond hones) or as fine as it says it is. That stuff inhibits work.

So, as much as books talk about martensitic steel or austempering, it really doesn't matter. My experience with the narex chisels is not that they're better than decent vintage chisels - they're worse, no matter how much more complex their process is or the textbook toughness is. Modern commodity tool steel often has flaws in it that I don't see in older stuff, or like A2, it apparently doesn't like the most time-economical way to sharpen when you're performing work. It really doesn't matter unless it moves the needle in getting something done, and it doesn't. HAP 40 chisels don't equate to more work - they are really tough, but they have a strange feel and can work sort of dull for a long time. That's not attractive. You have to have diamonds out to sharpen them economically, and I can't think of much that gets contaminated more easily than a loose diamond plate or a piece of honing film with some exotic abrasive on it. Waste of time. Great for cutting staples, I suppose.

One last thought. I recally when Tommy (can't remember his name, has a woodcraft show) had his videos. They were fun before they got gutted by the need to sell woodcraft's wares, and most of them either disappeared or became edited pay-only videos. Tommy was making super nice furniture, and he had really plain tools. He showed an LN chisel and a marples chisel and said that the LN chisel was a pain to sharpen. I didn't get it, because I was a beginner. When you're in a work cycle working in rhythm, you don't want that stuff - you want a chisel that holds a reasonable edge and that sharpens quickly.

Needless to say, that video is no longer available publicly now. I get it. I'd rather have a good quality set of marples chisels than LN's socket construction chisels. If I got a dud marples chisel in a set, I'd just replace it. I wouldn't have the marples chisels because they're cheaper than LN's chisels, I'd have them because I like their proportions a whole lot better. Just not the new ones with the fat sides. An alternative is the AI chisels. They are, to me, miles above the LN chisels...miles. I may have a dodgy bubble or two in the ones that I have, but the proportion is one of those that you'd actually use to do work if you're holding a chisel by the handle.

It spreads over to knives, too. There are 100 people telling you that they need a certain overdone knife that's pointless to have for every 1 who could actually make use of something of that sort. To a T, everyone who has come across the forums and extolled the virtues of the next wondersteel, save Derek, hasn't had a convincing reason about why it improved productivity. If derek is planing something we never see here, he's in a small sub class that might actually make use of the hardness or wear resistance. In the united states, we'd just get a different type of wood.

Something has to move the needle in use, and someone notable has to explain to me why it does. Planing 2x as many feet with a sharpening cycle that's 3 times the hassle isn't a good explanation.

Until something like that happens, I'm out, other than for general observations. I just don't care what the modern process and technical arguments, because it would lead someone to believe, for example, that Narex chisels are better than vintage. Unfortunately, that's not the case, for many reasons.

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