Woodworking Hand Tools – Chisels – Do Not Buy a Steel Banana

By March 8, 2018Uncategorized


I use all kinds and many brands of chisels, in the 1980s I was one of the first western woodworkers to advocate using Japaneses chisels and one of the first to stop using them as the only solution. Now my tools are a mix of western and Japaneses. I am currently working with a Japaneses blacksmith to develop a lighter western style chisel but with the very hard sharp cutting edge that some Japaneses chisel makers can provide. More Later on this.

We are definitely still waiting for the ideal cabinetmakers set of chisels. The essential quality of a chisel is a flat back. This is the jigged surface that one uses and puts on the job to gain flatness. A bent chisel is of no use whatsoever, no matter how sharp it is or how nice the lovely handle is.

Sorby Bevel Edged Chisels

Until very recently I think Sorby have been a tool supplier that has gained a lot of our custom. The Sorby box wood handled cabinetmakers chisels are very nice, light, well shaped blades with quite good quality steel. The lightness and the quality of the shaping of the steel, and the quality of the grinding and shaping of the blade is of really paramount importance.

Steel Bananas

However the problem we have encountered with the Sorby blades is FLATNESS or lack of it. As far as we can see it seems that somewhere towards the end of the process of manufacture heat is being introduced to the blade after it has been flattened. Because it seems to have once been flat then another process introduces heat to part of the blade and the whole blade then seems to bend slightly.

What arrives in the customers hand is a blade that in our experience three times out of five is curving from the tip of the blade in a convex pattern towards the handle of the tool, so if the blade is put on a flat surface it will touch near the heel of the handle and touch at the point of the blade with a hollow in the center of the blade. This hollowing may only be half a millimeter over the whole length of the blade. But it should be dead flat.

You’ll need at least one blade in your collection that is dead flat and it’s a damn shame that really good blades like these cannot arrive dead flat in the first place. Failure to give us flat chisels is an unacceptable situation, many of my students do go for the Sorby chisels because they have many good qualities but this now is against our advice and some of them later regret their decision. With a certain amount of care in the fettling of these blades after purchase you can flatten those backs but its a pain and it’s work that should have been done for you by the manufacturer.

Lie Neilsen Chisels

Lie Neilson make flat bevel edged chisels and we have grudgingly recommended those to our students for some time now. They are however heavier than I would like to see a bevel edge chisel but the machining is a superior quality. We’ve yet to have blade supplied to us that hasn’t been up to specification and I’d recommend these chisels in all of the sizes because of this.

The shape and design of these chisels is not the only thing I would like to see improved however. These are made in A2 steel which is a very hard tough steel that takes a good edge. They do not in my opinion take as good an edge as a chisel made in high carbon steel. I have used high carbon Marple chisels for over thirty years and Norris plane irons for a similar time and I know this modern A2 steel is not as sharp. It hold an edge well but not as sharp an edge. The other deficiency is that this steel sharpens in a way that does not help the beginner. Don’t be too fussed we can show you how to sharpen this stuff fine its just that high carbon steel will turn a burr and hone that burr off real easy. With A2 steel the burr comes away in tiny clumps and needs watching. It’s not necessary to have a full set of these expensive chisels but over the course of time you will need a full set. Don’t buy them all at once, buy them as you need them, but in time seek to acquire a full set of bevel edge cabinetmakers chisels.

Source by David Savage

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