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Tools Restoration, Care, and Maintenance

  Chisels, Glorious Chisels... by Scoot Grandstaff  

Seems to be another rash of chisel talk going on.  It comes in bunches.

Chisels must be one of the most obvious first entries into Galootdom, and then it sticks with us as long as the disease has any strength in us at all.

The minty, lovely chisel is as irresistible as the siren's call to every one of us, and the badly abused forlorn and forgotten chisel?  Well one look and we can't help but want to nurture it back into full working condition to take it's rightful place into the rack or the roll.  And it just never ends.  I do love it so...

My latest, inspired from many places, is a dovetail chisel.  I had a spare 3/8" straight side knocking around unloved and decided it would be a good size for chopping and paring out tails.

So I rustled up a handle for it on the lathe, another new pattern of course.  Just what struck my fancy at the time.

The blade got ground with deep hollows running all the way back.  Relieving plenty of steel to get down into the sharply angled tail.  It's not too hard to do freehand once you let yourself get into it.

Grinding a hollow is like falling into a pocket and once established you keep to the pocket and keep the steel moving across the wheel.  Where the parts are thick you can lean a little harder and when approaching the thin sections you need to let up.

Once you get your hollow established you then stay inside the hollow but put more pressure toward the top or bottom to even it up so they match.  Grinding the shoulders and keeping them even is the toughest part, you'll see.

I like to do it barehanded so you can feel when the tool is getting hot and needs to be dipped again in the bucket.  This chisel should now be good for all the grinding / honing it's ever going to see.

You want to check the blade of your project chisel with a straightedge.  When a chisel has been pounded with a steel hammer sometimes more than the socket takes abuse.  It's difficult to straighten a bent chisel blade. 

The only sure way to straighten a bent chisel is to heat it full red and knock it back flat with hammer and anvil.  This also means you must then re-harden and temper it afterwards.

If the chisel is to be a showpiece or an important antique or something, this is what you do.  There has been plenty said in many books and on the web.  Rev. Ron Hock has a nicely written piece on it, on his site. Sometimes you can press it out with 3 hard steel rods and a heavy vise.

If you are willing to take a big risk, because it isn't important enough a chisel to fire the forge over, this is what I do.  Place 2 rods on the ends of the concave side and the third in the middle of the convex and press considerably further than you need because the blade will spring back considerable. 

I get around 50/50 results this way.  Half straighten out just fine and the other half snap with a crack.  It's a big risk but it's quick.

Yeah yeah, I know, placing three vertical steel rods with a chisel in-between, into a vise jaw and getting it to stay there while you draw up the screw enough to hold it, is a Laurel and Hardy moment, but it's what works.  You'll get it on your 11th try or thereabouts.  From there it gets easier.

The famous Spotted Gum of AU is generally known to be able to break up a hardened ball pein hammer head, or just about! You can add a hoop on top if the style pleases you, or if you are planning to mortise logs with it.  But for general bench work you certainly shouldn't have to have one.

yours, Scott
August, 2007
Happy Camp, CA
email:  Scott Grandstaff

Related Info

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