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L. & I. J. White


Restoring Chisels, Turning Gouges and Other Edge Tools

  Rehabilitating Old Chisels by Bob Smalser 1 of 5  

I was in the market for a large framing chisel on eBay and wound up with a package deal for 30 bucks… an old Stanley 5C Type 16… the Lakeside 2” Framing Chisel I wanted… a beater chisel with a mangled socket… and an old cooper’s shaping chisel.

This article will deal with the two framing chisels…the cooper’s chisel was usable as is with some cleaning and sharpening, and the plane I’ll cover in another article, although I’ll rehabilitate them together. These will be put back to work as users, like all my tools… restoration of collector items is another subject.

For this article, I’ll purposely use only the minimum tools and techniques necessary for a first-class job… and all the work done in a crude, temporary 12’ by 12’ shop. My intent is to provide a model for newcomers to the craft who will benefit greatly from acquiring older but high-quality tools in need of a hug for very little money… and putting them back into service without a lot of machines and fancy gizmos you don’t have yet.

Moreover, with enough practice rehabbing old tools, making new ones like in other articles I’ve written, and doing traditional joinery for your workbenches and other shop necessities…by the time you create for yourself a nice workshop, you may find you no longer feel a need for all the trendy doodads being shilled at you weekly. I’m not saying that all those expensive tools and jigs aren’t useful or don’t have a place, I’m merely trying to provide you something to help set those priorities.

I use a large, 8” gunsmith’s pedestal buffer-grinder for most of my grinding and polishing chores, but a smaller 6” bench grinder will also work fine. I’da used a smaller bench grinder for the pics… but I don’t own one.

I use a soft steel wire wheel to clean all metal parts thoroughly…the cooper’s tool has been cleaned in the shot above.

Then I treat them with a phosphoric acid solution (above) available at home improvement chains to kill any remaining rust. This is the functional equivalent of using an electrolysis solution for those not so inclined. The phosphoric acid is allowed to sit over night to work. The next day, the black oxide rust residue is removed with the wire wheel in preparation for buffing and finish later… we need to do some rough grinding and make and mount the handles, first.

The treasure of the lot is the one in the worst shape; of course… a Robert Duke Diamond Brand firmer-style chisel of lovely, glass-like cast steel. 

It had lost its handle ages ago and probably served to cut the heads off nails with a large, ball peen hammer in its old age. The socket tang was badly mangled with the remnants of the old handle remaining in the void. The tang was returned to its original form by drilling and filing the socket mortise, and grinding off the metal extruded on the outside.

Fortunately, there was enough socket mortise remaining to use or I would have required the services of a neighbor I trade work with…and his TIG welder…to build it up. Using heat-sink paste and wet rags, I might have been able to build up the socket with my torch welding setup without ruining the blade’s temper, but it would have been riskier, and I’m not near the welder my professional neighbor is.

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