I used to think that my wife simply didn’t understand me when she would widen her eyes and ask, “why do you need so many tools?”. Then not too long ago a friend came into the shop and asked, “what in the name of all that’s holy do you use all of these different chisels for?” (His adjectives were actually a little different, but in the interest of not upsetting some of our more delicate readers, we’ll let this interpretation suffice.) Then, just a few days ago, someone asked me if I could recommend one type of chisel that would work well for all applications. My immediate thought was that this guy must be nuts! And then…I began to question myself!
So, here’ why I have so many different kinds of chisels. They are all for different purposes. Let’s consider some (but certainly not all) of the tasks that specialty chisels are designed to do.
From left to right: a plastic handled, socketed, bevel edge, chisel that has be “blunted” so it can be used as a scraper (used in letting in wooden plane beds); a single bevel carving chisel; a Japanese cabinetmaker’s chisel with a triangular section – good for dovetail work; a Japanese bench chisel, hooped and socketed (can be honed incredibly sharp while being very durable and can withstand heavy use); a skewed, bevel edged paring chisel (used in pattern work and plane making); a hooped and ferruled European bench chisel for general work; an English “pigsticker” sash mortise chisel, tanged and heavily shouldered, it is used to “chop” mortises cross grain; a Continental style sash mortise chisel, hooped, ferruled and washered (still not as durable as the English pigsticker; a large firmer chisel, front and back surfaces are usually parallel (or darned close to it), generally used in heavy work and to align (“register”) the walls of mortises created by boring with a boring machine or brace and bit; a gooseneck or lock mortise chisel, used to clean up the bottom of blind mortises, i.e. lock mortise on entry doors; flat paring chisel for trimming datum; “cranked” paring chisel, one of the preferred tools of the patternmaker as it allows the craftsman to pare a large datum witouth scraping his (or her) knuckles on the work; a heavy, socketed bench chisel for general carpentry work; a wide butt chisel used mainly for letting in hinge mortises.
So, you can see that each of these chisels has a very specific use. And I haven’t even talked about palm chisels, framing chisels and slicks! Well, I guess I’m in the market for a few more chisels. We’ll talk about maintaining these little beauties in the next few days.