Not your usual bench chisel

“Pedestrians” (non-woodworkers) might assume that slicks are for chopping holes in preparation for the next ice fishing tournament.  Most woodworkers identify slicks with timber framing and boat or ship construction.  It’s not unusual that, upon seeing a slick,  people will feel compelled to tell the story of how their Uncle Joe lost his toe when his slick became separated from its handle.  But the slick is a paring chisel, albeit a very large paring chisel.  The slick’s design does vary somewhat from most paring chisels, in that it usually has a “thickened spine” and it is slightly curved in its length.  Also, most old slicks have a slightly cambered cutting edge.

A 3" slick compared to a 2" socket firmer chisel

A 3″ slick compared to a 2″ socket firmer chisel

Most furniture builders would not consider a slick the type of tool that would lend itself well to their endeavor.  But a few days ago, I needed to trim some leg posts flush with the aprons of a “bandy-legged” table I’m working on.  Anyone who has done this task will agree that it is difficult due to the potential of  tear out and edge breakage.  So I decided to take a little different approach.  Knowing that slicks are used to trim tenons, I decided to see how a slick would do on the leg posts.  Surprisingly, it worked very well.


Let me say, without hesitation, that a slick, like any other edge tool, needs to be razor sharp to work as it is intended.  I was careful to pare with the grain and at an acute diagonal, much greater than the above illustration would indicate.  Taking narrow, adjacent cuts seemed to work best and I took extra care when nearing the arris of the post.  A little planing and scraping was still required.  But, all in all, the slick worked very well in removing the bulk of the stock that needed to be trimmed away.

So before you start clearing your drive after the next ice storm with that old slick you picked up at someone’s garage sale, consider the possibilities…

Explore posts in the same categories: handtools, historic woodworking

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One Comment on “Not your usual bench chisel”

  1. Jim Crammond Says:


    Glad to see you found a slick, it looks like a nice one. I saw several at Chesaning but didn’t think they were in good enough shape to consider.


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