Keeping sharp (or, an update on those chisels)

A week or so ago I posted an entry about some chisel shaped objects that I purchased from the ALDI grocery store as an experiment.

I also shared my initial disappointment with the handles on the chisels, but I should really just go ahead and say that when I first took them out of the blister pack I was a little disappointed all around. Since my conversion experience after reading the Anarchist’s Tool Chest I have to admit that my perceptions about tools have changed. I have learned to judge tools differently and to discern them from the “tool shaped objects” that have long inhabited my woodworking world.

In fact, when I opened the ATC to the chapter on “Tool Shaped Objects” the background photo on the opposing page was a “tool” that I knew all too well. A chisel/rasp hybrid that I had purchased some years ago because I had no idea what a real tool should do or look like.

I feel like I’ve gotten a pretty good handle on that now. I can look at a tool and feel it in my hands and offer a good assessment of it’s utility

When I opened the chisels it was apparent to me that they did not look or feel like tools I would want to use. I sat them on the corner of my bench for a few weeks and forgot about them until finally I decided to give them an honest shot.

Reshaping the handles (as described in the previous post) went a long way to making me want to try these out in earnest. All of a sudden they started to feel like tools, so I broke out the marble slab and waterstones and went to lapping the backs of the chisels and putting an edge on them.

And wow, what an edge!

These said “Chrome-Vanadium Steel” on them, which is the same steel used by Pfeil and Narex on their chisel sets. I don’t have an electron microscope sitting around the garage so I’m going to go ahead and trust the label on this one, but whatever they’re made out of they take a decent edge.

The word is still out on how long that edge will last. My entirely unscientific testing method is to just put them to work as I would my other chisels and see how they hold up. At the moment I’m building a layout square out of some recalcitrant walnut and they’re holding their own, especially for detail work.

I’ve been able to sneak in to the decorative ogees and s curves with plenty of finesse and set up first class cuts for the half-laps with relative ease.

So far no complaints here. My plan is to make a little chisel rack so that I can keep these on the wall and handy, but I could certainly see them ending up in a traveling tool chest at some point.

My Stanley set is still my favorite and perfect for the bench, but I have to admit I’ve been reaching for these all week and I have yet to be disappointed.

So chisels or chisel shaped objects? Definitely chisels. If you’re willing to get creative  and do a little work to get them in shape these are perfectly capable tools.

I think I’d still like to get someone to turn some nicer handles for them (I have no lathe) but these will do for now.


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