Since so many of you complained that I dared to cut straight into red
oak with a Marple chisel, what CAN you use your dainty chisels for??
Funny that I've got a Sears chisel that's about 30+ years old (3/4"
beveled edge) and it can take the same sort of treatment (NOT abuse)
with no dulling of the edge.
Ouch, Dave - somebody tread on a few corns?
Traditionally, bevel-edged chisels were reserved for fine work, and you'd
use the more robust firmer chisel for general bench work, and a mortice
chisel for chopping mortices. Many craftsmen dropped the grinding/honing
angles of B/E chisels from the usual 25/30 down to 20/25. They had a
thinnish blade and fairly sharp bevel, so that they could clean right down
into the acute corners of the tails in a DT joint, or the angles of a
sliding dovetail housing - these were generally quite long and were known as
paring chisels. What with all that and the fact that they were high carbon
steel, they were pretty delicate, it used to be drummed into us that you
never used a mallet on a bevel-edged chisel, and you didn't use it for heavy
work which involved levering, as you would a mortice chisel, and this may
have caused some of the flak you seem to think you've received :)
Modern B/E chisels like Marples are drop-forged, their blades are generally
thicker, and heat treatment is probably better controlled nowadays, and they
have splitproof handles, so your Marples chisels should be able to take more
robust handling than the older BE chisels. Mine certainly can, although I
don't use a mallet on them, nor do I use them for seriously heavy work -
there's something in all that brainwashing as a youngster which just won't
let me do it. Apart from that, over the years I've accumulated chisels for
virtually every situation, so I don't normally need to.
Protouch are certainly not Marples' top line, and Marples themselves are a
fairly midstream brand. At something like 25 GBP for a set of four, you
can't really expect the best. I have a set of the Splitproofs (yellow/red
handles) which I keep for site work, since I wouldn't grieve too much for
them if I nicked an edge or they were stolen. They're good strong chisels
and keep a fair edge, but they're about 2-3 times the price of Protouch.
I've never used the Blue Chip chisels.
As for morticing with them, apart from any edge-holding issues, well,
they're simply not robust enough for tradional deep or through morticing, if
that's what you were doing. Sinking a big mortice through hard timber
really needs a mortice chisel. I note as well that you mentioned that you
used the chisel on 4 sides of the mortice. It may be that you're not
familiar with the techniques used for deep morticing, but the chisel is
normally just used to cut across the grain of the mortice, never along the
grain. The long grain is severed by being sheared by the *sides* of the
chisel, not the edge, either while driving it in with the mallet, or by
levering the chisel back and forth after it's been driven home. This is why
you'd normally select a chisel which is exactly the same width as the
mortice to be cut (or, more usually, you'd have a range of chisels from 1/8"
up to about 5/8" in steps of 1/16", and you'd adjust the size of your joints
to suit the chisel which was nearest to 1/3 the thickness of your stock).
Further to that, mortice chisels are usually deeper than they are wide, both
to add strength for levering and also to reduce the possibility of the
chisel skewing off square when being driven. The edge is normally ground and
honed 5 degs more obtuse than usual, and very often the area where the bevel
meets the face of the chisel is rounded, rather than being a sharp angle as
is normal, again to provide a pivot for levering.
This last isn't intended to sound patronising at all, but if you're not
familiar with what I've been discussing in the last paragraph, I'll be more
than happy to talk you through the procedure for making an M&T joint the
Good Ole Neander way if you drop me an email. To my mind, it's one of the
most satisfying jobs in woodwork, and you can sure work off a helluva lot of
aggression and stress by hand-chopping mortices. Santa brought me a
digi-cam, and something like that would be a good project for it. Perhaps
post it on APBW.
First let me say, WOW! You've just posted a "keeper" response that I
hope anyone as unfamiliar as me with being a "chiseler" <g> will file
I put a couple of comments "in-line".
Frank McVey wrote:
I STARTED to cut a shallow mortise, just to see how the tool cut oak,
but I doubt I got into the wood even 3/16". probably more like an 1/8".
then I tried to lift the center out, looked at the chisel and saw that
it was toast. So I proceeded to do the same thing with the Sears
beveled edged 3/4" chisel and it went according to Hoyl. That's why I'm
suspicious of the quality of the steel.
Do they come from the factory with a rounded edge? Or do you not mean
the actual edge, but the face?
Do woodworkers REALLY resort to a heavy mortising chisel just to install
a hinge mortise? If so, I'm confused about what I can use a "regular"
You are not patronizing at all! Forgive the American English. :)
email: dave1812daveBAD "at" yahoo period com
remove the "BAD"
It's the bevel side of the chisel and they don't come that way.
What I do with my mortise chisels is to take them from the package and
give them a steeper bevel angel than they come with. I don't bother
removing the entire original bevel, and I tend to freehand when
sharpening, so I wind up with a "hump" somewhere in the middle of the
bevel that then tapers back down to the chisel's edge.
As I was trying to get across to you in that other thread, bevel
angles do make a big difference in how effective a chisel is for
certain purposes (as well as how often you have to re-grind an edge).
I cut hinge mortises with my trusty Blue Chips (surprise). I first
scribe the depth and outline of the mortise and then make a series of
parallel shallow crossgrain cuts with light taps from a mallet,
followed by taking the chisel bevel-down to remove the waste
(repeating as necessary until done).
When I talk about using mortise chisels, I'm talking about chopping
mortises anywhere from maybe 3/4" to several inches deep and 1/4" to
1" or more wide. That's why I want something substantial with a
fairly steep bevel.
thanks for the added info, Chuck. to show you how lame I am, I pried
the wood up with the bevel facing up. See why I ask so many questions
on the Wreck?? I pried up with the chisel across the grain. I take it
from your explanation, that's ONE thing that I did correctly?
Conan the Librarian wrote:
Using the bevel down for removing material in a shallow mortise
gives you (or *me*, anyway) more control over the chisel (keeps it
from diving into the work).
You say you were prying across the grain. First of all, for
cutting mortises, you want to be going with the grain for stock
removal. For cutting a hinge mortise I first scribe the outline of
the mortise with a marking gage. Then I take my chisel and deepen the
scribe by putting the chisel on the scribed mark with the bevel facing
towards the waste. I give it a *very* light tap (too hard and the
bevel will force the chisel back into the non-waste area). I then
reverse the chisel (bevel up) and angle it back towards the scribed
line from the waste side and give it a push by hand. This removes a
tiny sliver of wood and gives you a little groove that looks like a
"v" rotated so one leg of it is upright. (Do this for all three sides
of your hinge mortise.)
I work to my desired depth by repeating the two steps above. This
gives me a nice full-depth outline of the mortise and keeps me from
risking munging the outer its perimeter.
After that I take my chisel and make a series of cross grain cuts
in the waste area, spacing them maybe 1/4" apart. I use a wooden
mallet and give the chisel a firm tap, but don't whale away on it. I
then take my chisel bevel-down and pop out those chips going with the
I know it sounds complicated, but it takes me less time to make the
mortise than it did to write about it.
As for mortises where I need to "pry" -- that's what my mortise
chisel is for.
You use 'em for trimming, paring and finessing. You cut mortises with their
I know I can use a mallet on my long chisels, cause they all have
anti-mushrooming rings, but I seldom use one. No problem whacking the snot
out of my Millers Falls butt chisels.
I think it was FWW a while ago that had a article about chisels. One of
the uses they showed for a bevel edge chisel was removing splinters!
I've got a bunch of the Marples Blue Chips (started with one of their
sets and added a couple larger and smaller) and I'm happy with them.
Maybe I'm just not enough of a conosewer yet to see all the problems
everybody keeps saying they've got; they seem fine to me.
Recent additions to my collection are a set of mortise chisels from
Sorby, which I'm just learning how to use. I cut a set of 8 complicated
mortises (double tennons with haunch) with my plunge router a while ago
for a bench I'm making. Last weekend I finally got around to tapering
the legs and ruined one leg (let me attention wander, put it in the jig
wrong, and tapered the wrong side). I decided to make the replacement
leg by hand. One mortise came out pretty damn good, the other is a
mess, so I guess I've still got room to advance on the learning curve :-)
My most recent chisel purchase was a splurge; the Veritas Detail chisel
They're a little pricey, but I'm happy I got them. They're really nice
for fine work, like tweaking a joint that doesn't quite fit.
One of my favorite chisels is a 2" Stanley butt chisel that I must have
bought 30 years ago.
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