Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A chisel by any name would cut as sweetly

Apologies to the reader - didn't intend to leave things for a week without further postings. Things cropped up, not least the thorny subject of chisel nomenclature. That, as you're probably aware, is a deep, dark swamp into which many have ventured and few have emerged with credit. In fact I now attempt to dodge the bullet and offer up a chisel or two and ask the reader what he/she would call them.

Because I'm cowardly that way.

So, two examples of the type - narrow tang, widening out an inch or so to maximum depth of blade, before tapering down again. Usually pretty short, always narrow. Usually 1/8in. or so, but the bottom one in this case is a bare 1/16in. That, my friends, is mega narrow for any chisel.

I've never thought of them as narrow bench chisels, simply because my old man has a 1/8in. chisel by Mr Marples and his boys, and it's nothing like that. I've always sorta assumed they're a variety of mortise chisel, possibly for some specific purpose (not a rare one, because they turn up frequently enough), but having found myself in possession of that ultra narrow one, I'm rather more uncertain of their use than before. Cursory inspection of Salaman and an old Marples catalogue has provided no enlightenment. I'm not saying the answer isn't out there, just that presently I don't have the spare brain power to go looking for it. So now is your opportunity to shine, gentle reader - what sayeth you? The comments box is open.

Meantime, I may have just succumbed to the joys of secondhand books via the interweb (again) and another volume of the Woodworker for my, um, collection. All being well, 1933 should this way come shortly. That'll keep me busy...


  1. Alf,

    Mortice chisels I think. Based on general shape which seems intended to provide as much support metal as possible. Also the slightly rounded bevel shape is very reminiscent of a mortice chisel. I can't see if there is a single bevel or not ( looks like it ) and that would suggest mortice also.


  2. I don't know about historically, but I sure would have liked to have had those when I built a couple of wood planes. They would have been great for cleaning up the pockets that grip the blade on either side of the escapement.

  3. Reasonably sure it's for caning a chair, removing old cane and clearing the grooves in the frame.

  4. Maybe a deep, slender mortise in something thin. What would that resemble? Room screens? Shadow boxes? Joinery for the drawers of a butterfly collection? Face frames in cabinets? Through tenons for some glass holding frame where a groove is already established, like a display case?

    --Anonymous Comment-Leaving Person

  5. I agree with what Simon says...

    (lol... Simon says)

    Didn't Lie-Nielsen make a 1/8" mortice chisel specifically because some plane makers asked for them?

  6. I think they're just narrow bench chisels, but with extra deep blades to increase their stiffness.

    I have a vintage Ibbotson 1/8 inch chisel and it's a genuine oval bolstered mortice chisel with a typical large handle. So they definitely made "proper" mortice chisels of a considerable slimness when they were intended for chopping deep mortices.


  7. I have the same(ish) chisels, I'm going to go out on a limb and say their just firmers, but because they are smaller in width they've been beefed up a bit. I've seen quite a few, and have adapted one for has three cutting edges.

  8. Hi Alf, I can see why you might have mistaken these for chisels - I have some and they’re invaluable for various narrow chiselling. But actually they’re slaughtering tools (for crafting sticky red masterpieces of death). When properly sharpened the tips will pierce the skull easily, just flick your wrist several times in quick succession, like this... bakbakbakbakbakbak... aim through the ear, that’s best, and you’ll find your foe’s brains will slither out like eels. I believe this is because the shape of the blade creates a partial vacuum on the withdrawal stroke. This is all standard stuff taught at hitman school. Oh, by the way, the correct name is ‘mort ice pick,’ although I don’t really know why as they have nothing to do with ice.

  9. spider sticker and the small one flea sticker


Owing to vast quantities of spam this blog is getting, I'm afraid only registered users can post. All comments are moderated before publication, so there may be some delay. My apologies.