Monday, September 26, 2011

Shark Week

As I seem to be in the mood, this blog might just focus on chisels for a while. (Surprise) Kinda like Shark Week, except it may or may not last as long as a week, depending on my mood. Or maybe longer than a week. And there are no sharks.

Having said which, the odd one out I had in mind was indeed the "Where's Waldo?" candidate. (Or as it's called here in Blighty, "Where's Wally?". Possibly because anyone walking about in red and white stripes like that would naturally tend to be described as a bit of a wally...)

Anyway, this is a E A Berg 1031 series 3/8"/10mm chisel with the famous Shark logo. (See what I did there?)

It came to Alf Towers in a state of abject misery, and has stayed to become something of a favourite. In the normal scheme of things I wouldn't have touched it with a Ten Foot Pole (Or any other Eastern European of abnormally tall stature - I'm an equal-opportunities employer. Or rather, in this case, non-employer.) However, at the time there was a lot of chatter about the joys of Berg chisels on't fora, vis-a-vis the superior quality of their steel, and I was curious.

My being curious gets me into all sorts of trouble, tool-wise. You may have noticed.

So this thing was basically a length of rust with a handle. Indeed the blade was so rusty a previous owner had declined to have it anywhere near their pot of Pure Brilliant White emulsion, and had instead stirred the paint with the handle. But it was the only Berg I'd ever seen before or since, so I had to have it. Didn't I? I believe I was (over) charged 20 new pence for the thing. Or one fifth of a pound sterling. Or about 30 cents at the current exchange rate. The paint on the handle was thrown in for free.

Having absolutely nothing to lose, and only less rust to gain, I threw the thing at the belt sander, and as is often the case in life when you have nothing to lose and thus take no particular trouble at all, it came out beautifully. Okay, so by the time I'd found steel it wasn't actually 10mm wide any more, but just a hair under 9mm, but I also had slightly finer bevels as a result too. So it was a win-win.

And only a couple of hour's work to lose the paint off the handle... Well, most of the paint.

Now the astute observer will have gathered that I'm not a fan of plastic handles. At all. But this puppy? Man, it is so comfortable, it's ridiculous. Fits my hand "just so", doesn't roll off the bench, gives an instant tactile feedback on which way the back's facing. It's brill. If I wasn't such a lazy so-and-so I would make oval handles just like it for a whole bunch of chisels. Alas, it's so much easier to slap something on the lathe and make it round. Sigh. It's not easy being a lazy so-and-so sometimes...

So there we have the E A Berg. The 1031 are made under the Bahco brand now, and I don't know if the steel is as good. If it is, well if I'm ever in the market for some more plastic handles, I think I'd give them a shot first.

Tomorrow, or maybe Wednesday, from plastic handles to Made in China. Can this blog stoop any lower...?


  1. Hi Alf

    Know what you mean about plastic handles. But I've always been strangely attracted to the handles of the Marples Splitproof range. Same oval section as your Berg but with a clear amber quality that reminds me of barley sugar.....


  2. All I can say is that it's a good thing that some computer somewhere has and will continue to store your blog utterances as that was such a funny and engaging tale that I admit to having laughed quite out-loud more than once.

    Let's face it we're all a bit of a tool-junkie at heart (maybe not to your lofty and seriously nose-bleed threatening heights though Alf) and I'll bet we've all got what could be described as our pygmalion tool.

    Mine has to be a very sad and near useless Chinese made chisel. The metal is nearly too soft to even cut butter, but, quantum fluctuation bless it, it clears out the corners of most joints so well that it can pass as a "real" chisel any day (I'm a good chisel I am).

    Stephen Ruddock
    New Zealand (where they're playing this strange game with a non-spherical ball)

    P.S. how did Wally become "Waldo", or, for that matter, "Man About the House" become "Two's Company" etc.?

  3. This year I met some Danish woodworkers who had a good selection of Berg chisels from all eras. They pointed out something very interesting -- the older the tool, the angrier the shark is on the logo.

    Recent sharks are almost smiling....

  4. Hah! Someone needs to catalogue the selachian facial expressions on Berg chisels as a matter of urgency. Brilliant. Thanks for that piece of tool nut pub quiz trivia, Chris :)

    EG, I love the barley sugar handles for looks, but bitter experience with an abused screwdriver of my father's with such a handle has caused me to hate them when it comes to actual use. More by association than function, I suspect, but the damage is done. Still like barley sugars though...

  5. I like your chisels series but it is dangerously interesting, I looked again for the price of Bahco 1031 chisels. Workshop Heaven seems to have stopped selling them recently, but I found them online in the Netherlands.
    Garrett Hack uses them. But are Berg and Bahco 1031 exactly the same chisels?
    I only have some Bahco 414, even if they have a bevel they seem closer to firmer chisels. I have no idea about the other series as Bahco is not very specific about profiles.

  6. But are Berg and Bahco 1031 exactly the same chisels?

    Now that is the $64,000 question. I have no idea. As to the bevel edges, I noticed the other day that Jim Kingshott seemed to take it as read that if you wanted a finer bevel, you just went ahead and ground one.

    Oh, and I noticed Workshop Heaven has some of the Bahcos up on eBay, if you like to be the guinea pig... :)

  7. Hi Alf

    I got handed six of these recently by a neighbour who was clearing out his shed, one marked berg and the rest had the Bahco badge.

    From my testing and from what others say the darker red handled ones are better steel, the lighter red ones are decent and the newer orange handled ones are rubbish. I've tried the first two so can agree, I haven't tried the new ones so can't confirm if that's right.

    The ones like you have here seems to be just as good as the old wood handled Bergs I have so it seems the handle was the difference not the steel quality.


  8. Hi Alf,
    In order to keep this very short, I love your blog. Not that it matters at all in this case. But what matters is that Erik Anton Berg was for chisels what Henry Disston was for hand saws. It's just that you people in the UK doesn't know it. I don't own a single plastic handled Berg chisel. But I do own a good few older Berg chisels, and they're the best I've got. I'm sure my collection can't compare itself to yours, but it does include old Henry Taylor's, a few Stanley's, a bunch of Finnish Sorsakoski and Hackman chisels as well a good few German ones. And even though I'm far from an expert, I'd say if you ever see a chisel with the E A Berg logo, no matter what condition, I'd say, buy it. Buy it!

    And yes and no. Berg is not the same as Bahco. Berg was eaten up by the Bahco, just the way so many English and American companies were bought up by Stanley and others. Bahco (short for or B A Hjort and Company) was the inventor of wrenches and never made a chisel before buying up E A Berg. Berg used a logo of a fish, not a shark. The fish depicted is a wels catfish (Silurus glanis). Modern Bahco chisels are made in Spain, not Sweden, and cannot be compared to the old Berg chisels, just the way a modern Stanley has nothing to do with an old one.

    Interestingly enough the Bahco logotype of Today does depict a fish. But it isn't the same fish. Oh no, this fish is stolen from Sandvik, famous maker of hand tools, most notably hand saws and files, and yet another company bought up and destroyed by Banco.

    Last note. If you think Berg made good chisels, then have a go at their plane irons. I have a notion they'd impress most of you.

    Cheers, Kim

  9. Ok. Hrmm. As it turned I was wrong about the shark being a fish. Or, rather, I was right, but only partially, because the chisel in Alf's blog does indeed depict a shark. So sorry about that.

    The actual truth is as allows, if we are to believe the lore of old norse woodworkers.

    Erik Anton Berg, the notoriously famous toolmaker of Eskilstuna, The Sheffield of Sweden and the steel capital of the world, for a brief but ver successful part of time, did mark his tolls with a fish. But around the time that the company was bought up by Bahco the logo was changed to a shark. Why I do not know. Maybe the fish seemed a bit toothless or unsharp, heh heh. So it goes to show that Af was right about this particular chisel.

    An interesting point did come up. Rumour has it that Berg chisels (probably all fitted with wooden handles) with the fish are made of a higher quality steel than the ones with the shark. I can neither confirm this nor deny it. But I will sharpen up my plastic handled Berg chisel with the shark and compare it my old fishy chisels.

    Anyone interested in the two logos can take a look at the link below. It is in Swedish, but the link displays a rather poorly English translation.




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