Chisel bevel angle question

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Blog entry by AndyR posted 06-12-2009 05:30 PM 8216 reads 0 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This might be a simple question for a lot of you but I am a little unsure so I thought I’d ask. I picked these mortise chisels up on everyone’s favorite auction site a while ago. They are marked “Middlesex Mfg.” I am in the process of re-handling them (as you can see) but the bevels all need to be reground and they also need some lapping on the backs. I am wondering what would be a good angle to grind these chisels? Any opinions?

I have a 2” x 72” belt grinder with a flat platen and can grind them slow so as not to burn the edge…
Hope I get the picture posting thing right-I’ve not done that here before. If not bear with me, I’ll get it.

Ok, a little editing and I think the direct links are working.


9 comments so far

View PurpLev's profile


8535 posts in 3643 days

#1 posted 06-12-2009 07:18 PM

I think mine are 25

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View jlsmith5963's profile


297 posts in 3342 days

#2 posted 06-12-2009 08:08 PM

If there is a consensus, I think it would revolve around 25 deg (not counting micro-bevels), however those who grind a little less or more usually do so because of the specific way they use their chisels….

-- criticism: the art of analyzing and evaluating the quality of an artistic work...

View DaleM's profile


958 posts in 3378 days

#3 posted 06-12-2009 09:59 PM

According to Garrett Hack’s Classic Handtools book, a paring chisel would go as low as 15 degrees but a mortising chisel would normally be at around 30 degrees in order for it to withstand heavy mallet blows. All other chisels would normally fall somewhere in between. I’m refurbishing an old badly abused James Swan chisel right now which is why I just happened to look that up recently.

-- Dale Manning, Carthage, NY

View AndyR's profile


16 posts in 3331 days

#4 posted 06-12-2009 11:14 PM

Ok, thanks.
I think I’ll aim for between 25 and 30. I did sharpen one of them initially on the belt grinder with a 600 grit belt just to check out how the steel behaved. Straight from the belt it cuts quite well. I cant wait to get a good edge on them and see what they’ll do.

Thanks again.

View stefang's profile


15881 posts in 3328 days

#5 posted 06-12-2009 11:47 PM

I don’t have mortising chisels, but I use my bench chisels for mortises with a primary bevel of 25 and micro bevel of 30. Right now I am chopping some deep mortises of about 2-3/4” and they are holding a good edge after 10 mortises. However, this is in pine.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Francisco Luna's profile

Francisco Luna

943 posts in 3388 days

#6 posted 06-13-2009 02:57 AM

They are not mortise chisels but Firmer chisels. Normally Mortise chisels are much thicker and heftier,these in particular are very close to the “Millwright” mortise Chisels but even those are thicker in the closer section of the sockets (Handtool skills, The best of Fine Woodworking, 2008, Taunton Press). That said, just put the standard 25 degrees on them.

-- Nature is my manifestation of God. I go to nature every day for inspiration in the day's work. I follow in building the principles which nature has used in its domain" Frank Lloyd Wright

View John Gray's profile

John Gray

2370 posts in 3880 days

#7 posted 06-13-2009 04:54 PM

What Moai said above.

-- Only the Shadow knows....................

View AndyR's profile


16 posts in 3331 days

#8 posted 06-13-2009 04:58 PM

Great thanks for all the info. I didn’t think the business ends of these were thick enough to be considered mortise chisels. I suppose I was going with the description of the seller. Firmer chisels seems a more appropriate description. They look a little spotty and rough in the pictures, but I think they’ll clean up nicely. I’m not too sure about the hoops on the handles. I may rethink that. There was only one handle that came with the set and though I followed the shape and material (oak) pretty closely, they had leather at the top originally. That option was a little more involved and it would be difficult to go back to that now that they are mounted in the sockets (they’re in there tight). Maybe on the next set. I really like turning these handles.

Thanks again for the help.

View Walt Bungard's profile

Walt Bungard

13 posts in 3352 days

#9 posted 06-13-2009 07:57 PM

Old tools are nice. History, can be older than the new owner. Good mojo.


-- Walt, Atlanta....Michigan

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