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English Mortise Chisels #1: Design Details

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Blog entry by Brit posted 09-15-2013 05:02 PM 2517 reads 0 times favorited 17 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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I picked up this I. Sorby English mortise chisel with the Punch logo the other week and finally got it cleaned up and put back into service. The chisel is 33cm (13”) long and 7mm (a touch over 1/4”) wide at the back.

The handle is an oval shape and tapered in both directions. The end of the handle is slightly domed to help prevent a glancing mallet blow from chipping the side of the handle. A hard leather washer separates the handle from the bolster.

The cross-section of the blade is a trapezoid which greatly reduces the chances of the chisel getting jammed when you whack it deep into the wood and lever the waste.

Unlike the Ray Iles English mortise chisels being made today from D2 steel, old mortise chisels were made from mild steel with a cast steel cutting edge strip hammer-welded to the back of the chisel. That is the darker gray area indicated between the red lines below. The transition between the primary bevel and the front face of the chisel is rounded over which assists when levering the chisel to eject the waste.

The primary bevel is sharpened at 20 degrees allowing the chisel to plunge quickly into the wood.

A 35 degree secondary bevel helps to strengthen the cutting edge.

Here it is after cleaning and sharpening the blade and giving the handle a couple of coats of BLO and wax.

I tried it out in some scrap softwood and was amazed at how easily it attacked the wood, yet I was using less force than I commonly used on my bevel-edged chisels when mortising. There are so many little design features in these chisels that culminate in a tool that does what it is meant to do and does it with authority. I’m calling it THE ENFORCER. Not bad for £7.99.

In the next episode, I’ll discuss the different ways to use an English mortising chisel, and let you know which method I like best and why.

-- Andy -- Old Chinese proverb say: If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it.



17 comments so far

View terryR's profile

terryR

3205 posts in 995 days


#1 posted 09-15-2013 05:20 PM

Nice job, Andy. Thanks for the history and details on how The Enforcer was made!

-- tr ...see one, do one, teach one...

View Don W's profile

Don W

15228 posts in 1254 days


#2 posted 09-15-2013 05:49 PM

Nice job Andy. I’ve got a cheaper one in the restore queue.

-- Master hand plane hoarder. - http://timetestedtools.com

View SamuelP's profile

SamuelP

755 posts in 1333 days


#3 posted 09-15-2013 05:56 PM

Beautiful tool Andy.

-- -Sam - Tampa, FL- "A man who carries a cat by the tail learns somthing he can in no other way" -Mark Twain

View waho6o9's profile

waho6o9

5078 posts in 1263 days


#4 posted 09-15-2013 06:08 PM

Awesome

View theoldfart's profile

theoldfart

4464 posts in 1138 days


#5 posted 09-15-2013 06:29 PM

Andy, I have a similar one:

My name for it is not quite a elegant as yours, Bash-O-Matic! It makes mortising a breeze.

-- "Aged flatus, I heard that some one has already blown out your mortise." THE Surgeon ……………………………………. Kevin

View lysdexic's profile

lysdexic

4884 posts in 1309 days


#6 posted 09-15-2013 06:35 PM

Beautiful Andy. Not as shiny as some of your restorations. It appears from the pictures to be a more satin finish.

-- It isn't the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it's the pebble in your shoe. - Muhammad Ali

View ShaneA's profile

ShaneA

5348 posts in 1285 days


#7 posted 09-15-2013 06:54 PM

Nice looking chisel Andy.

The workmate is looking a bit tired. Thought you were working on a bench?

View Brit's profile

Brit

5220 posts in 1529 days


#8 posted 09-15-2013 06:59 PM

Thanks guys.

Don – Cheaper! Say it isn’t so!

TheOldFart – Nice. What size is yours? It looks about 1/4”.

Lysdexic – As you know, tool restoration is always a compromise. In this instance, I chose to keep the slight blemishes in the handle and only took the front face, primary bevel and sides to 1000 grit. I took the back to 8000 grit, along with the secondary bevel. The edges where the sides meet the back were also given a bit of treatment on the 8000 grit, since they form two of the three cutting edges and contribute to cleaner mortise walls. I stopped when I thought it looked right and would do its job.

Shane – How do you know I’m not? LOL.

-- Andy -- Old Chinese proverb say: If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it.

View theoldfart's profile

theoldfart

4464 posts in 1138 days


#9 posted 09-15-2013 07:06 PM

3/8”

-- "Aged flatus, I heard that some one has already blown out your mortise." THE Surgeon ……………………………………. Kevin

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile

Smitty_Cabinetshop

10037 posts in 1305 days


#10 posted 09-15-2013 07:24 PM

Beautiful work, Andy. I continue to ponder a mortising chisel purchase, but only ponder. Someday…

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive

View mafe's profile

mafe

9554 posts in 1776 days


#11 posted 09-16-2013 12:40 AM

Lovely chisel Andy, a real gem.
Look forward to read your investigations.
I got and restored a old set of French mortise chisels, have used them and love them.
http://lumberjocks.com/projects/48486
Best thoughts,
Mads

-- Mad F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

View AnthonyReed's profile

AnthonyReed

4831 posts in 1127 days


#12 posted 09-16-2013 02:58 PM

Always the presence of benchmark work.

Thank you for sharing and the first rate lessons Andy.

-- ~Tony

View Brit's profile

Brit

5220 posts in 1529 days


#13 posted 09-16-2013 08:47 PM

Smitty – Stop pondering and pick one up buddy. They’re awesome.

Mads – I remember that project. You do some fine work.

Tony – Just learning as I go Tony. :o)

-- Andy -- Old Chinese proverb say: If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it.

View Brit's profile

Brit

5220 posts in 1529 days


#14 posted 09-17-2013 08:09 AM

Just picked this one up for £4. Are you still cheaper Don?

-- Andy -- Old Chinese proverb say: If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it.

View Don W's profile

Don W

15228 posts in 1254 days


#15 posted 09-17-2013 11:41 AM

Ok, you win :-)

-- Master hand plane hoarder. - http://timetestedtools.com

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