Using more and more chisels

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Forum topic by Tennessee posted 08-03-2011 09:36 PM 1452 views 0 times favorited 20 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2873 posts in 2539 days

08-03-2011 09:36 PM

I’ve noticed that as I get older, (now a nice, ripe 62), I am using more and more chisels by hand to finish in joints and edges. Also more hand sanding, wayyy more. When I was younger, it was always power sanders, dremels, just about anything but a nicely honed chisel or a piece of 180 wrapped around a wooden block. Now I have two sets of chisels, and I use them almost everytime I am in my shop. Keep a tempered thick piece of true glass around with wet or dry 600 grit on it to hone them up. I still keep a dremel hanging from the ceiling of my shop with a snake extension on it, but it only gets used rarely, and usually has a 1/4” round sanding drum on it. My wife uses it more on her toenails than I do on wood.
Does anyone else find themselves kind of moving away from the power tools and towards the hand tools?
Lately, I’ve been eyeing my group of planes, and my collection of vintage planes in my den are looking like they want to be used. And I own two power planers! After 39 years at this I’m pretty much surrounded by any power tool I might need.
When you watch Roadshow, and someone brings in a piece that is from say, 1850, you realize that some person spent probably 6-9 months making all those dovetails, feet, joints, panels by hand. Used to be I couldn’t imagine….but now I can.

-- Tsunami Guitars and Custom Woodworking, Cleveland, TN

20 replies so far

View crank49's profile


4032 posts in 2996 days

#1 posted 08-03-2011 09:58 PM

Personally, I think the use of hand tools has given me a much greater appreciation, and understanding, of quality furniture and cabinets; both new and antique. I think that’s what you were driving at anyway, and I completely agree.

I turn 62 next month too, by the way. Maybe it’s a age thing.

View WayneC's profile


13754 posts in 4122 days

#2 posted 08-03-2011 11:08 PM

I’ve been driving towards hand tools for a while. There are some good books out on the subject if you ave not read them. Both have been published in the last few months.

The Anarchist's Tool Chest by Christopher Schwarz
The New Traditional Woodworker by Jim Tolpin.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View Bertha's profile


13529 posts in 2718 days

#3 posted 08-03-2011 11:54 PM

I’m a chisel freak. I reach for them more than any other hand tool, including planes. I use chisels to do what planes should probably do. Chisel lover here.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View woodgu's profile


63 posts in 2799 days

#4 posted 08-04-2011 03:25 AM

I have been using more chisels in recent years, also. A question I have for everyone is relating to mortise chisels. I would like to get a set. I am not independently wealthy and shudder when I see the costs of the quality name brand sets. What is a solid strategy for obtaining a decent quality set for a relatively affordable price?

-- Phil G

View nordichomey's profile


100 posts in 3127 days

#5 posted 08-04-2011 03:50 AM

Well I am 42 and have the same feelings. I just get the apprecation from hand tools and chisels are my favorite by far. A plow plane is second. Roy Underhill’s influence is another positive. By looking at the past Roy shows you the future!

Obtaining a set. On bench chisels I bought a set of Narex for $49. Flattening the back was frustrating, but once done I am happy. I also have a used set of old Marples, but have not used them yet. On mortise chisels I feel I only need a couple. I have a 1/4” and likely will get a 3/8” as well.

-- nordichomey

View Alster's profile


101 posts in 3239 days

#6 posted 08-04-2011 03:54 AM

Narex makes a nice mortising chisel. You can buy them for a song at Lee Valley. But nordichomey is right—most people only need one or two, and if you’re only going to get one or two, the ones from Ray Iles (available at Tools for Working Wood) are fabulous. Just fabulous.

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2715 days

#7 posted 08-04-2011 05:54 AM

I’m 62 as well and the only way I’ll give up my power tools is to have them pried from my cold, dead hands!!!!

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View jamesicus's profile


132 posts in 2717 days

#8 posted 08-04-2011 08:44 PM

All ages in this thread seem to end in 2: well I am 82. I have always used woodworking hand tools (as my web pages attest), still do. I just love the way they look and feel and the serenity that accompanies their use. But I respect those who use only power tools, or a mix of both. After all, we are all part of the woodworking community.


View glassyeyes's profile


137 posts in 3354 days

#9 posted 08-04-2011 09:24 PM

I’ve got moderate carpal tunnel syndrome, so I use power tools where I can. But I get TIRED of the noise, and tired of wearing hearing protection. I remember, as a kid, why my father owned an old Stanley #4 plane—it was so poorly sharpened it usually trashed the wood. Years ago, when I bought my first good plane, with a professionally honed blade thrown in as an inducement, I realized how wonderful a hand tool could be. I’d like to slip back in time and make a gift of it to my father.

And I’m 62, too—

-- Now, where did I put those bandaids?

View Bertha's profile


13529 posts in 2718 days

#10 posted 08-04-2011 09:38 PM

PhilG, you can start by parsing Ebay for mortise chisels. There are “sash” chisels masquerading as mortise chisels but I still use them for mortising purposes. If you have a lathe (even if you don’t), you can buy handle-less mortise chisels on Ebay for reasonable prices. They will vary, of course, by collectiblity (T.H. Witherby, Butcher, Winchester, etc.). But there are some very affordable finds. Look for 1/8, 1/4, 3/8, and 1/2. That’ll likely be all you need, as it’s easier to match a tenon to a convenient mortise.

I salivate over “pigsticker” mortise chisels of high quality; unfortunately, many other do as well. For new, Tools for Working Wood has some nice pigstickers. No law against you buying one at a time but some of the odd sizes sell out on occasion.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 3183 days

#11 posted 08-04-2011 09:57 PM

I use my LN rabbet/block plane, chisels, and scrapers every time I’m in the shop. I’ve been using my rasps a lot more often recently as well. I’ll be looking for a good upgrade from my Marples very soon.

It’s so much easier and nicer to finish up those joints with something other than sandpaper.

-- jay,

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 3183 days

#12 posted 08-04-2011 10:00 PM

@gfadvm – Be sure they bury you without a tie. I’d hate to see it get caught in your circular saw and then kill you all over again.

-- jay,

View Gary Roberts's profile

Gary Roberts

140 posts in 3046 days

#13 posted 08-05-2011 05:57 AM

Let’s just say I have more than a few chisels. Authors of old books, not to mention old catalogs, discuss chisels to the extent that it is clear these were the preferred mode of trimming and fitting. Funny thing is, today there are more makes of planes and saws then there are of chisels. I wish I had more choice of modern chisels so I wouldn’t have to worry about using up my old ones!

-- Gary Roberts,

View sandhill's profile


2128 posts in 3949 days

#14 posted 08-05-2011 06:41 AM

I’m with you. In the past 2 years I find much more satisfaction and better results with hand work. That’s not to say power equipment don’t have its place. I like to get to a certain place and then finish up with hand tools.

View riooso's profile


38 posts in 2671 days

#15 posted 08-07-2011 04:25 AM

I am 59 and have noticed that the reason that I am using hand tools more is that I finally have the patience that it takes to finally sneak up on on something. I have a son in law that is really very talented woodworker but he is to much in a hurry and his approach works against him…....seen that before…..LOL. I have blended power tools and hand tools and like the results very much.

showing 1 through 15 of 20 replies

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