How to do a very basic "restoration" of old chisels

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Forum topic by HarveyDunn posted 03-14-2014 02:25 AM 1032 views 0 times favorited 3 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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328 posts in 1968 days

03-14-2014 02:25 AM

I’ve acquired a random assortment of old wood carving gouges. Could anyone give me some advice on how to fix them up?

I know how to sharpen them (which is good, because not one of them could cut butter in their current state!) It is everything else that its new to me.

Metal Issues:
Some of them have rust spots, some of them are very black. I assume I need to get some chemicals to stop the rust. Is there also a chemical to remove the black layer?

Is there a Dremel tool attachment that is useful for these steps?

Is there something I should apply at the end to protect the metal?

Wood Issues:
I want to keep all the original handles. I used some OMS to clean off the accumulated crime. A few of them have cracks that I’d like to fill. I was thinking of looking for a runny CA glue and drizzling it into them, then sanding.

Some of the others are just a bit rougher than I prefer, so I’m thinking of giving them a sanding as well.

Any advice on these points? Should I apply something to wood afterward to condition and protect it?

3 replies so far

View Minorhero's profile


373 posts in 2842 days

#1 posted 03-14-2014 02:48 AM

There are lots of ways to clean up the metal. The quickest and easiest is to use a wire wheel in a hand held drill. That will clean up most of the metal.

You will almost certainly need to lap the sole. For that you will need some sandpaper usually starting off with course grits, and a piece of glass or granite at least 1 foot long and better yet would be 2+ feet. The glass or granite is the dead flat surface you use to scrub the bottom of the plane against to flatten the sole.

To protect the metal once lapped and rust is removed you can use johnsons paste wax. Just rub some on, wait like 5 or 10 minutes, then rub it off. Works great and doesn’t affect finishes and is easily purchased in most hardware and grocery stores.

For the wood sanding them down is perfectly fine. I would use epoxy to fill any holes, be careful about overspill though as the hardened epoxy will be much harder then the wood and thus will sand slower. You can use anything you want for the handles. I prefer lacquer but others prefer boiled linseed oil or wax.

View shampeon's profile


1894 posts in 2421 days

#2 posted 03-14-2014 02:56 AM

First things first. The black parts on the metal for the most part are stable. It’s red rust you need to be worried about. I would just wire wheel (best is a wire wheel in a drill press) them first to take off the top layer and see if there’s red rust underneath. If so, you should neutralize it with an acid of some sort. I use citric acid, but you can’t just dunk them in with wood handles. Look for Barkeeper’s Friend, which is oxalic acid and detergent. Make a paste with it, and take an old sponge and scrub it on. Then wipe it off, then do a quick rinse in very hot water. Immediately dry them and put them in the sun, or hair dry (or heat gun) them to get them nice and dry.

After that, work on the handles. Wicking thin CA will work on small cracks. Sanding is fine, but start with a fairly high grit. Then apply an oil finish (BLO, Danish oil, tung oil, etc.).

Final step is sharpening them. And post pictures.

-- ian | "You can't stop what's coming. It ain't all waiting on you. That's vanity."

View HarveyDunn's profile


328 posts in 1968 days

#3 posted 03-14-2014 04:19 AM


I’ve noticed now that one of the ferrules is cracked/split in a few places. Since these are carving gouges, I’ll be using them with one hand wrapped over that location – and I think the high spots are going to annoy me. I don’t have any metal skills so making a new ferrule is out of the question. Is there a way I could stabilize those cracks/splits then grind the ferrule down so it is smoother?

Failing that, I might just put some tape over it.

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