Starting out: My first chisel set

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Blog entry by Tom posted 02-13-2020 01:21 PM 284 reads 0 times favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I think I have always had an interest in making things from wood, but it always seemed out of reach for me. I used to watch the New Yankee Workshop and I was fascinated with the projects, but the expense to build a shop of tools was absolutely daunting. I could not imagine ever having enough disposable income to get the necessary equipment. So I resigned myself to making basic carpentry projects with basic power tools.

Time marches on, my kids got older, the weekend soccer tournaments ended and I had more time on my hands. At some point, I started watching Roy Underhill’s The Woodwright’s Shop and I was inspired to make wood projects with hand tools. But I was still starting with virtually no tools. This is about 10 years ago and I decided to make some small things and of course I wanted to make dovetails. Roy always used vintage tools, but I was clueless as to what to buy. So I went to the home center and purchased a set of Buck Brothers chisels and an Estwing mallet. The initial investment was about $20 for a few chisels and the mallet. I added some more chisels over time until I had a pretty full set up to 1-1/4”.

For the first few years, I built all my projects using these chisels. I sharpened them on various sandpaper grits on a flat melamine board. They actually hold a decent edge and they are quick to sharpen. I used them to chop mortises with no problem and for chopping dovetails. The only real downside is that they are kind of top heavy with the plastic handles and the steel caps. This is a nice style handle for a carpenter to beat on, but a bit unwieldy sometimes for delicate woodworking tasks.

In the ensuing years, my wife bought me a nice set of the new Stanley 750 chisels which have been really great. Meanwhile, I caught the vintage tool fever and I have collected a lot of antique chisels as well. But I still have a soft spot for my first chisel set. I decided to give them a bit of new life by replacing the handles. Removing the old handles turned out to be super easy. At first I used a hack saw to cut away the plastic from the tang. Then I realized that if I held the chisel in the vise and gave the handle a real strong twist, I could just remove the handle.

I bought an ash utility tool handle from the home center and cut off lengths to turn on the lathe. I turned a simple handle and added a ferrule made from copper pipe unions. The tangs are not tapered, so I dabbed on some 5 minute epoxy in the hole for tang and on the inside of the ferrule. The connection seems to be quite sturdy. It really gave the chisels a nice look and the balance is tremendously better.

I pounded on the 3/8” to make a mortise in oak. It feels solid as a rock. I think they will be fine handles, but if they fail, it is quick to make another.

Now I just need to give them a home, maybe to another guy just starting out and wanting to give the hand tools a try…

PS. I think Buck Brothers sells the exact same chisels with wood handles. They are economical. They are made in the USA.

-- Tom

2 comments so far

View Rich1955's profile


56 posts in 22 days

#1 posted 02-13-2020 02:17 PM

Those handles look great, i think i’d keep them for myself. I still have my first set which were a set of craftsmen chisels. they hold a decent edge and i use them for projects around the house. My daughter bought a set of Robert Sorby chisels for xmas one year and boy what a difference. I only use these for shop projects.

-- Rich

View Foghorn's profile


33 posts in 18 days

#2 posted 02-13-2020 02:35 PM

Those look great. I have the new 750’s as well and really like them. I also have quite a few of the old 750 and 720 chisels that I’ve collected over the years that are my favorite users. I’d keep those if I was you. Saves time between sharpenings when you can just grab a fresh chisel when one is getting dull.

-- Darrel

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