Restored Chisels and Storage Box

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Project by Chris Wright posted 10-17-2009 02:18 AM 3936 views 3 times favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch

When I took over the shop here at the Arts and Crafts Center, the departing shop manager was showing me around. When we were in the tool store room, he showed me the old Marples bench chisels that they had. Saying that they were pretty much junk. The shop had purchased a set of Two Cherries to replace them. So they just sat there, getting used occasionally for odd jobs where we weren’t to worried about damaging the tool.

Looking for something to do in my down time, I decided to go through the pile of about 15 or so chisels and pull out the ones that were in better shape and see if I could clean them up and restore them. I found a set of 5: 6 mm, 10 mm, 16 mm, 20 mm, and 26 mm). They all looked pretty much like the one in the second photo when I started, slightly corroded and on a few, someone had ground the backs, so I had to spend a lot of time lapping them.

First thing I did was use some 320 grit wet/dry sand paper that I taped to a piece of plywood and wet sanded the backs, tops, sides and side bevels (I was a little bummed to loose the “Made in Sheffield, England” that was etched on the top, but what can you do). After sanding I polished them with my diamond honing stones. I then ground new bevels using our Tormek grinder. They are now the clean looking set you see here and they are sharp enough to shave with.

Once I had the chisels clean and sharp, well I just couldn’t just toss them in a box or a drawer so I decided to make a storage box for them. Made from some scraps of 1/4” and 1/2” birch ply, I made the support from a piece of maple and to keep them from sliding around inside the box when it’s closed I put a piece of foam-core to press into and hold the handles.

Though it seems kind of boring to spend so much time (about 5 hours total) cleaning up some “junk” tools, and then making a box for them, it was fun and rather meditative to do the repetitive tasks of of lapping and sanding and polishing and grinding and honing. Maybe I’m crazy, but I had a good time working on these tools and the box.

-- "At its best, life is completely unpredictable." - Christopher Walken

11 comments so far

View blackcherry's profile


3345 posts in 4878 days

#1 posted 10-17-2009 02:46 AM

I just love restoring old chisel and hand planes. It like you restore the soul of the tool. Some of these old tool are just the best performer I have in my shop. I recently purchase a set of old buck brother chisels with leather sleeves and I just marvel how well balance they feel in hand and they hold such a sharp edge. It sound to me that you feel the same way. Good luck on using you new old tools and may plenty more fine there way into you shop….Blkcherry

View NBeener's profile


4816 posts in 4229 days

#2 posted 10-17-2009 02:52 AM

If you’re crazy … you’re my kind of crazy.

Prolly’ a lot of other LJ’s kind, too.

Nicely done!

-- -- Neil

View Rob Drown's profile

Rob Drown

837 posts in 4888 days

#3 posted 10-17-2009 03:07 AM

from junk to very useful. That is real recycling. It is easy to just buy new ones but restoring abused ones is much better. Very satisfying too. They look great!! You are pretty diligent if you got the chisels sharp and a box made in 5 hrs.

-- The expectations of life depend upon diligence; the mechanic that would perfect his work must first sharpen his tools. Confucius, 经过艰苦的努力的梦想可以成真

View a1Jim's profile


118161 posts in 4632 days

#4 posted 10-17-2009 04:03 AM

what a big difference good job


View Berg's profile


117 posts in 4245 days

#5 posted 10-17-2009 07:10 AM

Have to agree with NBeener: good crazy like the rest of us. Nice job Chris.

-- Pete - "To every thing there is a season Turn! Turn! turn!" [Ecclesiastes and Pete Seeger]

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4390 days

#6 posted 10-17-2009 11:07 AM

Saving old tools is a very worthwhile cause and it looks like you did a nice job on these.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Splinterman's profile


23074 posts in 4417 days

#7 posted 10-17-2009 11:23 AM

Hey Chris,
From junk to jewels….sweet job.

View kosta's profile


946 posts in 4410 days

#8 posted 10-17-2009 03:39 PM

I found chisels that were used to open paint cans and I spent like 2 hours cleaning them up

View shavins's profile


105 posts in 4214 days

#9 posted 10-20-2009 01:34 AM

great job thanks for sharing the method.

-- shavins

View Tom O'Brien's profile

Tom O'Brien

120 posts in 5000 days

#10 posted 10-29-2009 12:01 AM

Nice project. I have a set of Marples (Irwin) chisels, made in China – but still pretty good. I expanded the original set to include all available sizes 1/8” to 2”. I’m now working slowly to get all the backs lapped (a lot of metal on the 2 incher). I’m using the Rockler glass-based sharpening system and a fancy jig from Veritas.
I need to make a box too, and this seems to be a good way to go about it. The big decision is whether to have a plexi lid or not.

-- Every project is a learning opportunity, every error a design opportunity

View bigike's profile


4057 posts in 4344 days

#11 posted 12-29-2009 04:37 PM

good job, me i would have done the same. i been looking for a set of those same chisels for along time now still haven’t found them yet hope to someday. if not i might just get the new ones they have out like Tom i want a set from 1/8”-2” then it will be on to a few mortice and skew chisels. but thanks for the post i hate when people say stuff is junk and u shure could use it.

-- Ike, Big Daddies Woodshop, http://[email protected]

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