Estate sale chisel purchase

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Forum topic by Picken5 posted 09-02-2016 04:00 AM 1051 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Picken5's profile


282 posts in 3199 days

09-02-2016 04:00 AM

Topic tags/keywords: chisel square

I was at an estate sale last week and came home with a Stanley try square, and 5 chisels for $11. All the chisels except for one (the 5/8”) were missing the handles and although they all looked pretty rough, only one (the 1”) looks like the rust pitting may be so bad I can’t clean it up. After limited cleanup, I’ve identified them as:

3/8” Swan (blade length: 5-3/8”; blade & socket length: 7-5/8”)
1/2” Wards (blade length: 4-1/2”; blade & socket length: 6-1/2”)
5/8” Simmons (blade length: 6-1/4”; blade & socket length: 8-7/8”; overall length with handle: 13-1/2”)
3/4” Swan (blade length: 4-1/4”; blade & socket length: 7-3/8”)
1” Bartlett (blade length: 6-1/4”; blade & socket length: 9-1/4”)

Some the edges were amazingly sharp and only appear to need some honing to make them work well. All the backs seem pretty flat, but I’m sure they’ll all need some “tuning”. And I know I can make new handles for these. Based on what I learned about the owner at the estate sale, I’d guess these chisels are between 40 and 75 years old.

Does anybody know anything these? I’m considering cleaning & sharpening them and making new handles. I’m not a collector, just interested in using them myself. Are they worth the trouble?

-- Howard - "Time spent making sawdust is not deducted from one's lifetime." - old Scottish proverb

11 replies so far

View TheFridge's profile


10859 posts in 1993 days

#1 posted 09-02-2016 04:04 AM

Depends on how much work you are willing to put it. Pics of the backs after a cleaning wouldn’t hurt. It would have to be pretty far gone to be unuseable.

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

View DirtyMike's profile


637 posts in 1409 days

#2 posted 09-02-2016 04:11 AM

I know nothing about any of those , but they look to be in decent shape. Those longer chisels will come in handy a lot.

View JoeinGa's profile


7741 posts in 2514 days

#3 posted 09-02-2016 01:39 PM

Eleven bucks? How can you go wrong? Looks like a good (useable) deal to me !

-- Perform A Random Act Of Kindness Today ... Pay It Forward

View Aj2's profile


2480 posts in 2305 days

#4 posted 09-02-2016 01:45 PM

Love the try square that’s worth tuning up.
The chisels do nothing for me.


-- Aj

View gargey's profile


1013 posts in 1282 days

#5 posted 09-02-2016 01:48 PM

If [ utility / ( value of time * time to fix ) > 1 ] then yes fix them up. Easy.

View JayT's profile (online now)


6295 posts in 2718 days

#6 posted 09-02-2016 01:57 PM

Swan chisels are excellent quality. I have a few in my user “set” of mixed vintage brands and they are the ones I reach for first. IIRC, the Bartlett was very likely made by Stanley and, if so, is the same construction as the 720 series.

Regardless, clean them up, make some new handles and you’ll have some very good user chisels.

-- - In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


16190 posts in 3125 days

#7 posted 09-02-2016 02:17 PM

I’m with JayT on the Swans and the Bartlett. The Simmons is also in the upper-middle range. The only one I don’t know anything about it the Wards chisel. So here’s what I’ll suggest:

—Check the backs for flat (as you’re planning to do). Likely will not take much if there’s no pitting
—What does the taper of each side look like on them? If it tapers to near-nothing, excellent users for things like dovetailing because it gets into small angles well. Typically a sign of quality as well / careful manufacturing

Lots of life in them, and for $11 you cannot go wrong. Lots of handle styles out there, some very straightforward / easier to ‘mass produce’ so you’ll have a good looking set as well as a functional one. Because not everyone needs a 12-pc chisel collection (I typically reach for one of about five sizes).

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

View Picken5's profile


282 posts in 3199 days

#8 posted 09-02-2016 09:16 PM

Thanks for all the feedback everyone. Sounds like I stumbled across some useful tools. I spent about 30 minutes flattening the backs this morning. I’ll get more done on these next week. And, BTW Smitty, I did some googling and learned that Wards chisels were either made for them by Stanley or Greelee and are generally considered to be middle range tools. Thanks again all!

-- Howard - "Time spent making sawdust is not deducted from one's lifetime." - old Scottish proverb

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


16190 posts in 3125 days

#9 posted 09-02-2016 09:23 PM

Cool, good info! Post pics when you ‘handle’ them, okay?

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

View Holbs's profile


2243 posts in 2536 days

#10 posted 09-03-2016 04:13 AM

For the price tag, you won. Clean them up, de-pitt them, make them your’s. High end or middle range hand tools should not be portrayed on a ladder of quality but of your ownership and use. Tis what I learned :) I have many tools that are not top tier hand tools but they work as they are intended and I am proud they are in my care.

-- The Carpenter Bee is derived from the Ancient Greek word wood-cutter "xylokopos/ξυλοκὀπος"

View CyberDyneSystems's profile


288 posts in 2695 days

#11 posted 09-03-2016 04:34 AM

All will be useable, good users depending on the work you are willing to do.

IMHO when it comes to these old socket chisels they have to be pretty darn messed up to not be able to breathe new life into them.

Even a chisel with heavily pitted back can be flattened again in seconds on belt sander.
From there it’s all pretty easy work.

It’s when you are trying to keep them in some form of collect-ability that things get more complicated. For $11.00, they will all be good working tools in short order.

-- Without the wood, it's just working

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