time ago I did an article on minimalist rehabilitation of old
chisels for the benefit of tight-budget newcomers in need of
Those newbies have undoubtedly progressed some
since then, so today we’ll rehab even more old chisels using more
advanced techniques on the lathe.
Another 30-dollar lot of eBay treasures in need of a hug. Some
of the Lie Nielsen’s of their day are in there… Witherby, Gillespie,
Swan, Peck Stowe and Wilcox, Buck, Greenlee, Barton… and arguably,
these cast steel beauties are better chisels than today’s prestige
models, because they hold their edges almost as long but are much
easier to re-sharpen than modern, A2 tool steel.
the era these were made, from 1880 to 1940, every tradesman
knew and used hand tools, there were wood crafts with attendant
specialty tools such as sash making, pattern making and coach making
remember much of today… and there
were dozens and dozens of
American manufacturers… not one or two… competing hard with each
other in quality and value for the tradesman’s favor.
day, one of these cost a day’s pay or more. Today I routinely
pick them up as shown in the 2-5 dollar range…. yes, even the odd
sizes. I even like the well-worn shorties… they are easily
ground into great butt chisels for those tight spots.
new handles are in order, and as rehabbing old tools is my favorite
way of introducing newcomers to the craft, all the lathe work today
will be done by a 16-year-old with me standing over his shoulder.
I rehab the steel, first… and that’s covered in detail in the
Then we prepare the stock:
Turning squares of tight-grained, old growth Pacific
Madrone are cut to length and center marked. Note the
severe shrinkage across the grain of what came off the
sawmill as a nicely square 2X2… fortunately, this
species is quite stable once it is dry. I could
resurface and 8-side this stock before mounting it in
the lathe… and I recommend you do for your first
efforts… but teaching how to deal with lopsided stock is
a training objective for today.
We also prepare leather striking buttons for the
handles, using up all our odd leather scraps. I’d prefer
a ground punch for this, but I don’t own one large
enough and the hole saw works almost as well.
Then we prepare the tool... the lathe is checked for perfect
alignment of headstock and tailstock with the tailstock locked
down, the lathe chisels are honed and stropped.