Saturday, 14 April 2007

A few comments on some remarkable chisels

Japanese tools have always intrigued me. They are very different than our western tools, but have some superior thinking behind them. Saws are a perfect example. Cutting on the pull stroke takes full advantage of the tension in the blade. Brilliant! Japanese chisels are often viewed differently. I have heard many complaints... they are prone to chipping, they are finicky to sharpen, the steel hoops are sharp on the hand and they are just high carbon steel and won't stand up to hard use. My first real experience with Japanese chisels pretty much confirmed each of these points - I was fairly disappointed to be honest. It wasn't until I had a chance to try a chisel from Chuttaro Imai that I relized I had to give Japanese chisels another chance. This first chisel knocked my socks off - the same way my first experiece with an infill plane did. This chisel was like nothing I had ever seen before - let alone use. It is a dovetail paring slick. The blade is triangular in cross section - and was specified to compliment the 1:8 ratio used for dovetails. It is 3.5mm wide and about 14" long. Now here is the part that still has me scratching my head. It is "just a high carbon steel" chisel... but holds an edge like nothing I have ever used. This edge lasts at least 3 times longer than any other chisel I have ever used. And I don't baby it either! I place it in the kerf, and drive it strait down. It cuts right into the corners and tracks perfectly strait. And even after 20 dovetails - the edge still looks and acts freshly honed. I was hooked and have since proceeded to order several of the finishing chisels (or bench chisels). They all work the same way. Easy to sharpen - hold an edge like nothing else. The cost of these chisels is a very easy justification for me. These tools are so precicely made, and respond so consistently that they have allowed me to work faster and more accurately. That is easily worth $100 a chisel in my books.


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