Selection Of Chisels

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The only other tools you need is a good set of sharp chisels, and the mallet or hammer to go with them. And here the selection process is much easier. Any chisel that can be struck with a hammer or mallet will get the job done. (Garrett Wade, Fine Tool Shop, and Woodcraft Supply all have a good selection of chisels.)

We have six or seven sets of chisels around the shop. I generally choose the ones that are closest to me at the time — provided, that is, they are sharp.

However, in all fairness, there is one other factor that may influence the decision of which chisel to use. Most bench chisels (including paring chisels and butt chisels) have beveled edges. (This refers to the bevel along the length of the 'back,' not the beveled cutting edge.) This beveled edge makes it much easier to chop out the waste in the angled comers of the dovetail.

Also, some chisels are thinner than others, so it's easier to get the chisel where you want it. For example, we have a set of Ulmia paring chisels which are somewhat thin and nice for cutting dovetails.

Ted likes to use the special J apanese dovetail chisels. These have steeply beveled backs specifically designed for cuttingdove-tails. Also, the steel used for these chisels is excellent (see Woodline Catalog).

One last point: I tend to like short chisels (like butt chisels) because I hold the chisel by the blade (not the handle) to position it to chop out the wraste. Short chisels don't 'wag* around as much, making them easier to put them exactly where I want them.

When it gets down to it, it's not w hat the chisel looks like, it's the very tip, the cutting edge, that does the work. Above all, the chisels must be sharp. All of the chisel work on dovetails is done with the chisel set across the grain and chopping straight down. The only way to do this is with a sharp chisel.

hammer or mallet. For a long time 1 used a wooden mallet to drive the chisel into the wood. It seemed only proper. But the turned type of mallet (the kind wood carvers use) has a tendency to roll off the bench and find its way to one of my toes.

Recently, I've come to use the Stanley No-Mar hammer, (H in Fig. 1). This is a light-weight hammer (14 oz.), yet has enough heft to drive the chisel as far as I want it to go. It's made of some kind of black plastic material and the head is filled with lead pellets and oil. Plastic or not, it's a nice hammer and quite nice for pounding the joint together during the final fitting (it won't dent or mar the wood).

sources: If you can't find some of the tools listed above at a local store, you may want to send for the following catalogs: The Fine Tool Shop (Catalog $5), 20 Backus Ave., Danbury CT 06810. Garrett Wade (Catalog $3), 161 Avenue of the Americas, New York NY 10013. Leichtung (Catalog $1), 4944 Commerce Parkway, Cleveland OH 44128. Woodcraft Supply (Catalog $2.50), 313 Montvale Ave., Wo-burn MA 01888. Woodline (Catalog $1.50), 1713 Clement Ave., Alameda CA 94501.

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