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Mortise and dovetail chisels

Lataxe's picture

All,


As I got such good advice about hand saws, I was hoping for a little more about chisels - for paring dovetails and for chopping mortises.


I have some Record/Marple bench chisels - those with the blue plastic handles - which have served well in the limited uses I've put them to in my machine-oriented WW to-date.  Am I right in thinking that:


*  These chisels are no good for chopping mortises, in the long run at least.


*  One or more could be reground to a 15-20 degree bevel (they are currently 30 degrees with a microbevel) for dovetail paring.


Furhter questions:


Given I work in hardwoods, some of which are abrasive (afromosia, iroko) what type of mortise chisel is best, in terms of configuration and steel hardness?  (I have a sort of yen for those Ray Iles pigstickers but you could easily change my mind with cogent advice).


Is a swan neck chisel necessary to clean out the mortise bottoms?


Should I also buy one or two dedicated DT chisels with sharper side bevels and so forth?  Or will the reground Marples be OK?


Thanks in anticipation.


Lataxe


Edited 7/2/2006 5:01 pm ET by Lataxe

mwenz's picture

(post #103444, reply #1 of 45)

Hi Lataxe,


For mortise chisels I would go with Ray's or vintage. They feel right and are very good steel.


Hopefully Derek will drop in a picture of his DT chisel he ground out of what I remember is a 3/8" BE chisel. Alternately, get a Pfiel fishtail carving chisel. That's what I did and they work very well.


I have a few swan neck and do use them. I don't use them for cleaning up the bottoms per se, but to pare the bottom if I want to make then a tad deeper. A few chops with the mortise chisel to score the bottom and then the swan neck to scrape it out.

SARGEgrinder47's picture

(post #103444, reply #8 of 45)

Have you used the Ray Isle's mortice chisel? I've been very busy with other interest for a year or so and was not aware of them. Went over to the Tools for WW site and they look and sound interesting. Might try the 3/8" morticer as mine seems to have shrunk a tad over the years. Hormone I suspect.  :>)


I have a set of the Ashley Isle's American Pattern chisels and couldn't be more pleased. The craftsman-ship is there and the steel is good. Does Ray Isle's operate in-dependently of his father? Guessing the answer is yes from some of the comments here and on that site. 


Regards...


SARGE..g47 

Sarge..

Woodworkers' Guild of Georgia

jazzdogg's picture

(post #103444, reply #9 of 45)

Hi Sarge,


I have a few old pig-sticker mortise chisels that I've refurbished and they're a dream to use; if the ones Ray Iles is making are comparable, they should be great, too.


Glad to see you're back at Knots!


 


-Jazzdogg-


"Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive." Gil Bailie

-Jazzdogg-

"Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive." Gil Bailie

SARGEgrinder47's picture

(post #103444, reply #10 of 45)

Evening Jazz. Thanks for the welcome back. I notice some of the old sages are still around along with a host of others that happened by. Seems strange not to have to go over the cafe and drag Jon Arno away from blasting liberals long enough to answer a question on wood composition. I learned a lot from Jon about wood and it's properties and sorely miss the man and his humor.


I have a Heinz 57 mixture of mortise chisels as I do most small ones on my SF mortiser. Well.. err... used too as I do find it relaxing beating h*ll out of something with a mallet in my twi-light years. Probably has something to do with raising a teen-ager.  ha.. ha...


But when I get up to 1"-1 1/2"+ wide and 5" plus deep through mortises on the legs of my whale-back work-bench base design, I grab a Barr timber-framing mortise chisel. It gets the call for heavy-duty work that most probably won't find the need for.


Hope to find all is well with you and again, thanks for the welcome back...


SARGE.. g47


Edited 7/2/2006 11:14 pm ET by SARGEgrinder47

Sarge..

Woodworkers' Guild of Georgia

jazzdogg's picture

(post #103444, reply #12 of 45)

Hi Sarge,


I, too, "sorely miss the man and his humor" as well as his incredible intelligence, wisdom, and kindness.


Thank you for your kind words,


 


-Jazzdogg-


"Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive." Gil Bailie

-Jazzdogg-

"Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive." Gil Bailie

mwenz's picture

(post #103444, reply #11 of 45)

Hi Sarge,


Yes I have used one belonging to a friend--but dang if I didn't have to leave it at his place! I like them enough to either buy two or hunt down refurbishable vintage. To be honest, most of my mortises in small cabinets these days are done with a WoodRat. When I was using softer woods, I bought a few of the Sorby sash mortise and they fit my needs at the time. Very servicable for light woods.


But on Bubinga? Forget 'em. When I don't want to take the WR off the wall shelf and set it up, I drill them out with either a DP or brace and simply use the paring chisels. But I am going to be doing another couple cabinets when I have the time, one in Cedar which the Sorby's will do fine in, the other in Mahagony, which I think either a couple Iles or vintage will do much better on. For these couple jobs I plan on whacking them out. Sorta coming full circle in my little journey.


I hate routers with a passion, so at some point in the near future the last three routers will be sold and the 'Rat gone. That will prompt a move on my part to either take the time for hunting down vintage or get the Iles.


Take care, Mike

Lataxe's picture

(post #103444, reply #18 of 45)

Mike,


I'd like to quiz you further on the fishtail chisel. 


Looking in the various catalogues, all the fishtails seem to have a greater or lesser curve to the end.  I'm struggling to understand how a curved-end chisel does well with the straight walls and floor of pin sockets and tails...........?  Do you (re)grind it flat?


Thanks.


Lataxe

mwenz's picture

(post #103444, reply #22 of 45)

Hi Lataxe,


Here's a link to an AI-brand fishtail chisel--not gouge...


http://www.toolsforworkingwood.com/indextool.mvc?prodid=IL-54x1.XX


While I don't wish to argue efficacy of one type over another, this is much easier to find than an 18th century one.


Take care, Mike

testtest's picture

(post #103444, reply #24 of 45)

The link points to carving chisels which are double beveled and not really usefull for cabinetmaking.

joel

mwenz's picture

(post #103444, reply #25 of 45)

Yes, I couldn't find a picture of a Pfiel single bevel fishtail and I should have noted that--thanks.


But the steel in carving tools is top-notch and for cleaning out--paring cuts--of a DT socket is not hard on a tool anyway.


The HT-brand has a shallow double bevel and can easily be ground back. The AI looks shallower as a carving tool ought to be. The Pfiel also has a shallower bevel but I believe one can still purchase them with a single or double bevel, which for the purpose of cleaning out a DT socket, the single bevel is desired.


I look at it this way. All the vintage Butchers I have needed significant work to make them into usable straight-sided firmers. Grinding back the double bevel of a carving tool if that's all one can find is no more work--and certainly less work than Derek's modification.


The vintage swiss fishtail carving tools I have all had single bevel and I believe Pfiel still makes them, though Woodcraft may not carry them or have them in-stock.


Does AI also make a single bevel fishtail-pattern carving tool?


Thank you, Mike

testtest's picture

(post #103444, reply #26 of 45)

AI doesn't make a single bevel fishtail as stock but we could get them in. For cleaning dovetails however a single bevel skew fishtail like the ones we stock are less expensive, the right narrow width, and are so much better in performance than none-skew fishtail for the purpose I cannot imagine why you would bother. Also skew chisels are used only occasionally so there is no point in getting an expensive chisel and the slightly softer steel of ours makes there is less chance of a tip snapping off in the midst of CCR (corner cleanup rushing).

Most people get them too wide - a 1/4" or 3/8" is all you need.

joel

mwenz's picture

(post #103444, reply #27 of 45)

OK. Thank you, Joel.


My preference--my method of work--is a single chisel rather than a L/R pair. As well, a fishtail, being non-skewed has more usability than a skewed chisel which "are used only occasionally so there is no point in getting an expensive chisel."


And, of course, if someone asks a group of people for their personal opinions, I will give my own uninformed opinion and even go on to explain why I would bother when there are other options available.


If it matters to the others, I believe my fishtail is an 8 mm. I do have larger/smaller as well as part of my carving kit but have never pulled them out for cleaning DT sockets.


I also have several varieties of skewed, single-bevel chisels, from carving tool versions to "real" skewed chisels, and even the LV ones that match the detail chisels reference earlier. As noted above, I don't find I use skewed chisels that much. The exception being a cranked, 1" wide Crown which I ground a skew into for the purpose of scraping glue off of panels. Works a treat.


Take care, Mike

testtest's picture

(post #103444, reply #28 of 45)

mike,
I'm not suggesting a plain skew chisel - I agree with you on that.
I am suggesting a fishtail single bevel skewed chisel. Works better than either a skew chisel, or a regular fishtail chisel. You get more wiggle room - and I can see why some people don't like dealing with switching to two chisls and prefer one tool in the hand.

joel

mwenz's picture

(post #103444, reply #29 of 45)

Yep, I hunted them down on the TWW web site. Cost effective.


For everyone else, here's the linky:


http://www.toolsforworkingwood.com/Merchant/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Store_Code=toolshop&Product_Code=MS-SBSKEW.XX&Category_Code=TMT


As I haven't tried a fishtail skew, I have no point of comparison to a non-skewed fishtail such as what I use. I can only go by my own experience with what I do have. But read the text at the link for a good explanation as to these chisels' efficacy.


Take care--I need to get back to figuring out quotes on two possible large orders as my steel and brass quotes came in today...


Mike
trapped on the computer today I fear...


Edited 7/3/2006 11:54 am by mwenz

Patto's picture

(post #103444, reply #38 of 45)

Different sort of joint but still an issue of chisels.


I have been performing miserably trying to cut three of the joints below. I have been using a Pfiel 8/5 gouge to cut the curve, but am stronly suspecting that this type of joint was the reason for in-cannel gouges. Because of the outside bevel on a carving gouge, it is very difficult to take paring cuts down the length of the joint without the tail getting in the way. - this wont be my best piece of furniture but has been a learning experience.


As for cleaning out a standard dovetail. I own stanly bench chisels they have the same interferance problem Derek is talking about so I use a knife to finish the corners. I never occurred to me untill I looked at Derek's photos that I learnt using my father's Bergs, so the problem really only arose after I left home. (bit obvious in retrospect) I did buy a pair of skewed chisels for this purpose, but think they might have been used twice.


Dave

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derekcohen's picture

(post #103444, reply #39 of 45)

Hi Dave


I am impressed! My skills do not run as far as the joint you drew and am keen to be edumacated. Can you use a flat surface in place of the curved? It would be so much easier paring an triangled flat to the foot of the dovetail. I assume that this is to match the central pillar of a table, so my suggestion is not practical. Mmm ... what if you cut the hollow sans dovetail (with a Round), then add the dovetail (maybe with a dovetail joint!)?


Alf has a step-by-step on her website, but does not show how she does this joint. My impression was that she left it flat.


http://www.cornishworkshop.co.uk/musicstandindex.html


Regards from Perth


Derek


p.s. I have just posted a step-by-step of my own on building a (sliding) dovetail plane:


http://www.wkfinetools.com/MUTools/mTools/dovPlane/index.asp


 


Edited 7/5/2006 2:06 am ET by derekcohen

mwenz's picture

(post #103444, reply #40 of 45)

Hi Dave, technically, that would be a near impossible joint to make even with my in-cannel gouges. I assume this is a leg to column sliding DT? In any case, plug in the appropriate terms if not.


Just thinking out loud here. If I were set on using that joint, I would be tempted to use my pattern maker's planes with the appropriate soles and cut the entire hollow. Then, either mortise fairly deep, and use a glued in long DT but with a straight tongue for the leg's mortise, or use a double-sliding DT. First mortise both leg and column, shape the mortise into the appropriate angles and use a long DT key to lock both pieces to each other.


Or, and most likely, I would scribe flats on the column the width of the leg, the leg would have the DT as drawn--but the end of the leg would be flat, not concave and would fit against the flat on the column.


Hmm. Good puzzle. Any more info on what this joins to? If it is in the thread, I must have missed it.


Take care, Mike


Edited 7/5/2006 3:31 am by mwenz

derekcohen's picture

(post #103444, reply #41 of 45)

Mike, we have just offered the same solutions. Either we are equally brilliant or equally dumb! Let's decide this after we hear from others!  :>)


Regards from Perth


Derek

mwenz's picture

(post #103444, reply #42 of 45)

Hah--we did.


I was thinking more about this. Traditionally it was a flat mating surface and on larger diameter columns, the male DT'd portion light undercut, just not to a matching round and not actually clear to the base of the male DT. Just a light hollow. iirc, that helped to ensure a tight joint much like undercutting a tenon's shoulder. But the mating surface was still flat I believe.


Alf's music stand is flat male DT against a round column.


Take care, Mike

Patto's picture

(post #103444, reply #43 of 45)

This joint is a saga of moving on from mistakes.


A few years ago I had to buy too much jarra to get hold of some 60mm stock for legs. I found a plank but had to buy about twice the amount I needed.


I then decided that I needed a stand lamp, and that this bit of Jarrah would look good. Turning wasn't a problem, but the long boring didn't work all that well (first serious try) which cost me one length of timber. I now didnt have enough timber to make the heavy round base intended, which would have been simple. So- I had done three legs with sliding divetails once before so tis was a suitable design mod.


Ambition got the better of me. Seeing I had some thick stock which was pretty rare, I conceived a design where the top of the legs would meet, covering all of the circumference of the central leg. If I cut flats I wouldnt have enough meat so that was out. Hence the current design. Will taper the legs and scrape some detail into the top for interest - haven't got that far yet.


The attached files show my progress. First and second efforts pretty obvious. The fisrt can be assembled and sort of works but looks untidy I havent tried to fit the second yet, but it is much better shaped and tok a fraction of the time. The template was not a good idea. It was much more accurate to mark out directly, but took a while to work out how. So it has been a bit of an adventure, but nothing ventured...


Dave


PS. My mates keep telling me how much I need to replace the benchtop.

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Patto's picture

(post #103444, reply #44 of 45)

The missing pics

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dgreen's picture

(post #103444, reply #45 of 45)

I enjoyed reading the evolution of your project and am impressed with your solution.


The bench top speaks of many happy hours in the shop, if only it could talk!


Since the house is on fire let us warm ourselves. ~Italian Proverb

 

 

................................................

Men will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.
~ Denis Diderot

jazzdogg's picture

(post #103444, reply #2 of 45)

Hi Lataxe,


I bought a set of these detail chisels from Lee Valley a few years ago and they work well.


http://www.leevalley.com/wood/page.aspx?c=2&p=46035&cat=1,41504


 


-Jazzdogg-


"Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive." Gil Bailie

-Jazzdogg-

"Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive." Gil Bailie

Lataxe's picture

(post #103444, reply #3 of 45)

Jazz,


Not 1 hour ago, I was sat in the garden with the ladywife, guzzling fizzy white wine, gawping at the swallows a-hawking insects as the sun went down and .....reading the Lee Valley catalogue.  Naturally, the page was open at them DT chisels you mention; and I'm thinking, "Can I add yet another handtool item to the growing list"? 


I cast a surrepticious glance at the ladywife, who is just the right degree of sozzled and stroking the cat on her knee, therefore content with the world and all that's in it, including (by definition) my tool list.


Well, the moment was ripe, so I pounced.  "These look like just the DT chisels I need, DarlinK; wotyoofink"?  In the cat-cuddling-sozzle mood, the answer is always, "Yes".


Now, should I take advantage, in the sober light of day tomorrow morning, just before I send her off to work?  Hmmmm.....perhaps I'll wait a bit 'til evening time, when the working day is over and the cat's back on the knee.


They are just the ticket, by the look of them.  Have you cut yourself on the bevelled edges much?  It was the only aspect of them that looked a bit worrisome.


Lataxe, with too much fizz on board.

dherzig's picture

(post #103444, reply #4 of 45)

I a couple of the Iles from Tools for Working Wood. I used them on jatoba (Brazilian Cherry, the most miserable hard wood loaded with silica I have ever seen) and they worked beautifully. Since I assumed that initially I would only need a limited selection I stuck with 3/8 and 1/2 inch. Will probably add more later.


"The measure of a good furniture plan is one that requires new skills and new tools."

Lataxe's picture

(post #103444, reply #20 of 45)

D,


Those Iles are sounding better all the time.  I might have 1/2, 3/8 and a 1/4 though (as those are the mortise widths I've customarily used in my woodrat mortised furniture to-date).


Am I right in thinking the bevels are quite point at about 15 degrees but that you put a very pronouced bevel on the end (up to 10 degree or more)?  I read a web page that suggested so, because you then get ability to make sharp cuts but with a still-strong tip.....?


Thanks


Lataxe

dherzig's picture

(post #103444, reply #21 of 45)

The ones I have are the mortising chisels with a primary bevel at 30 and a secondary of 31. For cleaning out the dovetails, I bought a couple of Japanese chisels with a very flat side bevel to reach into the corners. The Ray Iles hold an edge extremely well. I found the video on dovetails by Jim Kinshott (www.toolsforworkingwood.com) extremely helpful. It gave me the confidence to pack away my DT machines and jigs and do it by hand.

jazzdogg's picture

(post #103444, reply #5 of 45)

Hi Lataxe,


You're a marvelous storyteller!


It's ironic that you mention being cut by the beveled edges; one of the admonitions I routinely give new students learning to sharpen standard bench chisels is to use a bit of fine sandpaper to ease the arris where polished backs meet sides lest they slice their fingers while experiencing what, for many, will be their first hand-work with a truly sharp chisel.


These Chan-designed detail chisels are delicate little tools, and their angled sides allow one to reach into the tiniest nooks and crannies to remove reluctant bits of wood fiber with relative ease; of course, they're not made to be used with a mallet.


When I received mine they were well-shaped and sharp enough to begin experimenting with straight out of the box. I didn't have to spend time flattening the backs or re-shaping the bevels, although I did hone them on ceramic stones, after which they did cut a little cleaner and easier. And, yes, I did remember to ease the arris so I couldn't find myself wondering why my dovetails were inexplicably tinged with crimson ; - )


Nice chatting with you,


 



-Jazzdogg-


"Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive." Gil Bailie


Edited 7/2/2006 7:58 pm by jazzdogg

-Jazzdogg-

"Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive." Gil Bailie

mwenz's picture

(post #103444, reply #6 of 45)

Have you cut yourself on the bevelled edges much?  It was the only aspect of them that looked a bit worrisome.


I too have a set. Well, two sets. I use two or three of the chisels on every saw. I do like them enough that I will buy the replacements in the set when these I use most wear down--which will be my third ones.


Depending on the wood you work, you may find them a touch soft. The fishtail chisel has two advantages. One of course is the harder steel with better edge retention. The second is that for cleaning out HB sockets, the shape allows easier access.


I've never cut myself on the sides of them...


Take care, Mike

Lataxe's picture

(post #103444, reply #19 of 45)

Jazz,


Could I ask you if you use all the chisels in the Lee Valley set (including those skews perhaps)?  I ask because I don't want to buy redundant ones and buying a set seems very little cheaper than buying individually, as I don't want the box the set comes in.


I wondered, for instance, whether that 1/16 incher is used much?


I also wonder if there's one to be had from somewhere else that's 3/8", as its a bit of a gap from 1/4 to 1/2".


Of course, I would really like metric ones.  :-)


Lataxe