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  • new chisels

    I have read more than one woodworking magazine and seen posted here that chisels (and plane cutters and such), are not ready to go out of the box. They require some attention on the stone. I also understand they come with some kind of acrylic coating that must be removed prior to sharpening?

    I have two questions on this note,

    1) is this a case by case? for example, higher end chisels, such as Two Cherries, Bahco and such require this attention out of the box? I picked up a set of NEW old stock BAHCO chisels when they were owned by Sandvik before Snap on bought the company. Each one appears to be extremely sharp and there are only two of six i can feel a little metal on the back near the blade, so they obviously at a minimum need to have those backs flattened. they are all cut at between a 15 and 20 degree bevel.

    I primrily use arkansas stone, but i do have a coarse manmade for when the bevel needs to be drastically changed.I also have a bench grinder and lee valley tool rest with a white norton wheel (that is not fully set up yet)

    So do these higher end chisels need to spend some time on the stone before use or should the be ready to go?

    if they need the attention, that leads me to question 2) and that is how do you safely remove the coating prior to sharpening.

    As always, thanks again for all your help


  • #2
    First I've heard of a coating---hopefully it's just because the mfg. is being extremely careful---not that they have some poor quality steel that they're afraid will rust.

    In any event, the acrylic should just come off with your sharpening or if you're afraid of fouling your stones, you could always do a few passes on some sandpaper a la scary sharp.

    I used to be very lax in keeping my chisels sharp, but after I found what a properly sharpened chisel can do, all get an initial sharpening starting with a flat back.


    • #3

      yes you forwarded me the scary sharp method which i have tried and it does work nice. However, i have receintly discovered the Arkansas stone and in all honesty in my experience the arkansas gives a better edge in half the time as long as the bevel is set. if i want to or need to drastically change the bevel i either use the bench grinder or a manmade coarse oil stone.

      the scary sharp i only use now to clean up/flatten plane shoes. works well.

      perhaps i was doing something wrong with the scary sharp method but these stones do a much better job. I have recommended your method to some friends and have gotten about a 50% feedback rate. 50% works good, 50% not impressed.

      Again perhaps it is merely technique and i am certainly not knocking that method, just found the arkansas to cut a much sharper much finer edge



      • #4
        As I understand it, the coating on new chisels is typically lacquer, but not always. However, lacquer thinner typically removes whatever it is. I go over my new chisels with #0000 steel wool and lacquer thinner and haven't had any problems. I avoid getting the thinner on the handles though. The manufacturer puts the stuff on to prevent rust.

        Most new chisels don't come ready to use. Some exceptions that I know of are Japanese chisels (different animal from Western chisels), Robert Sorby chisels, and Lie-Nielsen chisels. I know Two Cherries is a high qualty chisel (around 60-62 on Rockwell hardness scale), but I don't know if it comes ready to use. Most other chisels have to have to their backs flattened and polished and then the bevel honed before use. The honing goes fast after the back has been prepared, but flattening and polishing the back of some chisels that are rounded in the back and have deep mill marks can take some time and energy. However, this work on the back only has to be done one time unless the chisel is mistreated.

        The key advantage of the more expensive chisels is in the steel. The higher quality steel will take and hold an edge longer, although it tends to be more brittle and chips more easily and is more difficult to sharpen because its harder.

        The best choice of bench chisels really depends on use and budget. I have two sets. For general everyday use, I have Maples Blue Chip. The ones with blue, plastic handles sold at Lowes' and other places. They are 56 on the Rockwell scale. The require a lot of tune up for initial use and dull more quickly than chisels with harder steel. However, they are alot cheaper (you won't cry if you knock one off your bench and chip it), you can pound the hell out of them (plastic handles and not very brittle), and they sharpen more easily. I really wouldn't want a lower quality chisel though. They also come in a wide variety of sizes, from 1/8" to at least 2", although the extreme sizes are normally only found in some of the catlogs.

        I also have a set of Japanese chisels (not the really, really expensive ones). These have hand forged steel on the edges that's about 62-64 on the Rockwell scale. I only use them for cutting dovetails. I use Norton waterstones for honing and you never grind these chisels because the high quality tempered steel is only near the edge. The are very sharp and hold their sharpeness for a long time but they are also brittle. If one ever gets a significant chip, it's all over. Allthough I like these chisels, if I had it to do over again, I would probably go with Lie-Nielsen or Hirsch (similar to Two Cherries) over the Japanese chisels.