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When I inspect an antique tool – especially one that hasn’t been messed with much – I always take a look at the cutting edge. How was it sharpened? What is the shape of the edge? Did they do any work on the unbeveled face of the blade.

Usually, the edges of most vintage tools are in rough shape, even if they are free from rust. The edges are dull. The bevel usually has what I solicitously call the “multi-bevel” because it has been sharpened at a lot of wacky angles.

In fact, some woodworkers have concluded that most craftsmen of yore didn’t obsess much about sharpening, especially when it comes to maintaining the backs of the tools.

So when I got the privilege of inspecting the famous tool chest of Henry O. Studley of Quincy, Mass., I inspected every cutting edge I could get my gloved hands on. I looked at every chisel and plane edge in the chest.

Let me tell you this: Mr. Studley was a fastidious sharpener. All of the backs of all of the tools were lapped flat up at the working area – though not to a mirror polish. The accompanying photos and video show some his work – we don’t think these tools have been tampered with much. I took these images with a raking light so the scratches look deeper than they really are.

— Christopher Schwarz

Want to learn to sharpen without all the bull pucky? Then you might be interested in my latest DVD “The Last Word on Sharpening.” In it I try to distill everything I’ve learned about this simple skill into a DVD that allows you to understand and master any system. You can purchase the DVD in our store.

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Showing 17 comments
  • Hayden

    I’m like kar1205 – I would like to know the title of theme song at the end of the video – really nice ending for a true master – I’ve also wondered a lot about what Mr Studley produced in his working years; can’t wait to see what you guys come up with!

  • lwilliams

    So what I’m seeing there is exactly what I’d expect careful attention to getting flat faces flat. The big issue, I think, is the bevels. Why no images of the bevels?

  • kar1205

    Chris, what is the tune/artist playing on the video?

  • R.Hoppe

    Chris, did you check the backs of the chisels with a straight edge?

  • J. Pierce

    The handles kind of remind me of the ones one my LMI chisels – (although these look nicer) sort of my favorite handle pattern, that raised “ring” adds so much comfort when paring. . .

  • nroulleau

    So Studley was a Righty, judging by the angle of the scratches on the backs, looks like he used the length of the stone, with the handle off to the right at ~45deg or so?

    Chris, just curious if seeing his tools will change how you personally will approach your tool setup/sharpening?

  • Jonas Jensen

    Are all the chisels from Buck brothers?
    They look fabulous.
    I just got to think of, that now you are the closest person to be woodworking’s Raider of the lost Ark.
    When you write that the book is ready in 2013, you really mean it is ready for the X-mas in 2012? (please)

  • ebushee

    I’m also curious about the bevels, particularly if the bevel angle differed between chisel sizes.

  • millcrek

    From what I can see of these photos, it appears Mr. Studley only worked enough of the back to flatten the cutting edge. Is that your conclusion or am I missing something.

  • Wilbur

    So how did the bevels look?

  • GregM

    I think Mr Studley was most likely fastidious about a lot of things. He’s probably not a good model for your typical, average “crafstman of yore”.

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