In Shop Blog, Techniques

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Q & A: Why are new chisels so dull?



Whenever I buy a blade, like a tablesaw blade or a router bit, it’s always sharp.How come when I buy chisels they’re duller than a math lecture on the last day of school?



Although it seems reasonable to expect new chisels to
come sharp, there are three good reasons why they don’t.

First, sharpening is expensive. Some chisels do come presharpened,
but they cost about $5 more per chisel.Would you
be willing to pay for the first sharp edge when you’ll resharpen
your chisel dozens of times?

Second, the roughly ground edge on a new chisel is actually
a useful secondary bevel.At 25 degrees, it’s a lower angle
than the chisel is
meant to cut
at. Your job
is to hone
the chisel
to the primary
angle: 30 degrees.
The manufacturer has
saved you some time by giving you a lower angle so now you
have only to hone the tip of the chisel.

Third, a sharp edge is fragile.Chances are it wouldn’t survive
shipping and handling. With a dull edge, you know
what you’ve got.

This story originally appeared in American Woodworker February 2001, issue #85.

February 2001, issue #85

Purchase this back issue.


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