Vintage Chisel Bliss - Popular Woodworking Magazine

Vintage Chisel Bliss

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Vintage Chisel

I can’t help it. And I don’t want to help it. Between projects, I really enjoy getting to know different tools and discovering what I like and why I like them. It’s good fun and this vintage chisel is no exception. I don’t think I’ve ever had that freedom within my job as a joiner, but when the working day ends and I can do things on my own terms, I enjoy the opportunity to reflect and try things out. I’ll also raise my hand and confess to browsing at the Internet jumble sale also known as “eBay” for fun! That’s where I spotted this Stormont brand 1″ bevel-edged chisel. I’d been on the lookout for a nice 1″ chisel on fleabay for a while, but had given up…then this little diamond appeared in my sights.

If you’re wondering if the Stormont is any better than other chisels or has special powers, you’re outta luck. I’m sure you could all advise me of fine American makers with whom I’m less familiar, that would be comparable to this vintage British brand. So while I can’t speak to its relative place in the chisel firmament, it is a damn fine edge tool out of Sheffield; don’t hesitate if you see a nice one and want to give it a try. To me, simply the condition and price appealed.

Stormont Chisel

The seller’s photos revealed the cutting edge had been neglected and abused, but what was in my favour was what appeared to be a shallow grind angle. It must of been 15° or so, indicating that it was likely used for fine paring tasks only, another reason why the condition was so very good. I also wanted to keep preparation simple.

If you’ve followed my stuff online for a while, you’ll know I’m a fan of the Norton India stone for its value and its ability as an all-rounder sharpening stone. A few stropping passes over leather to finish off after sharpening, and it’s amazing what you can do. You’ll see in the video below how far I go with the process – I didn’t take too long about it. End-grain pine is a pretty good test and it did well as you can see here while I was posting some shots on Instagram.

In regards to the other aspects of the chisel, I wanted to preserve the patina and just lift off a little grime. I used a dab of oil on some low-quality paper towel (cheap paper towel is quite rough, so it lifts the crud pretty well). Of course you could go as far as you like in trying to restore an old tool to near pristine condition, but I do prefer to see “honesty.” Poorly restored tools look like bad plastic surgery. In my book, do as little as possible to create a good tool while at the same time preserving the history. If you like the look of the chisel but don’t like older tools this style of chisel can be had new from Asley Iles (Tools For Working Wood and Workshop Heaven are two places that stock them).

If you have any eBay tool stories, good or bad please leave a comment; I’m off to place a bid….

— Graham Haydon

 

 

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Showing 8 comments
  • BLZeebub

    Great vid. ALL of my work chisels are rehabilitated orphans. Mostly old Stanley 720s with a few mongrels. I use an old Millers Falls guide to set my initial bevels but after that its freehand. Whenever any noob asks me about sharpening I tell them to learn freehand so as to keep you in the pink when doing a project. When I started I found it terribly annoying having to stop working and get out all the stones, the fluids, the mat, the jigs and the blah blah blah in order to perform the hocus pocus of re-establishing a proper edge. Nowadays, be it chisel or plane iron it takes me less than a minute to restore an edge and get back to work. Freehand is THE answer.

    • Graham Haydon
      Graham Haydon

      Hi BLZeebub

      There is something inherently good about picking high quality trade tools that have become neglected through lack of demand. The easy working steels and sharp edges are as worthy now as they always were. I think freehanding is a worthwhile skill to learn if it fits within the reasonable goals of a woodworker. Many have have great results and swear by guides, as long as we’re getting a good edge that’s what counts.

      Best

      G

  • hmerkle

    Nice side bevels on that chisel!
    many of the socket chisels I have found, have a much thicker side bevel.

    • Graham Haydon
      Graham Haydon

      Cheers hmerkle

      It’s nicely finished for sure. I don’t know how US ebay is but UK ebay seems full of great stuff right now. Close to an embarassment of riches. Sadly the post is a killer!

      Best

      G

  • Yoav Liberman
    Yoav Liberman

    Graham,
    Thanks for yet another fantastic video and your detailed presentation of the valuable potential of vintage tools.

    • Graham Haydon
      Graham Haydon

      Thanks Yoav!

      Much appreciated. The process was a touch “quick and dirty” but the end results were still just what I was after.

      Best

      G

  • wdworking

    Great find. Proves that you don’t have to grind a chisel completely to use it or get great results.

    • Graham Haydon
      Graham Haydon

      Thanks wdworking

      Nice chair :-). I’m enjoying the practical trade approach, just do it!

      Best

      G

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