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Buy a chisel? Pros and cons of the main brands of chisels (Part 4)

I love seeing the development of hand tools in my life. Some of the most inventive new products come from two Canadian companies, Veritas, and another new company, Blue Spruce. I first saw Blue Spruce tools a couple of years ago when I bought one of their beautiful scoring knives and that tool is still one of my favorites. it’s easy to categorize these tools as boutique tools. They certainly fall into the same lineage as “Gentlemans Tools”. These tools were made in Victorian times for the weekend craftsman, often with ebony handles and bright brass fittings to differentiate them from the common worker’s tools. But we all like the shine and it’s nice to have well-made blades and comfortable handles for a change.

I first saw the new Blue Spruce chisel range about a year ago when one of my students bought a dovetail chisel set. They have since brought out a slightly heavier set of bench chisels that I think are better suited for the furniture maker. Blue spruce makes exceptionally well-designed products, the backs of the blades are absolutely flat, and the bevels are milled very close to the back of the blade for a good line of sight. However, they are heavier than conventional carbon steel blades but lighter than Lie Nielsen equivalents. Beveled edge dovetail chisels are slightly different in that they have a much lighter blade and construction. These tools aren’t really designed for heavy mallets, they can be lightly tickled with a nylon hammer, but that’s about all you can do.

As attractive as these blades are, and they are very attractive beautifully turned handles, the finish is reinforced with a resin that hardens the fibers of the wood. It is clear that they have been designed and manufactured with quality in mind and that is very nice. But these babies would not find a place in my heart, especially the beautiful light beveled edge blades and matching chisels. Why? Well, it is a question of function, the function of a blade of this type is to be able to cut wood to cut the fibers of the wood. Instead of choosing a steel like high carbon steel that has the sharpest edge, Blue Spruce has chosen A2 steel. A2 steel keeps a very good edge for a long time, especially when it has a sharpening angle greater than 30°. However, our tests have shown that when we are sharpening at a lower angle, closer to 25 degrees or even below 25 degrees for hand cutting, A2 steel does not have as sharp an edge as it is possible to get with high carbon and crucible steel blades. So I’m sorry to say I have to stick with the steel bananas.

Other leaves that have found a place in our hearts are from Japan, what the Japanese would call dovetail leaves or “Umeki Nomi”. These have the benefit of laminated construction, that heating and hammering that seems to enhance the structure of the steel, and unlike most Japanese blades these are thin and well shaped with bevels similar to a western pattern.

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