Garrett HackGarrett Hack
Thetford Center, Vermont

Author, teacher, and furniture maker Garrett Hack answers 10 questions from readers about choosing, sharpening, and using chisels.
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QUESTIONS

1

If you were forced to limit yourself to eight chisels to do all of your woodworking from now on, what would be in the set?
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2

 

In your wonderful book Classic Hand Tools, you say that of the vintage chisels you’ve used, you favor Swan. What exactly do you think sets the Swans apart?
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3

What is your preferences in mortise chisels. R.A. Salaman suggests in Dictionary of Woodworking Tools that a sash mortise chisel is used in cabinet making, while the oval-handled, wide-bladed chisels are used in carpentry and heavy joinery.
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4

I am very new to woodworking. Please don't cringe but I use a set of three Buck Bros. bench chisels from Home Depot. I flattened their backs and can get them reasonably sharp and serviceable. At what point do you recommend investing in a set of first-rate chisels?
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5

I'm making 26 mortises in dry ash that measure 1/2-in. wide by 2-in. by 1-in. long . Will I shorten the life of my bench chisels by doing so, or should I spring for a good 1/2-in. mortising chisel?
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6

I find many articles focus on chisel processes that work well with traditional European bench chisels. I have preferred Japanese chisels for years and would like to know if you use them in your work.
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7

Could you explain and demonstrate what you do to prepare an old chisel after you acquire it?
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8

I sharpen my chisels using water stones but over time the chisel edge is no longer square to the sides. How do I re-gain the square chisel reference? I don’t have a grinding wheel and rely solely on my water stones.
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9

I’ve often read that the last step in honing is to make a series of alternating strokes on each side of the bevel to remove the wire edge. Some recent videos I’ve seen leave that step out. What method do you prefer?
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10

Can you demonstrate the basic techniques you use for chopping and paring with a chisel?
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