Popular Woodworking 2001-10 № 124, страница 32

Popular Woodworking 2001-10 № 124, страница 32


Even if your shop is a burden on the local power grid,
you still need chisels, a combination square and a block plane.

Hand tools can be difficult to shop for. For some types of tools, particularly chisels, it's easy to spend way too much money and get mediocre performance. But for other tools (combination squares come to mind) buying cheap can come back to haunt you in the form of ill-fitting joints or cockeyed assemblies. So read on.

We've tested every major brand of chisel, low-angle block plane and decent combination square on the market. We tested the durability of the chisels' edges, the amount of setup needed with a block plane and the accuracy of all the major squares. If you want to buy a set of tools that will last a lifetime — no matter what your budget — you've come to the right place.

Beware the Chisel Snob

Your garden-variety bevel-edge chisel generally bats cleanup in the modern shop. They square the corners of hinge mortises cut with a router, clear out the waste in dovetail pins and pare a tenon for a perfect fit. They can be lightly struck with a mallet, but save the heavy stuff for a mortising or firmer chisel.

What's surprising about bevel-edge chisels is you don't have to spend a lot of money to get a tool with a

durable edge. Some of the least expensive chisels, when properly set up, are the most hardy.

The first thing to check is the handle. Find one that feels good and know this: round-handled chisels will roll off your bench.

Next, you want to choose a chisel with a decent blade. The face (the side opposite the cutting bevel) of all chisels must be lapped reasonably flat, especially at the cutting edge. The face can bow one of two ways. If the face bows out in the middle, it is said to be "bellied." Personally, I'd return a chisel that had more than a little belly to it. These take a lot of work to fix, sometimes with a belt sander. If the face bows at the ends, the chisel is said to be "hollow." A hollow face certainly makes it easier to lap the face at the cutting edge. However, too much hollow and you're in trouble; your chisel will want to dig into your work.

Another thing to consider is how hard the blade is. Western chisels are typically hardened to a Rockwell hardness between 58 and 62. This is harder than a scraper or a hand saw, but softer than carbide on a saw blade or router bit.

You would think that harder is always better, but consider this: the harder the blade the more brittle it


for hand tools

• It's easy to spend too much on a chisel. How it feels and how it cuts is what's important. Don't be taken in by a pretty birch handle with a shiny blade.

• For combination squares, accuracy is paramount. Buy a nice square.

• Even inexpensive block planes can be set up well. But they can take a lot of effort to get that way. If you buy an inexpensive plane, buy a nice aftermarket blade some day

is. Or, put another way, the blade on a chisel is a trade-off between toughness and sharpness. Softer blades are tougher and withstand abuse without breaking. Harder blades are sharper and more likely to retain an edge during normal use, but they are brittle and more likely to fail under stress.

Our testing examined the chisels for how well they felt in our hands, how easy they were to lap flat and how well the edge endured after chopping dovetail pins in white oak, an admittedly brutal test. The results of the test can be found on the following pages.

Combination Squares: Slightly Expensive is Better

Combination squares were invented in 1877 by Laroy Starrett. The company that bears his name still produces this important tool, and its modern version is the best that money can buy. The combination square can assist you in almost every workshop operation and help you set up every machine. It is a ruler, a try square, a miter square, a scribe (with the scribe tip), a depth gauge and even a level — in a pinch. Purchase a combination square with a protractor and center-finding head and there's little you cannot lay out.

The two most important things to look for in a combination square are the markings on the blade and the accuracy of the head. On cheapo plastic or aluminum models (which we don't recommend) the graduation marks can be as thick as and stenciled on or stamped. This makes accurate measurements nigh impossible. Better squares have machine-milled fine graduation marks

10 Popular Woodworking October 2001

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