An awesome find…

3/8″ Mortise Chisel

  • Won on eBay – October 2008 – $9.99

After drooling at some new mortising chisels, and bemoaning the fact that high-quality models started at $60 and up, I combed eBay looking for some old steel to get my hands on.

A friend of mine drew my attention to this little gem.  The description was intriguing:

Antique Page Whitmann & Co 3/8″ wide Mortising Chisel. This lot features a scarce cast steel mortising chisel manufactured by Page Whitmann & Co.  The heavy blade allows the chisel to be used as a lever against the side of the mortise. This scarce socket chisel is marked “Page Whitmann & Co W. Fitchburg”, “Cast Steel Warranted”. This dates this chisel to 1850’s, Civil War Era. Page-Whitman & Co started when Albert Page left Abel Simonds in early 1845 to for A G Page & Co and through mergers became Page Whitmann & Co. There is no handle.The blade measures 3/8″ wide. In good condition. Overall measurement is 11 1/2″ long. Great browning age patina. This is a rare chisel for your collection or use.

eBay picture of chisel

Hey, it was worth a bid.  Fortunately, I was the winner on the auction, and it recently arrived at my home.  The first thing I had to do was make a handle, and I’m KICKING myself that I didn’t set up my camera to show how I did it.  Basically, I followed the directions written by Bob Smalser on how to make a chisel handle.  I used a chunk of maple that was thick enough to work with, and came up with this…

Mortising chisel with Blue Chip for comparison
The Marples 3/8″ bench chisel is there just as a comparison… this chisel is HUGE and heavy.   After I got the handle fitted, I ran the flat of the blade against the grinding wheel of my Work Sharp.  That took a whole lot of scale and pitting out of the blade without removing all of the patina of age, then I reground the bevel to the 30 degree angle that helps keep this beefy chisel’s blade from chipping.

Just for giggles, I took a piece of 2 x 4 scrap which was sitting around the shop, quickly marked out the lines for a sample mortise and went to work.

Three minutes later – I cut my first mortise with a mortising chisel…

My sample mortise...

Wow… this chisel wants to cut straight, deep mortises. Granted, this is kinda rough and into construction grade lumber, but WOW, I can see myself cutting mortises with this grand old tool for years to come.

Now, I just have to get a complete set of mortising chisels…

2 thoughts on “An awesome find…”

  1. Hi Tom:

    Congrats man. In this disposable era to make a new life for an old tool is just the greatest.

    Your first attempt looks good too. To refine it a tad you can score the mortise lay out lines w/a knife and a chisel blade to cut in a bit of a shoulder before going for the mass of material to be removed. Also I pre drill out the bulk of the mortise and use my mortising chisel to clean up the waste in that socket much like a dedicated mortise machine.

    I am sure you already knew this and I know this was the maiden run but hey I get paid by the word.

    They don’t make em like thet use to.


    p.s. Sorry to hog your poll this week. I am spoiled and I know it. Always more than one way to skin a nanner. (No Cats were harmed!) Ha! B. H.

  2. Hey, Warren, thanks for the feedback. That chisel is one heck of a beast. I know I have to refine my technique, but for chopping straight from the grinding wheel… DANG!

    And, don’t sweat the poll business… it’s nuttin but good…

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