I want to apologize to each of you – the loyal Tom’s Workbench readers. There was no quick poll yesterday… But I have a good excuse!
You see, I had travel plans… plans to attend the Woodworking in America conference up in Cincinnati, Ohio. Well, just south of Cinci in Covington, Kentucky, but you get the idea. The WIA, if you are unaware, is a big three-day woodworking summit featuring a large marketplace, numerous classes and plenty of opportunities to meet woodworkers from around the country.
While there, I didn’t have access to the Internet. I had an issue with being charged extra for web access while I was already staying at a hotel that caters to business travelers. I mean, honestly, it’s 2010 and most budget hotels don’t charge for the service. I’m sure that indoor plumbing was an upsell at hotels a long time ago, too.
Besides, I needed to hoard my pennies because I was there on a mission – I wanted to upgrade my chisels.
This isn’t the article I planed to write. My initial idea for this article was to go from booth to booth, holding chisels from the many manufacturers to feel their handles, check their balance and see how well they pared and chopped wood. There were some serious manufacturers there – Blue Spruce, Lie Nielsen, Hirsch, Veritas … they were sweet!
After my first lap around the floor, I stopped at the booth where Mike Siemsen was hosting the hand tool Olympics. Mike is an extremely knowledgeable woodworker who specializes in hand tools. I told him what I was looking to do, and his first response was interesting – he told me to look for old chisels. His reasons made sense – the older chisels were made in a time before the wide proliferation of power tools, so these were designed to be workhorses. He also told me that some of the new chisel manufacturers like to polish their blades to a mirror finish – which makes them look pretty, but rounds over the sharp edges in the corners. Regardless how well you sharpen the tool, you may never be able to truly get it ground to a sharp corner to pare into edges.
There was a booth I had to check out. Patrick Leach of The Superior Tool Works had a booth there and WOW… did he have some tools for sale. Classic planes, measuring tools, saws and chisels. First, I thanked him for running such a great site and told him how much I enjoyed reading his Blood and Gore page describing the different models of Stanley planes. I told him about what I was looking for, and – without blinking an eye – pointed across his booth crowded with classic tools and drooling woodworkers and showed me a set of chisels I might be interested in.
There on the table – in it’s original box – was a set of 1950’s vintage English Buck and Ryan chisels. Patrick explained that at the time, Buck and Ryan were well respected tool manufacturers working in London. The set of six chisels did need some work, but the steel was beautifully ground and the handles were made of handsome boxwood. They slipped into my hand comfortably and had a great balance. Patrick even worked with me on the price.
I fell in love with these chisels.
Now, I’m back home in Tampa getting ready for a day at work. But, I know a date with my diamond stones is in order to get these chisels into shape.
This year’s WIA event was full of outstanding experiences and reminded me why I fell in love with woodworking in the first place. Now, I’m really looking forward to spending some quality shop time with these new old chisels to see where the inspiration leads me.