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Thread: Spear and Jackson chisel

  1. #1
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    Spear and Jackson chisel

    Fellow Creekers,

    I've never owned a Spear and Jackson chisel, in fact I didn't even know they made chisels. I just won this on the Bay and I'm looking for information. Anyone have an idea of the quality of the steel on this? It is a 7/8" wide paring chisel. I don't think it is the original handle, as the handle isn't perfectly centered on the tang. It looks user made and I will be replacing it with my favorite shape, the classic 18th century tapered octagon. Pics are available here.

    There is some pitting on the back that I will have to lap out and it looks like someone may have used it with a mallet at one point, as there is a slight bend in it near the bolster. It shouldn't effect use as a paring chisel as it is minimal. I'm looking to gather a set of tanged firmers to use and this would be my first paring chisel of this style. I've got several shorter tanged firmers but no paring length blades. Anyone have a source other than eBay?
    Last edited by Zach Dillinger; 01-23-2011 at 1:43 PM.
    Your endgrain is like your bellybutton. Yes, I know you have it. No, I don't want to see it.

  2. #2
    That's a nice looking chisel. Unfortunately, I don't know anything about S&J chisels. Like you, I didn't even know they made them.
    I generally find chisels at flea markets, good socket chisels can generally be had for a couple bucks, especially if they don't have a handle.
    I've also had good luck with a not so local but worth the drive antique store in Quarryville, Pa.
    And thanks for the book review on your blog, I'm going to pick that up.
    Paul

  3. #3
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    The quality of 19th. C. chisels can vary in their tempering,and hardening. I have many chisels and carving tools made in the 19th.C.,and do find quite a variation even within the same brand. The chisel is likely made from the same quality of crucible,or "cast steel" that others of its day were. Beyond that,it depends upon how the heat treater was feeling that day. Generally,they were good. I have a set of 12 Addis carving tools,though,that were actually so HARD that I could not get them to keep a sharp edge. I had to draw back their temper. then,they were o.k.. I wonder if that particular set was never tempered?

    As toolmaker in Wmsbg.,I often had to doctor up old chisels that the men bought themselves to use(which was against museum policy). I even have seen one with the welded bit PEELING back,from being tempered entirely too soft,and also having a defective forge weld. I had to grind back the bit beyond the separation,and re harden and temper the chisel.

    These cases were unusual,but it does remind us that just because some tool is old,it isn't always the best quality.
    Last edited by george wilson; 01-23-2011 at 2:08 PM.

  4. #4
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    Paul,

    The number of chisels I find here in Michigan certainly leaves something to be desired. I rarely find them "in the wild", unless its a MWTCA meet. The tanged firmer chisels intrigue me for some reason and I'd really like to try them.

    Zach
    Your endgrain is like your bellybutton. Yes, I know you have it. No, I don't want to see it.

  5. #5
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    George,

    Thanks for the information. I guess I'll just have to sharpen it up and see if the Spear and Jackson heat treater did his job properly that day. If not, I'll work with it to make it right.

    Cheers!

    Zach
    Your endgrain is like your bellybutton. Yes, I know you have it. No, I don't want to see it.

  6. #6
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    From the incredible number of wine bottles found in Williamsburg,many of us were convinced that everyone stayed somewhat drunk most of the time. Alcohol was their pain reliever and calmative,and general medicine,it seems. I have wondered how much that played into the average workman's day??

  7. #7
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    Interesting point. Given the historical record, the alcohol bottles you mention AND the sheer number of tools that exhibit poor quality control, it makes you wonder. Although, the tool record could just show that the junk tools survived in higher proportion than the good tools, which were used up by the craftsman over the years. Hard to say.
    Your endgrain is like your bellybutton. Yes, I know you have it. No, I don't want to see it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by george wilson View Post
    ...I have a set of 12 Addis carving tools,though,that were actually so HARD that I could not get them to keep a sharp edge. I had to draw back their temper. then,they were o.k.. I wonder if that particular set was never tempered? ...
    George, how do you draw back the temper?

    Thanks,
    Pam

  9. #9
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    It depends on how much too hard the tool is,Pam,and that takes experience. For the Addis set,I drew them to a dark brown,and tried them out. Some were still too hard,so I drew them to purple or blue. Drawing to blue is something I would normally never do to a chisel,let me make that clear.

    I do not know the exact cause of these chisels being so hard. It could have been that the steel used in them had unusually high carbon content. Rating the carbon content of steel was a matter of personal skill to the tester in those days. They hardened samples,and fractured them. Looking at the grain structure told them whether the steel would be good for edge tools,spindles(lower carbon),or files and razors(very high carbon).

    It is entirely possible that a batch of razor steel was mistakenly allocated for making this bunch of carving tools. Addis made razors,too. The wrong steel could have been given to forge the carving tools.

    You need to be very careful about re tempering ANY tool,because once it is done,it cannot be un done. You'd have to begin anew,by re hardening the tools. Re hardening a tool that has its finished configuration can cause severe warping. An example is a plane iron with the bevel ground on it. The bevel causes the opposite sides of the iron to have different amounts of surface area,which will cause different cooling rates in the quench. Quenching a beveled iron invariably causes the blade to warp ACROSS its width,which is a big problem. No telling what a fully finished carving gouge,or a bevel edge chisel would do. I would grind the beveled sides after hardening. Unless the makers had special appliances to clamp the blade in while quenching,like truck manufacturers have for hardening the large epicycloidal (sp?) gear in the rear ends of rear end driven trucks, warping would be a big problem.

    I have made half round reamers for reaming tuning pegs. They warp terribly when quenched. In that case,though,there is a technique for getting them straight.
    Last edited by george wilson; 01-24-2011 at 10:07 AM.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zach Dillinger View Post
    Fellow Creekers,

    I've never owned a Spear and Jackson chisel, in fact I didn't even know they made chisels.
    Neither did I; I do have a very good, I think 50 year-old handsaw from them, though.

  11. #11
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    Does anyone have a Spear and Jackson catalog or know where I could get one?
    Your endgrain is like your bellybutton. Yes, I know you have it. No, I don't want to see it.

  12. #12
    No catalog here, but some interesting stuff.
    http://www.wkfinetools.com/hUK/SpearJacks/sj-index.asp
    Paul

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by george wilson View Post
    It depends on how much too hard the tool is,Pam,and that takes experience. For the Addis set,I drew them to a dark brown,and tried them out. Some were still too hard,so I drew them to purple or blue. Drawing to blue is something I would normally never do to a chisel,let me make that clear. ...
    So you fire the tool a bit. Do you then quench? Then temper?

    Thanks,
    Pam

  14. #14
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    To just draw back the temper,I CAREFULLY and SLOWLY heat the chisel,or other blade,near the tang end,letting the colors creep to the sharp end. The most ideal thing is to NOT have to quench the tool. That gives time for the temper to sink in. Most of the time,though,if the temper colors start going too high,the tool is quenched. It doesn't matter what medium you quench the tool in for tempering. Just not in ice cold water,which could cause cracks. It DOES matter what you quench tools in when HARDENING them. Oil hardening steel can crack and distort worse if it is quenched in water. The water should never be excessively cold in any case. Harry Strasil can verify that blacksmiths usually heat up a good size piece of steel,and quench it in the "slack tub" (quenching solution) on cold mornings,to take the chill out of the water.

    At the same time,you don't want the quench to be too warm either,or your tool may not harden. Normal room temp is best.

    To answer your question better,you harden,polish off an area on the metal so you can see the bare metal,then temper. It is best if the tempering can be done while the tool is still just barely cool enough to handle BRIEFLY,about 130. I do this by having a pre heated toaster oven ready,with an accurate high temp. thermometer in it,at the correct tempering temperature. The tool is hardened. As soon as I can barely handle it,it is put into the oven.

    Different steels cannot be judged accurately by using the same tempering colors,because their alloys react differently to the tempering colors. Having scientific control is best if you want to get the best performance from your steel. I use accurately controlled electric ovens for both hardening and tempering. Two separate ovens.
    Last edited by george wilson; 01-24-2011 at 8:49 PM.

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