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Thread: Sorby 1/4" skew chisels

  1. #1
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    Sorby 1/4" skew chisels

    Can anyone recommend the Robert Sorby 1/4" skew chisels for working on half-blind dovetails?
    Or is there another maker you prefer?

    thanks
    Last edited by Mark Gibney; 08-23-2019 at 12:11 AM. Reason: half a mistake

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Gibney View Post
    Can anyone recommend the Robert Sorby 1/4" skew chisels for working on blind dovetails?
    Or is there another maker you prefer?

    thanks
    My only knowledge of Robert Sorby chisels if from my lathe chisels. They seem okay.

    For skew chisels my first set was made from a couple of spare 1/2" square edge chisels:

    Skew Chisel.jpg

    My second pair was made from some spare 1/4" bevel edge chisels:

    Skew Chisel.jpg

    My recommendation wouldn't be for any particular brand. My recommendation would be for either a pair of skew chisels or possibly a fish tail chisel for blind dovetails.

    If you are the DIY type, then my recommendation would be to grind your own from rust hunt finds.

    jtk
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
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  3. #3
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    Jim I would enjoy making a skew chisel from an older chisel, but there won't be a tool swap meet around here for a few months.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Gibney View Post
    Can anyone recommend the Robert Sorby 1/4" skew chisels for working on half-blind dovetails?
    Or is there another maker you prefer?

    thanks
    Mark, as Jim mentioned, one can easily make a skew from an old chisel.

    However, for excavating the corners of half-blind sockets, I much prefer a fishtail chisel. You need 2 skew chisels, while you need one fishtail. The action of a skew is at an angle, while a fishtail is square (easier).





    I have made a couple, but my go to is a Blue Spruce ...



    Regards from Perth

    Derek

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Gibney View Post
    Jim I would enjoy making a skew chisel from an older chisel, but there won't be a tool swap meet around here for a few months.
    You can buy 2 buck brothers quarter inch chisels at a BORG for little money, and reshape into 2 skews. I did that following an article on SMC/Mike Henderson's web page. (Sure, they have plastic handles. But these are just occasional-use tools.)
    "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
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  6. #6
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    Sorby are fine, though remember you can tap in an old scraper or section of a wide bandsaw blade to finish the cut into the corners a la Tage Frid (though the technique obviously predates him) thus largely eliminating the need for a lot of chiseling into the corners in the first place. What's left isn't much and an eighth inch straight chisel easily handles it. Components were (are) overcut to eliminate the need to remove a lot of material in the corners, but when this objectionable the scraper or bandsaw blade comes into play.

  7. #7
    Around 1976 I made a skew from a quarter inch chisel for the corners of dovetail sockets. Shortly thereafter I realized that most workers used a straight chisel for this work, either 1/4 or 3/16. This is what I recommend.

  8. #8
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    My cabinets are loaded with tools that are a solution looking for a problem. Whatever works for us and is reached for, is the tool to keep. I have skews and they're used infrequently. I have a fistail chisel, and it sees use, but as Warren does, my AI roundback chisels handle half dovetail clean-ups as well as anything. Maybe it is the 1/4" maybe the 5/8", I'm used to wriggling them in!
    If the thunder don't get you, the lightning will.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Gibney View Post
    Jim I would enjoy making a skew chisel from an older chisel, but there won't be a tool swap meet around here for a few months.
    You are fortunate that there will be a tool swap meet in your area. There doesn't seem to be tool swaps in my area without driving a hundred miles or more.

    In a metropolitan area such as Los Angeles you might find it helpful to call antique shops and junk stores to see if they have any woodworking tools.

    One person in my area uses an ad in the free local classified paper to hunt for tools.

    There is always ebay. Find a couple of inexpensive no name chisels and give them a bit of a skew and see if you like them.

    Do not give them too steep of an angle.

    Notice in my first image above the !/2" skew is cleaning out a dado. The skew gives it more of a slicing cut as opposed to a straight edge being pushed through the work.

    jtk
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

  10. #10
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    Thank you all for your thoughtful replies.

    Derek, that Blue Spruce chisel looks wonderful, but my second thought when I see a fishtail chisel is that I'd probably grind off the usable head of the chisel in a distracted fit at the Tormek.

    I'll go ahead and try to improve my shoddy skills using my 1/8" and 3/16" chisels ala Warren and Tony, before deciding on a skew.

    Frederick, I'd prefer to wait until the next swap meet comes thru town than buy a plastic handled chisel. If this was a tool I needed this weekend to finish an install for a client, then I'd buy it, plastic handle or not, but because it is a tool that will be part of an almost meditative slowing down to address the work I think I'd prefer to wait on wooden handles.

    Thank you all again.

  11. #11
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    I made this fishtail chisel about 20 years ago. Witherby chisel blade stuck into a handle I had made for a knife. Bevelled the blade at 20 degrees. Worked great. I still have it somewhere ...



    Regards from Perth

    Derek

  12. #12
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    At the 26' mark, PS uses a 1/8" square chisel to clear the corners of a half blind socket. What I dislike about this method is that he leans into the corner to create a release cut. That is fine if you have a thickish side. It is not recommended for finer dovetails, especially slim "London" tails.



    I think he makes heavy weather of this work altogether. I very recently posted on a jig for a router trimmer to excavate waste in half blind sockets when working with multiple sockets in hard woods. I think I should post it on this forum as well (but on the power side) as some will find it useful. Anyway, there is a photo of clearing the corners with a fishtail chisel ...



    Final result (it was done quickly - I can see a few stray threads in the socket) ...




    EDIT: the trim router jig is here: https://sawmillcreek.org/showthread....12#post2946812

    Regards from Perth

    Derek
    Last edited by Derek Cohen; 08-23-2019 at 12:23 PM.

  13. #13
    Most people don't use do a whole lot of dovetails (and even less half blind dovetails) and usually find that a skew or fishtail is not used other places very much. If you want a fishtail, about the lowest cost alternative is a Pfeil carving chisel - they make flat fishtails in various widths (if i remember correctly). I haven't checked the price in a long time but I'm going to guess about $30. The steel is pretty good.

    A less expensive alternative is to purchase two cheap 1/4 inch chisels from the Borg (used to be about $10 each) and grind them to a skew - one left and one right. They may not be the world's best steel but they are plenty good enough to clean out a few half blind dovetail sockets.

    Keep your money for things you'll use a lot more.

    Mike

    [I do a fair number of dovetails and always seem to manage with my square end chisels, even though I have both skews and a fishtail.]
    Last edited by Mike Henderson; 08-23-2019 at 12:28 PM.
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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Henderson View Post
    Most people don't use do a whole lot of dovetails (and even less half blind dovetails) and usually find that a skew or fishtail is not used other places very much. If you want a fishtail, about the lowest cost alternative is a Pfeil carving chisel - they make flat fishtails in various widths (if i remember correctly). I haven't checked the price in a long time but I'm going to guess about $30. The steel is pretty good.

    A less expensive alternative is to purchase two cheap 1/4 inch chisels from the Borg (used to be about $10 each) and grind them to a skew - one left and one right. They may not be the world's best steel but they are plenty good enough to clean out a few half blind dovetail sockets.

    Keep your money for things you'll use a lot more.

    Mike

    [I do a fair number of dovetails and always seem to manage with my square end chisels, even though I have both skews and a fishtail.]
    Mike,

    If I'm not mistaken, skew chisels are deliberately made a bit softer, so Borg chisels may be perfectly fine.

    T.
    If the thunder don't get you, the lightning will.

  15. As someone already said, get a couple of 1/4" chisels, nothing fancy and grind them yourself.

    Best wishes,
    David Charlesworth

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