Getting an Old Pigsticker Ready for Work

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Adam W.

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It's important to remember when discussing these tools is that that kind of mortice chisel is a joiners tool and not a carpenters tool, which would be a lot more robust, a great deal stronger and have a large socket for replaceable handles.
 

Jacob

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It's important to remember when discussing these tools is that that kind of mortice chisel is a joiners tool and not a carpenters tool, which would be a lot more robust, a great deal stronger and have a large socket for replaceable handles.
I don't know what techniques timber framers and carpenters favour for hand work only, but I guess they wouldn't use OBMs as the upper limit for straight forward OBM chisel would seem to be about 3/4', perhaps 1" in softer wood. I assume a lot of drilling out, or varieties of adze, twybil etc?
OBMs above 5/8" seem to be rare. Too big to handle I suppose.
OTOH OBMs down to 1/8" seem to be common, which is a mystery to me - who needs a 1/8" slot? I guess for metal work, straps and hinges etc. but I can't say I've ever noticed a 1/8" slot in old woodwork. Obviously looking in the wrong places!
PS Twybil (mortising axe) [TWYBIL] : Ashley Iles Tool Store
I guess two handed, long handle, for big mortices
 
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Lefley

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Okay how about this mortise chisel.
 

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D_W

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Okay how about this mortise chisel.

Those are good chisels - at the same time I had the group of LN mortise chisels, I bought a full set of these (first three, and then another pair - but I bought them at different times and the older ones had rounded tops (which was interesting, though I'm not sure why it would be necessary) and the later ones were slightly less nicely finished and with a flat top (this would've been a few years apart).

They're not cheap and not functionally any better than an older set. As little as they were used, I was happy to sell them (I used two out of the set of five with any regularity). They're solid steel and a little less tall in cross section.

Here's a comparison of socket framing mortise type chisel vs. pigsticker, though I have had framing chisels from ps&W that were no longer than the pigsticker here.
20220314_073732.jpg


I would never have a use for framing chisels, but they are around where I grew up and other people seem to get them and realize they have no use, so I've been given several over the last 15 years.

The chisel on the right is from Winstead Edge Tool Works or something of the sort.
 

D_W

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In the picture above, the OBM chisel doesn't look like it's that long, but it's nearing 13". It just has a super tall cross section and an enormous handle, presumably to discourage a tight grip when one isn't needed.
 

Adam W.

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I don't know what techniques timber framers and carpenters favour for hand work only, but I guess they wouldn't use OBMs as the upper limit for straight forward OBM chisel would seem to be about 3/4', perhaps 1" in softer wood. I assume a lot of drilling out, or varieties of adze, twybil etc?
OBMs above 5/8" seem to be rare. Too big to handle I suppose.
OTOH OBMs down to 1/8" seem to be common, which is a mystery to me - who needs a 1/8" slot? I guess for metal work, straps and hinges etc. but I can't say I've ever noticed a 1/8" slot in old woodwork. Obviously looking in the wrong places!
PS Twybil (mortising axe) [TWYBIL] : Ashley Iles Tool Store
I guess two handed, long handle, for big mortices

English framers cut mortices that are 1 1/2" to 2" deep and through mortices are common the continent, but most of that is bored out first.
The other main framing joint is lap dovetails of various configurations. Framers also cut very long mortices for braces 14" or even much more on a beam, if the braces are full length. These can easily be 2" or more in width and get quite deep as well.


IMG_5325.JPG


Framing chisels on the right by Greaves, I&M Sorby and a blacksmith made one. The English joiners chisels on the left are fine and down to 1/8"
 

D_W

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I've only ever had one purpose made chisel for mortising (actually mortising rather than paring joints) that was 1" or so - i mortised a couple of planes with it. It would've been impractical to use in deeper mortises (it as already impractical for any) in hardwood. It was japanese. Maybe it's not as impractical in softwood. Drilling and paring a mortise in good stock is simple, quick and a lot easier physically.

I don't follow historical stuff, but would guess some of the portable beam drills were used to do that roughing (mechanical indexing post drill looking things that sit on a foot and index automatically as long as someone is powering them turning two hand wheels.
 

D_W

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(the claims about D2 steel in that listing are interesting - same with A2 - as if there's something about A2 that makes it better for mortising due to "toughness".

I didn't notice any sharpening issues (poor edge) in the iles chisels so they are probably powder D2 and not ingot D2 - though it was long ago enough that I may not recall.

ingot D2 is very coarse (a2 comes out OK). A2 has moderate toughness - there are much cheaper steels that are extremely high toughness (ball bearing steel is far less alloyed and 3-4 times as tough and also with higher potential hardness).

Carbon steel just under 1% (which was probably common) would also be at least as tough as A2.

If anyone is breaking any solid tool steel in the cross section of a mortise chisel, it's not the alloy - either the steel or the user is defective.

Over the years, there have been a couple of pictures (probably only two separate that I can recall) of the iles chisels breaking at the butt weld to the bolster. I'm sure they are replaced if that occurs, though it could get complicated in the US. One of the reasons cliftons didn't sell well here (aside from LN making a better plane for what is often less at retailers) is a higher error rate with cliftons and a combination of retailer and manufacturer both doing nothing about it expecting something perhaps from the other side?

Both cases where that occurred were highly publicized on the forums. Being that it appears TFWW is the distributor of Iles stuff in the US, though, I don't see that happening. They are top shelf as a retailer.

(presumably, too, Iles chisels - including R. Iles - are less expensive in the UK)
 

Jacob

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Not too impressed by their description of how to chop a mortice, they have really missed the point, and they were doing so well!
"My mortise is about 5/16" wide - but my mortise chisel is a little narrower (1/4")"
N.B. If you want a precise 5/16" mortice you use a 5/16" mortice chisel. :rolleyes:
Mortices are always cut first in the ordinary way of things - it should be quite precise and the reference for the tenons to be cut afterwards, unless there is a very good reason for doing it the difficult way. Ditto with a machine morticer

No wonder there's so much confusion about; all that trouble and expertise gone in to making an excellent and proper chisel and they use one the wrong size!


PS I haven't read the Moxon text but I guess he is describing how to do it with a normal firmer chisel, not tapered in any way.
 
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D_W

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There's a ron white joke in here somewhere about a lady on an army base who thought everyone else was bad at something.

Will concede the pencil lines and narrower mortise is a bit weird.

I test chopped two mortises yesterday in Cherry - 4x2. 4 minutes each start to finish including marking. There's no way I could use a smaller chisel to make those mortises.

I've done this same thing with two chisels side by side cutting face frames in cabinets and rail and stile mortises for doors (in that case, I couldn't make my pigstickers as effective as a smaller cabinet sized chisel with a tall cross section).

The idea that these chisels are to be used any way other than bevel down is bonkers for anyone who has ever cut mortises both ways. I have no clue why you cling to it other than your statement earlier that someone taught you to do mortises that way.

The tall section of these chisels allows you to take huge amounts of material in one pass if not quickly deepening a mortise, striking two or three times and then a tiny push forward breaking the chips loose as you go down. If the bevel is not down, this doesn't work.

Mortising in hardwood, too, not pine. Demonstrating something that resists chiseling normally with pine is pointless.
 

D_W

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OK, I read to the end - apparently moxon split mortising the center and finishing to fit by paring. The small mortise shown would be done faster with a smaller chisel.

Maybe they did finer work more than 200 years ago (paring to fit), but I've never had a mortise off of the saw and chisel come unglued.

I never really read books first (it's a good way to find a method and think it's best - sort of like learning from a teacher "I have to do it this way, master says so, so this method is best"). Nicholson has some basic guidelines for mortises that you'll learn from experience in the first place, but he mentions paring uglies out for fit. Occasionally needed if you're in too big of a hurry, but not a great idea in volume if it starts leading to loose fit in the bottom of the mortise, or even worse, allows that and twist).
 

TRITON

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I was taught/shown when cutting a mortice to use a slightly smaller chisel, then pare down the sides. If the slot is 1/2" say, and you use a 1/2" chisel, the chisel tends to get stuck and there's no as they say wiggle room, especially in deep.
Thats my take on it. but its really just about making that easier to get the waste out, so for the most part i use a forstner or drill bit, then pare the sides down.

TBH i dont think there is a truly exact way to do it and arguing over the academic methods is counter productive. Now bench saw safety, thats a whole different kettle of fish...
 

Jacob

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I was taught/shown when cutting a mortice to use a slightly smaller chisel, then pare down the sides. If the slot is 1/2" say, and you use a 1/2" chisel, the chisel tends to get stuck and there's no as they say wiggle room, especially in deep.
.....
Not if you are using a trad OBM with a wide tapered blade, a trapezoid cross section. The whole point of the design is the easily loosened "wedge" section which won't get stuck, or at the most need just a little wiggle to loosen it.
Why it works - the face of the chisel is vertical as you mallet it in but the sides and the back have a slope, so the impression in the wood is of a hole with 3 sloping sides, not parallel. One wiggle and you are out, with a very precise mortice no need to adjust.
I do see the possibility here of talking at cross purposes! A parallel sided chisel is different and knock it in far enough and it could be as solid as a straight nail.
The pronounced taper and bevel on the OBM also presses the chippings back and leaves room for the next bite. You get bigger bites.
 

Droogs

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FFS not looked at this in 3 days and you two are still at it. @Jacob you go on the naughty step and @D W, you go stand facing the corner and both of you wear one of these

1647278613392.png
 

D_W

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I was taught/shown when cutting a mortice to use a slightly smaller chisel, then pare down the sides. If the slot is 1/2" say, and you use a 1/2" chisel, the chisel tends to get stuck and there's no as they say wiggle room, especially in deep.
Thats my take on it. but its really just about making that easier to get the waste out, so for the most part i use a forstner or drill bit, then pare the sides down.

TBH i dont think there is a truly exact way to do it and arguing over the academic methods is counter productive. Now bench saw safety, thats a whole different kettle of fish...

This wiggle room is where something like an OBM comes in - "in deep". At some point, I'll make a video of the rotation in the corner. When you use the chisel bevel down, you end up with two triangles of waste, but they're not that large (figure like 15 degrees or 20 degrees off of vertical). Until they get really deep, you can take them off in one pass (like really really deep). That means if the mortise triangle is 5/8" thick at the bottom in length, you can still pop all of it loose with an OBM bevel down, and neatly. But you can't do it with a shorter chisel with less rotation.

As far as paring, to final size, it's a good way to get a perfect fit, but a mortise and tenon joint generally only needs a good fit with no fatal flaws. The glue will make the joint so strong that the shoulder fit is more important and making sure the joint can't twist is a bigger deal.

When it comes off of the saw and it's got just a little wiggle room to glue it and not get sprung in a bad direction, then it becomes a production joint for someone working with hand tools.

I saw someone who works in repair and restoration of old stuff here talk about "stub mortise and tenons" (as in , really small stuff) and mention that they'd budget about 2 1/2 minutes for *both sides* of the joint.

The real joy in hand tool woodworking is making the neat parts neat and biasing the fit, but doing the rest of the stuff in a way that doesn't involve a lot of stopping and fitting and prissy work. Same with dovetails. If you're making a moulding, make them neat and fit well so that the assembly is easy, but not prissy so that you end up getting in trouble or doing gobs of checking.
 
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