Paring chisel shop made

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Established Member
27 Sep 2018
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During the build of my acoustic guitar I decided that I needed a paring chisel to carve the heel. Rather than give in to my natural impulse to buy yet more tools, I decided to make one. And here it is:

Paring chisel.jpg

It's made from oil hardening tool steel (i.e. O-1, or gauge plate) with a beech handle and mild steel for the ferrule. The overall length is 15 1/2" and the width is 1". The blade tapers from 6mm to 3mm cut using a milling machine in several stages before hardening. About 50mm of the tip is hardened only. I used a decent sized propane torch to get this up to temperature quickly (the colour of cooked carrots) and held it there for about 5 mins, then dunked it into proper quenching oil. I tempered it at 180 deg C for an hour in our fan oven.

Unfortunately, whilst inserting the tang I managed to split part of the handle, still I plugged that with some superglue and it seems fine. I turned the handle from an old desk leg.

In use the chisel cuts really well and I reckon it cuts and retains an edge just as well as any of my old cast steel Marples et al chisels. The only issue is that it's quite heavy, but the thought of making a bevel edge chisel was a step too far for me.

This is the heel before final sanding and blending in to the rest of the neck:


There are arguments for NOT beveling the edges of the blade (up the length, that is, not at the cutting edge): you can register that sidewall against, say, the edge of a rabbet, and it won't dig in. If you look in the old catalogs, you'll often find the manufacturers offering each of their lines of chisels with and without side bevels. I picked up a group of chisels this last year that included two un-beveled chisels of respectable brand, and I'm keeping them.
Very nicely done.

I bought some Stormont paring chisels for lutherie and they work like a dream.
For carving the heels, you don't need bevels. In fact, you might find it easier to use for carving if you don't have them.

In regard to the handle though, for a chisel like this, I found that a long, almost straight handle (think something between a badminton and a tennis racket) works a lot better than the traditional oval shape. I'd say it's worth turning one and trying it out - you might like it a lot more.

I currently have an excess stock of some fantastic tuning machines if you're interested - drop me a message ;)
It's fine, with the caveat that you live in what amounts to Mecca for fine vintage paring chisels.
That's true, but sometimes it's just very satisfying to make your own tool for a specific job.