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  1. #1
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    Default Inspection before purchase… odd things you see

    I found some ridiculously cheap Japanese chisels for sale… I ran off feeling gleeful, practicing my serious face, to check them out.
    A few Chinese made $1 shop ones. A few old, wide one with great length…. all “sharpened by rubbing the back of the chisel on a stone to ‘flatten the back’.
    So I went home with a sad face on.

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  3. #2
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    Can't be too careful especially where the integrity of the sale is concerned.
    Johnno

    Everyone has a photographic memory, some just don't have film.

  4. #3
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    There are some chisels of that type in japan - plenty, I'd say. but you tend to see a sale lot on buyee (yahoo auction) for 30 or 50 chisels for $200 or whatever. Embedded in them will be 12-15 good chisels (maybe in rough shape) and a whole bunch of really crude japanese chisels that were probably similar to what we get now for $2. made in japan, but *really* crude.

    It's hard to figure out what to do with them as not even the hoops are suitable for keeping - I end up in the case where you get something like that just throwing the rest of the group in the trash. It feels like they should be good for something, but I honestly can't figure out what it would be.

  5. #4
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    You often have to take the chaff to get the wheat... Most of the stuff isn't really salable individually, or if it is, you sell the one thing and get stuck with the heap. They pitch a couple good ones that need work in a stack of stuff they need to jettison. Probably on the whole, it would still be a decent deal if you bought it and binned the chaff.

    The hard part from my perspective is that there are probably quite a few decent users in the pile.. Paul Sellers swears by grocery store chisels, so apparently, there were some good ones mixed in. My luck is that I have to check every single one to find out what's useful and what's trash.

    I think most of us end up with a stack of cheap chisels and a few of them are decent by mistake - so they get used. The ones that won't hold an edge or need too much work get dumped in a box on a shelf.

  6. #5
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    I think with the sellers thing (I have a set of chisels probably made in the same factory with the same pattern - they're definitely CR60 or something lower carbon, but OK) with aldi chisels has two ends.
    1) on one end, some of the chisels have struck (WBW's use of someone with a versitron left one of them striking high hardness) high numbers in hardness testing
    2) on the other end, some have not and people talk about issues of folding (folding would never happen at the level of the WBW chisels)

    If you get one of the #1 above, teh chisel isn't made with 0.6% carbon rod - it doesn't have the potential to have the tested hardness number after tempering (it could be 0.8 or 1% carbon or who knows what - it doesn't actually cost much of anything to use CR100V instead of Cr60 and the induction hardening and temperature settings could be identical. One chisel would end up at 58 hardness and the other would end up at 62 - two numbers not that far apart, but literally the difference between a chisel that holds up malleting softwoods vs. one that holds up malleting anything.

    Which is where I end up harping about it not being expensive to make a good chisel (at least if you're willing to forgo finishing to some extent) - it's a matter of desire. The 1% CrV drill rod has little Cr and little V in - the additives pin grain size and improve hardenability and toughness a little bit (but not so much that you end up with crowbar steel like 52100).

    If the stock used is processed decent at all, the result with one fast high heat and one quick temper is really good.

    I wouldn't trust internet listings that say one chisel is cr100v and then next is 60 to be honest.

    I think the harbor freight chisels that hold up well (but not as good as really good chisels) are just cr60V chisels that are properly hardened as when I reharden them, they don't get much better. When I reharden a stanley 750, the result is something that easily matches a V11 chisel - and is far nicer to use and sharpen.

    As far as the japanese stuff goes, I think after about $80, everything in more expensive chisels is in finishing. As in, kiyotada or kiyohisa vs. a good quality hydraulic forged chisel that's later ground in dies, but still made of white 1 and hardened properly - the entire remaining difference is aesthetics.

    I also think I could harden 26c3 to match any japanese chisel made at any cost level. if I can do it, it's not really a cost issue. The only real question when hardening 26c3 is whether to target 64 hardness or something higher. People like the idea of higher, but I like 64 - the corners of the chisels hang on a lot better and the chisel remains like the japanese chisel I pictured in the unicorn article.

    ...apologies for going a bunch of different directions, but it does lead back to your point about just discarding the junk. In eyeballing buyee and buying sets of chisels where I can tell they were made for professional users, the hardness levels have varied probably from 62 to harder than 66. The chisels at 62, I resold (they were super sweet to have and use on natural stones, though, and they had been kept perfectly prepared and used heavily by whoever had them). The overhard chisels are little used and show rough sharpening efforts. But most of them tempered back to about 65 turn into monster chisels. Of the group that are made properly (and not just obvious student or hardware store low cost fodder), I don't know if I've had any that are bad.

    I will admit that my comments about Cr100V - someone could make a 62 hardness chisel at very low cost. It would just taking continuous testing of finished units and discarding the ones not to spec. I don't know if that's practical with china.

    Woodcraft leaves a very wide range of possible hardness for their chisels - but I would imagine or at least hope that their relatively expensive chinese chisels are something like Cr100 and if they are in the range of 62, they should be excellent. When they provide the range of 58-63, it's literally the difference between modern sorby chisels and really good vintage ward chisels. It shouldn't be hard to make things in an automated process to a spec of 1 point on either side. And maybe they're actually made like that.

  7. #6
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    The wide published hardness range is so they don't get sued by the Federal Trade Commission for "Truth in Advertising" violations. If you publish testable facts, they must be true... Remember that Subway lost several lawsuits because their "Foot long" sandwich was subsequently set to 11" by greedy executives to collect material usage variance savings on dough, meat, and toppings...

    The variation in performance within the same brand/vintage of modern chisels is no doubt due to setup and process variations in automated manufacturing processes. Say you austenize 50-degrees hotter, your steel comes out a few clicks harder. Say you run one back through heat treatment a second time, the grain may come out a little more fine or maybe too coarse depending on the process setup.

    I wonder about some of those super hard, super chippy Japanese chisels... I would suspect that skilled tradesmen users would have known that, and just tempered them back themselves... Say dunk the blade in a deep fry pot for half an hour and you have now "tempered" it back at around 190C. Still hard, but a lot more usable than glass hard.

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    funny enough, I worked at subway in high school (1994/1995). I noticed that the rolls were all 11" long, and I think most people knew it back then.

    What the average person may not be aware of is that the meat and cheese is very precisely measured (it's where the core cost is) and it's not like the value of the sandwich would be that much better. I don't remember the terms of the lawsuit, but the blanks that thawed and then were baked were probably 12" long.

    There was one single lady who came into the store when she must've been on vacation (civil war town) and she was from MA. She told us every day that the 6 inch subs in massachusetts were at least 5 inches longer than the ones we had (that'd have been about 10.5 inches. When you work in a restaurant, you just stand there (lady, what do I care. I get paid by the hour here - do you think there's a machine in the back that I'm in charge of where there's a dial for bread length?).

    We always overloaded the toppings on the sandwiches above and beyond what subway's instructions showed (notoriously stingy on things like green pepper "you take four slices and arrange them like this". The owner never had a problem with that.

    When that lawsuit came up, I couldn't decide if I should think "it's about time" or why bother? It's not like the length had changed, and it's not like adding an inch to the bread would've led to more than bread and a little more lettuce.

    I wonder how much the franchise cups are now - in 1995, they were 22 cents. people constantly come in off the street and want water for free (the store was in town) and we told them no. if customers wanted water, we gave them a different cup. The store wallpaper was 5 or 10 grand, too and the take of the till was 8 or 9 percent (gross).

    The owner said that none of those things were that bad compared to some other franchises.

  9. #8
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    as for why a fairly large share of chisels come through undertempered, it must be intentional. Especially if they're older - maybe there was an expectation that the user would temper the chisel back to what they wanted.

    But a lot of the chisels that I've gotten show the owners didn't care for it - they're full length. The ones that are a step or two softer (and white steel) were often meticulously prepared and kept. The hidden variable in this case is that japanese stones (the natural ones) don't finish steel that well if it's above 65-ish. No matter how good the stone is, they struggle. If you have a chippy chisel that doesn't tolerate really coarse stones and is slow on finish stones - bad.

    if you give a skilled user a chisel that's finely done, but 63-ish in hardness, it will sharpen on (japanese) natural stones like a dream.

  10. #9
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    Maybe one of the Japanese woodworking magazines did a chisel test seventy-five years ago and reported that the glass hard ones were preferable to all others in some contrived thread cutting exercise.

    If they show up like that often, I have to wonder what the tradition/common practice was. For example, I've been told that Japanese chisels are often left harder for working some of the softer/mushy woods like Pawlonia and white pine... But they are tempered a bit softer for hard woods like rosewood and oak. So the smith sells them full hard and then maybe the master tempers them properly for the work. The Journeyman never learns this part - because there has to be some job security for the master... Some secret knowledge that requires his intervention... That's the irony of "trade secrets," isn't it... The magic of restaurant fried chicken isn't "eleven secret herbs and spices," it's plenty of salt.

  11. #10
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    It's actually true that if you're working very soft woods, a high strength very low toughness edge will hold up fine.

    When I make chisels, I try to get an idea of what someone is doing. Nobody so far has said "I do very accurate work in very soft wood", or I'd leave things tempered more like 350 with 26c3 than 390-410. The difference is a point or two in hardness (I'd guess around 65 hardness at 350 and 66 if close to 325 - which is about where white steel tempering starts).

    This assumes the ability to get full hardness out of 26c3, but thanks to Larrin, I have proof that I don't have any issue with that (averaging 63.8 or something of that sort at 390F in coupons that are a little harder to treat than chisels because they're tiny and temp control isn't easy with something that heats and cools so fast).

    Back to the principle of what's what here - at 65 hardness, my chisels chip (in my opinion) too easily and that doesn't make them unusable, but if they are harder to sharpen and don't last longer (they last less long) then what's the point of the hardness. But I test them only in cherry, maple and rosewood. If I specialized in chisels that would cleanly work the most unruly of construction lumber (excluding very dry yellow pine and fir due to the rings), then they might be different.

    I could see if fir or cedar or something like that is the wood of choice in japan, and the wood was good quality, keeping a chisel very hard could be seen as nice to use.

    The margin where a chisel is in the 65/66 range and and will hold an edge in softwood to where it is so hard that it won't even tolerate the buffer (and is difficult to even get sharp) is so small, though. I'm not ever going to be a professional chisel maker, but it's nice to test every single chisel in something. at 64 hardness target, it's exceedingly rare to have an issue malleting even rosewood (63/64f 26c3 is the 61/62 of O1 - in terms of behavior - it's about where the chisels will hold up best because the strenght isn't too little and the toughness isn't too little. Up and down from there favors one over the other).

    AS you go down the ladder in carbon steels (in carbon content) the sweet spot decreases. 1084 is a point softer than O1 and you start to get into the case where side by side testing allows you to feel more cutting ease with one than the other.

    unraveling this stuff by doing side to side testing is super interesting. It's really hard to discern the differences without having a couple of tools with different specs to use in close succession.

    without all of this faffing, it's really hard to know (even with japanese chisels) if what you're seeing is typical, and then once you go through all of the experimenting, it's easy to see how various folks will draw generalized conclusion due to lack of exposure. It isn't, by any means, needed for making things, but someone making chisels who is curious will find it useful. I'm not at the right stage in life to make "maker's use" of it, though. Maybe in retirement.

    If I asked narex which alloy they use and showed them my chisels (so they didn't get an idea that I was a tire kicker who didn't know anything about making chisels), I wonder if they'd tell me what it is. I'll bet it's 1-1.15% chrome vanadium drill rod.

    I get a sample hardness (at 400F) of 63.1% from 1095, but it appears that I am able to get hardness figures a little higher than most furnace (add nitrogen and it would go up a little higher yet). That gives me a guess that richters (I think they said they give them a cryo treatment) could be made from 1% carbon steel.

    Going higher yet clearly offers a benefit, though, as you can chase high hardness without having a chisel that's brittle. Maybe the most satisfying thing in all of this is having made and then had analysis done on 1% and 1.25% carbon steels and at least from a fact pattern basis for me (can't ever convince the deniers who have a distaste for japanese tools) find out that a clean higher carbon steel does actually make a better chisel for wood and the extra hardness makes it take a finer edge.

    ....

    Which brings us back to the idea of super hard chisels in very soft wood. If you're using natural stones before the days of cheap submicron oxides and diamonds - additional hardness and making the chisel even harder for a natural stone to cut will result in a sharper edge. Once there's no real practical limit on particle size, then it only makes the edge hold up a little better (the fine edge) if matched to wood well.

    Going in the other direction with pressure and hardness, you can find quickly that a mid temper pocket knife with a drop point blade will never seem to take as good of an edge off of an arkansas stone as a chisel or plane iron will.

  12. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Clinton1 View Post
    I A few old, wide one with great length…. all “sharpened by rubbing the back of the chisel on a stone to ‘flatten the back’.
    So I went home with a sad face on.
    How wide is wide? 54/55mm is about the widest I know for Japanese chisels.
    Pat
    Work is a necessary evil to be avoided. Mark Twain

  13. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pat View Post
    How wide is wide? 54/55mm is about the widest I know for Japanese chisels.
    Pat, I've seen a few up to 100mm, but few blacksmiths make them up to that size... they have limited specialised use and a big price tag to match.

    https://www.thewoodworks.com.au/shop...-715410-detail
    Stay sharp and stay safe!

    Neil



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    Quote Originally Posted by NeilS View Post
    Pat, I've seen a few up to 100mm, but few blacksmiths make them up to that size... they have limited specialised use and a big price tag to match.

    Chisels - LIST OF ALL : Chisel, Japanese, Butt, Templebuilders, 90mm wide x 230mm overall, #715410
    Ahhhh...just what I need for my next big temple project

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    Quote Originally Posted by NeilS View Post
    Pat, I've seen a few up to 100mm, but few blacksmiths make them up to that size... they have limited specialised use and a big price tag to match.

    https://www.thewoodworks.com.au/shop...-715410-detail
    Thanks Neil, but I think I would just use my western slicks at 3 1/2" and 2" width, in a pinch.Slicks.jpg

    Or just go with the slightly narrower Japanese Tsuki-Nomi Tsuki-Nomi.jpg and other Nomi in my care. Japanese Chisels Drawer 02.jpg

    As I think my wife would use the sharp bit on my body
    Pat
    Work is a necessary evil to be avoided. Mark Twain

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