View Full Version : How long are long handled chisels?

Greg Stoll
07-18-2004, 02:55 PM
I just bought a set of used Marples Ridgway chisels (1/4, 1/2, 3/4, 1"). They are in pretty good shape, although I was wondering if they are "long handled chisels" like those mentioned in most boatbuilding books. The handles themselves are roughly 5" long, and the whole tool itself is a little over 11" long.


Bob Smalser
07-18-2004, 03:37 PM
Sounds like you bought "bench" chisels with bevel-sided blades....which are just fine for your general needs.

Unsure what those authors meant...perhaps for you to buy "bench" chisels as opposed to shorter "butt" chisels, which are also handy for tight spots but are primarily for hanging doors in houses.

I have some older "bench" chisels longer than that...but not by much.

Your chisels are for paring and occasional light tapping....for serious striking chopping out rabbets and mortises, you need a few square-sided "firmer" or "framing" chisels which are longer still and sturdier....and to chop deep mortises you are best served by "mortise" chisels.

It really makes a difference using the right chisel.




Dave Fleming
07-18-2004, 04:11 PM
First off, in my opinion, the description of 'long handled' chisel is goofy.

Each shipwright I recall including me, made or modified the handles of his chisels to suit himself.
ie: if you have a big hand then a good sized diamter handle is what you would be after, conversely if you have a smallish hand as I do then you will shape the handle to fit.

Better description should be by blade size and design. Butt-Bench-Paring-Bevel Edged Firmer-Mortice-Cranked Bench.

The number of chisel styles has declined dramatically in the years since WW II. Big timber work is now almost a boutique industry with some dedicated blacksmiths turning out a limited number of tools.

I will post a series of photos of the type of chisel that I would expect to see in a shipwrights tool box.

For most of the work the *Amateur* will do a set of 'BUTT' and a set of 'BENCH' chisels should be sufficient.

Two things...I used the word *Amateur* in the best sense of the meaning.
Don't rush out and buy a whole set of chisels.
You will probably never use them all.

Most used tool dealers will have chisels for sale of all kinds but notice the size selection. Lots of 1/4 or even 1/8 firmer chisels. Why, you say? Because those are some of the sizes in that catagory that were never or rarely used.
It is the 1/2-3/4-1-1 1/2 sizes that got the most use.

[ 07-18-2004, 06:06 PM: Message edited by: Dave Fleming ]

Dave Fleming
07-18-2004, 04:13 PM
Bevel Edged Firmer Chisel. A type much favoured in the yards.


Dave Fleming
07-18-2004, 04:15 PM
Narrow Blade Bevel Edged Chisel.
Notice the handle? Not for striking but for paring.


[ 07-19-2004, 02:05 AM: Message edited by: Dave Fleming ]

Dave Fleming
07-18-2004, 04:18 PM
Yet another type of Striking Chisel. This one has an Oval Back similar to what would be found on a good 'Slick'.


Dave Fleming
07-18-2004, 04:23 PM
A true 'Slick'.
Notice the oval back and the long handle for control when paring?
What cannot be seen in this photo is the 'sweep' or bend to the back of the slick. The sweep was there so that the users hands would clear the surface of the work when paring long planks.


Greg Stoll
07-19-2004, 11:30 AM
Someone at the show was said something about fitting a ring made of brass pipe to the end of the handle, that this would make the handle less prone to mushrooming and splitting. Any thoughts?


Dave Fleming
07-19-2004, 11:41 AM
Brass or Copper is OK but is not a durable as steel.

Sure looks purty though.

Bob Smalser
07-19-2004, 11:55 AM
I like purty.