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Chisels and Gouges

A cabinetmaker needed dozens of these tools to shape wood in many different ways. A sharp cutting edge relied on the finest steel such as the hardened steel made in Sheffield, England. Since this steel was expensive, toolmakers often made blades of iron and steel welded together so than only the edge was steel.
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Wm Marples & Sons chisel
The blade of a cabinetmaker’s chisel ended in a spike called a “tang” that was forced into a hole drilled in the handle. And the blade had to have a kind of a hilt called the “bolster” to stop the blade from receding deeper into the handle as the chisel was pushed or tapped through wood. Most 18th Century chisel makers did not refine the surface of the bolster, and rough filing marks were often visible. Note the bolster in the photo at right, which shows finely finished faceted shape.

19th Century Marples Chisel

This chisel is 9-3/4” long overall. Blade is 7-1/2” long and 2-1/4” wide. Maker’s mark shows the chisel was made by Wm. Marbles & Sons, Sheffield with the company’s three-shamrock symbol. The bevel of the blade, making it better fitted for tight spaces, was a 19th Century development. Chisel blades of the 18th Century were rarely beveled. Note that the sides of the blade are not tapered. As the cabinetmaker repeatedly sharpens his blades, over time they become shorter, and it is important that the width of the cut remains the same. The European beech handle of this tool may have been channeled by the cabinetmaker, rather than the manufacturer, to make it easier to grip.
Wm Marples & Sons chisel
19th Century Sheffield Chisel
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19th Century Narrow Gouge

19th Century Narrow Gouge

9-Blade is 7—1/4” long and 1/2” wide. Most gouges are sharpened on the outside of the blade. This one is sharpened on the inside for use in a different kind of carving.
Wm Marples & Sons Narrow Gouge
The maker’s mark says, “ WmMarples&Sons Sheffield.” The three clover leaf logo. The company was founded around 1828 and adopted the logo some time after that. The Marples family had been making fine tools for some time.
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