Tool Restoration – Greenlee 1″ Chisel

Last month, while poking around my local swap meet / flea market, I came across a rusty old chisel.  I suppose I really should stop buying this stuff as I have more chisels than I could ever need, but… I am to old tools, what hobos are to cheap whisky.  I just don’t seem to be able to say no.  The seller asked for $4 and I handed it over.

As found at the flea market.

As found at the flea market.

I almost didn’t buy the chisel as it appeared to have a slight bend at the neck.  I don’t mind the surface rust or the messed up cutting edge, these are both easily fixed, but the bend in the neck gave me pause.  However, I figured that I could heat up and bend the neck back and if it didn’t work, I would only be out $4.

There appears to be a slight bend at the neck of the chisel.

There appears to be a slight bend at the neck of the chisel.

And the business end looks like it has been used for opening paint cans (or stone work).

And the business end looks like it has been used for opening paint cans (or stone work).

The logo on the chisel was hard to read at first, but I was able to make out “Greenlee” and “USA”.  I guess that it was intended to be a 1 – inch chisel, but it measures more than that.  It’s not a full 1/8″ over, but it is definitely 1/16″.

First, I removed the wooden handle from the tool and then used my propane torch to heat up the neck of the chisel.  In hind sight, a propane torch probably isn’t hot enough to do this.  I might have to get a MAPP torch for future use.  In any case, I clamped the chisel in my metal bench vise while heating it.  I used my largest longest screwdriver and inserted it in the chisel socket for leverage.  I then tried bending the socket in the direction it needed to go while the neck was hot.  The metal never got hot enough to glow, but I succeeded in getting rid of most of the bend.  I don’t think that it is perfect, but the bend was almost eliminated.  I do think that a hotter torch would have helped.

Heating the neck of the chisel.

Heating the neck of the chisel.

The neck is straighter now.

The neck is straighter now.

When the metal had cooled, I set about removing the rust.  My favorite way of doing this is at the wire wheel on my bench grinder.

After de-rusting with the wire wheel on the bench grinder.

After de-rusting with the wire wheel on the bench grinder.

I have two bench grinders.  One is a slow speed and is set-up with both coarse and fine stone wheels.  The other grinder (and the one that sees far more use) is set-up with a soft wire wheel on one side and a cloth buffing wheel on the other.   Once I had removed all the rust with the wire wheel, I started to polish the metal with the buffing wheel.

I then polished the metal on the buffing wheel.

I then polished the metal on the buffing wheel.

After polishing.

After polishing.

The next task to be tackled was fixing the chewed up cutting edge.  At the grinder, I ground back the chisel until I had a clean square edge.  While doing this, I paid no attention to the bevel, instead grinding a deliberate blunt tip to the chisel.  This helps avoid overheating the steel and creates a good starting point.  The bevel will be added later.

I ground the end back square and blunt.

I ground the end back square and blunt.

To avoid overheating the steel, I ground the end blunt.

To avoid overheating the steel, I ground the end blunt.

I then slowly ground a bevel, being careful not to completely remove the blunt tip.  I don’t have a very good rest on my grinder and didn’t get great results.  I tried to approximate 25 degrees, but again, didn’t do so well.  I’ll fix this later with a sharpening jig.

And then re-ground the bevel.

And then re-ground the bevel.

I turned my attention to flattening the back of the chisel.  This took a long time, but I eventually ended up with the bottom 2-3 inches of the chisel polished up to my 8000 grit Norton waterstone.

Starting to flatten the back.

Starting to flatten the back.

After a lot of work.

After a lot of work.

I mounted the chisel in my Veritas Mk.II sharpening jig.  I recently added the side-clamping  head to the set up.  I set the jig for a 25 degree angle and tried it on the stones.  This is where I realized that I had messed up the bevel angle at the grinder and would have to correct it in the jig.

I setup the chisel in my Veritas honing jig.

I setup the chisel in my Veritas honing jig.

Nope, stones won't work here. The bevel needs too much reshaping.

Nope, stones won’t work here. The bevel needs too much reshaping.

I put some sticky-backed sandpaper on my reference slab and started to re-grind the bevel.  It always surprises me how much heat can build up in the tool, even working on just sandpaper.  I keep a glass of cold water handy for the occasional dunk.

Some 100 grit self adhesive paper on my granite slab.

Some 100 grit self adhesive paper on my granite slab.

I was happily grinding away with the jig at the sandpaper, and thought “This seems to be going quickly”.  The jig felt odd so I placed the set-up guide back onto the jig.  This clearly showed that the chisel had shifted while in use.  I guess I didn’t have the side clamping knob tight enough and the chisel had slid back into the jig.  You can see in the below picture how far the chisel had moved.  The chisel had started at the set-up tab on the guide.  I re-set the chisel in the jig and finally ground a decent 25 degree bevel.  I sharpened the chisel up to my 8000 grit waterstone.

I guess I didn't have it tight enough.

I guess I didn’t have it tight enough.

New bevel established on the sandpaper.

New bevel established on the sandpaper.

The back polished to 8000.

The back polished to 8000.

The 25 degree bevel polished to 8000.

The 25 degree bevel polished to 8000.

I focused the lens on the reflection in the bevel.

I focused the lens on the reflection in the bevel.

With all the metal work done, I turned my attention to the handle.  This chisel didn’t really need a new handle, but I wanted to continue with the turning experiment from my last post.  In that post, London Pattern Chisel Handle, I turned a new handle for an old Craftsman chisel that I have had for some time.  I used Pacific Madrone (Arbutus menziesii) and milled it to 1 1/2 inches before turning.  I think that the handle tuned out beautifully, but that it was a little too large.  Go have a look at the above post and you’ll see what I mean.

In any case, I took some more Madrone and milled it into a 1-inch thick octagon before turning.  The below is the resulting handle.  Again, I like it, but…  This one is too small. I’m starting to feel like Goldilocks and the three bears chisel handles.

Clearly my experiment with London Pattern Chisel Handles is going to have to continue.

I turned a London Pattern chisel handle on the lathe.

I turned a London Pattern chisel handle on the lathe.

That looks better. Now it's a useable tool once more.

That looks better. Now it’s a useable tool once more.

With the rust removed, you can see the logo once more.

With the rust removed, you can see the logo again.

This should make a good pairing chisel.

This should make a good pairing chisel.

One last photo taken outside in the daylight.

One last photo taken outside in the daylight.

 

 

 

While turning this chisel handle, I also milled up several more octagonal blanks at 1-inch thick.  Now that I have decided that this dimension is too small for a chisel handle, I think I might have to make some file handles.

More soon.

 

– Jonathan White

About Jonathan

I am a woodworker and hand tool restorer / collector. I buy too many tools and don't build enough - I need help!
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15 Responses to Tool Restoration – Greenlee 1″ Chisel

  1. I had the MKII and had the same problem with chisels especially shifting while sharpening. I tried everything I could think of to stop it and gave up. I sold it and bought the LN honing guide. Much better and nothing slips – at all. No matter how much I have tried to dog it while sharpening.
    I like that London pattern you have been playing Goldilocks with. Maybe you’ll come across another flea market find that will fit one of them better.

    • Jonathan says:

      Hey Ralph,

      I remember you adding the nail file to your Mk. II. I haven’t had that problem with plane irons, but smaller chisels were prone to twisting in the top and bottom clamping jig. I’m not sure if you know, but Veritas has since released a side clamping head that can be installed on the regular Mk. II base. That’s what I was using above. This head prevents the possibility of the chisel twisting in the jig, but as you can see, I didn’t tighten it enough to stop it sliding back into the jig. This was my mistake, not the tools.

      Hope you are well,

      Jonathan

  2. jenesaisquoiwoodworking says:

    Jonathan

    That chisel looks fantastic. I am always amazed by your attention to detail, patience and perseverance. I also really like those London pattern handles, they seem to have a certain je ne sais quoi? You have now inspired me to also try making some of those.

    Regards to the family.
    Gerhard

    • Jonathan says:

      Haha, I don’t know if it is patience and perseverance or just stubbornness and OCD. It would be very interesting to see what you can turn out with one of the million boards in your exotic wood harem. I wait in anticipation.

      All the best,

      Jonathan

  3. Gavin says:

    Funny that you just posted about this chisel and it had a slight bend. One of the chisels I use for work is quite dramatically bent, always has been since I bought it second hand 20 odd years ago. I automatically compensate when sharpening but when I did this morning I briefly thought about persuading it back in line with the handle and dismissed the idea for the umpteenth time. Maybe it has grown on me! Nice job on the refurb. Regards, Gavin

  4. Bruce Thompson says:

    Couldn’t be any better! As my youngest granddaughter likes to say “saweet!”

    • Jonathan says:

      Hey Bruce,

      I appreciate the comment, but I think I can do better. I’m not happy with how large the first one is, or how small the second one came out. A revision is in progress and I think I should have it done in time to bring to the club meeting on Thursday night. See you there.

      Jonathan

  5. Matt McGrane says:

    That looks fantastic, Jonathan. I have a couple socket-end chisels I found at a garage sale a while back. The handles don’t fit the socket perfectly. It looks like someone tried some white filler at some point to get a tighter fit. May I ask – how do you fit a handle to a tapered socket properly? (In my case, without a lathe!) It’s just a simple friction fit, right?

    • Jonathan says:

      Hi Matt,

      Getting the taper to match the socket is important for a tight fit and for transferring power from the mallet strike into the workpiece. I used a pair of calipers to measure the bottom of the taper and used a parting tool at the lathe to turn the blank down to that diameter. I then measured the top of the taper and transferred this measurement to the blank again using the calipers and parting tool. Once the two depth marks are established on the blank, it is a simple matter of connecting them with a straight scraper tool. I then remove the blank from the lathe and check the fit. I usually put the blank in and out of the lathe a few times to finesse the fit until it is just right. I don’t bother turning the rest of the handle details until the socket taper is right.

      Of course, all of this assumes that you have an existing handle to take measurements from. If not, here’s a trick. Take your existing chisel socket and stuff it full of aluminum foil. I mean really jam it in there. Then pull it out. You will have made a mold of the inside of your socket that you can now use to take measurements from.

      As far as how to do this without a lathe… I don’t know, but I’m sure there must be a way. I do think that the lathe is definitely the best tool for the job though. Surely there is room in the TinyShop for a TinyLathe? I picked mine up at a garage sale for $50 with tools.

      Thanks for commenting, I like your blog.

      All the best,

      Jonathan

    • Nathan Simon says:

      Shove the handle in and give it a slight twist back and forth, the high spots will be shiny or dirty, cut those high spots off. Repeat until the handle is well seated. When cutting use a drawknife, chisel, knife, rasp or file, the process is more time consuming than using a lathe but stills works.

  6. Greg Merritt says:

    Very nice! A whole new life for this fine tool. It is quite a dramatic transformation and goes a long way to show what is possible. A tool that most would have passed on transformed back into its former glory.
    However…
    …water in a Guinness glass…blasphemer! 😉

I'd love to hear your thoughts, comments, or questions.