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Woodworking in America: Ron Herman and the Stanley Everlasting Chisels

On Friday at Woodworking in America, I was excited to spend an hour with Ron Herman learning about the many forms of chisels. The class was described as:

You need a firmer chisel for that job. Or maybe a registered mortise chisel. No, not a paring chisel. How about a sash mortiser? If you are bewildered by the myriad forms of chisels in tool catalogs and junk stores, then you need to spend some time with Roy Underhill. He’ll show you many of the forms you’ll encounter and which ones are for making furniture and which ones are for making wheels or other trades. Plus, he’ll match the chisel to the job so you don’t pare a peg with a bruzz. Hands-on Component: After this session, stick around for the next hour to explore this topic with the instructor. If you have a chisel or two that you have wondered about, bring it along to show to the instructor and the other attendees. We’ll also have wood and benches available for those attendees who want to put some of the chisels to work.

I had brought my Garrett-Wade Czech chisels for the hands on component, but the classes were so close to each other my tools never came out. Ron has a wealth of knowledge and a very cool perspective on hand tools including “if the tool fits in your hand, it still has life in it” and “don’t shitcan old tools.” After going through an introduction of chisels, Ron passed some of his chisels around the room, always warning that he keeps his chisels sharp, so be careful. When one of his chisels came my way, I tested the sharpness slicing through the piece of paper I held in my hand, and shaving the hairs from my forearm with no effort. This guy has hundreds – maybe thousands – of chisels and they are all sharp.
Ron Herman has a lot of chisels, these are just some of them.
Here is just one of Ron’s chisel rolls. He had many laid out for us to see. None of these chisels look brand new, but all of them are used every day in Ron’s workshop.

The Woodworker’s Multi-Tool

Ron Herman's a funny guy, check out his 15-in-1 tool.
Ron was very well prepared and I was amazed at the amount of things he brought with him to the show. This fake advertisement was used during his introduction, he was making fun of how chisels are used and abused by so many of us. Heck, I’m not even sure what some of those tools are. What is that third from the right?

An Introduction to Chisels and the Stanley Everlasting Chisel

On the display below Ron had on display many of the types of chisels based on use and construction. Firmer chisels, bench chisels, paring chisels, dog leg chisels, mortising chisels, and even some timber framing chisels. Construction of chisels was basically divided into two main groups: socket chisels (the handle fits into a socket in the steel) and tang chisels (the steel fits into a socket in the handle). Watching Ron hold up and flex a paring chisel was cool. His presentation was smooth and well delivered because he wasn’t really presenting he was just demonstrating expertise and knowledge.

One thing I remember was that Ron thought highly of the old Stanley Everlasting chisels. They were both socket and tang, so “a blow struck on the head is transmitted to the cutting edge with undiminished force.” Hearing an expert endorse an old tool is a really good way to increase my purchase intent. I made a note to visit the vendors on the expo floor when I had a chance.

Original Stanley Everlasting Chisel Advertisements

That night I looked up some of the old original advertisements and struck pay dirt thanks to Bing. Click the images for the higher resolution version.

Patrick Leach’s Superior Tool Works

The next day I had more time to visit the expo floor and I found Patrick Leach’s Superior Tool Works booth. This guy has all the great old tools for sale so I was confident that I was on the right track. Patrick would either have my chisels or know where to get them.

Patrick had everything you could think of laid out for purchase. Planes, chisels, carving tools, marking gauges, and squares.
Anyone need a plane, there are stacks and stacks here, some costing almost $4000.
18 moulding planes laying side-by-side, with many more in other areas of his booth.
Carving tools, “if they fit in your hand, there is still life in them.”
An entire tub of old squares of various types, “don’t shitcan old tools.”

Marking gauges by the dozen. Can you imagine what these would cost new?

And then I found them…

Although the one 2nd from the right is a Stanley Socket Chisel, I found Stanley Everlasting Chisels and all of them are about the right size for dovetailing. They are old and dirty and need sharpening, but they fit in my hand and have good steel.
Thanks Ron for the education and connecting me with great old tools. Thanks Patrick for having these in your bin at the show. I can’t wait to put them to work.