I looked for a chisel on eBay. I wanted a specific one, a W Marples 1 1/4″. It took me less than a minute to find one I liked even though it was the lesser common type on the larger size. I wanted a wider bevel-edged chisel made by Marples or Ward—what might now be referred to as a ‘vintage‘ model and not a more modern version. I didn’t want one for restoration particularly, more one that just needed sharpening and putting to task. I wanted those thin side bevels with slender tapering both Marples and Ward are known for; an original brass ferule and not something cobbled together from copper plumbing pipe; the solidity and density boxwood handles are revered for but without splits cracks and dog’s teeth marks chewed into it. The extra 1/4″ over my Aldi one inch ones and the lovely thinness created the perfect composition I was looking for. I have never liked socketed chisels particularly and many new alternatives just lack what these older chisels give, despite many spurious claims of better steels and such. It is hard to beat these chisels for the qualities they possess.
Through the decades of using such chisels, using them alongside others both new and old, no chisel really compares with the aesthetic elements I find intrinsic to good value. So while I was typing this I went to eBay to look for individual Marples chisels with the same search criteria I put in for the 1 1/4″ above. I could have bought the standard four pieces to make a set for about £45 with the addition of a 3/8″ chisel for £12. Unfortunately these were being sold by different sellers so shipping increased cost by about £3.50 per chisel. Even so, with a minimal amount of elbow grease I would have one of the best working sets for lifetime of use even if `i were 15 years old again for £75.
I have seen eBay make its essential changes through the years. Whereas the first spivs did indeed practice deceitfully, since the advent of quick and easy photography the information package is about as good as it’s likely to get. Carefully examining the photographs will give clarity for your decision making. In the case of these chisels, good steel, good wood and good brass means any lack can be worked out as needed. It’s easy to recover your money if indeed you do end up suffering the inconvenience of a bum deal.
I sharpened the bevel as per my favourite macro camber and because it was indeed previously well ground this took about twenty rubs on the coarse plate, ten on the medium and ten on the fine, followed them by buffing on the strop. The picture above is now what I have to work with. I will stamp my name into it and use it for the rest of my working life.
My wooden handled Aldis are refined to a level I like and they have been truly well proven at my bench over the best part of a decade to date. There is nothing snobby or pretentious about them and I am hoping that Aldi will recant and restock periodically with them as in past years and not consider the ugly plastic handled versions above as a legitimate replacement for the better. Steel capped, they may work for some in the construction trades,but for the amateur they are far from appropriate. I say that without wishing to offend anyone. By that I mean some chisels will be used for hacking out pressed fibreboard and MDF mouldings amidst concrete and brick dust, places where I would not want my Marples chisels to be.
So Fibonacci lives on in my working of waste removal by virtue of a fine cutting edge and a slender chisel vintage 1930. Don’t rush to buy, let the prices die down over the next few weeks and they will be affordable again after my article.