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262309 Thomas Conroy 2017‑05‑18 Proper size and shape for skew chisels
O Galoots:
I'm seeking the opinions of the cognoscenti on skew chisels. Bench skews, not
carving skews or woodturning skews. What angle should the skew be? How wide
should the blade be? How long?

Years (decades) ago, in my first rush of chisel buying, I reground a couple of
3/4" bevel-edged firmers into a skew pair. I love them, but I don't think I have
ever once had a need for them. Never figured out what they were for. Later, I
read that skew pairs were proper for dovetailing, and by coincidence I had a
couple of little worn-out cast steel blades around 2" long and 3/8" wide, so I
ground those into a skew pair and gave them London Octagonal ebony handles.
These seem happy at dovetailing, the very short length is right, but they are
still too wide for a lot of jobs. Recently I ground down a Fulton and a Dunlop
1/4" socket chisels, thinning the blades to about half their original thickness
in the inch near the tip. This was an experiment, done on low-grade chisels to
see if the thinning was viable. The shape is pleasing enough, so now I have an
eye out for short 1/4" cast steel blades; though I haven't yet had a need for
the 1/4" pair.

I'm still in some confusion, though. I like making skew pairs, but I'm not at
all sure what I should be aiming for. I don't do a lot of dovetailing, and I'm
not very skilled at it. My scant experience suggests to me that for dovetailing
chisels, the shorter and narrower the better. But I'd like to hear the opinions
of cabinetmakers about size and angle. And are there other uses than dovetailing
for skew chisels? What size and shape are needed for them?

Tom Conroy

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