Slick Chisels : It's Not Hoarding, it's History!

Slick Chisels

by Randall Read on 01/23/12

It's pretty obvious when you think about it, but as tools and the materials they were made of became more refined, so did the products they were used to produce. Dwelling construction went from natural caves to shacks of sticks and mud. When tools of bronze and iron became available, log cabins and more substantial structures became prevalent. Then when steel making was refined, post and beam construction or some version of that became the rage because better joinery was now possible.

Steel gave us the opportunity to make a tool that would hold a sharp edge for a reasonable amount of time. Because we now had sharper tools, finesse instead of brute strength and awkwardness entered the carpenter's skill set.



Pictured above from left to right - Corner chisel, 1 7/8" x 14" mortise chisel, 3" x 26" slick and a 1 1/2" x 16" mortise chisel.


In post and beam construction, mortise and tenon joints were the preferred connection for joining structural members. A mortising chisel was used to shape the rectangular hole. The chisel itself has a thick blade with square sides. The wood handle typically fit into a socket on the end of the chisel that allowed the user to hammer on the handle with a wood mallet, doing little harm to the chisel handle or mallet. Chisels were still a simple enough tool that the local blacksmith was still a viable source.

The slick is a long heavy chisel with a wide blade. It is used much like a plane to flatten surfaces and was favored for window sills and door jambs. Because it was used more for smoothing, the handle was generally made to discourage one from beating on it.  This particular slick is dated 1837 and has the name C L Parker stamped twice on the blade. I haven't been able to track down old C L, so I'm not sure whether he made the tool or was the owner.

We don't have many chisels in our collection, and I think part of the reason is because they haven't really changed much since their inception, so most people wouldn't know if they had an old piece or not. Our particular chisels all have what I will call very distinct forging blemishes. They are not machined smooth although I suspect that the slick is factory made, it still bears the imperfections of a hand-made tool

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