Full Chisel Blog

April 27, 2008

If a chisel falls in the forest, and you catch it, will anyone hear you scream?

Filed under: Of Interest,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 8:29 pm

I have been doing woodworking longer than I haven’t and within the first year, shortly after I had learned how to sharpen tools, real sharp, one of my chisels with a round handle rolled off the work bench and I caught it before it hit the floor.

I had taken a great deal of time to get that heavy 1/2″ socket firmer chisel to a mirror finish and honed to a fine edge, I wanted to protect it, unfortunately I chose to do it with my soft fleshy and bony hand, which was no match.

The result of that incident is that I no longer ‘catch’ anything.  I have lost the catch reflex.  I of course can not play catch as I will not go for the ball.  If someone throws me something, I stoop over and pick it up off the ground, so far, no lacerations from doing that.

I have dropped tools and given the probabilities, the sharp end, ends up hitting the ground first about 50% of the time.  However given that they are streamline towards the sharp end, the percentages may be higher for the nice sharp pointy end hits the ground first.

I can always easily resharpen a badly damaged blade that I recently dropped on a rock in less than an hour.  Now that nasty, clean to the bone cut,that takes a bit longer to get over, makes that resharpening look good.

When I have a sharp tool in my hand, I always make sure I know where the cutting edge is and my orientation to the most important part of the tool.  I always have respect for and know where the sharp parts are, I am aware of the cutting edge and I Never cut towards anything I do not want to cut off.  This is an important rule from anything from straight razors or chisels.

Respect the sharp edges, I have brushed against tools just laying on the bench and those sharp edges will fool you, because the first time you notice you are bleeding is the red stains on your woodwork.  I have been lacerated by the sharp edges of freshly planed pine. 

All of my chisels and other sharp, pointy objects have tapered square and chamfered (8 sided) handles that do not roll off the bench.  They are all curly maple and I use them for tanged and socket chisels.

Sharp, pointy objects, your mothers warned you about these thing, they can poke an eye out.

And when you are in my shop, remember all of the tools in my shop are sharp, so when you cut yourself, please do not bleed on the furniture or the tools, it rusts the tools up something awful and makes the furniture hard to sell.



  1. The corollary is to be able to get one’s foot out of the way at the same time you are suppressing the urge to catch said falling object.

    And, you may need to dance just a bit to avoid the bounce into the shin.

    Most of my gouges are hanging in a slotted shelf just above my work-area, and I do have a few things hanging on the wall beneath them. Lifting something off a wall-hook is another good place to catch a gouge edge. Since I work by myself, I know the proper hand-trajectory.

    Blood is quite difficult to get out of maple violin bridges. I charge extra for it, though.


    Comment by Ken Pollard — April 28, 2008 @ 3:43 pm

  2. Ken,

    As you might know, I can’t dance, so I just learned not to catch. I too use to have my chisels and gouges out on nice racks to see the sharp dangerous edges. When I built my tool cabinet I put all of those sharp blades out of the way so it is impossible to touch the business end without removing it from the rack.

    I also put sharp tools away after I am finished with them as just brushing into those very sharp edges of a tool laying on my bench can cause skin leaks. And they are so sharp the first time I notice I am cut is the blood on the wood I am currently working on.

    Well at least we leave a little of ourselves in our works. I thought the blood, sweat and tears thing was a metaphor I didn’t realize it was real.


    Comment by Stephen Shepherd — April 28, 2008 @ 7:18 pm

  3. I’m used to using my feet to lessen the impact of an object heading for the floor, but that’s because I’m used to wearing steel-toed leather boots boots. The things I’m used to dropping aren’t sharp, but they’re expensive and they don’t like to hit the concrete. It’s hard to ‘shift gears’ and stop doing it in the wood shop. Luckily I haven’t dropped anything sharp in there, yet.


    Comment by Metalworker Mike — April 29, 2008 @ 5:13 am

  4. Mike,

    You probably don’t catch Hot Metal if it falls, just think of chisels and gouges as hot metal, these cuts are not self cauterizing.


    Comment by Stephen Shepherd — April 29, 2008 @ 6:47 am

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