What is the Best Timber Framing Chisel?

Timber framing and shipbuilding are crafts that enjoy centuries of rich history, and one common thread has been a good chisels.  The precision work accomplished by the craftsmen in these trades passes the test of time.  It seems only fitting that today’s woodworking artisans should have tools that reflect their traditions.  A quality timber framing chisel is pivotal to making your project a success and makes a wonderful addition to your tool arsenal.   Here we compare three of the best.

Sorby

barr

neeman

Handle

Ash

Ash

Elm

Total Length

20"

18"

18.3"

Blade Length

10.5"

7"

8.4"

Barr 1-1/2" Framing Chisel

Barr Timber Framing Chisel

Barr tools occupy a very special place for this craftsman. It’s rare that common hand tools like chisels are hand-forged and tempered.  Most chisels today are mass produced, but Barr Quarton applies two decades of experience working with tool steel and hammer forges these densely-packed metal gems.  This framing chisel enjoys the Barr fitted, ash socket handle, steel ferrules and long-lasting edge.  The blade runs 7 inches with an overall tool length of 18 inches.  Keep in mind these tools are individually forged so size may vary slightly.

Having this 1 ½-inch chisel for its  quality, strength.  It’s a workhorse, but proper tool sharpening knowledge and skill are vital to make sure they work a smooth as possible. Made in Idaho, these hand-crafted beauties are meant to be passed down from generation to generation, my son is already eying mine. 

1-1/2" Robert Sorby #285 Timber Framing Chisel

This Robert Sorby Chisel features an ash handle, steel ferrule cap and hoop. The design incorporates a leather cushion washer at the bolster and this 20-inch hand tool is a favorite among timber framers and shipwrights. Made in Sheffield, England, the maker touts itself as a tool line “designed by craftsmen for craftsmen” and the chisels are forged from home-grown, Sheffield precision ground steel. The long tang enjoys a deep seating into the handle for tremendous strength. This framing chisel sports a 10 ½-inch blade for handling deep mortices and joinery work.

Robert Sorby chisels get high praise for durability and the toughness of their special alloy. The traditional bevel demonstrates excellent sharpness and handles wonderfully. This is a classic chisel that could satisfy any craftsman.  They only downside of this chisel is that will tear up a wooden mallet quickly due to the steel ferrule cap.

John Neeman Timber Framing Chisel 1.5”

Like Barr, John Neeman Tools trusts in the age-old ways of blacksmithing. Neeman recently became a guild of northern European craftsman, called Northmen, and takes pride in the Medieval tradition of tool-making. This particular timber framing chisel is hand-forged with high carbon spring steel. The edge reaches a Rockwell hardness of 58-60. Each hand-crafted chisel is treated with a traditional mix of beeswax, linseed oil and pine turpentine to create an anti-rust finish. The hand-lathed elm handle is individually made to precisely fit its unique socket. With an 8.4-inch blade, the chisel spans a total of 18.3 inches and comes with a custom leather guard.

Neeman chisels have the look and feel of something Viking shipwrights used. They may last just as many generations going forward. Without question, a Neeman chisel is one of the finest tools available to contemporary woodworkers. And, it affords today’s framers and shipwrights a kind of Renaissance by bringing together a tool made the ancient way to a craft forged long ago.

4 Responses to What is the Best Timber Framing Chisel?

  1. David Gendron May 30, 2017 at 1:31 pm #

    Interesting, no Japanese chisels in there…. I have the first 2, 2″ Barr and 1.5″ Sorby, like them both.
    As for Neeman tools, I’ve had 2 axes made by them and the first one was the worst axe I ever had, and the replacement one took 2 years to make it in my hands and it was marginally better… They don’t have the experience and the skills for the price they are asking in my book!

    Anyway, I’m happy with the Barr and Sorby, that said the Sorby took a bit of work to get going, but in the end it is a good chisel!!

    • Brice Cochran May 30, 2017 at 1:38 pm #

      I am trying to get my hands on Japanese chisels to try them out to add to the article. Thanks for your thoughts on the rest.

      • Don Downs June 13, 2017 at 12:22 pm #

        I have two Japanese chisels – a 1 1/2″ and a 2″. Maybe I can get them to you sometime so you can add them to your evaluation.

        • Brice Cochran June 15, 2017 at 2:13 pm #

          Which type do you have, planning on buy one to try and and add to the review. Any recommendations?

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