Turning tool or chisel?

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    Matt Sims

    I’ve recently aquired a bunch of”chisels”.
    Some of these I know are turning tools, (for I’ve aquired a lathe at the same time).
    I don’t yet have any turning experience, and I willl do a course before I start using it.

    There is one item that I’m not sure of it’s function…

    It is 12″ long, 1/2″ wide and straight sided. See pictures.

    My guess is that it’s NOT a turning tool, but if it’s a chisel, what’s it’s function?

    It’s straight sides tends towards mortise chisel… but it’s general thickness, (or lack of!), and length leads me to think not.

    It’s length leads me to think paring chisel… but straight sides, not bevel edged??

    What is the opinion of you experts: Is this a tool used on the lathe?

    Thanks in advance,






    Doesn’t look like a turning tool. I’d put a low angle bevel on it and use it as a paring chisel. Not claiming to be an expert!

    • This reply was modified 4 months, 2 weeks ago by Ed.
    Larry Geib

    Chisels with a rectangular cross section are called firmer chisels. I learned that’s because they were firmer than a bevlel edge chisel, but that’s not the etymology.

    The OED says it’s from the French foumer ( to form) and Joseph Moxon called them former chisels In a 1670 pamphlet. A hundred years later Eave’s woodworking dictionary called them “ former or firmer chisels. “ they are generally used for work that required more force than a bevel edge chisel, and they were more common than other types.

    But that distinction has gotten muddier over time. Some manufacturers ( Hirsh, Marples) still call rectangular cross section chisels firmers , but other manufacturers call their socket chisels firmers just to keep us confused. And others call them mortise chisels, but they aren’t as stout as pigstickers.

    Matt Sims

    Thanks Larry…

    Not doubting you, but,
    Anyone else got any opinions as to whether or not it’s a tool for the lathe?



    Is it ground on both sidess or just one ? How long is the handle?
    Both tools are just flat steel just ground differently. What is the bevel angle?


    In the UK they are known as ‘Paring Chisels’ on account of their length, though they have the same basic outline as a shorter ‘Firmer Chisel’ specifically used for cutting mortises. These are used for level paring into long sections that are inaccessible by shorter tools. They frequently come up on the second-hand market here.
    It’s also possible to get bevel-edged versions.

    I have a few, and were often used, though not exclusively, by pattern-makers on account of the length.

    That one appears to have the remnants of a ‘Kangaroo Brand’ label., which means that it was made by Robert Sorby. The Kangaroo was their trade mark, before the last War and into the 50/60s.

    One thing it ain’t – it isn’t a turning tool! (though I suppose that you could do if you wish……)

    Matt Sims

    Thanks YrHenSaer,

    I hadn’t seen paring chisels that weren’t bevel edged before, hence my confusion..
    So it seems that it IS a chisel, not a turning tool.
    Yes, it is a Sorby. That can be seen on the top surface of the blade, (though it’s not clear in the picture)

    That’s what I was seeking confirmation of! ( I needed to know becasue the person who gave these and the lathe to me wants the chisels back, for sentimental reasons, but not the turning tools!

    Thanks to all who read and commented.



    Sorry to be the bearer of less than welcome news if the owner wants it back.

    Sorby chisels are usually excellent quality. Though over the past 150 years there have been many iterations of the firm and the name, not all connected.
    From the plastic decal, I’d say that it was from the 1970s at a guess. and there’ plenty of information about them on line if you search

    Matt Sims

    It’s not unwelcome news at all!

    The deal was that I could have the lathe and turning tools… I had to sharpen and return the chisels. They are of sentimental value to the original owner. (A friend of a friend). I’m also restoring/sharpening a couple of saws for him as part of the deal!


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