Do you use cold chisels for cutting metal? If so, I have a couple of questions for you.
1: Does the chisel pictured above look right to you for an off-the-shelf chisel? I’m wondering how hardened chisels can deform like that during the factory-to-shelf journey. That kind of damage can happen in use, but I don’t like seeing it on brand new tools.
2: What do you use your cold chisels for?
I typically only use my cold chisels in awkward situations where no other tool or method seems feasible, such as cleaning out a burr in a groove. They cut faster than you’d think, and better than a file. I’ve also used them to make cutouts in sheet metal and to remove rivets in places where I couldn’t drill them out. I can’t think of generalized examples, hence the question to you guys.
(I also used cold chisels in a research lab, to help liberate my small material samples from within encapsulating epoxy resin cylinders. The samples were mounted in epoxy to facilitate polishing. Mechanical destruction of the epoxy with cold chisels worked really well, although I’m sure it wasn’t exactly proper.)
3. What hammer do you strike cold chisels with?
After several years, I still can’t choose a preference between Vaughan and Estwing. I have mostly Vaughan sizes (wood-handled for their better economy) and an Estwing. I use the same ball pein hammers for punches (prick, center, and pin) and cold chisels.
Buy Now: Vaughan Ball Pein Hammers | Estwing Ball Pein Hammers via Amazon
If I had to start over, I’d probably get an Estwing in 16oz or 24oz sizes, and Vaughan for lesser-used sizes.
I also have a dead blow ball pein hammer, but I typically just use it to coerce seized parts to disassemble. In theory I might use my 3lb drilling hammer with cold chisels, but that only happened once or twice.
4: What brand do you like? I have a couple of cold chisels from Craftsman (Sears-era, I believe made by Western Forge), Dasco, Mayhew, and a PB Swiss cape chisel.
Buy Now: Mayhew cold chisels via Amazon | Mayhew cold chisel set via Zoro
I have a set of metal-cutting chisels (Flat Cold Chisels, Cape Chisels, Diamond Point Chisels and Round Nose Chisels. Most are Williams – dating back to the 1930’s through 1950’s – along with their tool rolls. I have only the most rudimentary skills needed to use them properly. Their prior owner had much more skill and finesse in their use. I saw him mark and cut a keyway using a cape chisel . I have used round nose chisels for cutting more decorative than functional grooves (functional being things like oil ways) and diamond point chisels to tap metal into misplaced center punch indents. My set of ball-pein hammers are vintage Stanley wooden handled Jobmaster series with tempered faces and tempered rims. Mine range from 2 oz. for striking light punches – to 40 oz. for serious walloping.
Obviously the idea of the cold chisel was for use by a blacksmith to cut metal cold. It was also used to indent bar stock before bending to form corners.
Yeah i use cold chisels; mostly for un-doing stripped bolts & nuts, occasionally for shearing bolt heads and for chipping welding flux.
That one looks average for a new unit.. Good ones normally are all metal – no paint, i think the paint means they have something to hide or the still is low quality and will rust.
Rivet-Buster chisels are good for shearing off both rivet heads – as well as bolts.
Their somewhat bent neck helps with clearance.
1). That is a horrible edge for a new chisel. My old metal shop teacher would give that a D at best. Not only are both corners deformed, the edge is dull and burred.
2). Cutting metal, of course. They are also good for separating metal, cutting spot welds, removing an old muffler, etc. They will cut off small bolts and if a nut is rusted to a larger bolt, placing a chisel in the center of the flats of the nut (as many as you can but usually you need access to 2 or more to get it to work) Whack it until you make a groove or ‘dent’ in the flat . This will stretch the nut slightly and also break the rust bond usually letting you get the nut off without twisting off the bolt.
3) A ball pein hammer for lighter blows, a drilling hammer to really pound on it.
4) USA made Craftsman, Mayhew, and a few old ones I inherited that don’t have readable markings.
Nut splitters also work in many cases:
Jerry I like the way you responded to this article. The author asked some questions and you answered each one to a t. As I was reading the responses I was wondering when someone was gonna answer his questions. I was going to but you beat me to the punch. Way to go.
I use cold chisels made by Wilde, Craftsman (USA), Dasco and italian Beta to split seized nuts, to cut copper, brass and steel plates and steel flat bars.
Depending of the size of the job I use ball pein hammers or drilling hammers.
The most extreme use of cold chisels can be seen on Pakistani beaches where they are scrapping old tanker ships. They run the ships as far up the beach as possible. Then they crop off huge parts of the hull with welding torches. These parts are then dragged way to a place on the beach where a myriad of tough, wiry men start to divide the plates to more manageable sizes with Cold Chisels and drilling hammers! There they work under the hot blazing sun all day for a couple dollars.
Even unthinkable duties can be done with Cold Chisels!
Cold chisels can also be used to cut multi stranded steel wires.
I have used cold chisel for masonry only where I thought using an SDS+ chisel would be risky to use as there might be some pipes or electric conduits around.
Wilde and Enderes also make great cold chisels. Waaaaay better than old Dasco. (I haven’t tried any Vaughan Dasco yet).
I don’t use them every day but they are essential.
I guess that I had missed the (now a bit old) news that Vaughan & Bushnell had acquired Dasco.
Learn something new everyday!
Apparently this all happened last year too. It’s either news to me too, or I heard but forgot.
Thank you Noah!
I only have one cold chisel and I have no idea how old it is or what brand it is – doesn’t seem marked.
almost positive my grandfather bought it new – but debatable.
I’ve sharpened it once.
1) I wonder if that is is actually for shipping. blunted a bit so as to not damage a multitude of other things in transit. Expected to be sharped by the end user.
2) I use my 22 framing hammer or a 16 oz standard hammer. and on rare occasion I use my engineers hammer – which I’m sure I’m mislabeling but that’s what the handle says. (german made). It’s around 8-9 oz.
3) I have used it to move/break nuts on cars or used it to put flats on a bolt that rounded off. I also – and please don’t judge – use it to knock off knobs of concrete on the edge of my driveway that were left behind. And to chip out a brick in a fire place.
4) If I was to buy one new today I’m most likely look at a mayhew – and then read on here to find names I’ve never heard of before. Or I’d check harry epstein.
I use chisels quite often for cutting metal. I use them for collision repair and in custom fabrication. There are certain situations where a chisel is the only tool that will reach into certain areas when removing welds and cutting stubborn sheet metal or frame sections. I often use a chisel to set a certain piece of steel or aluminum that I where I have purposely left in place extra material to remove once in place.
Not to sidetrack the discussion, but if you have an SDS rotary hammer with hammer only more you owe it to yourself to get at least one cold chisel for it. You will be amazed at what you can do with it on light to medium duty use. Of course you could also go with a quality air hammer and really go to town seriously though, a SDS with a sharp chisel will peel a rusted muffler off a tailpipe like a can opener.
Air hammers often come in sets with chisels that deigned for slicing autobody and muffler/exhaust pipe sheet metal:
I use Wilde cold chisels and they are very nice. No edge deformation like in your picture. I use whatever hammer I happen to grab (claw, cross pein, ball pein). I definitely prefer wood handled hammers over anything else.
Took metal shop in high school. That chisel is worse than the one I made. As for uses, I don’t know. In all these years I’ve never run into a situation where a dremel or oscillating tool wasn’t better. I have a lot of experience with seized bolts, etc. Finally there’s oil and gas torches, then wrench-cheater wrench. Never really need a chisel. I bet the chisel is faster than the torch, but not better.
In our metal/pipe fabrication business – we quite often were asked to repair, replace or duplicate items that were long since out of production by their OEMs. Taking some items apart was a challenge and we used all sorts of techniques and tools to remove frozen fasteners. Like: drilling/screw extractors, grinding. milling, chiseling, electro discharge machining, induction heating, and torch heating. EDM was costly – so we resorted to that in only the most demanding situations. In recent years, the appearance of inexpensive induction heating tools – was a boon.
Fred, you can probably use that mini-induction coil to heat sorry cold chisel and screwdriver tips so you can re-quench them. I’ve done that with a torch. Get them file hard and re-heat them up to ~600F to temper them so they’re not brittle. Use Tempil sticks or a laser pointer thermometer.
Okay… I think it’s time for the weekly/biweekly “Joe is a total idiot” segment here on ToolGuyd…
Why are they called “Cold Chisels” of all things? Or are the Wood Chisels secretly known as “Hot Chisels” to differentiate them from these?
The closest I’ve come to using one of these is watching someone use them to score a shape into the side of a computer case. The result was a rim on the metal case that was embossed outward, and it allowed the option to keep it decorative, or to take a Dremel and cut it out for a window to be glued in, with the rim as the boundary. I would imagine what I witnessed was a deliberately blunted one of these, for that purpose. Had it been sharper, I would think that embossed rim would, instead, be a cut-out.
No, it’s a good question. A cold chisel is for cutting cold metal. Remember, metal can be worked on at room temperature, heated up, or right after a production process stage such as forging.
With a cold chisel, you use it to cut/shape/modify metal without first heating it.
Cold chisel is meant to be used on cold metal or demolition type work. A hot chisel would be used in production of construction where the metal is still not. For example a hot chisel could be used to remove the flash from a hot casting. Of course, a cold chisel could be as well but a hot chisel would be more designed for the task. Kind of like how a general purpose hammer works for framing but an actual framing hammer works better. Not sure but I think the edge grind might be a little different and not chisels are longer at least the few i saw to keep the workers hands farther from the hot metal.
In my comment above – I referred to blacksmith’s using both type of chisels.
The hot chisels – could look a bit like the cold chisel – but many of the ones I’ve seen have corners relieved at a 45 degree miter or radiused a bit. Some seem to have a slimmer profile. In another type of hot chisel there is a separate rotating handle that sits at 90 degrees to the chisel allowing the blacksmith to keep his hand well away from the hot iron. Anvils used to come with what was in effect a mounted or mountable (via a hardie hole) chisel – sometimes called an anvil devil or cutting hardie. It has a sharpened edge pointing upward from the surface of the anvil. A red hot bar or rod could be rested on the devil’s edge and struck with a hammer to shear it.
Good info Fred. I was thinking the grinds were different but couldn’t remember exactly how.
Here what you called an anvil devil we call a dog.
So, if I’m understanding this right from Stuart, Jerry, and fred… It’s not the CHISEL that is Hot or Cold, it’s the application? Cold Chisels for working without Heat, Hot Chisels for when working Hot Metals, like a Blacksmith or Iron Worker might use to more easily shape an object?
So these are the two CATEGORIES of METAL CHISELS, is what I’m gathering from this? My slim knowledge of Wood Chisels does not apply here, aside from the fact that they are all a bladed device that is struck by some kind of hammer, in order to cut into a material, or remove a piece of said material?
Am I close here? I’ve never needed one, to my knowledge, but they sound very useful from my perspective. Maybe I don’t need them personally, but it certainly sounds like they have to be just-under razor sharp in order to be most effective.
Which, to me, says that a blunted edge chisel as pictured is a mistake, unless there’s a voucher for a free in-store sharpening of that edge to counter any shipping damage that may have occurred? Just kinda… brainstorming this… I know I’m totally outside “The Know” on these tools, but from where I’m looking, it sounds like these SHOULD be sharp, and buying them Dull is paying for materials you have to remove for no good reason. It’s one thing to write it off as “Shipping Safety”, but if that is the entire case, the store should have a sharpener to use on it at or near the time you check out, so what you’re buying is the proper tool, ready to use when you get home.
Am I talking crazy talk again with that thought? If money were no object, I would love to actually do full metal work and have my own shop to do it in. Which says to me, if this dream of mine ever comes true, I may need these. I’ve often been asked by many of my old teachers and professors, “Why can’t you do X? You’re a quick learner, and a perfectionist, so you’re perfect for it. Why is this missing from your Resume?” and the honest truth is simple… “I’ve just never picked up the tools in my hands to try them, and there’s only so many hours in a day, or a lifetime, and far too little money to just go off and accumulate trade skills.”
So… Blacksmithing Tools, Welding Equipment, Heavy Machine Operation… Even Fabrication Shop Tools… I just have never touched them before, therefore, haven’t tried it out yet. I have yet to fail at picking up past skills, so I stand a good chance of learning new ones. (Note: I’m not trying to brag about not failing. It hasn’t happened YET, but I expect there will come a point when SOMETHING beats me. It doesn’t make any Human Sense or Reason for me to be totally unbeaten in life. I’m bad at social cues and relating to people… That’s the skillset I fail at… but Tools and Equipment? No failures yet…)
One of those reasons I appreciate all the help here at ToolGuyd… You’re all filling in the gaps in what I don’t know, or haven’t had the time to add to my skillset. You guys all ROCK! Thank You!
As for question number 1, where I asked about whether that was okay for a new chisel, my instinct says that it’s reflective of bad quality control, bad manufacturing, soft metal, improper packaging during shipping, or a combination of all of this. But I’m also somewhat of a perfectionist, and while I have cold chisels and use them occasionally, my experience with them isn’t enough to properly gauge whether this is acceptable “new” condition or not.
In my mind, a chisel, especially one that’s supposed to be hardened and suited for cutting metal, shouldn’t have deformed and damaged corners. Sure, that might happen during use, but one shouldn’t have to grind a brand new chisel to fix its edge. I’m not certain whether this is a majority or outlier opinion, hence the question.
I’m with you. While you would never hone a cold chisel to a mirror finish as you would do with a wood chisel – you should expect a clean edge- free of burrs and mushrooming. One question though is: does the manufacturer of the pictured chisel relieve the edge corners a bit by design?
Many wood chisels (perhaps most) are not ready to go to work out of the box . Ones from Lie Nielsen might be close – but I still like to lap/flatten the back of new wood chisels -and then hone their working edge to a mirror finish. Sometimes I like to create a secondary bevel. For some applications – applying a bit of a camber (as you might to some plane irons) help with the cutting/shearing process. But other chisels – like ones for chopping mortises – really need sharp square edges.
Yeah, see, I understand the exception for Wood Chisels, where a quick sharpening does them good before first use. They can be very sharp in working conditions, and shipping them in bubble wrap, canvas rolls, or anything remotely soft while packaged in trucks and boxes… yeah, that can mean a lot of cut up and damaged packaging, even cardboard.
But a METAL working Chisel, which I now know to be Cold or Hot Chisels? Those should be sharp, yes, but you shouldn’t need to do as much to them as you do a Wood Chisel before first use. Metal requires a precision tool, but a thinly sharpened edge isn’t going to do anything but collapse, unless my material sciences teachers were wrong. But that certainly looks, from the picture, like it’s very wrong. And if they’re not willing to sharpen it on site, before you buy it, AND reduce the price on them for a defective item? I don’t think they SHOULD be bought. Whatever error caused them to be blunted should cost the company that made them money, thus forcing them to look into changes that restore them to full quality.
Am I talking closer to the sane side of things, or do I still sound crazy here?
Wood chisels ship with plastic caps or they can be wax-dipped similar to machine tooling.
They won’t ship in the same way as cold chisels because even inexpensive wood chisels can alice to the bone when new.
One of my most memorable injuries was from the first or second use of a Sears Craftsman wood chisel.
Stuart is the material scientist – but my take is that the cold chisel is usually not sharpened at more than 60 degrees. The picture of the chisel above – looks to be ground at the appropriate angle – but the edge looks a bit funky. I look at it – and the hammer that drives it as more of a brute force tool than a wood chisel. While a wood chisel is used to cut across the wood fibers (grain) or gently pare along the grain – a cold chisel seems to work by fracturing the metal (perhaps along grain boundaries?). I was taught to slightly lubricate the chisel tip when doing something like shearing off a bolt head. BTW – a hot chisel probably does not need to be as tough or tempered as a cold chisel – because red-hot metal is softer.
Agreed, with wood, the chisel has to be sharp enough to sever the fibers, or they will tear and break where they’re weaker, giving you an ugly edge.
I’m not certain about the angle, but 60 degrees sounds like it could be right.
I’ll need to hit the books more to be certain, but after thinking about this a bit and looking at whatever background readings I could find, it seems that cold chisels cut metal in a similar manner as in shearing operations. In shearing, there is a LOT going on, with multiple forms of failure including plastic deformation, ductile failure, and fracture if the material is hard or thick enough. In some applications, the manner in which a cold chisel works can resemble machine-cutting applications, such as how metal-turning cuts and tears waste chips away from the work material. If you have sheet metal in a vise and are cutting away a 1/4″ strip, that’s going to be different than if you’re punching a square hole out of supported sheet metal, or cutting a bolt to length.
Lubricating a cold chisel for thicker cuts makes sense, as you’re literally wedging the material apart.
Okay (after looking it up more): with shearing, you have plastic deformation, penetration where you start to get separation at the top and lower surfaces, and then fracture. But with a cold chisel you have the initial plastic deformation, penetration – which I’d say is just ductile failure – and then a continuation of that process as a standard cold chisel wedges the material apart. Beyond the initial shearing-like penetration, it’s not the force in the chisel impact direction that cuts the metal, but the lateral forces due to the chisel taper angle that contributes most to the cutting.
JoeM, what did you start! =)
Uh… Education? I think? It’s good info to know, both for those who need these chisels every day, and those who have no use for them at all!
I think… Maybe this is what I get for falling into your frequent impulse buy traps! 😛 I get curious about stuff I never learned in the past, and down the rabbit hole we go!
Should I be sorry? I feel like I should be sorry for this… It’s either a Jewish or Canadian impulse, so who’s to say?
What Fred said, mostly. A lot of repair work in old hot water and especially steam boilers, radiators, and piping. Sometimes they just dont loosen, so I’ll work it out with a chisel after sawing off what I can. Have a set of snap on cold chisels and pointed chisels in my truck for years and I wouldnt go without. Recently bought a set of Mayhews for the shop and they seem pretty good also. Every other brand I’ve picked up, not so much.
As for hammers, in the truck i have a 3 pound drilling hammer,so that’s what i use. Back at the shop, a snap on dead blow ball pein hammer.
No, that chisel unacceptable for new, but a good set of everyday users could be in the hundreds, so you get what you pay for here.
Also, second the induction heaters Fred linked to. Use one pretty frequently also.
One of-if not the best in my opinion- most comprehensive guides to cold chisel metalworking can be found in the 1880’s machinist text “The Complete Practical Machinist” by Joshua Rose. Some of the materials are no longer available (red lead anyone?) But the sharpening and use techniques presented are still very relent. The book can be found in pdf form in the usual places online.
Red lead and linseed oil plumber’s putty went the way of asbestos rope joint runners.
Although plumbers (got their name from the Latin plumbum for lead) still might caulk CI bell and spigot waste line joints with oakum and lead. Other lead work – that was common in my youth – has all but disappeared. No lament on my part – No-hub connections for CI, and plastic shower pans and toilet bends are way easier to work with – and better for the environment and plumber’s health.
I can thoroughly recommend Rennsteig chisels. Having numerous brands over the years, I now buy to Rennsteig whenever the need for a new tool comes up. Both chiselsfor metal and stone work, setting pins and punches. All the ones I have personally handled are impeccably shaped and finished – and with hardness and toughness for their intended application. Made in Germany. They can be bought at reasonable prices at amazon.de – but I don’t know if they are available directly in the US
I use cold chisels for a lot of things. Hammer depends on chisel and work size.
The dent is probably due to being dropped while in soft, un-heat treated state. Right after forging, the metal really is dead soft, and a sharp edge can deform easily if dropped or struck by accident. If the tool is not properly hardened, the damage is of no concern. Takes 10 seconds to sharpen, it’s not like sharpening a precision wood chisel. Bzzzzzt-Bzzzzzt! Done! Just don’t let the edge discolor and it will stay sharp with normal use.
Just to clarify, I don’t like to see that on a new tool, but functionally, it’s nothing.
As for the edge, it looks decent for doing certain things. I wouldn’t try to do a lot of cutting with it but for general driving, denting, etc., it’s fine. I’d even use it to drive a good groove on something that I’m going to bend to set a corner. For cutting purposes it should be a bit sharper and flat all the way across. If you are a heavy chisel user, you’ll usually keep multiples of different shaped edges for that reason.
As for cold chisels, you don’t use them? And sharpen them? You an’t really have a cold chisel without a grinder or file. Routinely cleaning up the edges and sometimes the striking end is part of owning and maintaining them. A nice chisel edge is great for cutting but the sharper the edge, the faster it dulls. 15 degrees is nice for knives but not so good for chisels. 25 degrees is common for “sharp” and depending on use 30-45 degrees can go a long way too, or even 90 degrees for punches which are similar. And when you have too sharp of an edge or mushroom the edges as metal breaks off it goes flying. According to Murphy’s Law when this happens the trajectory of the flying metal will take it towards the nearest exposed flesh at just the right angle so that it either embeds itself deeply under the skin or slashes open enough skin to need stitches or large amounts of electrical tape and super glue.
I also have prick punches, centering punches, alignment punches (they are different), nail driving punches (nail setters), pinch bars, pry bars, and nail pulling bars in sizes from a few inches up to about 3 feet, on top of multiple sizes and shapes of chisels. i retired my crow bar a while ago. It seemed like a good idea at the time but I rarely have reason to use it. A chisel/punch is good for driving things out of holes, driving things into holes, cutting nuts, bolts, and other round things off, cleaning up or denting surfaces, etc. Sometimes you need round, sometimes flat. I have wood chisels too but since I rarely work in wood I rarely use them. Punches a useful especially when the metal gets so small or the corner so tight that a saw blade just can’t get in there and you don’t need to remove material so a drill or cutter doesn’t make sense.
Interesting all the mentions of ball peen and some drilling hammers. The rounded head of a ball peen hammer is kind of like a planishing hammer. It’s for stretching out sheet metal but instead of a flat surface like a planishing hammer, it’s for a rounded one. I never understood the popularity or why people buy them because they almost never use the rounded end. I used to carry a claw hammer but now it is also retired to the woodworking tools, and frankly I don’t even use it that often on wood projects anymore. For one thing I mostly use screws for better holding power so I just don’t use nails that often. For another the dedicated nail puller gives me more leverage and the sharp edges dig into the metal so I can extract even finishing nails or ones with no heads at all.
My hammer of choice 99% of the time is a mechanics or “engineering” hammer. Unlike the drilling hammer or pretty much any others, it has two flat heads. You can use it for the obvious purpose of bashing things but you can also lay it flat either on it’s side or end and use it as a fulcrum for a pry bar. And you can hold one on top of a punch or chisel and use a larger (sledge) hammer a lot safer and easier by striking the larger target. That’s also where a spike maul comes in very handy. These are railroad spike hammers but the big advantage is putting the small end against something like a pin and hitting the bit end with a larger hammer. Drilling hammers are usually rounded to the point that this technique doesn’t work as well, and the claw, ball peen, blacksmith, and other specialized hammers are useless as wedges or striking surfaces for driving pins, wedges, and round and flat stock.
Biggest problem I have with chisels and punches is that the really thin ones are really useful but they can also easily bend. Not necessarily from striking but using them for prying which they aren’t intended for but get used for occasionally anyways. Once it starts to bend, it will never go straight again.
I don’t have a good grinder yet (a belt sander is still higher on my acquisition wish list), but Dremel grinding wheels work reasonably okay for refreshing edges. I just hate having to work on new tools rather than putting them to use.
Prick and center punches though… I am particular about which ones I use on non-ferrous materials and which I’ll use on steel.
I don’t remember where anymore, but I remember finding very many references and warnings that claw hammers are typically harder, and that ball pein hammers are less prone to chipping. After my first one, I found it easier and more comfortable to keep my hammers separate. Claw hammers for driving in nails, rip-claw hammers for mixed nailing and prying/demoing tasks, ball pein for anything related to punches, chisels, or metal manipulation.
The ball end has come in handy for me before, although not very often. I use center punches, pin punches, grommet-cutting punches, and other such things far more than cold chisels. I have a 3 lb drilling hammer, but the ball peins see more use as I’m more familiar with them, and because it’s not often I need a heavier and shorter handled hammer.
There is some good information of how to use and expertly maintain your cold chisels in Enderes Tools’ web site. That info will come as a very big surprise no most of you!
1) The picture of the chisel is not what I expect from a new chisel. I think the heat treating did not work out well.
2) I use my cold chisels for cutting metal, mostly rusted fasteners, rivets, etc I also used them to pound holes into block walls so I can run conduit.
3) I typically use a 24oz Estwing, my other choice I use is a OSCR aengineers hammer at 18oz.
4) I have a few old Craftsman laying around. My daily drivers are a complete set of Proto in a tool roll. These get continuously used and none show any wear. Highly recommend these chisels.