Bruce Educator, musician, ham radio operator, wanna be coder and woodworker...

Saving Marples

Saving Marples

Chisels. What’s good? What’s bad? What’s average?

I have some Buck’s Brothers chisels from the big box store and they are new, have some sort of composite handles, and seem to be usable for fine woodworking. I learned years after acquiring them that Chris Schwarz recommends them as a decent starter set.

In the last year or so though, I have decided to go primarily to hand tool oriented woodworking and chisels have become extremely more important than saw blade and router bit selection. Paul Sellers promotes that you don’t need expensive tools to do great work. That supported my ownership of Buck Brother’s chisels as well as my exploration of Harbor Freight Windsor chisels. I’m still using those both for workbench building and am continuing to review the HF chisels.

If you follow hand tools woodworking blogs and sites, many people express concern over the big box and china made products specifically around their low quality tool steel and that they won’t hold an edge for very long. I get the feeling that anything that is not more high end (Veritas, Narnex, Lie Nelson) is substandard and frowned upon. No doubt, one day I would love to treat myself to tools by these folks with their wonderful engineering and quality. I’m not yet at that point in my hobby work.

So, I’m worried. Will I be fighting the chisels I do have? Will I be unnecessarily struggling to do quality work because of substandard tools that won’t hold an edge? I continue to scan eBay for deals on woodworking hand tools, and came across an interesting post of Marple chisels. This name is in my brain because of Paul Sellers posts about these Marple chisels. The Aldi’s aren’t available, but he has fond memories of and still apparently uses at times these Marples blue handled chisels.

So, here are four Marples chisels that seems to have been lovingly use but have been left neglected with a coating of rust on them. Listed for $88 dollars but half off at $44. After some back and forth, I was able to acquire them for $20 and was out the door at $30 with shipping. $7.50 a chisel… and hoping that they will clean up to good usable chisels with great tool steel.

ebay posting of Marple chisels

The Start

I received the chisels as described, with a consistent coating of rust. They do appear to be lovingly used, rusty, but with plenty of meat left on the bone. There is some weird sharpening and dings, but not overcomable, I decided to start with the 3/4 inch chisel since I’m mid-workbench build and have to finish some mortises the are laid out to 3/4 inch.



The jury is still out on the 1” which is lowest in the picture above, but I’m going to restore and turn up the 3/4” first which is the top chisel pictured above

The Restore Process

After some googling as well as review of restoring plane irons and removing rust from some of my knives, I decided to start with a scrub with baking soda.


Next was some attention with Big 45 Metal Cleaner.




Time with the Big 45Metal Cleaner resulted in a rust free fairly smooth surface.

I looked for markings on the blade, but found none. So I progressed next to sandpaper. I started with some 200 and moved back and forth from 200, to 320.



To address the bevel and tip, I moved to my plane blade restore process and moved to 120 grit sticky backed sandpaper. I then moved on to finer grit sandpaper.




I started grinding the tip incorrectly at 30°. But it helped to get rid of the digging on the right side.


I adjusted the chisel in the guide to 25° and sanded on 120 grit as well as 220 and 320 wet/dry.

I next moved on to the back with some sand paper as well as went through various grits of water stones. Once we were in the ballpark, I moved to the diamond stones to finish up the initialization and sharpening.


Once I went through the various diamond stones both on the back as well as the bevel I moved to polishing the back on a piece of wood – the back side of my strope.



I polished the top side and side bevels as well.

I moved on to the strope with the bevel and main blade of the chisel.



The chisel turned out great. The surfaces turned out flat and with a good polish. Seems as if the one of the proper owners gridded the back side of the tip (flat side) and may take a couple of sharpening to get past.



Overall, I think the restore turned out great. I was not restoring for collector purposes, but for usage purposes.


1/2’ unrestored on top, 3/4” restored and sharped on bottom.


Although I may hit the chisel with the buffing wheel, I decided to put it to use on a set of mortises on the last leg of my workbench, It did great and love the feel of the handle.



More to follow with the restore and sharpening of the others. For now, it’s fun to use the “blue chip” Marples 3/4” chisel. I will also do some comparison to by Buck Brother’s big box store and Harbor Freight Windsor chises in terms of sharpness stamina.