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Often, chisels bought new will have end caps, as shown in the image below.
chisels offered for sale on eBay

However, I have a number of old chisels and gouges that lack end caps. What can I use to protect their edges and protect myself and my stuff from their edges?

Making a box for them is not really an option, since they're not part of a set and I try to pick up more as I come across them in thrift stores, flea markets, and so on.

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    Don't forget plain old masking tape for short term/desperation protection. – Aloysius Defenestrate Aug 10 '16 at 13:09
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The simplest solution of all is seems to be to just to buy plastic end caps/edge protectors, which are available from some online tool vendors:

Commercial plastic chisel protectors

But these have a few problems. The available sizes won't fit all chisel widths you might eventually collect (both Imperial and metric), and while you can always go up a size in theory as vintage chisels are often thicker than modern ones getting a good fit may still prove impossible.

So making your own is going to work out a better solution for a lot of woodworkers, especially those building a collection of vintage chisels. And taking the DIY approach allows you to make matching protectors for gouges of any sweep and potentially any other edge tools you want to protect as well.

The 'high-tech' solution is to use a dip product or a mouldable rubber or plastic. Dips include the Dip Seal mentioned by LeeG as well as the classic Plasti Dip beloved of toolheads*. Mouldable products include Sugru or the homemade equivalent and for something harder a thermo-forming plastic like Utile Plast, Mold-It or ThermoMorph.

A low-tech solution is one of the oldest, and that is a leather cap. These are still fairly common today on some very large chisels like slicks and used by some woodworkers for their smaller chisels too. You can buy them from a few sources but some are homemade.

Leather edge protectors

I go even lower-tech than this and make simple tight-fitting cardboard sleeves. They work out a bit cheaper too since the cardboard is free, harvested from packaging such as blister packs or small boxes, scored and folded to fit and glued together with PVA glue. The results aren't pretty but they get the job done:

Cardboard sleeves

If aesthetics matter to you you can pick the cardboard with more care, or paint it after the glue has dried :-)

*See a hybrid method using Plasti Dip as the topcoat from Chris Schwarz here on Popular Woodworking. The older method he mentions in this piece he presented back in 2009 as Origami Chisel Protectors.

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I use a product called Dipseal for stuff like that. If you have ever had a saw blade sharpened, this is the stuff that the edges are covered in when you get it back. It can be melted and reused. I bought a 5 pound container of it years ago, and use it to coat forstner bits, chisels, and really anything with an edge that I want to protect.

You can purchase it from Enco and a couple pounds will last a lifetime. Machine shops use it to protect milled surfaces from damage.

Edit Here are some photos of one of my corner chisels with the covering chisel with guard

guard removed

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  • This sounds rather like the candle wax solution I've heard of as traditional. – Chris H Aug 10 '16 at 7:21
  • Does this make an easy to remove and reapply "sheath"? It looks to me like machine shops use it as a disposable guard during shipping, not as something easily reusable. – Eli Iser Aug 10 '16 at 13:01
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A fabric or leather tool roll is another classic solution, if you're willing to protect the set rather than individual chisels.

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  • I have some chisels in a fabric tool roll, and they've chiseled right through it. A leather one might work, though. – SQB Aug 10 '16 at 13:03
  • FWIW, my fabric roll has only just (after 14 years) begun to show its age. Maybe you were storing with the points down? (As opposed to visible when you open the flap.) – Aloysius Defenestrate Aug 10 '16 at 13:07
  • @AloysiusDefenestrate points down indeed, but I inherited them from my grandfather and they've always been that way — they won't fit in any other way. – SQB Oct 11 '17 at 8:28
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I keep my good set of bench chisels, which are always razor sharp, in a leather roll. The problem I run into with keeping chisels in a roll is that if you want to put them in edge end first, they tend to cut right through the back of the roll in any material I've come across. What I did to solve it was to buy some craft clear plastic like I've linked below, and cut out pieces that fit in each roll slot. This way I can slide the chisel in by placing the edge on the plastic and the chisel will slide right in.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001C26RFM/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o09_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

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