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I do metalworking in addition to woodworking (as a hobbyist in both cases).

As I was sharpening my chisels, I was thinking I would like it if the edges held up a bit longer. Reflecting on that a bit more I wondered if I could braze a tip of high-speed steel (HSS) onto one of my chisels and whether that would hold its edge longer.

Then, of course, it occurred to me unlikely that I was the first person to think of this and wondered if such a thing existed and if not, why not.

Would something like this work and is it something one can find commercially?

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Is there such a thing as a woodworking chisel with a high-speed steel tip?

I think so, but you won't easily find any. If I'm remembering correctly these were offered in the past by a few makers in the early or mid-20th century. A few years ago a British company offered bench chisels with replaceable HSS tips, rather than having an HSS piece welded to a common steel body.

There are all-HSS turning chisels of course but they're not easily adaptable to use as bench chisels, and tend to be very expensive too.

I wondered if I could braze a tip of high-speed steel (HSS) onto one of my chisels and whether that would hold its edge longer.

You sure could and yes, it would hold its edge far longer than most bench chisels*. But you might not want them because of the difficulty in sharpening HSS.

This is both in sharpening them period (HSS is very tough and hard to abrade) and much more critically for a chisel, getting them really sharp.

Many users report that they find it hard or impossible to get an edge as good on HSS as on more prosaic steels and this is a critical factor arguing against the material for bench chisels IMO because chisels have to be sharper than plane irons in order to work as well as they should.

As I was sharpening my chisels, I was thinking I would like it if the edges held up a bit longer.

Lots of people would too :-) The obvious thought is to buy better chisels, but there are some other options that are worth exploring that will save $$ or $$$:

  • Strop the edge regularly (so you have to do proper honing less often).
  • Improve the heat treat on your current chisels so that they're harder than they came from the factory.

As I've written wrote about in a couple of previous Answers (including this one), stropping can stretch the interval between re-sharpenings from hours to days, weeks to months, depending on the quality of your chisels, the woods you're working with and the amount you use them.

Redoing the heat treatment on a chisel sounds like something you need specialist equipment and loads of experience to do but actually just one torch and a cup of oil or water is all you need at minimum. And you won't even have to remove the handles in most cases, although this can be used as an opportunity to replace the (often meh) factory handles with something you made yourself so that length, diameter, shape, finish and/or colour are all exactly as you prefer.


*Couldn't say how they'd compare to some of the high-end chisels made from modern exotic alloys which far outstrip the edge-retention of most common chisels.

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  • I would be interested to hear how Pfiel chisel steel compares since they are the most easily available high quality carving chisels available in USA. – jbord39 Feb 16 '17 at 17:22
  • @jbord39 Pfiel chisels would have been made of something like O1 in the past I'm sure but they now use a type of CrV according to their website. Their hardness and toughness is then down to how well they do the heat treat. They harden to RC59-61, which is on the softer side but it helps prevents chips from levering strokes (paring chisels which are never levered can be much harder than this). Laminated chisels such as some of the expensive Japanese ones can have edges much harder too because they have a soft back to support the brittle edge steel. – Graphus Feb 17 '17 at 8:49
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Most turning tools use high speed steel. This is so that they can be sharpened with a normal grinder instead of bench stones or a wet grinder. They typically do not hold an edge as long as a good quality tool steel would. The idea being that the ease of sharpening makes more frequent resharpening easy.

Also, it does seem that some Japanese chisels use high speed steel.

Edit: I just realized that I didn't address the specific question of a hss tip attached to a tool made of another types of steel. I don't know of anything that does this specifically, as it's easy enough to just make the whole thing out of hss. Some Japanese chisels and plane blades do use a tip made from a harder steel. There is also the similar obvious example of carbide tips on saw blades or router bits.

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  • Carbide-tipped turning tools -- with replaceable tips -- are available. Search the web and you will find folks who purchased just the tips and did some simple metalworking to create shafts/handles for them. – keshlam Feb 16 '17 at 17:26
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There are commercially made carbide tipped hand scraping tools that you could grind into a conventional (non for lathe turning) wood chisel. This would last even longer than using HSS.

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