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The Chairmaker, Part II (continued)


The mortise chisel (Stemmeisen) of this workshop differs markedly from those of other woodworkers, p. 32. The edge of the mortise chisels of other woodworkers runs along the breadth of the blade while the edge of the chairmaker's mortise chisel is along its thickness, fig. VIIa. Therefore, the width of the cut of this mortise chisel is only as wide as the chisel is deep, and has a tempered steel edge on the left side.7 The wheelwright cuts tenon mortises with this chisel only and smooths or cleans them with the above, p. 36, mentioned Stechbeutel.8

  The Vermohrungeisen serves the chairmaker only if the seat of the chair has cross stretchers (mortised or "let into" the back legs of the chair) not too far above its feet. In the same way he cuts with this chisel the large mortises in a sofa because his mortise chisel is too small.9
   The Schweifeisen, fig. IX, is nearly four inches broad at its edge. The chairmaker curves with this chisel the upper shallow curve of the curved front legs of the chair. This chisel must, therefore, have an unusually broad cutting edge because a narrower blade gives an uncontrolled cut in a shallow curve and therefore takes more away than it actually should.
  The "Kehl" chisels have already been named in previous chapters, p. 153. A "kehl" is used for the decoration of the woodwork and belongs, to a degree, to sculpted work. It consists of a recess around which on one or both sides runs a small round ridge. With the "V tool" (Geisfuss, literally "goat foot"), p. 154, he marks the breadth of the imagined ridge in the wood as deep in the wood as he wants it to be. If this recess is even he takes it out with a Balleisen,10 p. 154; if it's round he cuts it out with a gouge (Hohleisen), p. 154. The various Balleisen, as well as the gouges in this workshop, are graduated in size. The largest are two inches wide in their blade, the smallest only a few millimeters. The smallest gouge is called the veiner chisel (Ziereisen), and this serves the chairmaker significantly by sculpture work. With a small gouge he also rounds the round ridge next to the vein. The "V tool" (Geisfuss), the Belleisen, and gouge (Hohleisen) of this workshop are sometimes straight, bent, or back bent, p. 154. The latter the chairmaker cannot be without when working shallow curves. All these chisels have a wooden handle and the chairmaker sometimes cuts freehand with these last chisels and sometimes drives them with a wooden mallet, especially when working shallow curves. The above mentioned mortise chisel (Stemmeisen) is used only with the mallet, as is also the Vermobrungseisen and the Schweifeisen.


5 The Steil (steep or upright) or Hart (hardwood) hobel (plane) is described and illustrated by Sprengel in the cabinetmaker's chapter. It is used on veneer woods and metal (brass and other soft decorative metals).
6 Reading from Sprengel's writing about the carpenter and cabinetmaker, the term Kehlhobel evidently includes rounds as well as other moulding planes. Various other references refer to these planes as cutting chamfers, hollows, fluting, and moulding in general. The commonality seems to be that Kehlhobel cut concave profiles.
7 This is the same mortise chisel that British and American cabinetmakers use. The form of mortise chisel "used by other woodworkers" Sprengel describes in the carpenter's chapter as ground on both sides of the blade.
8 The Stechbeutel is a more general use chisel with a bevel ground on one side. Sprengel describes it elsewhere as a wide chisel used to straighten out and clean up mortises that are cut with the Stemmeisen. It may equate closer with a firmer chisel according to other sources.
9 The Vermobrungseisen is evidently a specialized chisel peculiar to the chairmaker. The Grimm Brothers' Dictionary defines the verb vermohren as "used by chairmakers when the tenons are put into their mortises and united with one another." Their definition of Vermohrungseisen describes it as somewhat large like the Stemmeisen and used specifically to let in the tenons of the cross stretches of a chair.
10 The name Balleneisen Sprengel relates in the cabinetmaker text as due to the bahn or sole on one side of the blade which the cabinetmaker calls a ballen. Another explanation given by Adelung and the Grimm brothers in their dictionaries is that this chisel is driven with the ball (ballen) of the hand. In the cabinetmaker's chapter Sprengel distinguishes the Balleneisen from the Stechbeutel and describes it as a wide skew ground blade used to trim off wood, and clean up flat recessed areas. Other references equate the Balleneisen with a paring chisel. 
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