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This strange-looking cold chisel has a flared profile that’s wider at the head and gets smaller as you go back. This allows you to make grooves, keyways, or slots without the chisel binding on the sides of the slot.

KD tools, one manufacturer among many, sells two sizes of cape chisels. The first cuts a 1/4″ slot and measures 5″ long with a 3/8″ hex shaft and the other cuts a 3/8″ slot and measures 6″ long with a 1/2″ hex shaft.

The 1/4″ chisel runs starts at $6 and the 3/8″ chisel starts at $10.

Cape Chisels [KD Tools]
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7 Responses to Get Out Of A Bind With A Cape Chisel

  1. fred says:

    We have 3 tool rolls of J.H. Williams brand specialty cold chisels that we inherited with one of our shops. Each style (Cape, Diamond-Point and Round-Nose) came in 4 sizes (width = 3/16, 1/4, 3/8 and 1/2). The cape chisels are marked with part numbers C40, C42, C44 and C46 respectively. The Diamond-Point chisels have the same sequence of part numbers starting with C60. The round-nose chisels are marked C72, C73, C74 and C75.

    No one in my shop has the skill to use these effectively so they sit and gather dust. I suspect that it takes more than a bit of training to cut a keyway with one of these. We’ll probably stick to our milling and broaching machinery – but ist nice to be reminded what a skilled old-time machinist could do with a hand tool.

  2. fred says:

    I just googled Williams cape chisels. It seems that they are still made:


    Maybe I knew this before – but the J.H. Williams site says that they are now part of Snap-On

  3. paganwonder says:

    The machine diminishes the man.

  4. Ronald Gurowitz says:

    I read a book years ago that was published in the 60’s I think and the author had gone to a Swedish steamship school in the 1920’s As part of their training they had to get two pieces of steel absolutely flat- with a file.

  5. Brau says:

    Sigh, I’ve had a few of these laying around for a while (couple decades!!). One got ground and modified for use as a SOHC valve seat depressor. Another I figured I might as well use it as a cold chisel to level up some rough concrete. Did a damn fine job at working around all the gravelly bits. Dare I say neither will ever cut wood again?

  6. JKB says:

    “I read a book years ago…”

    I believe your talking about “The Complete Modern Blacksmith” by Alexander G. Weygers. The book evolved from one published in the early 1970s. There is a chapter on flat filing that has exercises starting with achieving a flat surface. There is also an exercise where you use a cape chisel to cut a rough keyway and finish it with filing.

    Can’t say I’ve been successful in the exercises but my attempts have improved my use of the flat file in other work. It is humbling indeed to see what was accomplished with chisel and file once you appreciate the fineness of the skills required.

  7. dom says:

    Strange looking if you don’t also work stone with hammers and chisels that is.

    I love hand cape chisels. I cut slots similar to keyways with them manually on reclaimed stone, to mimic other old-time tooling marks that remain on the surface. You start in the middle and work toward the middle from both directions until the slot spreads out to desired depth and length, then you square the shoulders off. The old-time hand cape chisels for stone working have a ball-shaped striking head, for use with a wooden mallet.

    But just like with anything else today, if I had a hundred ‘functional’ slots to crank out in a day with newly-quarried stone that is going to be polished anyways, I’d plunge an angle grinder with a wheel that cuts on the edge as well as grinds, and square-off the shoulders with a pneumatic hammer and chisel.

    I understand. We lament the loss of old-time hand skills, and their associated tools. But in my case, if you zapped a stone cutter from the 1860s to today, he’d take one look at the electric angle grinders, saws, and pneumatic hammers we have and chuck his wooden tool box full of stuff we’d give our eye teeth for in favor of what we have. Then as now productivity ruled, and tools evolved accordingly.

    That getting a surface absolutely flat, and square to another absolutely-flat surface — that also was part of the journeyman’s test for stone cutters in the middle ages. Even the word itself, journeyman, as in getting your journeyman’s card in the trades, dates back to stone cutting. Local villages never had near enough stone cutters to build cathedrals, so most of the skilled labor journeyed in to wherever the work was.

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