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There comes a time when you realize that using your regular chisels on large timbers is a fruitless endeavor. While a 1″ blade might cut a notch in 4×8 timber in a few hours, you might as well try to cut down a redwood with a dovetail saw — although you probably wouldn’t get very far before the park rangers detained you anyway.

Slicks, on the other hand, are made for the task of framing with large wood. One of the largest types of chisel, the slick’s wide blade with the long flat back makes quicker work of large notches. Not meant to be struck, the slick’s long handle gives you the leverage to shear curls of wood with just the motion of your body and arms.

These aren’t tools you’re likely to find at the big box, or even the local hardware store, but two more mainstream suppliers carry them: Lee Valley and WoodCraft. Lee Valley sells a slick with a 3-3/8″ wide blade and a 14″ white ash handle that makes for a 30″ long tool. WoodCraft’s slick has a 2-5/8″ wide blade that’s hand forged.

Lee Valley’s log builder’s slick comes with a magnetic tip guard and will slice $120 from your tool budget, while Woodcraft’s timber framers slick will shave $170 from your wallet.

Log Builder’s Slick [Lee Valley]
Timber Framer’s Slick [WoodCraft]

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11 Responses to That’s One Slick Chisel!

  1. Bajajoaquin says:

    A big f—– chisel? Why didn’t you put the “It’s just cool” tag on it?

  2. Cameron Watt says:

    I only know of slicks being used for cleanup and would never cut a notch with one….but I only played at being a timber framer.

  3. @Cameron Watt:

    You may very well be right about being used for cleanup, that would make more sense, since you can’t strike it. Having never used one myself, and not finding much information about them I had to guess on their use.

    Although, cleaning up a large notch probably takes about as long as cutting it in the first place and a large flat blade will give you a more even notch.

  4. Rick says:

    That’s not a chisel… THAT’S A CHISEL!

    x2 on the “It’s just cool” tag.. (^_^)

  5. fred says:

    We have a few tools to deal with large timbers – like a Makita 16-15/16 inch Circular and a Hema Chain Beam saw,a big, Makita planer and a bigger one from Maffell and, a Makita wheel sander. We don’t get into traditional timber framing – but for mortise and tenon cutting there are tools from Protool, Maffell and Hema that can do some of the grunt work. Here is one source:


  6. JKB says:

    Slicks are for clean up being designed for plane mode of shaving off rather than cutting into fibers. Cut with the framing chisel then clean up with the slick. Although not a long, an 1 1/2″ framing chisel from Barr Tools will have you saying, “Now that’s a chisel”

  7. Ross says:

    Slicks like this tool were also commonly used in ship building.

  8. Topgun says:

    Woah, where was this beauty when I was building post and beam homes in the early 80’s?? The only drawback I can see is how in hell do you carry it on your tool belt?! Maybe a custom shoulder holster or tanker’s rig? 🙂

  9. Gary says:

    I have an old Greenlee slick I picked up for 5 bucks. Only time I’ve used it is when I helped a friend build a workbench. It worked great for paring the large mortises.

  10. Gary says:

    Forgot to add.

    I did get to try out a friend’s Barr chisels. Those are very nice tools. Spendy, but how many lifetimes would it take to wear out a slick?

  11. Ray says:

    I have reworked 3 slicks. All were sharpened and will shave hair. They cut wood like a plane would if sharpened correctly. The last one i have finished is on ebay Now! It has a sweet handmade Black Walnut handle. It measures 36″ oa. It looks great and cuts even better. Take a look and tell me what you think. 419woodbutcher on ebay…

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