Chisel – Long Lost Brother

Tool owner stamps always intrigue me.  When I pick up one of my  old wood planes and  look at the layers of old owner stamps on them, I wonder who they were and what they did.  Were they carpenters, or just hobbyists?  Did they pass them on to their children? Did they save up for months to buy it? Too often these questions are un-answerable.

For years I have had some chisels  that came from my Dad and came to him through my grandfather.  Three of them had the initials “SLW” stamped in them.  I assumed, since the initials are similar to mine, that they must have been from some other family member farther down the family tree.  Several years ago I tried to match them to the family tree but could not find any member of the family that would have had those initials.

Tool owner stamps on chisels

Tool owner stamps always intrigue me

I asked my father if he knew what the initials meant, he suggested that they must have belonged to Steve Willet.  Steve Willet (sp?) was a carpenter who lived in the house behind theirs in Canaseraga NY, when my father was a young boy in the early 1940’s.  He apparently was a good friend of my grandfather’s and built a garage onto their family home.  My father tells a story of Steve Willet being a guy who watched my dad as a young lad struggling to make an “arrow” for a makeshift bow.  This experienced carpenter walked over to a lilac tree and cut a few shoots, then quickly fashioned them into useable arrows with his pocket-knife.

Carpenter in your back yard

Steve Willet in the background to the left, with one of my uncles sitting in front of the lilac tree that produced the wood for boyhood arrows.

Searching through some family photos, my uncle managed to find a photo of this helpful family friend and carpenter.  So now I have a connection to the chisels that I use often and a bit of family history is preserved.  Apparently when Steve Willet passed away, my grandfather either bought or was given some of his tools.

Recently while I was in Florida, going through some old tools that came from my grandfather’s winter home (see Old Tools Passed On),  I came across another chisel.  A 1-inch wide beveled edge socket chisel with the initials SLW stamped on the face.  A long lost brother to the chisels I already had.  This made me smile.   Then I looked at the handle on it!!!

chisel handle abuse

Someone in my family did this? Unthinkable!

The handle on this chisel looked like somebody hit it with a sledge hammer…repeatedly.  It was cracked three ways along the length and mushroomed in all directions (yes I know the socket chisel in the background suffered even a worse fate).   I can not fathom that my Grandfather or my father would have treated a chisel this way.  In my mind this could only have been done by some “damned fool” my grandfather lent  the chisel to.  My grandfather called anyone doing something foolish, a “damned fool.”  I promptly got rid of the broken handle and plan to make a new handle for it soon following the pattern that I used in my other chisel handles.  So, in my mind, this little bit of handle smashing history never happened.  😉

I already have a vintage Stanley 750 1″ wide beveled edge chisel, but it came from a collectable shop. This newly found chisel is a bit longer and heavier than the Stanley and has “DASCO” stamped as the maker’s mark.  I know very little of this company, but I can tell from recent work flattening and grinding this chisel that the steel is at least as hard as the Stanley and perhaps harder.  Given that this chisel has some family history, it will be the chisel I reach for when I need a one inch chisel.

Assorted chisels

SLW chisels together again.

Welcome home brother chisel.  Join the ranks with your 1/8″ mortise chisel,  1-1/2″ Buck Bros butt chisel,  and 1/2″ PS&W firmer chisel.  It is funny how these four chisels represent the different styles and talents of chisels.  A good metaphor for family.

DASCO Chisel Related Info

  • I do not believe that Dasco is the same company that now makes masonry chisel s,  cold chisel s and other tools under the name of Dasco Pro Inc.  The startup date for that company was 1967.  This chisel is at least several decades older than that.

Reader's Comments »

  1. By Uncle Kenny on January 28, 2011 at 6:15 pm

    Hi Nephew Steve,
    You really created a master-piece with this presentation of the re-united “four chisel family”. I really enjoyed it and will pass it on to some relatives and friends. ..
    Congratulations on a great job!! Love,Uncle Kenny