Every craftsman can tell you about their most precious tool. That one piece that is more special than everything else in their shop. They wouldn’t lose or trade it for anything. Just the thought of it disturbs them. And when it gets stolen or breaks down they feel sick for weeks.
For me it’s these set of old “Nooitgedagt” chisels. It’s old and doesn’t look impressive or shiny, but it is most dear to me, especially the long one in the front. My grandfather bought them over fifty years ago and used it extensively. Later his tools were passed on to my father. He gave them to me in the first year of lutherie school.
The chisels looked a mess, rusty and in desperate need of sharpening. At school my teacher immediately became enthusiastic. She told me this was a great find and helped me along to clean and grind them.
The long chisel was the first to be shaped. Afterwards my teacher pointed out a big mistake: I made the bevel to sharp and after honing it would soon be dull or even bend… But we decided that it was better to hone it instead of reshaping it again. After all I still had to get grips with sharpening.
So I went along and honed the chisel. Strangely it didn’t take much to get it sharp as a razor. Soon after it became my most used piece of equipment. I’ve used it on all my guitars, but also on other woodworking projects. The handle fits my hand perfectly, and when working it really feels like an extension of my hands. But that’s not what’s so enigmatic about this chisel.
Over the ten years I’ve had this chisel and used it on a daily basis. It has been honed countless times, but never needed to have an appointment with the grindstone.
The Dutch Nooitgedagt factory made everything a Dutch boy in the fifties needed: woodworking tools, ice skates and even wooden toys. Every woodworker in the Netherlands had at least some chisels, hand planes or a workbench. Unfortunately the factory went out of business soon after the turn of the century. The brandname was bought by another firm, but soon after they discontinued completely.
Occasionally you will find some new old stock chisels in some forgotten corner of a home depot shop. Sometimes you find them at flea markets. They always need some work, but it’s well worth the effort. When well cared for they will outlive you…
Over the years I have used a lot of different chisels, from cheap crap that was impossible to sharpen to the high end expensive models. But I haven’t found anything yet that works better for me than these old chisels.