Blue Spruce Toolworks Optima Chisels

Not sure when these became available (didn’t see an announcement) — anyway, if anyone is in the market for a new chisel, these might be worth considering:

(the Optima line is available in other styles — hopefully they’ll still be available when I retire and can justify splurging on a compleat new set of matching chisels to replace the Harlequin mismatched assortment I’ve acquired over the years)

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My only argument against these is that they are supposed to be paring chisels yet they are using A2 steel. Pairing chisels are pushed, not struck.

Nice that they have fully polished backs but again, I’m not sure if that is a solution is search of a problem. You are only registering right out at the business end where you need to have downward pressure to make the cuts. So if the back were a little hollow it doesn’t matter. If the back was convex, well, that is another story and they should be rejected.

A2 steel, in general, requires a higher bevel edge (>=30*) to maintain its edge without chipping. All has to do with the crystal sizes. Their text expressly calls out a primary bevel of 25* which is common but a further 5* (effecting cutting angle is now 30*) for edge retention.

A pairing chisel, traditionally, maintains a lower cutting bevel (<30* possibly even as low as 20*) to afford better slicing across the grain. O1 or W1 type steels take that lower bevel pretty well. As do some of the White and Blue steels used in Japanese designs. The powered metals are a whole bunch more voodoo and some of those formulas are also great if rather application specific (they are engineered materials after all).

A very quick scan of the description doesn’t turn up a length or measurement of the size of the lands but they do look both long and thin which are good features in a paring chisel. Ideally you want to be able to slightly flex the chisel as that can help get it into tight spaces.

Blue Spruce was bought by Woodpeckers a couple years ago. I thought Jeske made great stuff. Not sure how involved he was in the design and material selection on these chisels.

My opinions of tool design are wholly my own and based on a love for and use of a mix of vintage and modern (both the pedestrian and premium) brands. They are worth exactly spit. :slight_smile:


Excellent points — I was curious about the steel selection, but haven’t been keeping up w/ that sort of thing. I suspect that this is more buzzword compliant marketing from the Woodpeckers folks.

Which makes me treasure my “best cast steel” vintage pair of a paring and mortising chisel from James Swan Co. all the more.

p.s. for vintage stuff that is pre-sorted for the good vs. bad, check with Ed Lebetkin, Jim Bode, Patrick Leach or Jeff Clark. They won’t necessarily be the least expensive but they will be quality and they will help you find what you want.

There are several others but these are the first four that come to mind. And there are specialists, so it gets pretty crazy.


“best cast steel” – I’m still looking for one stamped “worst cast steel”. That will be a real collectors item!