Product Review: Robert Sorby Timber Framing Chisel in Two Inch Width


Truthfully, I’d never heard of a timber framing chisel, let alone a man named Robert Sorby. Product reviews weren’t on my mind, either; I just needed to figure out how to make my redheaded wife happy. She’d put up with me ignoring the problem for years. That’s long enough, right?

See, the thing is, I really should have fixed the blasted thing a long time ago. Our “back porch” really isn’t much of a porch–doesn’t access the rest of the home or anything, just serves as shelter for our propane fueled hot water tank plus a bunch of tools and random building supplies occupying corner shelves. Within months after the structure was first completed, the concrete slab floor cracked cleanly in half. No excuses; the only thing I can figure is that the soil was not exactly ready to have all that fresh concrete plunked down on top of it. We have moles around here; maybe there was an extensive network of mole tunnels in that area. At any rate, the storage shed/porch settled unevenly, putting a wee bit of a warp in the doorframe.

Net result: A door that wouldn’t quite close all the way, hanging up at the upper latch-side corner.

So, what to do about it? Normally, I’d just shave down the door a little and that would be that…but this door is metal clad. Shaving it down wasn’t really an option.

So I procrastinated until one day when Pam became a little more assertive than usual. We’d seen a couple of guys in the area we didn’t trust a whole lot, our part time hired hand even having a confrontation with one of them when the trespasser boldly strode across our property toward our storage sheds.

“Amp your paranoia a little, not being able to lock that door?”

“You know it does,” she replied firmly.

“All righty, then. I’ll get it fixed.”

At first–the reason for my lengthy procrastination–I’d been thinking that the only way to get at that framing to shave it down would be to remove the frame entirely. That wouldn’t be any picnic. But with Pam’s little push, my thinking cap replaced my dunce cap. I started looking around on Amazon for a tool that would let me shave wood on an inside corner where a wood plane couldn’t go. How much wood can a wood plane plane when a wood plane can’t plane wood?

Enter the timber framing chisel. As soon as I read the term, the answer was obvious. I’d need one in at least a two inch width, enough to handle the inch-plus of framing into which the door fits when closed. There were others available, but the Robert Sorby version–costing mere pennies less than eighty-five smackeroos–kept calling to me. In the end, I gulped hard, got out my card, and bought the beast.

And a beast it is, two-point-four pounds according to the Amazon listing. In the hand, it feels like a bit more than that.

The 2" wide Robert Sorby timber framing chisel is a real beast, listed at two-point-four pounds on Amazon but feeling like even more in the hand.

The 2″ wide Robert Sorby timber framing chisel is a real beast, listed at two-point-four pounds on Amazon but feeling like even more in the hand.

After a bit of experimentation, it became clear that for me at least, working the wood with the beveled side of the chisel blade down against it–the opposite of the way a standard wood plane blade does it–provided by far the best control. Like a plane, the timber framing tool is designed to be pushed, though a mallet can be used if necessary. There was no need for that on the simple door frame shaving job; the blade sliced through cleanly with the push technique, even when shaving down a knot. In fact, the control was so precise, as well as being instantly adjustable by simply shifting the angle of attack, that it was possible to take anything from a deep bite of wood to a layer as thin as a coat of paint. Anyone who’s ever used a plane knows about those pretty wood shaving curls, too, and the chisel rolled those out beautifully.

Color me impressed.

Shaving a section of doorframe wood with the Robert Sorby timber framing chisel.

Shaving a section of doorframe wood with the Robert Sorby timber framing chisel.

A wood curl as clean as if cut with a wood plane, removed freehand with a Robert Sorby timber framing chisel.

A wood curl as clean as if cut with a wood plane, removed freehand with a Robert Sorby timber framing chisel.

Pam watched while I worked, at least part of the time. When it came to the overhead portion, a great producer of lactic acid because of the position, she remarked, “Slow and tedious work.” I agreed–not because I agreed, mind you, but because any time a wife believes her husband is truly busting his tail to fix things the way she wants them fixed, he’d be a fool to argue the point.

It really wasn’t all that tedious.

True, the big chisel is twenty inches long, which made for tricky maneuvering across part of the width of the thirty-two inch doorway, but I was taking my time, making shallow cuts and “lifting out” frequently so that no stroke traveled more than an inch or two. It made me look good, though. I’ll take it.

All in all, the entire job couldn’t have taken more than thirty minutes at the most. The shave-down was pretty uniform in depth, varying by no more than 1/64th of an inch or so. For a first time application of the oversized chisel on an inside corner that included a foot or so of overhead work, the end result was little short of amazing. I’ll take ten percent of the credit for that, but ninety percent belongs to the excellent tool steel by Robert Sorby.

The end result looks surprisingly good.

The end result looks surprisingly good.

Yep!  The door now closes like it should!

Yep! The door now closes like it should!

Obviously, I have to give the two inch timber framing chisel by Robert Sorby a full FIVE STAR rating.

At least one reviewer on Amazon mentioned “fine tuning” the edge of the tool, but it would take a better man than me to improve on the edge that came right out of the box. I can think of only one drawback. Working with the two inch chisel has triggered a serious craving to own the entire Robert Sorby set, ranging from one inch to three and a half inches in width…and the budget doesn’t agree with me at the moment.

6 thoughts on “Product Review: Robert Sorby Timber Framing Chisel in Two Inch Width

  1. Beautiful work. I like the thought of doors that close properly. I have to get a bit nasty with one of my sons and get them to fix the bottom hinge on the back door now. It is getting pretty hard to get it to stay closed properly. The hinge seems to have lost the pin and the dog can push on it and get it open if it is not closed right. Wouldn’t be so bad if he would learn how to close it too.

  2. Thanks. On your “dog opener” door, it shouldn’t be too hard to find a hinge pin to replace the missing pin. There are certainly plenty of discarded hinges around…somewhere. I’ve seen pins work up out of hinges before, but never so far that it escaped completely before I noticed it and tapped it back into place. Dog should be able to learn to close it, too, though. He seems smart enough!

  3. As to his brains, he alternates between genius and moron every second. He may improve as he matures. Yesterday, he put his feet up on the counter, right in front of me. Really stupid move there.
    I will have Rodger look around over at his place for one. He lives in an area with a bunch of condemned mobiles and will probably be able to find one around there.

  4. Yeah, I would think Rodger’s neighborhood (as described) would be an excellent hunting ground for something like that.

    When I got the doorframe trimmed, I found out I had to hunt for something, too: A new deadbolt lock. Misplaced (or accidentally discarded) the key for the existing one, nor did Pam have a copy on her rings.

    Alternating between genius and moron sounds a lot like the very definition of a young dog, does it not? Or is that a young human male I’m thinking of…?

  5. I love consumer reviews. Before I buy anything or hire a service, I check reviews, but only those (such as this) that are left outside of the product/service’s website. It’s real reviews by real users that I look for. I don’t need a chisel (at least not at the moment), but you’ve done a great service to DIYers, Ghost.

  6. Thanks, Sha. I read a lot of the reviews at Amazon, which tend to provide a good deal of information–if the product has been reviewed at all. But these full page layouts, complete with pictures, do add another dimension. We’ve gotten more comments on two reviews in particular, namely Clear Choice dental implants and Perricone SubD neck cream (the latter being a scam in my opinion) than on all of the other reviews put together.

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