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I am looking to purchase a couple chisels that will work well in the shale typically found in western New York. I have read several threads and have a general idea of the sizes that I’d need, but I wanted to be sure I got the right type of chisels. Should I get cold chisels or masonry/brick chisels? From what I’ve heard elsewhere online, hardware stores usually say that cold chisels are for metal but I’ve seen them recommended for fossils in several threads. Are either options okay to use? I’m mostly asking in terms of safety. 

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I think you'd be fine with a range of cold chisel sizes. Bigger ones for the bigger rocks, smaller ones for breaking them down a bit further. In terms of safety, get ones with hand guards; there is nothing quite as unpleasant as whacking your hand or wrist with a hammer! 

 

If you use them often, you'll notice that the tops begin to mushroom. Over time, some of the flared metal bits may fly off and could cause injury. You can extend the use of those chisels by using a grinder to remove that. 

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Cold chisels or masonry chisels will work for the types of rock you will be working on. 

The ones you really want to be careful of are wood chisels. Those have a tendency to break or splinter when used on anything other than wood.

I have used them successfully on soft shales, but would not use on hard limestones or dolostones.  

Wearing safety glasses minimizes any type of eye injury from flying metal or rock, but shards can go into skin anywhere. 

 

My biggest problem when working with chisels has been my extraordinarily large left thumb, which apparently has a bullseye on it. :P 

 

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7 minutes ago, Fossildude19 said:

 

My biggest problem when working with chisels has been my extraordinarily large left thumb, which apparently has a bullseye on it. :P 

 

Said thumb is world famous, and has been thusly immortalized in sculpture: 

big-thumb-statue.jpg

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29 minutes ago, Kane said:

Said thumb is world famous, and has been thusly immortalized in sculpture: 

big-thumb-statue.jpg

 

 

:P 

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Thumb on my dad's left hand always seemed to resemble a nail head.. at least to the hammer.

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The one inch Stanley with the yellow hand guard is my main chisel

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I have one long Master Mechanic cold chisel. a file will barely scratch it. I also bought new DASCO chisels from Home Depot at the clerks suggestion. Say's for  masonry? Trying to crack hard Geodes the V sharp edge flattens out. Same file re-forms the edge easy. Nice that they have the large hand guard on them. May try heating the end of one to red hot and quenching in oil, to see if they will get harder? For shale and softer stones they may be fine. 

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My personal favorite chisel for splitting shale is a 12" long piece of 1/8" thick 2" wide tool steel bar stock (O1, D2,1080 or 5160...etc.). One end is ground to a "V" shape about as steep as an axe, heated to non-magnetic and quenched in oil. This gives a very hard tip with the rest of it soft. I find the wide bar VERY easy to hit and since it is 12" long, I don't have to put my hand near the hammering side.

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Thanks for all of the great suggestions, this definitely helps point me in the right direction of which chisels to look at. I’ll definitely invest in a hand guard as well. 

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Sagebrush Steve

Not sure about the New York shales but for fossil hunting out West at places like the Green River or Wheeler Shale I find these thin chisels from Geo-Tools to be indispensable:

 

http://www.geo-tools.com/fossil-rock-chisels/custom-thin-rock-splitting-chisels

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8 hours ago, Sagebrush Steve said:

Not sure about the New York shales but for fossil hunting out West at places like the Green River or Wheeler Shale I find these thin chisels from Geo-Tools to be indispensable:

 

http://www.geo-tools.com/fossil-rock-chisels/custom-thin-rock-splitting-chisels

Steve, 

I've always wanted some of these - do you have suggestions as to which sizes are most helpful? 

Thanks, in advance. 

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Sagebrush Steve
13 hours ago, Sagebrush Steve said:

Not sure about the New York shales but for fossil hunting out West at places like the Green River or Wheeler Shale I find these thin chisels from Geo-Tools to be indispensable:

 

http://www.geo-tools.com/fossil-rock-chisels/custom-thin-rock-splitting-chisels

 

4 hours ago, Fossildude19 said:

Steve, 

I've always wanted some of these - do you have suggestions as to which sizes are most helpful? 

Thanks, in advance. 

I have the 9”x1”x1/16” with a single bevel and the 8”x1”x1/8” with a double bevel.  I really like the thin chisel with the single bevel for final splitting of smaller pieces of shale up to a foot or two across (30-60 cm for those of you outside the US).  Hold it with the flat side on the side of the shale you want to preserve and the other side will just fall away as you strike the chisel.  The thicker chisel with the double bevel is better for initial splitting of larger pieces.  At the American Fossil Quarry they loan you the much larger chisel, I think it is the 12”x1-1/2”x1/8” chisel.  It is good for general purpose work but I switched to my smaller ones for final splitting.

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Its so much easier to just make your own. This way you can make them to fit your needs. I use 1095 or 5160 high carbon steel and only heat treat the working end and thermal cycle the heads. This keeps them soft enough so they wont shatter. 

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On 10/18/2018 at 2:16 PM, Ptychodus04 said:

My personal favorite chisel for splitting shale is a 12" long piece of 1/8" thick 2" wide tool steel bar stock (O1, D2,1080 or 5160...etc.). One end is ground to a "V" shape about as steep as an axe, heated to non-magnetic and quenched in oil. This gives a very hard tip with the rest of it soft. I find the wide bar VERY easy to hit and since it is 12" long, I don't have to put my hand near the hammering side.

Didnt see your post. Apparently great minds think alike...lol

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21 minutes ago, Raggedy Man said:

Its so much easier to just make your own. This way you can make them to fit your needs. I use 1095 or 5160 high carbon steel and only heat treat the working end and thermal cycle the heads. This keeps them soft enough so they wont shatter. 

Unless you aren't handy. :blush:

Then it's easier to buy.  :P 

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2 hours ago, Raggedy Man said:

Didnt see your post. Apparently great minds think alike...lol

:fistbump: My personal favorite is O1. 

 

2 hours ago, Fossildude19 said:

Unless you aren't handy. :blush:

Then it's easier to buy.  :P 

I’m glad I’m handy (mostly) and have most of the tools needed to make stuff. :D Speaking of making stuff, it’s finally a comfortable temp to start forging again!

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1 hour ago, Ptychodus04 said:

:fistbump: My personal favorite is O1. 

 

I’m glad I’m handy (mostly) and have most of the tools needed to make stuff. :D Speaking of making stuff, it’s finally a comfortable temp to start forging again!

Yeah its very forgiving...lol

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 What you really need is the,,,,,,,,,,,,,   Famous 'RB All By Itself Wonder Chisle'!!!   I just show up at a fossil site, leave my 'Famous RB All By Itself Wonder Chisle'  near a good spot, go have a cheeseburger in town, come back and WaaaaaaLaaaaaa.  Fossils everywhere.  I just load up the truck and go home and prep.  :)    

  Wouldn't that be super!!! 

 

RB

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2 hours ago, RJB said:

 What you really need is the,,,,,,,,,,,,,   Famous 'RB All By Itself Wonder Chisle'!!!   I just show up at a fossil site, leave my 'Famous RB All By Itself Wonder Chisle'  near a good spot, go have a cheeseburger in town, come back and WaaaaaaLaaaaaa.  Fossils everywhere.  I just load up the truck and go home and prep.  :)    

  Wouldn't that be super!!! 

 

RB

I show up, lay it down and end up losing it :)

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12 hours ago, Walt said:

I show up, lay it down and end up losing it

To be honest, ive lost quite a few chisles in the past.

 

RB

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On 11/3/2018 at 4:28 PM, RJB said:

 What you really need is the,,,,,,,,,,,,,   Famous 'RB All By Itself Wonder Chisle'!!!   I just show up at a fossil site, leave my 'Famous RB All By Itself Wonder Chisle'  near a good spot, go have a cheeseburger in town, come back and WaaaaaaLaaaaaa.  Fossils everywhere.  I just load up the truck and go home and prep.  :)    

  Wouldn't that be super!!! 

 

RB

Your sons? Lol

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On 10/30/2018 at 7:58 PM, Sagebrush Steve said:

Not sure about the New York shales but for fossil hunting out West at places like the Green River or Wheeler Shale I find these thin chisels from Geo-Tools to be indispensable:

 

http://www.geo-tools.com/fossil-rock-chisels/custom-thin-rock-splitting-chisels

I have not worked in NY state much, but I think these fish chisels, as we call them, are too soft for some of the harder NY rocks.  

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