The Dominys struck these chisels with a mallet to cut or shape wood, stone, and metal. Firming chisels were the first chisels used by woodworkers in cutting away superfluous wood. Split and broken handles are evidence of their abuse by later generations of Dominys who probably used hammers instead of mallets to strike the handle ends. That abuse resulted in short lifetimes for many Dominy chisels when coupled with natural attrition; most eighteenth-century chisel blades were formed of a thin layer of steel heat-welded to iron, and the layer frequently had to be replaced.
The Dominys sometimes converted chisels for a special purpose. They may have been used for carving gunstocks or for finishing fluted decoration on cabinetwork. Another chisel (left) was fashioned by Nathaniel Dominy IV from a 17th century sword.
Turning chisel. Nathaniel Dominy IV (Maker), 1760-1800. Maple, soft; Horn; Steel; Brass. 1/2" (W), 14" (L). Inscription; Shaft; Inlaid in brass "ANNO." Inscription; Shaft; Inlaid in brass "1660." Museum purchase with funds provided by Henry Belin du Pont, 1957.0026.119
Mortise chisels cut rectangular holes into which tenons were fitted, as where a rail might join the top part of a leg on a case piece of furniture or chair.The shape of its blade enabled fairly straight, deep incisions to be made in softwoods and in hardwoods previously bored.
Mortise chisel, Dominy Family (Probable maker), 1800-1840. 0.7 (H) , 4.4 (L) , 1 (W). Museum purchase with funds provided by Henry Belin du Pont, 1957.0026.063
Socket chisels were heavy-duty firming and mortising chisels useful to the carpenter rather than the cabinetmaker. These were efficient in preparing mortise holes for beams in houses and mills.
Socket chisel, 1790-1850. Wood; Iron; Hickory; Steel. 1.7" (H) , 13.3" (L) , 2" (W). There is a mark stamped incuse "W.L.JONES" on the blade. Museum purchase with funds provided by Henry Belin du Pont, 1957.0026.250
Turning chisels were vital in lathe work and were utilized after initial rough shaping by a gouge. They smoothed irregularities left by the gouge and reduced the whirling surface of the stock to a uniform size.
Turning chisel, Nathaniel Dominy IV (Maker), East Hampton, New York, 1770-1810. Wood; Hickory. 16.1" (L) , 1.3" (Diam). Museum purchase with funds provided by Henry Belin du Pont, 1957.0026.413