Introduction: Masonry Chisels From Scrap Iron

About: Engineer by trade, amateur woodworker and author in the off-hours. Most commonly, I build flag boxes for retiring military members and occasionally gifts and furniture when the opportunities arise. Outside of …

This is a fairly simple one, but it did come in handy and serves as a good reminder to use what you already have available when in the midst of a project, and that the solution is not always to buy more tools.

As a woodworker, I've had innumerable opportunities to decide on alternate methods to complete projects, often when I was short on tools or time. I've had to branch out and do some construction lately and for that I'm woefully unprepared.

I had a stack of solid cinder blocks to use as weights at the bottom of some planters (that's a story for another 'ible) but they were a little on the large side and I needed to trim them down to fit. As much as I like brute force, I only have a 3 lb hammer at my disposal and the prospect of bashing a dozen blocks to bits did not sound like much fun.

The alternative would be to use a chisel to 'cleanly' split them into quarters, keeping the mess and effort to a minimum. I briefly contemplated: 1. going to buy a cheap masonry chisel, or 2. sacrificing an equally-cheap wood chisel since I've got a few of those.

Fortunately, I remembered I had a few lengths of 3/8" square iron bar stock left over from updating my stairs. Let's see if this works...

Step 1: Grinding Iron

I had already trimmed the iron bars to size with a Dremel and cutting disk, so I knew the material could be worked with. Selecting the longest length I had available, I set about slowly grinding two 45-degree bevels at the tip which left a 90-degree point.

Working slowly on this part kept the tip from overheating, turning colors, and ruining the internal strength of the iron. Alternatively, you could also adjust the bevel to one side like a traditional chisel if you need to trim material from the side of a block instead of split one in half.

Step 2: Testing!

*Warning... we're chiseling stone here. Wear safety glasses unless you want to see Norm Abram coming to beat you through your one good eye.*

Time to see if this works better than simply bludgeoning concrete into dust! Begin at one end of the block, place the chisel along your chosen patch, and drop 1-2 firm strikes at each position, enough to leave a 1/8-3/16" divot. Go the full length of the block, flip it to the back side and continue until the entire block splits along the scored line.

Success!... Maybe?... In any case, it was just the mod I needed to avoid another single-use tool taking up space around the bench. For those of us who are or have been students of limited means, don't be afraid to use what you have at your disposal in a creative way to accomplish a project!

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