As we mentioned in a previous blog post about the oval skew chisel, woodcarvers generally have strong opinions about the skew chisel. Some praise it as a tool that’s versatile, efficient, and capable of producing an excellent finish that requires minimal sanding. Carvers who learn to use a skew chisel well use it often for all types of turned projects.
Others insist that a skew chisel is so hard to use that it just isn’t worth the effort to learn. They complain that the tool runs back or digs in easily; a split-second dig-in can ruin a piece. These folks argue that a skew chisel isn’t worth much--except perhaps as a can opener.
Alan Lacer is a seasoned woodturner and carver who has mastered the use of the skew chisel. He teaches classes, writes books, and produces YouTube videos that demonstrate the value of the much-maligned skew chisel. In his own carvings, Alan relies on the skew chisel as his favorite “go-to” tool for everything from roughing, peeling, and planing to V-cuts and pommel cuts. In addition, he uses a skew chisel to create a variety of turned pieces, including his signature ornate lidded boxes to fishing lures, handles, and pepper mills.
After years of using various shapes and sizes of skew chisels, Alan tweaked the traditional skew chisel design a bit to create a line of high-end curved skew chisels that bear his name.
With that as a backdrop, this article provides details you should know about the Lacer skew chisel.
The Lacer Skew Chisel Design
The Lacer skew chisel has a unique cutting edge that starts out straight then breaks into a curve. This shape reaps the advantages of an oval skew or a round skew and a traditional rectangular skew chisel. The Lacer skew is also fully-rounded from the heel (short point) to the ferrule. This shape makes the Lacer skew glide and roll easily, even for more difficult cuts like pommel cuts and rolling cuts.
Lacer skew chisels are fashioned from high-speed steel durable enough to handle hardwoods yet easy to use with softwoods. Alan uses his Lacer skew chisels on projects as small as micro-miniatures and as large as porch columns.
Lacer Skew Chisel Options
There are now 2 lines of Lacer skew chisels. The original Lacer skew chisel comes in two widths--⅝” and 1 ⅜”. It is manufactured in Sheffield, England, by Hamlet Craft Tools and is marketed as the Hamlet line. The Uber/Ultimate line of Lacer skew chisels is made in America. Alan sharpens them himself and guarantees that they are “nasty sharp” and ready to use when you purchase them.
Advantages and Disadvantages of the Laser Skew Chisel
The advantages of the Lacer skew chisel include:
- They are made of quality M2 high-speed steel
- They arrive already sharpened and ready to use.
- They sharpen easily.
The big disadvantage of the Lacer skew chisel is the price.
In the Hamlet line, the ⅝” model retails for $99; the 1⅜” chisel costs $134. The Uber Ultimate chisels are even more pricey. The narrow Uber chisel costs $178, and the wider chisel runs $240.
Purchasing even the smaller Hamlet Lacer skew chisel represents a significant investment, especially for a tool that many find difficult to use and even harder to master. Several manufacturers offer a complete set of wood carving tools in the same price range. For example, the Schaaf 12-piece Foundation Set contains a rectangular skew and 11 other full-size carving tools; it retails for $98.
Professional woodturners may benefit from the quality and resilience of a Lacer skew chisel. However, beginning carvers would likely be better served by purchasing a set of tools and learning to use each one. If they find an affinity with the skew chisel and want to focus on turned projects, then investing in a Lacer skew chisel would be sensible.
The Lacer skew chisel is a variation of the standard skew carving chisel. It was developed by master woodturner Alan Lacer. The distinctive feature of the Lacer skew chisel is its cutting edge, which starts out straight and then curves. Lacer skew chisels are made from high-speed steel and come pre-sharpened and ready to use. The single noticeable drawback of these tools is their price.