© Richard Nissen 2019. Created by Tree Duck Design

What do we have?


A slick






This is a gigantic chisel and is stamped with his name.  It is used to cut tennons and mortises in big pieces of timber.


This is the perfect tool for fashioning large pieces of timber such as whole trees in order to make things such as the largest overshot water wheels in Colorado in the 1860sSee:



The picture here shows Georg Nissen’s slick which has needed a new handle (as the old one rotted) . This as made in 2015 by Richard Nissen out of an old baseball bat.  The method was suggested from a blog on Google.  Note the use of a socket to hold the handle. Also see:

This U tube video on how use a slick – preparing a rived board: 



His Adze







This tool is most often associated with Shipbuilding and Georg Nissen probably learnt how to use it in the ship yards of his home in Norway.


As you can see an adze is an axe with a head perpendicular to the handle which is used to pare wood any shape it.  It can be used very finely.


Look at this U tube video as it shows exactly the sequence of cutting a tree and making a beam (just as Georg Nissen would have done but without a chain saw! ) The video shows the use of the Adze: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MY53Y8EqdFA#









Different chisels do different jobs:


Chisel                       ½”  This a double bevel chisel


Chisel                       1”   This is skewed double bevel chisel


Chisel                       1 11/16”  really battered by being hit with a hammer


These chisels are never driven by a mallet or hammer but always kept really sharp and used to clean up waste wood in things like mortises.


It is interesting that the ½” and 1” chisels are double bevelled which is not normal. Double

bevelled chisels are usually used for paring and carving.  Could this be part of Georg’s tool set coming from his pattern making?


His big 1 1/11/16” (44mm) chisel looks as if it was often driven with a very battered handle


1 11/16"

Mortise Chisel             5/8”


Mortise chisels are very much sturdier with a thick blade.  They are designed to be driven by a mallet and is used to cut out mortises (deep holes in timber).  Typically mortise chisels are used to cut out the wood on a door frames to take a lock.  The blade of this chisel ends in a socket which takes the wooden handle which is reinforced by a copper ring at the  top of the chisel to take the pounding of the mallet (wooden hammer)


There are two gauge chisels:

Gauge chisel  ¼”

Gouge chisel   ¾”


Gouge chisels are rounded and are used to gouge out wood rather like a spoon.


Auger and handle

The auger is used to drive a screwed bit by turning the screw.  The handle is too small and it looks as if the end has sheered off.  Usually these were double handed, but this is one sided.


The bit is 1 ½” wide and 18” long.  This would have been used for making deep holes in construction lumber which would have enabled pegs and or cut out waste wood to make a mortise.


Brace and bits

Georg Nissen’s chest does not include a brace but he would have had one and as these have not changed over time , it is likely that this was used by later generations and has left the box.  I have photographed a typical one.  This brace takes bits with square ends and is used like the auger.  You twist the handle and it drives the bit. 


The ¾” bit in the box is very long 22.5 ins  which suggests that it too was used to bore long holes in lumber for pins to pin pieces of structural timber together or insert wires


The other bit is a tapered reamer that cuts a tapered hole to make tapered mortises such as the legs under a Windsor chair.  Barrel makers (coopers) use them to make the hole for the bung.


Drill and marking tools


In the middle of the 19th century ordinary drills with fine bits did not exist and screws were rare and expensive to make and were often made by hand.  Things were pinned using nails.


Georg Nissen’s Archimedes threaded drill has a standard chuck which can take small needle like bits.  I suspect he used this drill to make holes in thin wood so that when nailing he did not split the wood.  To use it you move the wooden piece in the middle up and down which turns the screw head.


The set square is stamped with his name G.NISSEN and was used by my father and myself.  It is used to mark right angles in wood to set up lines to cut a piece of wood.


The mortise gauge is very fine made of a brass barrel with box wood stops and brass adjusting screws.  The way this is used enables one to set up a mortise slot (in the centre) of a piece of timber in order to cut the mortise the right size.


The other end is used a simple marking gauge for marking  depth lines  on a piece of timber, usually to plane down to.


The fact that this has a screwed adjustment makes it very easy to use and set.