Putting it charitably, my masonry skills are pretty rudimentary. I can build or repair a small cinder block wall, if you’re not too fussy about little details like having it straight and plumb. Usually, though, if I have a project where masonry skills are required, I call in someone who actually HAS masonry skills. Not only does this increase the probability of having a better finished product, it also makes it less likely the project will end with smashed fingers and a torrent of foul language. Sometimes, though, I still find myself with chisel in hand, doing a job that requires minimal skills, and that needs to be done NOW. After becoming exasperated (and moderately injured) during one such job recently, my son clued me in to the existence of cold chisels with hand guards. Who knew?!
My lack of mason’s skills is accompanied by a corresponding lack of mason’s tools. I have a few trowels, an edger, a mason’s hammer, and a few small cold chisels in my collection. After wasting a fair bit of time – and, okay, smacking my hand once – I heeded my son’s advice, and went on a chisel-hunting expedition to the local home center.
The Colorful World Of Cold Chisels With Hand Guards
After getting sidetracked once or twice – hey, it’s the tool section, after all – I tracked down the chisel area. There were several cold chisels with hand guards to choose from, in various widths from about ½” up. Although Stanley and other brands make similar chisels, my local Home Depot stocked only the Mayhew brand, which appeared to be very solidly made. Since I’m all in favor of the “full speed ahead” method where finesse isn’t called for, I grabbed the widest chisel on the shelf, a 3-1/2” Guardian Handguard cold chisel.
In addition to its wide blade, the Guardian had a decent-sized beefy plastic handle. I have large hands, and the chisel fit comfortably. It also had the feature common to cold chisels with hand guards: A protective shield at the top, aka the hand guard. Molded into the top of the handle, it protects your fingers, and the webbing of your hand, from inadvertent whacks from your two-pound sledge.
One other helpful feature is its color; It’s ORANGE. This is a great bonus for feeble-minded, near sighted old codgers such as myself. Bright colors like orange or yellow, aside from their stylish fashion component, help make cold chisels with hand guards easier to spot on disorganized work sites. It may even keep me from losing it – as often.
Thick As A Brick
Unlike masonry work, demo is definitely in my skill set. I can tear down pretty much anything. On the project in question, though, I had to remove a bunch of brick facing from a wall and a brick fireplace. Whoever put those suckers up was pretty determined they would NEVER come off; they were very solidly attached with the stickiest mortar mix on the planet. Too bad they hadn’t used the same determination and quality materials while building the REST of this particular house.
I had started out with one of my pathetically-undersized cold chisels. The blade was sharp, and the bricks were coming off, but they were doing so in multiple small pieces. They were also coming off painfully slowly, much like members of Congress shoring up Social Security, or 90-year-olds driving in the fast lane. It was after smacking my finger while attacking one of these bricks that I went to secure the larger chisel.
As is usually the case, having the right tool for the job made a HUGE difference. Not only was the 3-1/2” blade able to take off much more material with each smack than the ¾” chisel I’d been using, but the handle made the tool much easier to hold and use. On top of that, I gained the most important benefit that cold chisels with hand guards provide: protection from myself. While working at the faster pace, I did smack the top of the guard once. Possibly twice.
Like Your Fingers? Check Out Cold Chisels With Hand Guards
In the world of specialty hand tools, there are probably plenty of tools more glamorous than cold chisels with hand guards. For anyone working with brick, stone, or block, or doing any kind of masonry work, though, glamour probably isn’t as much a priority as working safely. In my case, the twelve bucks I spent on the Guardian Handguard chisel was money very well spent. It probably won’t do much to improve my pathetic mason’s skills, but it greatly increases the odds I’ll end the day without an ice pack on my hand. Want to protect your own digits? Check out the links below, or do an online search for “cold chisels with hand guards.”
Buy the Guardian Handguard 3-1/2″ chisel from the Home Depot:
Check out assorted Guardian Handguard chisels at the home Depot:
Buy the Stanley FatMax 4″ hand guard chisel from Amazon: