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Thread: Bench chisels?

  1. #1
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    Bench chisels?

    The current chisels I am using I bought over 30 years ago in a hardware store in a Chicago suburb. I'm in the market for a new set of bench chisels. I can't justify a really expensive set but would like to have some reasonable quality chisels. I'm not a hand tool expert so I'd like some opinions on a reasonable quality set of chisels that won't break the bank.

    Thanks in advance for your opinion!
    Ken

  2. #2
    A lot of people like the Narex chisels. I had a set and found that they were decent steel but the handles were too big. If you go with inexpensive chisels, the steel will likely be about the same as your hardware store chisels.

    Mike
    Go into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good.

  3. #3
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    Many years ago, I purchased a set of German chisels. Good steel and hold an edge well.

    But what I noticed over the years, is that I seem to utilize 2 or 3 chisels much more than others and one or two I have never used. If I was in the market for a "set" of chisels, I would give some thought as to which sizes I utilized the most and buy really good chisels in those sizes.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Ray Newman View Post
    Many years ago, I purchased a set of German chisels. Good steel and hold an edge well.

    But what I noticed over the years, is that I seem to utilize 2 or 3 chisels much more than others and one or two I have never used. If I was in the market for a "set" of chisels, I would give some thought as to which sizes I utilized the most and buy really good chisels in those sizes.
    I would second Ray's comment. The LV PM-V11 chisels are about as good as you can find anywhere. Just buy one or two in the sizes you use most.

    Mike
    Go into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good.

  5. #5
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    Ken, not sure what reasonably priced is for you, but if you’re looking in the $30-$35/chisel range (vs. $70+), consider either Ashley Isles or Two Cherries. I have the AI butt chisels and the Two Cherries bench chisels. They are my general go to and work well for me. The Two Cherries are only available in mm, if that matters to you.

    When I was looking for a new set, I just bought a different size from of a few makers. Turns out, I never went back and bought a full set from one maker.

  6. #6
    Of I were to lose my mind and buy a new set of chisels, I would ask about a discount for buying without handles. I have yet to hold a new chisel that I enjoyed in my hand. I have replaced the handles on most all my regular users with the exception of mortise chisels.
    Last edited by Bob Leistner; 02-11-2019 at 7:11 AM. Reason: spell checker errors

  7. #7
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    I also agree with the "buy one or two good ones rather than a set of lesser quality ones" philosophy. For me, they would be in the 1/4" and 1/2" sizes. I also recommend the Ashley Isles chisels as being good chisels at a lower-than-some other premium brand-cost. The handles fit MY hands very well, they sharpen up easily (O1 steel?) and the edges last a reasonable amount of time in my experience. No, I have never made a comparative-timed use test of the AI against other chisel brands, but working with hard hardwoods, I don't find that I have to re sharpen any sooner than I believe is typical for chisel use in hand tool woodworking joinery work.
    David

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by David Eisenhauer View Post
    I also agree with the "buy one or two good ones rather than a set of lesser quality ones" philosophy. For me, they would be in the 1/4" and 1/2" sizes. I also recommend the Ashley Isles chisels as being good chisels at a lower-than-some other premium brand-cost. The handles fit MY hands very well, they sharpen up easily (O1 steel?) and the edges last a reasonable amount of time in my experience. No, I have never made a comparative-timed use test of the AI against other chisel brands, but working with hard hardwoods, I don't find that I have to re sharpen any sooner than I believe is typical for chisel use in hand tool woodworking joinery work.
    Put me in the buy one or two of the sizes you use most camp. Chisels seem to be a very personal thing as well. Just about all of the good chisels available today will have good steel but for me at least the balance and feel of the handle is of more importance.*. You might even try different brands to see which you prefer as you get more.**

    *for me personally, though I like the LV PM-V11 steel is about the best, the feel of the LN Stanley copies just feel so much better.
    ** if you decide you need more.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Fitzgerald View Post
    The current chisels I am using I bought over 30 years ago in a hardware store in a Chicago suburb. I'm in the market for a new set of bench chisels. I can't justify a really expensive set but would like to have some reasonable quality chisels. I'm not a hand tool expert so I'd like some opinions on a reasonable quality set of chisels that won't break the bank.

    Thanks in advance for your opinion!
    Have your current chisels become too short over the last 30 years or is this an upgrade?

    What will the main use(s) be for these chisels?

    If there is a lot of paring, especially dovetails, you would want a chisel with much lower side profile than if you were mostly going to be cutting dados and mortises.

    As others have mentioned the feel of the grip is important. A socket chisel's ease of changing handles is my main reason for preferring them.

    Another consideration may be the material with which you work. If you work with plywood and want chisels to match the nominal sizes you may want to find metric sized chisels. If you work wood from lumber yards it doesn't matter as much unless you need to match with other shop tools or equipment.

    jtk
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

  10. #10
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    Ken, I like my Ashley Iles. They are very well made. The brass ferrules will slip when the humidity changes, but a tap with a nail set will put enough of a divot in them to hold them firmly.

    They only make them in O1, so if you want something exotic you will need to look at something else. But at about half the price of the LN/LV lines I think they are the best value out there.

  11. #11
    I have the Narex imperial ones that Lee Valley sells. I have zero issues with them and enjoy using them. The downside is that I personally think they are a little on the ugly side if that matters. Many people complain about the size of the handles, but I like the handles. Perhaps it's because I have big hands, but I find them comfortable for a large variety of tasks.

  12. #12
    Several years ago, FWW did a very good review of the major brands of chisels. One of the things I learned about was something called "side bevel height."

    This is the thickness of the side wall that tapers to the edge. Important in fine joinery like dovetails. Generally speaking, aside from "firmer" chisels, the cheaper brands with have rather high SBH's.

    IIRC the best brands in this regard were Lie Nielsen & Ashley Iles. I think the Narex were rated "best value".

    Be aware on Narex, there are (or were) two lines. The "premium" line has a lower SBH than the regular Narex. When I bought mine, they way you could tell is the regular line has hooped handles, the premium line has plane round top wood handles.

    Having used them for a few years, my only knock on them is edge retention, which really isn't that big a deal. They sharpen up fast. But if you're working on a hard wood, keep the honing stone handy :-)

    Be prepared to spend some time flattening the backs.

    Since then I purchased a Stanley 750 chisel, which I was disappointed. The edge retention worse then Narex, and the handles not suited to my XL hands and the chisel way to light for my taste.

    For general chiselling or heavy work where I'm needing a firmer chisel, the Irwin Marples blue handled chisels have served me well.

  13. #13
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    I didn't see it mentioned above, so I'll ask.......

    Are you only considering new chisels? Vintage chisels can often be had a great bargain at swap meets and flea markets. Unless you're in a big hurry, you can acquire a pretty decent starter set for under $50. For instance, every year at the Arnfest gathering, there's at least 1 or 2 guys at the swap meet selling vintage chisels for $5 apiece.

    I have amassed all the chisels I need this way, and the quality of steel on tools like Greenlee, old Stanley 750's (not the new box store stuff), Witherby, Swan, Buck, Union, J. Addis, etc...... is excellent.

    Also, old Marples, and anything you can find with Sheffield steel is also going to typically be very good, unless the temper was ruined. At $5 to $10 apiece, you can easily take the gamble. I've only run into 1 chisel with soft steel, and I've probably restored at least 50 chisels (much more....being conservative) in my day. E.A. Berg from Sweden is also an excellent quality tool, although you will probably pay a premium to get them. Worth the money, in my opinion.

    If these vintage chisels were being made today, they would compete, price wise, in the category of new Lie Nielsen, Blue Spruce, and other top quality makers.

    You'll have to learn how to flatten, grind, and sharpen, but you should know how to do that anyway. For some, making new handles is a way to personalize a nice set of chisels. I have very large hands, and like a beefier handle than the ones put on new chisels today.

    Just a thought to consider.

    It was mentioned up stream, but I have a 30 year old small set of 5 Two Cherries chisels. Excellent steel, and very hard and durable. A little more difficult to sharpen, because of their hardness, but no big deal. The only issue I have with them is that they are metric. I have, since buying them new, reground them into paring chisels at 20 bevel.
    Last edited by Jeff Heath; 02-11-2019 at 9:45 AM.
    Jeff

  14. #14
    Ken-
    I love my Lie Nielsen chisels.

    They are slightly less priced than other 'Lexus league' chisels.

    Not everyone likes socket style chisels, though. You do have to deal with seating them, and some with bigger hands may find them a little on the delicate side. I like them precisely for this reason.

    I would not buy a set. Buy 1 or 2 in the sizes you might use most.

    I have a couple LN's and a couple Veritas PMV11s. I prefer the LN's. I also have the Narex's. Fine, but unless you need a whole set, I advise buying individually.

  15. #15
    I have two suggestions (well three) As another post suggested, look at only getting the ones you need instead of a set

    If your budget is "budget minded," You can find a lot of circa 1990 Marples chisel sets out there that have minimal usage. These are the old blue handle or brown boxwood handled sets of 4 or 5 chisels. I have these and they work fine. I'm not fond of the weight at the handle side, but I suspect many users are fine with the handles.

    What I consider a good handled chisel for me are the new Stanley Sweetheart chisels. They are similar to Lie Nielsen, but lighter and less steel with the same basic handle. I like the light weight of these better than the Lie Nielsen, but acknowledge the Lie is obviously a better chisel in absolute quality. I have a few of all the ones mentioned, so I speak from "My" hands on perspective.

    Also, I think the challenges I have with the heavier handled chisels are twofold, they are a little harder to hold steady when sharpening when top heavy and take a little more precision effort to align when using.
    Last edited by Jim Foster; 02-11-2019 at 1:22 PM.

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