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Thread: Further discussion on the pros and cons of Mortise chisel designs

  1. #1
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    Further discussion on the pros and cons of Mortise chisel designs

    There was a discussion of the Ray Iles mortise chisel that was revived recently. I havenít gotten around to projects that need mortises yet but soon. I got a Lie Nielsen 1\4Ē sash mortise chisel as part of my tool kit when I started. That design seems to be the least mentioned/favorite. Iíve thought about getting a 5/16Ē in either Ray Iles or Veritas.

    Can someone walk through the pros and cons of each design?

    ps I figured if I get one of the others I could use the Lie Nielsen to remove the waste. For the record I use North American Hardwoods in normal furniture size stock.

  2. #2
    I have the Ray Iles (pig stickers) and the Lie Nielsen mortise chisels in multiple sizes. The Ray Iles are very beefy compared to the Lie Nielsen. However, I have never felt the need for the 'beef'. I generally use the Lie Nielsen. They give good visibility to the mortise. They sharpen easily and hold an edge well. I work through a mortise in multiple small steps, rather than trying to smash through it in a few steps. With my technique, I get nice clean mortises quickly with the Lie Nielsen chisels.

  3. #3
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    Been using the Narex ones....no complaints. Decided to skip the above sales pitch......

  4. #4
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    New Year's wish ...

    That advice may be given on this forum without the extra snide remarks.

    Regards from Berlin

    Derek

  5. #5
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    I didnít see a sales pitch anywhere? I certainly didnít give one as I have no idea. I would like your input Derek as I figured you had some involvement with the development of the Veritas.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Derek Cohen View Post
    New Year's wish ...

    That advice may be given on this forum without the extra snide remarks.

    Regards from Berlin

    Derek

    I completely agree.

    It's interesting that buying higher end well made tools somehow generates a snide comment or two.

  7. #7
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    Onto the OP question...I have both LN and RI mortise chisels. These days I rarely chop a mortise with just a mortise chisel but used to do all my moritses this way. IMO I prefer the LN mortise chisels over the Ray Isles pig stickers. I just prefer the smaller chisel for furniture sized joints and most of all the shape of the chisel. I really like the square shape with sharp edges created on the front and back side of the chisel. In use I am able to keep this chisel perpendicular to the walls of the mortise and the sharp edges front and back tend to scrape the walls nice and clean, if this makes any sense at all. The trapezoidal shape of the RI tends to rotate just a hair as I smash into the wood which is much easier to get outside of the mortise wall gauge marks. I have gotten used to this and can prevent this issue from happening but I personally think the size of these chisels is a bit overkill for my needs.

    Having said this I would certainly be happy with either chisel and these differences are very minor. The D2 steel in the RI is amazing. Once sharp they just stay sharp for so long. They take a bit more work to get sharp but well worth the extra effort. I'd love to see more D2 steel in woodworking tools, especially tools that take a beating like a mortise chisel.

    I promise, I'm not selling anything but am just a happy customer of these fine tools. I will say I have a slight bias towards LN as they are an amazing tool manufacturer right here in my home state of Maine.

  8. #8
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    Tony, I have never used any of the modern mortise chisels. I bought a couple of antique English mortise chisels from Jim Bode (about $35 as I recall) and cannot imagine the design has been improved. If you want a supersteel for some reason, go with whoever makes the one you want (Iles only uses D-2, and Lee Valley is the only one that sells PMV-11).

    If you just want something that works, Jim Bode usually has a bunch of antiques in stock, or any of the dealers I am sure could get you what you want, and the price is probably about half the ones you are looking at.

  9. #9
    Actually I prefer the Veritas mortice chisels.
    "Anything seems possible when you don't know what you're doing."

  10. #10
    We need to bring Japanese Mortise chisels in as well. Japanese Mortise chisels are much like the LN chisels with a square profile and much smaller than English OBM chisels. I have and use all three styles along with other mortise chisels. Best advice is pick the chisel to suit the job.

    If you chop with finesse and don't go all Conan on your chisel the square profile brings a lot to the table and the smaller size works as well. That said the oval handle helps with orientation and there shouldn't be any way to break the chisel when using a pig sticker.

    As always, YMMV.

    ken

  11. I have not used the Ray Iles chisels, but have had the chance to handle the LN mortise chisels at the factory showroom in Maine, and own a set of the Narex chisels. Based on what I've seen, the Narex mortise chisels fall somewhere in the middle between RI and LN in terms of beefiness. Based on my experience chopping mortises with bench chisels, and with mortise chisels, I would take any beefier sash mortise, or pig sticker, or something in between - basically anything stouter than a bench chisel. Bench chisels tend to twist in the mortise due to their thinness, so smaller "bites" are needed, and after a certain depth that doesn't always help. Also the stouter mortise chisel transmits energy into the cut better, and one can pry with more pressure, this all means one gets the mortise cut (marginally) faster, with less fussing around. Chopping mortises with a chisel, esp. bigger ones, is a slog of job.

    If I were to buy another mortise chisel or two, I'd give the RI chisels a try, only because they look beefier than my Narex chisels. If I was going to start acquiring power tools, I might give a mortising machine or a drill press + mortise attachment some serious thought!

  12. #12
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    Iím a big fan and user of many LN tools, but for mortise chisels I opted for Ray Iles. Pigstickers just feel right to me. I have a 1/4, 3/8 and 1/2. If I was doing a lot of mortises Iíd definitely get a power bench mortiser. Sorry, probably doesnít help your decision.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stephen Rosenthal View Post
    Iím a big fan and user of many LN tools, but for mortise chisels I opted for Ray Iles. Pigstickers just feel right to me. I have a 1/4, 3/8 and 1/2. If I was doing a lot of mortises Iíd definitely get a power bench mortiser. Sorry, probably doesnít help your decision.
    can you qualify what makes the pig sticker design feel right for you?

  14. #14
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    Spins like the sash mortise chisel design is more popular than I thought.

  15. #15
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    Tony,
    I like the heft of the Ray Iles chisels and the way they feel in my grip. Unlike Tony Shea, I donít find that they twist when hitting them with a mallet, which sometimes occurs with a round handled chisel (at least for me). With the shape of the handle I donít need to use a death grip when really whacking them if need be, which has occasionally been the case especially when using the 1/2Ē in harder woods. I donít think itís possible to break it under normal or semi-extreme use. And as Tony S noted, D2 steel really holds an edge, thus reducing sharpening - not one of my favorite tasks. As a side note, I have a set of LN bench chisels and love them.

    Hope this helps.
    Steve

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