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Chisel suggestions?

Discussion in 'The DIY Tool Shed' started by sergiomajluf, Dec 27, 2017.

  1. sergiomajluf

    sergiomajluf Tele-Meister

    Sep 26, 2015
    Santiago, Chile
    Looking into buying some hand tools. I'm no pro luthier or anything, but have come to value working with quality tools, yet I'm always trying to be on a tight budget.

    I have worked with "Two Cherries" brand before, and the are really nice ($129). This set at Amazon would be my first alternative.

    Stanley also has a couple of options I could choose from. This one ($160) seems comparable to the previous one, but this other one's price ($70) is appealing.

    Finally, this other brand, Narex, also seems to fit within the others at a better price yet ($85).

    Beyond how many sizes on a set, how do you choose a brand? What do you use or recommend?
  2. Throughout my carpentry career I mainly used the Stanleys with the yellow and black phenolic handles with the striker cap on top. The steel is pretty decent and holds an edge pretty well, and they will take an everyday beating. I've also got a couple of the Marples with the blue handles, they are pretty tough too, and may have a slight edge holding ability over the Stanleys, plus they feel good and comfy in the hand.

    Those chisels are not really in the same category as the ones that you've posted links to (not nearly as nice looking and the steel may be of a higher quality in your links), but they get the job done and are very durable. Pretty good choices for someone who makes their living with their tools.

    The chisel that I used more than any other was a 3/4", wide enough to keep a nice flat bottom on a mortise, but narrow enough to cut pretty easily through any grain or wood.

    I still really enjoy working with wood, but I don't see an advantage to using a wood chisel when using a router will do the job just as well or better. Take off a little bit here or there? Yes, a wood chisel works great.
    A neck pocket or pickup pocket? Give me the router,:) please!!!

    Best Regards,
    sergiomajluf likes this.
  3. Tone Revival

    Tone Revival TDPRI Member Vendor Member

    Dec 5, 2017
    Lots of different factors go into choosing a chisel:
    Steel: Edge retention, how easy it is to sharpen, edge angle and sharpness are all factors determined by the steel the chisel is made from and there is always some compromise between them.
    Socket / Handle type: comes down to personal preference. also, some handles are made for beating on with a mallet, while others less so.
    chisel type, shape, bevels etc.: depending on the job you need it for. Firmer, Bevel edge, Mortise, Pairing, Fishtail, Corner, Skew, as well as a few other specialized types, all have their uses.

    Most likely you'll want bevel edge chisels to start with. You'll want ones that taper down to less than 1/16" along the side of the chisel, to be able to dig into dovetails and such.

    As for choosing a brand, I'll add one to your list: Ashley Iles Mk2 Bench Chisels:
    O1 steel (Very easy to sharpen, takes a wicked edge, nos as durable as some other steels), good shape, comfortable handle. A bit steeper in price compared to your options, but better quality in my opinion.

    You'll need a sharpening setup and method that works for you.
    And to always flatten the back of any chisel you get. First thing.
    sergiomajluf likes this.
  4. guitarbuilder

    guitarbuilder Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

    Mar 30, 2003
    Ontario County
    I have a set of 4 from true value and a stanley set.... pretty cheap ones. I have always wanted decent chisels but never use them enough to warrant a big expenditure. More often than not they fall on the floor. Not sure if you have a place with used tools, but I'd get some old ones and sharpen them.
    sergiomajluf and Piggy Stu like this.
  5. AlterEgo

    AlterEgo Tele-Meister

    Apr 8, 2014
    Portland, ME
    Aldi, seriously. Once properly sharpened they will perform close to if not as good as sets costing five times what they run
    sergiomajluf likes this.
  6. sergiomajluf

    sergiomajluf Tele-Meister

    Sep 26, 2015
    Santiago, Chile
    Ok, so sharpening seems as crucial as the tool itself. Any tips on how to do it (beyond of course a YouTube tutorial?)
  7. Stefanovich

    Stefanovich Tele-Holic

    Jan 27, 2010
    Kingston, Ontario
    I bought the chisel sharpening set from Lee Valley. It came with a stone, guide, and some instructions. Got my cheap Home Depot (Buck Bros) chisels super sharp. I also have some chisels from Lee Valley that are obviously better than the Buck Bros (nicer finishing, hold an edge longer), but once freshly sharpened, there is no difference in use between my cheap chisels, and my Lee Valley ones. Sharpening is key.,45936
  8. R. Stratenstein

    R. Stratenstein Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

    Aug 3, 2010
    Loganville, Ga.
    I have a set of the Narex chisels, and the Veritas sharpening jig I use with abrasive paper on a sheet of float-place glass. I got tired of fooling around with cheap stuff, and not getting the results I hoped for. The Veritas "sharpening system" helps you establish exactly the angle you need, so you can consistently hone your chisel edges, quickly. The Narex chisels seem to hold an edge longer than my Stanley's, or the Buck Bros. chisels have, are a good value for the money. They get good reviews, also.

    I'll echo what Stefanovitch said, freshly and properly sharpened chisels all work pretty much the same, a good sharpening system that's easy to use makes it more likely that you'll keep your chisels in good, pleasurable-to-use condition.
    sergiomajluf likes this.
  9. skipjackrc4

    skipjackrc4 Tele-Meister

    Jan 21, 2011
    I will never buy a Two Cherries product again--the way that they polish the steel (notice how shiny they are compared to most chisels) tends to round over all the edges. The result is that there is not a single flat surface on the chisel, which makes them very difficult to sharpen. I've had this problem with every Two Cherries chisel I've bought, and I've had quite a few. I very much dislike their products, but for some unusual edge profiles, they're the only game in town. Many people feel exactly the same way on the woodworking forums, though apparently the chisels meant for the German native market don't have the stupid polish.

    The Narex are a great deal, but the steel is pretty soft (leading to edge curling) and about 2/3 of the 10 pc. set I bought had serious flatness issues (the chisel would rock a LOT on a flat granite surface, meaning there was a ton of grinding needed to flatten them). I ultimately sold them at a loss to get away from them. It's possible that the steel may have improved further from the edge, and then the softness is not a permanent problem. I didn't have the patience to grind away 1/4" length of 10 chisels to find out. I later bought another Narex crane-neck chisel, and it had the same problem. I replaced it with a better brand and all was well.

    The Stanley Sweetheart chisels seem fairly good--I have one and like it. Be advised that the socket design can cause the blade to randomly fall off the handle. Not a serious problem, but something to be aware of. All socket chisels will do this, even the good ones.

    Ultimately, though, one of the previous commentors was correct--Ashley Iles are in a completely different league from all the chisels you listed, and they don't cost too much more. I had to wait months to get my 10pc AI set, and it was completely worth it. Flat surfaces, excellent steel, nice feeling/looking handles, good weight, etc... There are better chisels out there, and I have some of them, but the AI are an amazing value. I'm not aware of anything better for less than $50 per chisel.

    As for sharpening, I'll agree with the other folks here that the Veritas jig is pretty good. You're better off learning to sharpen free-hand, but until you get the feel for it, the jig works quite well. I still use mine fairly regularly to change bevel angles, etc... I'm not good enough freehand to do that. I like diamond stones (I have a set of 6 DMT 8x3" stones), but the serious handtool guys mostly swear by waterstones. To each his own--I think the most important thing with any sharpening system to is to buy decent quality and learn to use it properly. They all work well enough if you do it right.

    I had a Work Sharp 3000 power sharpener for a while ($300 with accessories) and it was junk. Too much slop to actually get a straight edge or flat back. Save your money and do it by hand.

    YMMV, but I went through a big chisel obsession a few years ago for a specific project and wasted a ton of money on junk, when I should have just bought AI chisels and DMT stones (or good oil/water stones) in the first place.

    Oh, and another thought. Do you really need a full set? You'll likely have a bunch of unused sizes if you get a large set, when you could have saved money and bought common sizes (1/4", 3/8", 1/2", 3/4" for me) much more cheaply.
    magic smoke and sergiomajluf like this.
  10. Ripthorn

    Ripthorn Tele-Afflicted

    Oct 22, 2009
    Austin, TX
    Just afew thoughts from me. I have Narex and I am looking to replace them. It is fairly common to have soft steel at the first fraction of an inch on the end. I can't really chop mortises with them, even with a relatively steep micro bevel. They also take a good amount of work to flatten the backs, but not the worst ever.

    I've not used the two cherries, but they always look nice. I'll have to look into Ashley Iles.
  11. NotAnotherHobby

    NotAnotherHobby Tele-Afflicted

    Oct 27, 2015
    Da' Magic Mittin'
    I'm now completely dispirited and crushed.

    I was looking to get one of these (haven't got one). Due to my CTS, hand sharpening is a real chore. Was hoping to automate the process. I guess that ain't gonna happen...
  12. skipjackrc4

    skipjackrc4 Tele-Meister

    Jan 21, 2011
    I was pretty disappointed, too. I don't exactly enjoy sharpening, so I was hoping that throwing a motor at the problem would make it easier.

    With CTS, the Work Sharp might still be worth looking at, especially if you don't use hand tools too often. It's not that it doesn't work, it just doesn't work well, and I've found sharpening by hand to be faster and more accurate. If sharpening by hand isn't a good option for you, then it might be a decent buy.

    The Grizzly T10097A might be another option. It's basically a clone of the Tormek, which is a pretty high-end sharpener. I've never tried either of them.
  13. ebb soul

    ebb soul Poster Extraordinaire

    Jun 7, 2016
    Smyrna georgia
    Marples. English made.
  14. adjason

    adjason Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

    Jan 9, 2010
    I'd like to have some nice ones but I have cut probably a couple of hundred mortises with a drill press and marples chisels-I think they are about 10 bucks a piece. They make a sled (a holder for about 10 bucks) that holds the chisel so that it can be sharpened on a stone at the correct angle
  15. R. Stratenstein

    R. Stratenstein Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

    Aug 3, 2010
    Loganville, Ga.
    I got one for my birthday in August, and was pretty disappointed. It may be a clone of the Tormek, but it’s not a very accurate clone. There’s a you tube video of a guy who mods the Grizzly one to work better, and closer to the Tormek, but he has a metal lathe, does some precision welding, so you almost might as well buy the Tormek in the first place. Anyway, I can’t see any way it doesn’t share the EXTREME critical precision with which you have to mount, align, and clamp your chisels in the thing. I’ve not completely given up hope, but have gone back to the Veritas system and abrasive paper on glass, which is perfectly satisfactory.

    I’m surprised at the negative comments about the Narex chisels. I have a couple of old apparently very hard chisels, and I have to say I much prefer the “rolling edge” over the hard ones that chip. It only takes a few strokes to remove the rolled edge and restore razor sharpness. It takes much more work and grades of abrasive paper to remove a chip in the edge. The ribbed backside on Narexes is stupid and useless, but just takes some time and starting with 220 grade emery paper, work down the grits and then it’s good to go from then on. For their modest price, I think they’re a super deal. And except maybe for Lie-Nielsen, any new chisel is going to need some work to make ready for wood working.
  16. OpenG Capo4

    OpenG Capo4 Friend of Leo's

    Aug 4, 2010
    Athens, GA
    I have a Stanley 1/4" and I like it but I dropped it and chipped the edge and it's gonna take a lot of work to grind it past the chip. Unless I take grind it on a grinder, which I'm reluctant to do.

    My other chisels are old socket types I found at various yard sales and flea markets. They've served me pretty well but I have no clue about their origins. Can't go wrong spending a buck or two on old iron.
  17. skipjackrc4

    skipjackrc4 Tele-Meister

    Jan 21, 2011
    Good to know about the Grizzly. I wasn't sure how the user was supposed to ensure proper alignment, and it sounds like there isn't a good way to do it.

    With my Ashley Iles and Japanese chisels, I've never chipped nor rolled an edge. If I had to chose one over the other, I'd probably go for edge rolling for the reasons you cite, but luckily there are plenty of good tools available that have neither problem.
  18. SacDAve

    SacDAve Poster Extraordinaire

    Dec 23, 2009
    Rocklin Ca.
    I have a collection of various chisels my main ones are the old Stanley set Yellow & black plastic handled ones ¼” to 2”. I bought them over 40 years ago when Stanly was an industry standard for quality. Then I have quiet a few flea market finds best powered by a framing hammer. Then as a gift I was given one of the $$ japan woodworker chisels ½”. Myself I would never consider buying it. But I would compare it to a fine Wusthof knife to bottom shelf Walmart knife it’s that nice, it’s just a dream to sharpen. My advice is to buy something decent that will last a lifetime I’m no saying a set of hand made chisels,58923197617070231a000033
  19. kookaburra

    kookaburra Tele-Afflicted

    Nov 11, 2012
    Madison, WI, USA
  20. sergiomajluf

    sergiomajluf Tele-Meister

    Sep 26, 2015
    Santiago, Chile
    I decided to change strategy: I’ll buy a Stanley at the big box hardware store, for about $6.

    Then I’ll sharpen it over and over again until I’m good at sharpening. Only then I might consider better quality and/or brand

    Thanks for every advice given!!!
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