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Bench Chisel Question


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#1 Onboard

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Posted 14 August 2012 - 01:23 PM

I’m looking at this 8 piece chisel set for $70. Is chrome vanadium steel difficult to sharpen? Besides sharpening, are there any disadvantages, or advantages to a chisel made with chrome vanadium steel?

#2 Bob Rozaieski

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 05:29 AM

It's not so much the steel as it is the consistency of the hardening and heat treating. I don't have any experience with the specific chisels you linked to, but based upon their average price per chisel (less than $10) and country of origin (imported - likely means cheap Chinese import), I'd guess they are no better than the junk you will find in the local Home Depot or Lowes. The edges will likely chip or roll from being too hard or too soft. You might find a good one here and there, but they are typically very inconsistent. What typically happens when folks buy these very inexpensive chisels is that they use them for awhile but get frustrated with their inconsistent edge retention and end up upgrading later. Don't get me wrong, they'll work, I'm just guessing that if you are at all serious about woodworking, you won'tbe happy with them for long.

I'd try to stick with the better known brands. You don't have to spend a lot to get a decent chisel. Narex chisels are held in pretty high regard for their price. They can be had from several reputable suppliers.
http://www.highlandw...hchiselset.aspx
http://www.leevalley...x?p=67707&cat=1

For just a few bucks more, the Ashley Iles are top notch. I have owned a set and in my opinion, nothing else in this price range even comes close.
http://www.toolsforw..._by_Ashley_Iles

Hirsch are another good option for about the same price as the Iles.
http://www.highlandw...lsetoffour.aspx
http://www.leevalley...x?p=46403&cat=1

You don't necessarily need to buy a set either. Most of the time, you'll be reaching for chisels 1/2" or smaller. The most valuable ones to have are the smaller ones, in 1/8" increments from about 1/8" to about 1/2". Above 1/2", a 1" chisel (give or take 1/4") makes a good paring chisel for adjusting the fit of tenon cheeks, cleaning up mortise walls, etc. So while that 8 piece set may seem like a better value than some of the others, what you really will end up with is a not so well made set of chisels, several of which you don't really use very often anyway. None of those sets include the super handy 1/8" chisel and all of them include several sizes above 1/2" which aren't really all that useful to have in various sizes.

I'd actually recommend you take the $70 you would spend on the set and buy good quality individual chisels in 1/8", 1/4", 3/8", 1/2" and 1" (or 1-1/4"). This will give you the 4 most useful small sizes for chopping and one good wide chisel for paring wide surfaces. These 5 chisels will do 90% of the work, then you can fill in the other sizes later as needed. Buying a decent name brand chisel will also get you better resale later should you decide you want to upgrade even further later, or if you decide that woodworking isn't your thing.

#3 Onboard

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 06:39 AM

Wow! What great information! Thank you Bob for helping me steer my little woodworking boat away from the hidden reef. I need to keep it afloat as long as possible.

#4 john@verona

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 11:19 AM

The Narex chisels that Bob mentioned are a safe bet. Many on the forum (including myself) have bought them. Very good price/quality ratio.

I went mad and bought the 10 chisel set, but the 4 or 7 chisel set is really all you'll probably need. I've hardly used the chisels over 1", all the others have seen plenty of use, including mortising.

John

#5 Onboard

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 03:21 PM

Thank you John for another confirmation on the Narex chisels. The Ashley Isles’ look very nice, but with my budget the Narex chisels are speaking much more loudly to me.

#6 nateswoodworks

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Posted 19 August 2012 - 08:15 PM

I also have the Narex and have been very pleased. I bought mine seperate for the reasons stated by Bob. 1/4,3/8,1/2 are my go to chisels and I have 5/8,3/4, and 1". I bought an extra 1/4" and ground it down to an 1/8" and couldn't do without it. I am going to do the same to get a 1/16 but with this one I am only going to grind down the last 5/8" of the chisel for strength. As long as you take it slow and quench very often to keep from loosing the temper it works just fine. I am concerned with the strength of 1/16", but that is the nice thing about the cost being so low, I just endd up with a shorter 1/4"!
My set is the Standaed Bevel Edge but I would highly recommend the new Classic Bevel-Edge Chisels, with their very small side edge getting into tight areas like dovetails is easy. I bought a 3/8" and 1/2" of the Classic Bevel Edge chisels and I like them a lot, just my opinion.

#7 Onboard

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Posted 19 August 2012 - 10:09 PM

Thanks Nate for yet another confirmation on the Narex chisels. At this point, it wouldn’t make any sense for me to purchase something other than the Narex. Unless, of course, I come into a lot of money and could then afford the Ashley Isle chisels or other high quality brands. The Narex from Lee Valley look very good (Classic). I also appreciate the idea on how to get an 1/8 inch chisel out of a 1/4 inch chisel.

Oh, and here’s a set for you Nate. The people who have the money to purchase these seem to really like them. Tom Fidgen being one. You don’t have to purchase the whole set, but they do have the 1/16” size as well as the 1/8”. I’m guessing though that you’ll be doing some grinding on a 1/4” Narex.

#8 Cochese

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Posted 20 August 2012 - 07:30 AM

Another vote on the Narex bench chisels. Highland has a set of six for $50. I'm currently collecting all the sizes like Pokemon.

If you don't have any experience sharpening, pick up a set at Harbor Freight (if one is close) to practice on. You'll get all the practice you can handle.

#9 Onboard

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Posted 20 August 2012 - 03:54 PM

cocheseuga, thanks for yet another user experience vote on the Narex chisels. I’ll have to think about the Harbor Freight sharpening tools though. <_<

#10 Cochese

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Posted 20 August 2012 - 04:07 PM

Oh no, I meant a set of the chisels. $7 or so gets you a set you can abuse and tune your skills on.

Sent from my SAMSUNG-SGH-I747 using Tapatalk 2

#11 Onboard

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Posted 20 August 2012 - 05:42 PM

I’m experiencing one of those “Doh!” moments right now. Yes, of course, an uber cheap set of chisels from Harbor Freight. My only concern with that is, as cheap as I am, once I get the HF chisels sharp I may just keep them and use them until I can afford the Narex. :lol:

#12 Cochese

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Posted 20 August 2012 - 06:03 PM

You can get them nice and sharp...scary sharp, even, but they won't last. You'll have to do a lot of work to get them up to par, but in that it's what makes it good practice. In comparison, the Narex required very little effort. However, the poor technique I got out of my system on the HF ones were worth the time and money. I keep mine around, I don't know exactly what for, but I feel better knowing that if there's something dodgy I need to do, I won't mess up the nice edge I put on the Narex.

#13 Onboard

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Posted 20 August 2012 - 07:18 PM

Yes, "you don’t get something for (virtually) nothing". I have heard of woodworkers who have taken inexpensive chisels such as the Harbor Freight chisels, and have tempered the blades using a propane torch or a MAPP gas torch. This made them hold an edge much longer. One fellow who was replying to a post on this topic, felt that it was such an easy thing to do (once you practiced a bit), that he was willing to have some of the posters send him their HF chisels and he would temper the chisels for them. Bottom line for me though would be to go with the Narex and be happy (once I’ve practiced my sharpening techniques on some HF chisels of course - :)).

#14 nateswoodworks

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Posted 20 August 2012 - 10:03 PM

It's not only the temper but the quality of the steel, all the tempering in the world isn't going to change the makeup of the steel. I don't doubt for a second that with some time with a torch and quenching that you can improve a chisel but it isn't going to make a cheap chisel compare with the high end ones and I am sure that the gentleman that you are referring to knows that as well and is just trying to help.

If you belong to FWW online or have issue September/October 2008 there is a great head to head comparison with the Narex winning best value. Now, these will never compare to a LN or anything like that but they did score better than some with much higher price tags. It was after this article that I bought mine and as I stated before I am really impressed. You will have to read the article yourself to see the comparisons as I don't want to break any rules with sharing membership info but I think it would be ok to just show you how Narex scored=
out of the box-very good, ergonomics-good, edge retention-good, dovetail-very good, pairing-very good, chopping-excellent.

Now that being said when I bought my original Narex ,which are now being called "typical bevel edge", I bought them through http://www.leevalley...707&cat=1,41504 and I think these handles are comfortable-not the nicest on the eyes but good in the hand. When I bought a couple of their new "Classic" as LV calls them or "Premium" as Highland calls them I had went through http://www.highlandw...ch-chisels.aspx. I personally don't care for these handles. They don't fit my hands as well and the handles seem too light to my throwing them off balance-in my opinion. The other thing is the handles on the two I received didn't match but the chisels themselves did. The smaller chisel had a longer and thicker handle than the larger one. To me it seemed like one was from a old production run and one was from a newer run. I contacted Highland just to let them know so others wouldn't have any issues in the future and they were super nice, they offered to send me 2 chisels that matched right away but I declined as I want to make my own handles that fit my hands nicely and look great as well (I have some small pieces of curly maple that might become chisel handles this winter-time will tell;) When I had bought mine through Highland I had to order some stuff that Lee Valley didn't have so paying the little extra didn't bother me plus in the pictures the Highland ones look much nicer, if I had it to do over again I would go through L.V. I had contacted Highland before I ordered and asked them the difference between theirs and L.V's and the customer service person I talked to couldn't find a difference but that could just be the one I talked to. I plan on getting three more and will go through Highland just to make sure the chisel itself matches the two I already bought. This is just my opinion here and I have no reservations about ordering through either one. If you are a member here is the link to the FWWing chisel review http://www.finewoodw...f/011200038.pdf Hope this helps and good luck!
Nate

#15 jHop

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Posted 21 August 2012 - 06:22 PM

I have a set of the Harbor Freight chisels, which I purchased deliberately because I wanted the practice. i've dropped one (missed my toe "by that much"... sorry.) and put a nice chunk in the edge, but I haven't sharpened it out yet. Part of the problem is the substrate for my sanding.... the glue I used to hold the paper down has now .... reacted .... and there are massive wrinkles in the paper. So I'm between sharpenings.

The nice thing is that, since i got them to abuse, I've had no problems treating them badly. They've still held up.... possibly because of the steel quality. The cheaper the steel and lower the temper... ironically, the longer the chisel lasts as a pry bar in my hands...

You'll be sharpening them for almost ever before you get an edge you like, and it will be gone almost before you touch it to the wood you are going to test it on. But you'll learn that muscle memory very quickly.

My advice? Don't even bother with the Harbor Freight chisels. Unless you've never used the angle guide and sharpening method before, you can get just as much practice from your good set.





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