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Mortise Chisels

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So my most recent project has convinced me I need mortise chisels. I looked at the LN and the LV.  Any suggestions on these or others?  At the price I can only afford two. If you could only get two, which ones?

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Really depends on your project, but you probably want neither; IMO, you probably want a Narex 12mm, plus or minus one size.

Now tell us more and we'll tell you more!

[Edit: I really mis-stated that.  You do really want a LN or LV, but you can more likely afford a Narex ;-)

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I have a 1/4" LN mortise chisel... that's it. Bought it for mortises in 3/4" material.. common for table aprons and such... Sized in 1/3 of the stock. :)

 

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I have a couple of Narex and a couple from Crown. They are all good. 1/4" (6mm) and 5/16" (8mm) are most useful for furniture. 3/8" (10mm) and 1/2" (13mm) great for bigger stuff.

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I'd get a 3/8" and 1/2".  For 1/4" mortises use a bench chisel until you can afford to complete your set...the smaller the mortise, the less important it is to have a beefy chisel because there's less waste to remove.  I have the LN...no complaints.

And let's be honest...unless you're chopping mortises by hand start to finish, you don't really need dedicated mortise chisels.  If you're just squaring up the ends of a router-cut mortise, I agree with Rick...bench chisels are fine for that...just have to be a little more careful about bruising.  But they're still nice to have when you need to do some heavy removal.  And that's why I think the bigger sizes are more important.

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I think you should buy the size of the mortises that you plan to make ;). For furniture, that's most likely to be 1/4", but it depends on what type of stuff you build. Bench chisels will work (as stated several times above), but the first time you use a mortise chisel, you probably won't want to go back to a bench chisel for chopping mortises.

Personally, I feel that 1/2" mortises (and maybe even 3/8") are big enough that they're more challenging to chop and you may be better off boring the majority of the waste and cleaning up the edges with a chisel. And if you're doing it that way, a mortise chisel is totally unnecessary. So although I have these sizes, I rarely use them and wouldn't recommend buying them as your first purchase.

I have the Narex chisels from Lee Valley and they work acceptably and the price is hard to beat.

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I had a Narex mortise chisel, 1/2" and it was good. The handle is not great, but considering it's price point I think it's fine.

A left field and cheap option could be contractors chisels, such as the Stanley Fat Max. They have thick lands and a metal strike cap. I often use them on restoration work with a claw hammer. Very direct chopping.

A decent, vintage, traditional English pattern mortise chisel is excellent. When there's not enough room to use them, a standard bench chisel would be fine.

A good rule of thumb is 1/2" and below is best chopped, anything above that is bored and pared.  

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I have owned the Narex chisels and thought they were marginal at best. The LN chisels are not durable enough for the heavy striking required when mortising IMHO. Hands down the LV PM-V11 Mortise Chisels are what I would go with, that's what I bought earlier this year and they are awesome. The handles are durable and can take a pounding. The PM-V11can hold an edge like no other mortise chisel out there. 

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I bought a set of these Ulmia's back post-14184-0-36946800-1408062639_thumb.jpgwhen I was single.  I got used to these long ones, and have never thought much of pig stickers.  I've since picked up a few small odd balls, but the make of those doesn't matter much.  That's a 20 foot long board that cost $27 a bd.ft.  The planer chatter from the supplier was planed off by hand.  It replaces the one with the rotten spots laying next to it.

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I have three types of oval bolstered mortice chisels. I began with vintage English version, particularly Ward. These come with laminated blades. They are truly excellent. Then Ray Iles brought out their D2 steel version, and I purchased a 1/4" and 3/8". They do hold an edge a tad better, but really there is not much in it.

More recently, was one of the team testing the Veritas chisels, and got to use both A2 and PM-V11 steels. What I especially like about the Veritas - better than the traditional oval bolstered chisel- is the blade is deeper, especially at the bevel end. This creates more registration, and this offers better control and straighter chopping. I would argue a preference for the traditional oval handle over the Veritas handle. The Veritas is very nice, but the tapered oval handle enables one to vary the grip as needed. I cannot say too much in this area, however, as the Veritas chisels I have are in different sizes - all preproduction versions for testing. I do not have production handles.

Mortice-chisels_zpsqhayxkhv.jpg

Above, from the top down: RI, Ward, Veritas

What sizes should one get? For most work, based around a 3/4" thickness, the 1/3 Rule is applied. This favours a 1/4" width. My own preference is for 1/4" and 5/16". I rarely ned 3/8" and only recently used a 1/2" - first time in a few years. I do occasionally use a 1/8" for seating drawer handles, but one could almost as easily use a bevel edged chisel. If only getting one chisel, get a 1/4".

Regards from Perth

Derek

 

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1 hour ago, jmaichel said:

The LN chisels are not durable enough for the heavy striking required when mortising

Say what? LOL  Unless you're trying to mortise some concrete with a sledgehammer...they're plenty durable.  Can't imagine how you possibly drew that conclusion.

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Thanks derek and jamaichel.  I like the PMV-11 blades I have so for the difference between the LV and LN, $10, I might just go that route. 

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A bit more information ...

The steel is less important than one might expect. The vintage chisels with laminated carbon steel hold up very well. D2 is a little better. However, I did not find enough difference between the Veritas A2 and PM-V11 to warrant spending on the more expensive PM. Both hold an edge so well that I ran out of patient chopping mortice before the edge gave up!

There is a difference between the mortice chisels I have mentioned above and the LN. The LN is a "sash mortice chisel". It was designed for chopping the shallow mortices in sash windows. Of course it can be used very well on furniture. However note that the blades are (1) less stout, and (2) have parallel sides (where the OBM chisels are trapezoid, that is, they taper). The taper enables the chisel to be released more easily.

I have also owned and used Japanese mortice chisels. One of the issues for me was that the blades were very short, which related to the Japanese use and style of furniture. The other is that they are metric (although there is not much difference between 1/4" and 6mm). I prefer Imperial to slave with my plough and router planes. Traditionally, their primary bevel is 30 degrees, while the OBM chisel are 20-25 degrees with a 30-35 degree secondary bevel.

Regards from Perth

Derek

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2 hours ago, jmaichel said:

I have owned the Narex chisels and thought they were marginal at best.

Just checking: those were Narex mortise chisels?

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