Chisel Advice


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I'm in the market for some new chisels and am not looking to spend a fortune and am wondering if anyone has advice on a quality set for a decent price. Right now I'm looking between:

Narex Classic Bevel - 10 for $120

Hirsch Firmer - 6 for $132

Stanley Sweetheart - 4 for $120 or 8 for $220

I'm open to any and all advice including other brands but this is roughly my price range...and if anyone out there is interested in donating me their set of premium Japanese Chisels I'm also open to that...

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I'm in the market for a solid set of chisel too. Aside from the $$$$ Lie Nielsen... another brand I'm seeing good reviews on are the "two cherries" chisels.

Marples are another chisel brand that was bought out by Irwin and are "apparently" NOT the same as the original brand chisel. I have read good reviews regarding the original Marples which you may be able to find used sets on places like eBay or craigslist. Just another option.

I have no experience with any of these chisels, so take my rambling with a grain of salt... just something to consider.

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In the inexpensive category, I am using the Stanley Bailey chisels. (Tang handle models made in England ) for around $70 for a set of 5 with a tool roll I think they are one of the best bangs for the buck out there in chisels. After a flattening and sharpening they work very well.

http://www.amazon.com/Stanley-16-401-Bailey-Chisel-5-Piece/dp/B003HGH3W2/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1327320715&sr=8-4

Around here Narex seems to get a lot of love, the new ones are using an inch scale not metric which was a problem for some woodworkers.

I think then if you are looking to go premium down the road, you can then use the less expensive but still decent set (Stanley, Narex, etc) help you decide what you use, or miss having, the most and fill in the gaps or replace those with the premium brand. I would probably go with Lie-Nielsen but just buy the 1/4", 3/8", 1/2" for around $165 for those 3 maybe add a 1/8" since I don't have one and have come across a few times when it would have been useful. 1/2" by far is my go to at the moment...

Just some thoughts...

-Jim

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Get what feels good in your hands, and implement a good method for sharpening. Unless you're an advanced user, the majority of decent quality chisels should work well when sharp. Narex are my best quality chisels, but I reach for my cheaper blue handled Irwin's more than any b/c they feel good to me.

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I own Hirsch firmer, Marples Blue Chip, and the new Stanley Sweethearts, and have tried Barr and LN. I also suggest trying to get your hands on different brands.

I really liked the Hirsch, and they served me well, until I got to try the new Stanley. I prefer the Stanley simply by feel, as they are the best balancing and very nice to hold, very close to the LN. I think the balance almost makes then feel weightless in use. LN chisels have better attention to detail before shipping, and possibly better steel. I have zero complants about the steel in any of the three brands I own. Stanley Sweetheart chisels are true inch sized. Much of the time, this doesn not matter, but sometimes can be helpful if you work in inches.

All that said, my Stanley examples did require a bit of one-time work.

- The clear protective coating Stanley uses on the metal is a BEAR to remove. It is not NC lacquer, possibly some sort of urethane or catalyzing product. This needs to be removed from most new chisels, unless you like clogged stones.

- The backs needed more work than I expected, 2 of the 8 required significant work.

- The non cutting edges are SHARP, and can easily cut skin. I spent a decent amount of time with 320 grit sandpaper easing the non-cutting edges.

- I added a spritz of hair spray to the insides of the sockets.

Once set up, I have been very happy with my Stanleys.

That said, the Hirsch and Marples also needed initial work, just in different ways. For example, Hirsch polishes the chisels. While this eases the edges, it can mess with the back. I eventually cut the top 1/2"-3/4" off my my Blue Chip handles, as the plastic handles are very heavy and a flat top takes a mallet strike better. I still use these in my traveling trim kit.

BTW... if you buy socket chisels, never hang them by the handle... :o

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You won't go wrong with any of the brands mentioned in earlier posts. I have a full set of both Narex and Two cherries and love them both, the Narex needed a good amount of work to flatten the backs, all but one out of eight TC's were good to go out of the box. That said I just picked up a pair of the Narex skew chisels, combined they needed about 15 min to hone and put into use. I really like the look and feel of the Sweethearts but haven't had an opportunity to work with them. My Narex are the daily workers and I've found that a 28˚ bevel works best, the TC’s are at 25˚ which I use more for paring than anything else.

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I have been using a set of Narex chisels for about a year. I also bought a couple of extra 10mm chisels and made them into skew chisels.

Overall, I have been happy with them. They take a bit more frequent sharpening than a premium chisel might require, but not to the point where it becomes a nuisance. I find that a 30 degree secondary bevel holds up and still cuts nicely.

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ANother option to look at, though a little more expensive, is the Pfeils that woodcraft sells. They are metric, but I have found that has stopped me from making imperial sized joints. The handles had a good feel in my hand, and the steel is excellent, and I have found keeping them sharp is not difficult to do.

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I'm getting fairly good service from my Stanley Fat max chisels, but the edges still crumble and get ragged. I can certainly get them sharp (waterstones) but they don't stay that way too long--some blades wear better than others. My LNs are a dream to use. They came sharp, get sharper, and stay sharp. Now, they cost way more, but ....

I've been picking up and rehabbing some old Stanley 750s (got a 1/2, 3/4, and 1" now). They take and hold an edge well, too. Since I bought the 1/2" for $2 at a pawn shop, I'm not spending the big *bay dollars for collector prices on user chisels. But, these are definitely way better than the Fat Max ones yet not as good as the LNs.

I gave my friend a set of Irwins. After we sharpened them, they work about like the Fat Max chisels. Edge retention is not the greatest--but they resharpen quickly and get really sharp. Like the FMs, they pare well but don't take a pounding well on the blade edge.

Good luck,

Archie

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I have a set of sorbys that i love. but what ever you chose for you good chisels, i would make sure u hang on to all your cheep ones too. I sharpen mine the same way, and sure they loose their edge faster but it is really nice to hace a set of knock around chisels that you dont have to worry about killing your self for hitting a possible nail concrete or what ever might be in the unforseen path

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ANother option to look at, though a little more expensive, is the Pfeils that woodcraft sells. They are metric, but I have found that has stopped me from making imperial sized joints. The handles had a good feel in my hand, and the steel is excellent, and I have found keeping them sharp is not difficult to do.

I have Pfeils as well, they feel really good and hold an edge well, but I find the metric sizing to be a bit of a pain to be honest. For most stuff though they're great. For dovetailing I actually use a couple of old Buck Brothers flea market chisels (not not the buck brothers they sell now, old socket chisels) as they are shaped way better for that task than any other set of bench chisels I've seen made today. I've got some Marples blue chips as my knockarounds and they work pretty well too, but they don't hold an edge quite as long.

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I can't thank you guys enough for all your input (I really think woodworkers are the greatest group of people I've known). I think I'm going to go with Narex and get a full set of their classic bevel edged and the mortise set as well and spend some time sharpening them (I invented a sharpening station that I love to work with that I'll post pics and specs of while I'm working). This way I can buy more and have a little money left over in the old "drum sander savings fund."

Thanks again for all the advice, it's incredibly helpful and very appreciated

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I am in the Narex camp as well. I have the bevel, skew, and mortise and have not been disapointed at all. I don't really even touch my Stanleys any more (they have become the training chisels for my kids) They are coming out with a litttle different handle design and brass furrules through Highland in Feb., they feature the newer slimmer sides to get into narrower areas, just thought these might appeal to you.

Nate

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I really wish someone out there actually made the kind of chisels I've been looking for. These were just standard hardware store tools for generations and they were made in Sheffield when several trades were working at their peak. I'd buy from ebay but those chisels were refined to the point one can't lap out any pitting on their backs without changing the width of the chisel. I believe if people understood the kind of chisels that used to be readily available, there'd be some pressure on chisel makers to produce something worth buying. I'd be willing to pay a pretty good price for the chisels I want but I'm sure I'll end up making them myself.

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