Irwin Marples

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Blog entry by Chris McDowell posted 07-19-2012 12:48 AM 2114 reads 1 time favorited 13 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I had $30 Amazon rewards, so I ordered these:

My woodworking budget is nil, so I was looking for something cheap and decent that I could learn with and I decided on these after reading reviews on several different brands. The reviews on are pretty good, but not so good in other places. I also read somewhere else that these were decent starter chisels after they’ve been sharpened. It’s funny how on one of the pictures of these shows “Sheffield England” on the blade, which I expected it was an older picture. The package says they are made in China according to Irwin standards, which I don’t like, but it’s what I could afford for now and I think they will be good enough for learning.

I also found a small chip in one of the blades, which is disappointing:

Well, what can I expect for $30 chisels… They also don’t seem very sharp, so I will have to get some sharpening stones, but I’m eager to learn how to sharpen anyway since I plan on getting some planes as well.

I’m leaning towards the method Paul Sellers shows on his YouTube videos. He uses diamond stones from EZE Lap. It seems like it will be easy enough to learn. The diamond stones aren’t too cheap, but I’m planning on splurging a little bit on sharpening supplies when I have extra cash anyway. I guess I’ll have to get some stones pretty soon if I plan on doing any work with the chisels…

-- Chris, , FACEBOOK: , Proverbs 16:9

13 comments so far

View Alexandre's profile


1417 posts in 2586 days

#1 posted 07-19-2012 12:50 AM

The marbles I have, are the ones still made in England.
Those ones I find made in England better than today’s models.
A store near me has some diamond sharpening stones for $3 a set!
Better get them…

-- My terrible signature...

View BTimmons's profile


2303 posts in 2880 days

#2 posted 07-19-2012 01:19 AM

I have that exact set of chisels. I’ve been using them for a few months and I’m pretty happy with them. The chip on one edge will polish out easily with a good honing. And yeah, every chisel needs sharpening when you buy it new. The bevel is only coarse ground and the back needs to be polished to mirror flatness. I use the Scary Sharp method in lieu of nice stones and I’m doing pretty well so far.

-- Brian Timmons -

View crank49's profile


4032 posts in 3366 days

#3 posted 07-19-2012 01:37 AM

+1 for the scary sharp method.

My dad taught that to me back in 1960. He’d been using it for 30 years then.

I will say that a good sharpening jig can be as valuable as any thing else.

I have a couple of the Irwins and they are not bad. If I was just starting out I might go for them or Narex. My personal preference for the best bang for the buck is the Narex.

Of course, LN and Two Cherries, Ashley Isles and similar are the best, but who can afford $400 chisels?

View thedude50's profile


3610 posts in 2873 days

#4 posted 07-19-2012 01:49 AM

if i were just starting out and had a tight budget i would go with oil stones or the trend two sided diamond Wheatstone it is 300 / 1000 it works great i still use it on lots ot things that are hard to sharpen like the blade for the 140 block plane. I have the pre buy out chisels and i look for them in small stores and they are hard to find but worth looking. I just ordered a set of the new sweetheart chisels to go with my vintage stanley chisels thank god for ebay

-- Please check out my new stores and

View Richard's profile


400 posts in 3086 days

#5 posted 07-19-2012 04:41 AM

I bought that same set from Rockler a couple of weeks ago when they were on sale. They do sharpen up nicely enough, but I haven’t had an opportunity to use them yet.

-- "It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so." - Mark Twain

View bobasaurus's profile


3599 posts in 3579 days

#6 posted 07-19-2012 05:55 AM

I have the same set and they’re not bad. They’re kind of chunky and not as well balanced as I would like, so I’m thinking about upgrading someday, but I have gotten a lot of good use from them. They sharpen to a good edge, and can hold it decently.

-- Allen, Colorado (Instagram @bobasaurus_woodworking)

View harshest's profile


63 posts in 2799 days

#7 posted 07-19-2012 12:41 PM

I can give a +1 on the Paul Sellers method of sharpening. I bought a vintage set of Marples from eBay and then bought the DMt DiaSharp plates, extra course 220, fine 600 and extra fine 1200. Coming from using sand paper to sharpen, these are HUGE improvement. I got mine from Lee Valley when they were offering free shipping and at $52 a piece they are a pretty big investment (for me at least). Also got the green honing compound from LV as well. His method is just as fest and accurate as he describes in his videos. Once you have your chisel set up (ie back flattened), for every day sharpening I only spend about two minutes at the diamond plates. I would highly recommend his system to anyone.

View tsangell's profile


216 posts in 3088 days

#8 posted 07-19-2012 04:23 PM

I use these chisels and sharpen with Norton Waterstones. I can tell you that they can be very capable, very sharp, and you can do loads of good work with them. What you need to do is learn how to sharpen them, and I mean really, really sharp – whenever it is needed. I’ve gotten to the point where I strop the chisels before I put them away so they are clean and sharp the next time I use them. If they need to go to the stones, I’ll do that, then strop, then put them away.

Whatever method you use, I recommend you knock the sharp edges off of the long sides of the chisels very lightly with a file. You can slice yourself pretty cleanly with the factory corners. Voice of experience, there…

View Chris McDowell's profile

Chris McDowell

644 posts in 2548 days

#9 posted 07-20-2012 12:58 AM

Thanks for all of the helpful comments.

I’ve read about the scary sharp method, but I am still leaning pretty heavily towards Paul Sellers’ method. By the time I need new diamond stones I would probably have paid much more replacing all of the sandpaper needed for scary sharp. Unless there are other ways to do scary sharp. The only articles I’ve read about it involve really high grit sandpapers.

-- Chris, , FACEBOOK: , Proverbs 16:9

View a1Jim's profile


117627 posts in 3972 days

#10 posted 07-20-2012 01:19 AM

I have a set of Marpels chisels I’ve used for years and they have served me well. I don’t understand why folks have to spend more . I used the scary sharp method for years and it works great .I don’t understand why you think it uses alot of sand paper. I say if you made up your mind to use Paul Sellers method(not sure what that is) then go for it.

View Chris McDowell's profile

Chris McDowell

644 posts in 2548 days

#11 posted 07-20-2012 10:14 AM

After researching some more about scary sharp I am now reconsidering. It seems quite easy and will be cheaper than diamond stones. And apparently the sandpaper lasts a lot longer than I assumed.

This video helped a lot:

-- Chris, , FACEBOOK: , Proverbs 16:9

View harshest's profile


63 posts in 2799 days

#12 posted 07-20-2012 12:29 PM

Wood magazine issue 210 page 60 has a real good article comparing four sharpening methods, check it out.

View BigTiny's profile


1676 posts in 3283 days

#13 posted 07-23-2012 05:36 AM

Main differences between chisels?

1. How long before it needs resharpening. Good steel holds an edge longer.

2. How good an edge will it take? Good steel is finer grained and will take a better edge, provided you know how.

3. Balance. A well made tool feels better in the hand and is easier to control.

Lee Valley make some really nice middle of the road chisels that won’t break the bank yet are good quality. They even come quite sharp and the backs come from the factory flattened to .0005”. Hard to beat in a four chisel set for around $300.


-- The nicer the nice, the higher the price!

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