A step up from my no-name chisels

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Review by RandyMorter posted 01-17-2011 08:49 AM 6306 views 4 times favorited 18 comments Add to Favorites Watch
A step up from my no-name chisels A step up from my no-name chisels A step up from my no-name chisels Click the pictures to enlarge them

I know next to nothing about chisels but I’ve been trying to use them a bit. I’ve got some cheap set, probably from Home Depot, with nicks in them that I work around. I’d like to learn how to sharpen them but haven’t started down that path yet.

I’ve read mixed reviews about these chisels but something inside me said to get them so I did.

They came covered in some kind of oil that I removed with mineral spirits (please tell me if I’ve already ruined them!). I tried to use them straight out of the box because they’re supposed to be ready for that.

I used a couple of them to create a mortise for two small hinges on the edge of some purple heart. I think the purple heart is pretty hard. The chisels did okay shaving along the grain but I had a hard time cutting directly perpendicular to the grain to mark the ends of the mortise. I am using a rubber mallet so maybe that’s part of it.

I slipped at one point and barely nicked my finger but it cut and drew blood – if you’re making something out of flesh they should be decent chisels!

After creating the two small mortises (about 1/4×1 x 1/16 deep), I noticed rollover on the 1/4 inch. I can feel it when I run my finger over the back of the chisel.

I’m sure these are better than my no-name chisels, and I don’t know how any other chisels would work in purple heart. However, I am not very good at sharpening anything (never have been, for over 50 years) and I don’t want to spend more time sharpening a chisel than using it. I have mixed feelings on how short these are too. On the one hand they seem like they’ll be easier to manage due to how short they are (6-1/4 inches) but on the other hand it seems like more expensive chisels are always longer.

I typically only use them to do something like make a mortise for a hinge. I’ve never dovetailed anything so I don’t know how they’d work for that.

I hope this helps someone!

-- Randy Morter, Phoenix, AZ

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18 comments so far

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#1 posted 01-17-2011 03:45 PM

I can’t tell you much about chisels, I am still using my “Lowe’s” chisels, both of them. On the sparpening side of it, I got myself a Worksharp 3000 and it makes really quick work of sharpening them. Your definately not sharpening more than you are using them. Good review though, I am in the market for a set of chisels that are a step up from the big box ones.

-- Dothan, Alabama Check out my woodworking blog! Also my Youtube Channel's Facebook page

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110 posts in 4046 days

#2 posted 01-17-2011 05:10 PM

Here’s what I know about chisels. There are 2 differences between good chisels and not so good chisels: 1) the quality of the machining and 2) the durability of the steel. You can usually get a cheaper chisel into the right shape if you’re willing to spend 20 minutes with it. If the steel is soft, you’ll have to sharpen it more often.

If you work with hand tools, sharpening is part of the deal. Get a system that works for you and set up a dedicated sharpening station. When a tool dulls, take a couple of minutes to hone it.

I use the Lie Nielsen sharpening system. 2 waterstones and a jig. Check it out on You Tube.

-- Measure twice, cut once, buy extra stock.

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82 posts in 3542 days

#3 posted 01-17-2011 06:38 PM

I have a set of their bench chisels. Mine needed a lot of attention before I considered them “sharp” The biggest problem was the amount of work it took to flatten the back of the chisels, they all had a convex grind on the back. I gave up trying to do this by hand and got a WS3000 and a bunch of the lower grit sandpaper 80 or 100grit. It still took a while but at least I only had to do that once. The bevels don’t take nearly as long to sharpen and hone.

-- Eric - Baltimore MD

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5215 posts in 3739 days

#4 posted 01-17-2011 09:20 PM

Regarding the length, these are Butt chisels, so by definition they are meant to be short. Shorter than standard bench chisels anyway.

-- Galootish log blog,

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13588 posts in 3460 days

#5 posted 01-17-2011 09:57 PM

I’m with eruby. I’ve got bigbox store cheap chisels that I bang away on & fine quality chisels that I pare with. Both requried serious attention on the backs. Luckily, you only have to do a major flatenning once but it can be a chore. I’ve found that once they’re sharpened, it only takes a few passes on some high grit paper & a quick pass on the strop to get them back into action. I’m kind of a chisel snob but to be honest, I use cheap chisels more than I do expensive ones. These should serve you well. For a deep mortise chisel, however, you’ll probably want to step it up a bit. I’ve scored some wonderful ones on Ebay before on the cheap.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

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3113 posts in 3701 days

#6 posted 01-17-2011 11:31 PM

I got woodriver 8 pack chisels few months ago and they were almost useable out of the box.
Worksharp 3000 did the trick.

-- Abbas, Castro Valley, CA

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#7 posted 01-17-2011 11:55 PM

Thanks – that worksharp looks cool, but it seems pricey for what it is. I suppose it’s worth it if you can’t sharpen things on your own (like me) but I’ll have to at least wait until I get a drill press!

Rileysdad – is this the Lie Nielsen system use?

swirt – thanks for the info. I wasn’t aware of the differences (as you can tell!). If you don’t mind, why would you use one type over the other (or, can you point me to a good online reference on chisels?)

-- Randy Morter, Phoenix, AZ

View StumpyNubs's profile


7804 posts in 3568 days

#8 posted 01-18-2011 04:28 AM

I have this set and am very happy. They are designed for paring. using them to trim and shave, not to chop mortises, stc. That’s why they are short and the handles are rounded. They are great for that type of work, and while there are better ones out there- there’s nothing nearly as good for this price!

-- Subscribe to "Stumpy Nubs Woodworking Journal"- One of the crafts' most unique publications:

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#9 posted 01-18-2011 05:42 AM

I don’t have these but I have a Narex set, so they are a “cheap” brand and after a bit of time with the diamond paste they cut everything I can throw at them with minimal effort. Oh and using a rubber mallet is a bad idea, It absorbs allot of the energy in your swing, the two best mallets I have found so far are a “plastic” mallet, I don’t know what it is but its a very hard dead blow mallet. and the other is a rawhide mallet, both work fantastic for chiseling.

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Rob Drown

821 posts in 4600 days

#10 posted 01-18-2011 05:52 AM

Get a round urethane mallet or a wooden one or as cliffton says a rawhide. The rubber mallet is borderline dangerous. But don’t use the mallet on these. Jim is exactly right, they are Butt Chisels for hand paring and dared handy. Get em really sharp and they will serve you well. Consider the narex (highland woodworking) for bench chisels. they are an amazing buy. Decent quality set for $60.

-- The expectations of life depend upon diligence; the mechanic that would perfect his work must first sharpen his tools. Confucius, 经过艰苦的努力的梦想可以成真

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5215 posts in 3739 days

#11 posted 01-18-2011 05:59 AM

A while back one of the blogs that I read posted a really nice comparison of the chisel types, but I can’t find it again. Wikipedia has a bit, but it is not great

As Jim mentioned, Butt chisels are generally shorter both in handle and in steel. Usually they are bevel edged (for dovetailing) and are generally intended for use by hand only, or with only relatively light mallet taps. There are of course exceptions. Many modern butt chisels have metal striking caps on the end of the handle so they can still be whacked pretty good. The old Stanley Everlasts were butt chisels with metal striking surface and through tangs that made them very durable for mallet use even though there wasn’t much room to place your hand.

If your bench is high, butt chisels can make chiseling more comfortable.

-- Galootish log blog,

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#12 posted 01-19-2011 05:15 AM

Google ‘scary sharp’ for a way to sharpen fairly easily without buying a bunch of stones, etc.

-- toni --- SW WI...working on shop setup....wish I could say diligently. "Time is a healer, a friend & a maker of dreams."

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#13 posted 01-20-2011 09:18 PM

Wow – great information. I thank all of you!

I’ll look into getting the narex. I’ve also read about the marples and others. It seems like everyone has different opinions! The bottom line seems to be that learning to sharpen them properly makes any of the decent sets a valuable tool.

Thanks for setting me straight on not using a mallet on this set, and for the mallet I’m using.

What about the wood mallets I see ( Carpenter's Mallet )? I think the round ones would be hard to use for me due to the accuracy I think that would be necessary. Am I wrong – do the round ones require some practice or does the material help if you don’t strike it dead center?

-- Randy Morter, Phoenix, AZ

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5215 posts in 3739 days

#14 posted 01-20-2011 09:57 PM

The round mallets can actually be easier to use for light chiseling. The roundness makes it easier to connect solidly. They are probably used more often by carvers than joiners. A traditional wooden mallet can drive them harder for heavier chopping but must be hit more accurately to keep the mallet from giving a glancing blow and tipping the chisel.

Making a traditional wooden mallet is a pretty easy shop project Visit the mallet projects here for inspiration.

I don’t find rubber mallets to be as bad as some make them out to be. They are tool friendly, and inexpensive. You can get a white rubber (doesn’t leave black marks all over) at the big box for around $5. There is a bit of a myth that they waste energy, but from a physics point of view, a bounce transfers more momentum than a stop (dead blow) so what they waste in heating up the rubber as it bends, often is made up for with more complete transfer. If you are doing super heavy chopping …like in timber framing, the bounce may become a bit of a hazard, but for most applications they can do fine until you make your own.

-- Galootish log blog,

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228 posts in 3457 days

#15 posted 01-21-2011 12:37 AM

swirt -

Great info – thanks!

I don’t know why I didn’t even consider making a wooden mallet. Duh!

I probably have what you’re talking about – it’s a white rubber of some sort. I don’t use it very hard anyway, just creating mortises for very small hinges on jewelry boxes so far, and no plans for anything heavier duty.

I guess my next thing to do is to get a set of bench chisels. It seems like there’s always something to spend money on! Just like my other hobby – playing guitar and recording songs!

-- Randy Morter, Phoenix, AZ

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