Respectable starter set

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Review by lysdexic posted 07-20-2011 04:27 AM 5817 views 0 times favorited 15 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Respectable starter set No-picture-s No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

Purchased this set about a year ago to get me started woodworking. The set is currently on clearance for $76 at Woodcraft. I realize that these are not a set of Lie Nielsens, Ashley Iles, or vintage 750’s. Therefore, my expectations were guarded. They lived up to my expectations but they certainly did NOT exceed them.

Now, I do not have any significant experience with any other chisels except a couple a Stanley’s that I got from Lowe’s in the distant past.

They come on a box that has a pretty cheesy glossy spray finish. The handles are nice enough. I can’t really speak to the balance or feel.

My biggest problem that have had is getting the back flat. Right out of the box I flattened the back on a reference piece of granite and sandpaper. I spent a long time doing this starting at 60 grit and working my way up. The problem lies in the fact that most of the backs are milled slightly concave like a Japanese chisel but the concavity extends all the way to the edge. Thus you can never achieve the theoretical 2 intersecting planes. I could remedy this with the ruler trick which will jeopardize the reference back surface. Secondly, I could continue to grind the surface but I have better ways to spend my time than rubbing inexpensive chisels on a rock. I’ve already spent several hours on the set already.

In the end I’d say that I got them pretty darn sharp. They have been performing the basic tasks that I ask of them. They don’t hold their edge as well as the generic Stanley’s that I have.

I don’t want to be too hard on these chisels. They have done exactly what I want from them—- to get me started.

The following pics are from my cell phone about a year ago. These are from the flattening process. I did hone them to 8000 grit but these pics show how I couldn’t get rid of the concavity at the edge. It is not present on all but some.

Here is a look at all them during the flattening process

These look OK because the scratch marks go all the way to the edge

I would have to remove alot of steel to get scratches all the way to the edge

Notice the difference between these two.

-- "It's only wood. Use it." - Smitty || Instagram - nobodhi_here

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5348 posts in 3472 days

15 comments so far

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


16901 posts in 3467 days

#1 posted 07-20-2011 04:33 AM

It appears that you could grind away about a 16th” from the tips and get to the flats. (don’t hit me for saying that, given the amount of time you’ve already invested…) :-)

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. - OldTools Archive -

View lysdexic's profile


5348 posts in 3472 days

#2 posted 07-20-2011 04:36 AM

Not until I get a grinding wheel. I have had enough off grinding these on sand paper and a honing jig. Sounds like a good excuse to buy a tool.

-- "It's only wood. Use it." - Smitty || Instagram - nobodhi_here

View RGtools's profile


3372 posts in 3503 days

#3 posted 07-20-2011 04:38 AM

Let’s see a pic of the side of the chisel. I am curious about the lands.

One other question, is the steel blue on the tip in this pick or am I nuts? They may need better heat treatment (explaining the issue with edge retention)

Getting started is important I just wish good chisels were not so uncommon (modern toolmakers: shame on you…well most of you).

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


16901 posts in 3467 days

#4 posted 07-20-2011 05:17 AM

I’m going to sound like the one trick pony I am re: chisels, but Stanley is making some pretty respectable chisels these days in the form of the 750SW re-issues. Today’s company seems to be one that many love to hate though (present company excluded).

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. - OldTools Archive -

View WayneC's profile


14359 posts in 4946 days

#5 posted 07-20-2011 06:11 AM

Looks like they are working for what you do now. I’m currently using some blue marples. After buying some Ashley Iles carving chisels, I am going to save my nickels set of their bench chisels when I feel my skills have outgrown the marples.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View Ken90712's profile


17902 posts in 4037 days

#6 posted 07-20-2011 10:01 AM

I have these and did not have the same problem on the back as your having. I don’t do alot of work with chesil’s, but once I sharpened them, they work great. The box is a pain though. Good deal and they work well but not Lie Nielsens like you mentoined.

-- Ken, "Everyday above ground is a good day!"

View David Grimes's profile

David Grimes

2078 posts in 3488 days

#7 posted 07-20-2011 10:22 AM

Nice review. Brutally honest. I would have to lose one start for the backs not flatter out of the box.

I believe I’d have to do whatever it took to get the edge concavity resolved. Its okay if there’s a depression even a little further back, but not on the edge (imho).

-- If you're going to stir the pot, think BIG spoon or SMALL boat paddle. David Grimes, Georgia

View funchuck's profile


119 posts in 3906 days

#8 posted 07-20-2011 03:02 PM

I have the previous generation of these chisels (they were called Pinnacle chisels). I had the exact same problem with the concavity all the way to the edge. I spent SO much time flattening the back. Something I figured out is, instead of holding the chisel with your fingers, use the palm of your hand and put your weight into it when flattening the back. That worked very well and I was able to get all 8 flat. Even the 2 incher was flattened.

One other problem with these chisels is that the cutting edge folds over very easily. After about 5 to 10 paring cuts on poplar end grain, the tip would be folded over. I am not exaggerating, it really only was 5 to 10 cuts. Do you have the same problem? I know some people said that new chisels might do this, but I have had these chisels for ~7 years.

-- Charles from California

View Tedstor's profile


1691 posts in 3481 days

#9 posted 07-20-2011 08:20 PM

Forgive me if my interpretation is wrong, but my takeaway from your review is that these are crudely milled and have lacklaster edge retention. If so, you’re an easy grader :LOL:)

RG- Narex, Marples/Irwin, and even Craftsman offer chisel sets that many notable tool gurus will regard as “pretty good/not bad/great for the money”. So luckily, good tools for the beginner are available at realistic price points. But I do have to concede that there are plenty of sub-par tools floating around too.

View crank49's profile


4032 posts in 3820 days

#10 posted 07-20-2011 08:42 PM

I have that set as well. One had a very bad chip out of one of the edges when I first opened the box. Woodcraft just handed me a new set. As for flattening, that’s what belt sanders are made for. Two minutes, several dunks in a bucket of water and you’re done. Then go to the wet paper on glass or granite.

View DrDirt's profile


4614 posts in 4591 days

#11 posted 07-20-2011 10:43 PM

Iam wondering for the 5 star rating it seems you had to do an awful lot of work. So what grade would/should the Lee Nielsons get being flat right out of the box but 3x the cost of these?

-- “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Mark Twain

View lysdexic's profile


5348 posts in 3472 days

#12 posted 07-20-2011 11:36 PM

I apologize for the oversight. I thought that I had given these a 3 star rating. The rating has been changed to the appropriate and intended level.

-- "It's only wood. Use it." - Smitty || Instagram - nobodhi_here

View RGtools's profile


3372 posts in 3503 days

#13 posted 07-21-2011 04:44 AM

Tedstor. I use Irwins myself at the moment I am never impressed with their edge retention, but I do concede they are a good “starter”.

I would have preferred to spend the money on high ends in the first place and then never deal with the issue again.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View rance's profile


4274 posts in 4009 days

#14 posted 07-21-2011 05:49 AM

I too have this set. I’ve not had the problems with curved backs either. Been satisfied with them so far after initial sharpening. I have to add though, that I primarilly use the 1/4” & 1/2” ones. I can’t see myself ever using the bigger ones. It is nice having them on hand if I ever need them though. Nice handles, cheesy box.

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

View DantheWoodworker's profile


18 posts in 3369 days

#15 posted 07-23-2011 01:32 AM

I was lucky I got this set on sale at woodcraft for $45

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