Turds That Take a Surprising Polish

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Review by Ripthorn posted 06-04-2012 10:16 PM 14383 views 0 times favorited 13 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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So I am working on my workbench that will be made of doug fir. I started making the mortises which I hogged out with a Forstner bit and then I reached for my Narex bench chisels to clean them up. All three of the Narex chisels I used got dinged up blades rather quickly. Not wanting to do any more damage to them (which I probably just didn’t have set up for chopping out corners), I bought this cheap set from Harbor Freight knowing that they had a high likelihood of being total garbage, but in the off chance that they might make decent basher chisels.

I used the 1 1/2” chisel after flattening the back and sharpening it up well. I used the free hand method where you actually rock the chisel slightly front to back instead of doing a secondary bevel. After a good sharpening, I went to town and really wailed on them. After chopping out twice what one of my Narex chisels was able to do, I inspected the blade and it showed no knicks or dings. I continued one, going much faster now. I did have to touch it up a couple times, as the mortises are 2 1/2” deep and this doug fir is heavy and dense (very close growth rings).

I sharpened up the rest of them and they have cut well in test cuts. Now, these are not top of the line chisels, nor are they middle of the line. However, they have done everything I have asked and them some. They were worth the $7 just to get the mortises cut. Now, they do have several drawbacks, including:

- Two of the blades had little hollows near the tip of the blade on the back
- Grinding is really rough (REALLY), with only two of them flat enough to get the backs perfectly flat in what I decided was an acceptable amount of effort
- The handles are an abomination; uncomfortable, off center, crooked, and just really poorly made (I know, it was a $7 set, I’m not saying this was contrary to my expectations)

However, at the end of the day, performance is king and these guys have held up quite well. These make a diamond in the rough look like a finished product, but I might call these a cool looking agate in the rough. So the bottom line is if you need a good set of bashers to keep your good chisels for paring or other finer tasks, get these and give them a whirl.

-- Brian T. - Exact science is not an exact science

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1459 posts in 3790 days

13 comments so far

View AaronK's profile


1511 posts in 4270 days

#1 posted 06-04-2012 10:33 PM

thanks for the review. just curious – what was the final bevel angle at the edge on these and the narex?

View Ripthorn's profile


1459 posts in 3790 days

#2 posted 06-04-2012 11:06 PM

The Narex had a 25 degree primary with 30 degree secondary. On these, I didn’t measure, though they went from roughly 25 to roughly 30, maybe up to 35 degrees, though not sure.

-- Brian T. - Exact science is not an exact science

View AaronK's profile


1511 posts in 4270 days

#3 posted 06-04-2012 11:16 PM

interesting. thats pretty surprising then, since the narex usually get very good reviews.

View dhazelton's profile


2839 posts in 3102 days

#4 posted 06-04-2012 11:25 PM

Their ‘Windsor Design’ turning chisels are good as well. I picked up the HSS six-piece set on sale, plus 20% off coupon, plus another 15% off because they only had an opened box left, for a total of $29 including tax.

View Roger's profile


21030 posts in 3609 days

#5 posted 06-04-2012 11:55 PM

Thnx for the review. HF does have a jewel here n there.

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed. [email protected]

View Ripthorn's profile


1459 posts in 3790 days

#6 posted 06-05-2012 01:40 AM

AaronK, I’m not saying the Narex are bad, but I probably pounded them more than I should. These ones, however, will take one heck of a beating, at least in my case.

-- Brian T. - Exact science is not an exact science

View waho6o9's profile


8918 posts in 3382 days

#7 posted 06-05-2012 03:18 AM

Thanks for the review, it may be worth looking into.

View Tomj's profile


204 posts in 3187 days

#8 posted 06-05-2012 04:42 AM

I have these myself and I would say your review was right on the money.

View ShipWreck's profile


557 posts in 4558 days

#9 posted 06-05-2012 09:55 AM

Another HF gem…... I luv it.

Thx for the review.

View helluvawreck's profile


32122 posts in 3672 days

#10 posted 06-05-2012 11:06 AM

I got a HF 6×48 belt/disc sander about a month ago for $250 and I’m happy with it so far. Thanks for the tip.


-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View 47phord's profile


182 posts in 3043 days

#11 posted 06-11-2012 10:22 PM

I have this set of chisels as well. The reason you can wail on them is because they are made out of some VERY soft steel; it makes them easy to sharpen, but they don’t hold an edge so well and if you put too much lateral pressure on them (especially the 1/4” chisel) you can actutally bend them. But, as Ripthorn said, they are great for hogging out mortises, which is all I use mine for as well.

View 12strings's profile


434 posts in 3190 days

#12 posted 06-16-2013 12:42 AM

I got this set: after reading the reviews on the harborfrieght website…these got much better reviews than the wooden handled set…They have worked very well for me.

-- I'm strictly hand-tool only...unless the power tool is faster and easier!

View a1Jim's profile


118094 posts in 4382 days

#13 posted 06-16-2013 01:19 AM

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