NAREX - Bevel Edge Chisels (Rating: 5)

For a good couple of decades, I got by just fine with a 9 piece set of Stanley # 60/professional hinge butt mortising chisels that my father bought for me new when I was in middle school.

I have no idea what ever happened to the original 1-1/4 inch chisel. I keep hoping that I will find it in my truck.
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Given the fact that I always got my work done, I cannot make an honest argument that I ever needed more chisels but over the last decade, the folks at the local flea market have sold me another full mixed set of Stanley #60/handyman butt chisels for my work truck and encouraged me to collect other random chisels including many of these:

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I should do a review on that Ray Iles mortising chisel. The thing is a serious chunk of iron!

Or those on the left:
(The handles of which were the subject of a recent project:

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Lacking a dire need for them, my budget was limited, but I was in the market for a proper set of bench chisels. In recent years, whenever I have made the forty minute drive to visit the local Woodcraft store, I have found myself looking overlong at the Irwin's or the Stanley Sweetheart socket chisels. I have often considered the fact that neither of these sets were outside of my budget but neither set really seemed sufficiently superior to the chisels that I already had. Naturally I am proud of Stanley for finding their way out of the bench chisel dark ages but, however nice, these chisels were not right for my needs. The Irwin's are a decent tool and they come closer to being the bench chisel I was after, but the fit and finish is not always the best, the handles are too "plasticky", and, of course, I am mad at Irwin for reducing "Marples" to a marketing scheme. Still shopping, I spent hours online, looking at vintage sets on ebay, Veritus, Lee Neilson, Two Cherries, Crown, Ashley Iles, and others, but nothing really seemed right until I discovered the Narex chisels that are for sale on the Lee Valley website, Amazon, EBay, Highland Woodworking, and a few other outlets online.

I researched the Narex chisels, read all about the company, and discussed them with friends. Narex Bystrice has an interesting history and offers a nice selection of quality woodworking hand tools and screwdrivers. One of my brothers had once seen an older version of the Narex bevel edge chisels for sale at a local retailer and he thought that they had seemed like a decent tool. Encouraged, I read a good number of online reviews from regular people, well known master craftsmen, and from reputable publications. Finally, I decided to risk my money. I ordered the 10 piece imperial set of beveled edge chisels from Lee Valley and a 3 millimeter from Taylor Tool Works' EBay store. All total, I spent $153.99 on the 11 piece set and then I had a week or two to reflect on the wisdom of my purchase. ($128.00+$12.00 shipping from Lee valley, 13.99 and free shipping from TTW) I worked on the octagonal handles for the little chisels in the review noted above while I anxiously waited for my new Narex tools to arrive.

Posting the pictures of so many different chisels is my way of pointing out that I have used a lot of different types, I like different chisels for different purposes, and I knew exactly what I was looking for in a bench chisel. The question I kept asking myself was whether or not I had ordered what I wanted. I had no way of knowing until they arrived. The tools arrived before I was done with my octagonal handles and I was relieved to find that I had made a wise purchase. I had read one review comparing the Narex bevel edge chisels to the Lei Nielsen socket chisels. ( just scroll down through all of the nonsense until you find it.) The review proclaimed the Narex chisels to be functionally equal to the more expensive Lie Neilson tools, but less attractive. I disagree. I think that they are a beautiful, well balanced, tool. My set has the big, dark stained handles with hoops and ferrules and I have found these large handles to be a good fit for my big fat hands. They are well made, precisely ground, and they take a great cutting edge. Naturally, the chisel irons have mill marks and a coat of lacquer from the factory but I did not need to regrind any of the cutting edges, as they were even and square with the nicely beveled edges. A few strokes on some fine grit sand paper showed me that the backs were surprisingly flat and it only took a few moments on each chisel to flatten the back of each chisel sufficiently to to assure a chisel suitable for pairing with a straight cutting edge. A few more strokes on the front removed the lacquer and mill marks, producing a sharp chisel. I should note that the mill marks on the backs of most of the chisels were well on their way to disappearing by the time I was done. I could have polished them further, I suppose, but mirrors are for checking one's hair and I am too bald for all of that. The cutting edges were straight and square and that is the purpose of the exercise.

I have used the 1-1/4 inch chisel extensively over the last few weeks as I worked with cherry and honey locust. Thus far, I have not needed to sharpen the tool again. It has held its edge. I honestly do not know how these tools measure up to the $400.00 to $1000.00 chisel sets I see for sale, but they are as good as any chisel I own and better than most. They are certainly a decent tool for the price and having used them, I would pay double without thinking twice. I am including one last photo for the purpose of visually comparing these tools with other popular models. 1/8", Irwin, 3/8" Stanley Socket chisel, 1" Stanley # 40, Stanley 2" butt chisel.

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