Chisels...need a strategy

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Forum topic by bbasiaga posted 02-05-2016 03:36 AM 2234 views 0 times favorited 39 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1259 posts in 3490 days

02-05-2016 03:36 AM

I’ve been asking a lot of advice on what tools to buy lately. Thanks to the LJs for being there to help me talk it out.

After two or three years with an $8 set of chisels, they are approaching the top of my upgrade list.

I don’t want to spend more than about $100 when the time comes. For that I can get a set of the Narex chisels. One Lie Nielsen or Veritas. I’ve seen a few other brands coming out of Germany where I could get a set of 4 for just over $100. I don’t know why, but it kind of bother me that the german ones are all metric and oversized for their closest fractional equivalent.

Wondering if it is best to go with fewer higher end chisels, or a decent mid range set like the Narex. What do you guys think?


-- Part of engineering is to know when to put your calculator down and pick up your tools.

39 replies so far

View conifur's profile


954 posts in 2647 days

#1 posted 02-05-2016 03:45 AM

First what type of chisels, bench, mortising ect?
Norex seem to be a good middle or above of the road, I have a set of there Mortising and love them, came ready to use, I have 2 sets of bench chisels, a cheap set for abusive things, Stanley from the BBS, and believe it or not a set of True Value Hardware ones my dad bought in the 60s that are great and my fine work bench chisels.

-- Knowledge and experience equals Wisdom, Michael Frankowski

View bbasiaga's profile


1259 posts in 3490 days

#2 posted 02-05-2016 03:53 AM

General purpose bench chisels. Sorry, should have clarified that.


-- Part of engineering is to know when to put your calculator down and pick up your tools.

View waho6o9's profile


9200 posts in 4072 days

#3 posted 02-05-2016 05:26 AM

I guess first you’ll need to figure out which sizes you want to use, and then

you can piecemeal them through Ebay or Craigslist and get some real good deals if you’re patient and

know what you’re looking for.

I purchased a good Japanese set off of Ebay a while back put they’re around 150.00 now but
they’re well balanced and have great edge retention.

View Andre's profile


5293 posts in 3301 days

#4 posted 02-05-2016 05:30 AM

I have the Narex set (bench and mortise) but ended up getting the Stanley S.W. because they felt a lot better and do keep there edge better also. Have also picked up a lot of old odds and ends chisels, some japanese, swedish, bunch of Old U.S. including some Stanely 750s and a complete set of 2 Cherries from Germany which have yet to to used! They are way to pretty! Really depends on intended use of the chisel, beater or detail work? The new Stanley are probably your best all round choice IMHO.

-- Lifting one end of the plank.

View BurlyBob's profile


10794 posts in 3761 days

#5 posted 02-05-2016 05:35 AM

Brian, a year or so back I bought a set of 6 Two Cherry chisels from Jamestown distributing for around $150. I just checked. They’ve still got the same set for $145. Yeah, they are metric, I got to tell you they are amazing. They hold an edge like nobody’s business. I’ve never regretted buying them. It’s your money spend it how you please.

View conifur's profile


954 posts in 2647 days

#6 posted 02-05-2016 05:35 AM

General purpose, I dont know if you are a Aldis shopper, there products are good, I heard hear there chisels are good to better when they have them in there weekly sale,never saw them here in WI.

-- Knowledge and experience equals Wisdom, Michael Frankowski

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10863 posts in 2981 days

#7 posted 02-05-2016 05:41 AM


-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

View DrTebi's profile


406 posts in 4762 days

#8 posted 02-05-2016 09:00 AM

I was in a similar position once, and after a lot of reading (mostly here), I decided to go for vintage chisels. Many people here swear by them, and even say that they are better than new ones.

I bought mostly James Swan chisels, on eBay, and some on Etsy. Other well respected vintage chisels that come to mind are Greenlee, Witherby. I was forced to learn how to get a chisel into its best shape—I cleaned, sometimes de-rusted (with electrolysis, which is really easy actually), and sharpened with the “scary sharp sandpaper system (which is also cheap and works really well).

The result was that I learned how to restore and sharpen a chisel, saved a lot of money (most chisels were between $10 and $25), and now have a beautiful, superbly working collection.

Just think about it, you will have to sharpen your chisels at some point anyway, new or old, the edge won’t last forever. So start by learning how to do that, and just buy a couple of nice old chisels and re-sharpen them.

View bbasiaga's profile


1259 posts in 3490 days

#9 posted 02-05-2016 05:56 PM

So are the new Stanley 750s actually metric too? I see they are made in England. Wouldnt that complicate things if your other measuring devices are all standard units?

-- Part of engineering is to know when to put your calculator down and pick up your tools.

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


17834 posts in 4114 days

#10 posted 02-05-2016 05:58 PM

They are not metric, but Imperial. Review here on LJs, if interested. I’m very happy with them.

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

View JayT's profile


6460 posts in 3706 days

#11 posted 02-05-2016 08:45 PM

I’m a proponent of the buying good quality individual chisels in the sizes that you will use rather than a set. One reason is that it allows you to purchase better quality tools, but the main consideration is that most sets do not have the size assortment of chisels needed. As an example, my most used chisels are 1/4, 3/8 & 1/2 with occasional need of a wider chisel like 1in or so. There is not a single set that has these. Most are 1/4, 1/2, 3/4, & 1in. The 3/4 would be a waste of money for me and I would then have to go find a single 3/8.

I don’t find that the imperial vs metric makes any difference. I can’t think of any situation where an exact size is needed when you are working to mark and not to measure. In reality, the imperial sized chisels I have are not exact anyways—mostly just a bit undersized.

My “set” of users is all vintage socket chisels from a variety of makers that I turned matching handles for. This was the result of picking up a whole box of chisels at an auction for a bargain price. Pulled out the ones I wanted to keep and sold the rest for more than I paid for the box. If it wasn’t for finding those, I would have gone with more Two Cherries, which I reviewed here

-- - In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.

View tshiker's profile


144 posts in 2805 days

#12 posted 02-05-2016 10:02 PM

They are not metric, but Imperial. Review here on LJs, if interested. I m very happy with them.

- Smitty_Cabinetshop


View David Taylor's profile

David Taylor

326 posts in 2583 days

#13 posted 02-06-2016 04:22 AM

I’m partial to the Ashley Iles bench chisels at Tools for Working Wood. Very reasonably priced, I think, hold their edge forever in the nastiest stuff. I also agree that getting a set is a waste of money Get them individually as you need, or can foresee a need, then you won’t have to spend money on tools you’ll never use.

Mk2 Beveled Edge Bench Chisels by Ashley Iles

-- Learn Relentlessly

View Robert's profile


5014 posts in 2976 days

#14 posted 02-06-2016 12:38 PM

For general purposes, I’m happy with – believe it or not – a set of blue handled Irwin Marples.

I poo pooed them at first, but for heavy going like cleaning up mortises, they are great and hold an edge better than I expected. Yeah, you’ll work getting the backs flat, but once that’s done it done.

Where chisels separate is dovetails. You can get all of them sharp enough, but only some have a low side bevel height which prevents you from bruising the sides of the tails when chopping out the waste.

For your money I don’t think you can go too wrong with a set of Narex (make sure you get the “premiums” they have a lower side bevel height).

Also keep in mind ergonomics of the handle. I have fairly big mitts and chisels like the Stanley and others are just too small for me. I also like a little weight. I don’t have a lot of experience with different chisels, but I know for me, the Stanleys are too light and handle is too small. I don’t think the edge retention is any better than the Narex.

My next chisel purchase will be a couple LN’s.
I think the Ashely Liles have the lowest side bevel height of any chisel.

There is a very good chisel review on Fine WW’ing I suggest you check that out.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View boatz's profile


92 posts in 3146 days

#15 posted 02-07-2016 04:13 PM

I am using a mixed set of Maples chisels – not the Irwin – but made in Sheffield. I keep them as sharp as I can. I have told my entire family that I want birthday / Christmas presents to be LN chisels. My priority is 1/2, 1/4, 3/8, 3/4, and 1”. Hopefully over the next year I will get my set. I agree with JayT that 1/2, 1/4, 3/8 are by far my most used.

-- You can't always get what you want. But if you try sometimes you just might find, you'll get what you need

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