3/16" vs 1/4" Chisel

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Forum topic by mike12ophone posted 02-23-2016 04:14 PM 2452 views 0 times favorited 13 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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45 posts in 2345 days

02-23-2016 04:14 PM

Topic tags/keywords: chisels

I’m about to buy my very first chisel. (the very first thing I bought was a Veritas Marking Gage cause it was pretty)

I’m set on one or two Lie Nielsens to start and wanted your opinion on sizing. The common advice I’ve seen is to start with a 1/4” but since Lie Nielsen give the option for the slightly undersized 3/16”, I’m unsure which would be best. Does it make a difference either way or is there a reason to go one way or the other? Thanks!

-- - just a man with too many hobbies

13 replies so far

View Kaleb the Swede's profile

Kaleb the Swede

1993 posts in 3465 days

#1 posted 02-23-2016 04:33 PM

Well…depends on what you are doing. General chiseling, cleaning dovetails, chopping mortises etc.? Why just one first and foremost?

1/4 inch is a very common size so I would buy that if I was going with just one size if you are just trying to acquire a full set from Lie Nielsen. Is there any way you could buy a set with all of the common sizes?

Lie Nielsen makes high quality tools and all, but a set with 1/4, 3/8-1/2, 3/4 or some variation will cover most of what you would ever do. Not trying to dissuade you from the chisel you have chosen. But there are some great sets out there for 150 dollars or cheaper.

Narex makes nice stuff. I have the Stanley Bailey’s which I am happy with, Stanley Sweetheart’s are in many collections around. Lie Nielsen is great too.

Hope this helps

-- Just trying to build something beautiful

View bbasiaga's profile


1259 posts in 3491 days

#2 posted 02-23-2016 04:45 PM

I just bought a 1/4”, thinking it would be handy to have it match up to common router bits. Hopefully that helps. I’m going to end up with a set of 3 – 1/4, 1/2 and 1”. I think that will do almost everything I need.


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

View HokieKen's profile


22015 posts in 2634 days

#3 posted 02-23-2016 05:31 PM

If I were only going to have 1 chisel, it would be 1/2”. I probably use that size 4X for every time I use any other. It depends on what you’re doing though. Like Kaleb said, the 1/4” is a common size so I’d go with that over the 3/16”.

-- I collect hobbies. There is no sense in limiting yourself (Don W) - - - - - - - - Kenny in SW VA

View mike12ophone's profile


45 posts in 2345 days

#4 posted 02-23-2016 05:51 PM

Thanks for all the replies. I looked at the stanley 750s but was advised to get the best chisels i can afford. That means buying 1 until i need a second, then a third and so on. I want hit walls and learn why i need x or y. I just dont want to waste money on a tool i may upgrade later. Im sure once i get into the swing of things ill have tons of stuff that i wont use but Im fighting my tendency to buy every tool.

-- - just a man with too many hobbies

View Marlow's profile


215 posts in 4166 days

#5 posted 02-24-2016 03:14 AM

I have to agree with Kenny on this: 1/2” will take care of many tasks. Chris Schwartz suggests this one size as part of his “Chisel Monogamy” philosophy. If you are sure that you want the smaller size, then get the 1/4”: its a standard size that will match many tasks.

View mike12ophone's profile


45 posts in 2345 days

#6 posted 02-24-2016 08:12 AM

I just read the Theory of Chisel Monogamy and am sold. The 1/2” Lie Nielsen it is. Who am I to disagree with the Schwarz.

-- - just a man with too many hobbies

View Scott in Montana's profile

Scott in Montana

6 posts in 4032 days

#7 posted 03-04-2016 06:05 AM

Why didn’t I read about “chisel monogamy” 100 chisels ago?! :O)

Scott in Montana

View Robert's profile


5014 posts in 2976 days

#8 posted 03-04-2016 10:37 AM

Depends on what you’re doing if its dovetails the narrower chisel will serve you better.

I would go for a 1/4 and 1/2 to start.

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

View RGtools's profile


3372 posts in 4150 days

#9 posted 03-04-2016 02:29 PM

Are you going to make small boxes or furniture? What type of furniture? This really makes a difference as to what chisel is going to serve you well based on only being able to get one.

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

View bearkatwood's profile


1837 posts in 2507 days

#10 posted 03-04-2016 02:37 PM

If you are buying the top of the line tool as your first tool, don’t be surprised if it doesn’t work perfectly right out of the box, it is the skills that will need to develop over time. Best of luck on your purchase, but I would start with a less expensive set of chisels then you could see which are your favored sizes to invest in.

-- Brian Noel

View mike12ophone's profile


45 posts in 2345 days

#11 posted 03-06-2016 06:13 AM

So i caved and bought the 1/4 and 1/2. This doesnt bode well for my future. Next thing i know, ill be eyeing that fancy green and blue.

Also im fully aware that i have a long and hard road ahead of me to produce someting that wont go in the trash haha.

My will remains steadfast and one day, many years from now, ill make a sculped rocker of mine own. Dovetails here i come!

-- - just a man with too many hobbies

View TheFridge's profile


10863 posts in 2982 days

#12 posted 03-06-2016 06:21 AM

I bought the 1/2 chisel and it led to this…

No regrets. Love them.

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

View unbob's profile


810 posts in 3399 days

#13 posted 03-06-2016 07:27 AM

This is an old 1/2” chisel branded “Zenith” found in a junk box. I made the handle from a piece of paduk, the bronze ends are salvaged Harley Davidson cam cover bushings. The total cost was about $1.50. I found another 1/4” no name for $3.00, I will make a handle for it out of the same wood for a higher cost of $4.50. I found these old chisels are made of good carbon steel. They have survived abuse over decades, as when the handle gave out, they were pounded on the sockets.
Anyway, due to over spending my WW budget on machines, this is the route I am taking.

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