Bench Chisel Recommendations?

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Forum topic by Jonathon Carrell posted 12-13-2016 07:36 PM 2773 views 0 times favorited 25 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Jonathon Carrell

13 posts in 1449 days

12-13-2016 07:36 PM

Topic tags/keywords: chisel

My modest garage workshop is in need of it’s first set of bench chisels.

I’ve been looking at the 6 piece WoodRiver Bench Chisel set ($89.99 from WoodCraft) and the 5 piece Stanley Bailey Chisel set ($69.99 from Amazon).

The reviews I’ve read on each of these seem to be positive overall, but what say you? Which set would you go with?

Are there other chisels that I should be considering for the $50-$100 price range?

Thanks for sharing the wisdom!

-- Jonathon Carrell, Alabama

25 replies so far

View Loren's profile


10785 posts in 4561 days

#1 posted 12-13-2016 07:53 PM

People seem to like the Narex chisels, made
by Czechs I think.

I like Japan chisels too but they are a little
more expensive from reputable dealers. You
can’t really tell much about the quality from
appearance so you have to take the dealer’s
word. Grizzly sells a set that’s pretty inexpensive
compared to others but I don’t think they
are likely as good as the ones sold by Lee
Valley, for example.

View HokieKen's profile


15313 posts in 2052 days

#2 posted 12-13-2016 08:06 PM

If I were going to buy new, I think I’d go for a set of the Narex. Lots of people love them and I haven’t heard many complaints about them. That’s assuming my budget didn’t allow for a set of Lie Nielsens.

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

View WillliamMSP's profile


1108 posts in 2518 days

#3 posted 12-13-2016 08:06 PM

Narex are one of the favorites ‘round these parts for decent budget chisels. The WR chisels feel pretty nice (I’ve only fondled them in-store), but reviews seem to indicate that initial set-up (flattening and sharpening) can be a bit of a chore. No idea on the Stanley set, but I have a new Stanley 750 chisel that’s pretty decent – I see that Amazon has the 4-piece 750 set on sale for 83 bucks – I’d probably do that instead of the other Stanley set.

Now, because someone else is going to say it: do you really need a set? You might be better served by a couple of appropriately-sized (depending on your work) high-quality chisels. Many start off with a 1/2” LN chisel and go from there.

-- Practice makes less sucky. (Bill, Minneapolis, MN)

View bigJohninvegas's profile (online now)


822 posts in 2375 days

#4 posted 12-13-2016 08:19 PM

I took some classes at a woodworking school that had these Narex chisels. Wound up with a set of my own..
They hold an edge very well. Had the set of seven for about 4 years now.,41504

-- John

View jayseedub's profile


172 posts in 2879 days

#5 posted 12-13-2016 08:24 PM

I have the 1/4”, 1/2” and 1” Narex chisels, and they’re solidly good. I don’t really like the material the handles are made out of (hornbeam, I believe—picky, picky, actually)—it seems kind of light-weight—though they’ve stood up to my mallet well.

I will say that the Narex chisel I used last night, and casually put down on my bench, happened to roll off and landed point-down on my concrete floor, which really made me wish I had gotten a non-round, non-rolling handle. A small detail, but something to consider.

The bevel edge is so sharp that I’ve cut my fingers on the side of the chisel, too.

I also bought the Aldi chisels ($10 for four?), sharpened one, and they are surprisingly great (though quick to need resharpening).

I have three Stanley chisels with the yellow clear urethane (?) handles, and those served me well for a long time. I liked that the handles were grippy, that they didn’t roll—but I never felt like I could sharpen them terribly sharp (not sure why that is). They also seemed to rust easier than my other chisels and they’re longer than I want them to be. But they do the job.

I don’t think you need to be too worried about what you get—just keep them sharp.

View bbasiaga's profile


1243 posts in 2909 days

#6 posted 12-13-2016 08:24 PM

The Stanley 750s are way better than the Baileys. That 4 piece set is nice for the price. I would go that way.

As others have suggested, you may not need every size, or 6 sizes, or even 4 sizes. So I’d go with a smaller set of higher quality over a lower quality set with a larger variety. I currently have an Aldi 4 piece set, and two LN chisels. I got the two LN first, a half and a quarter, and they are my work horses. I only really use the widest chisel from the Aldi pack, unless I am really going to beat on something and don’t want to risk the LN.

The only thing I really need is a 1/8” chisel. That, the quarter, the half and a 1” would be all I use regularly, plus a quarter inch mortise chisel.


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

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


16979 posts in 3532 days

#7 posted 12-13-2016 08:25 PM

+1 on a set of Stanley SW re-issues. Love mine. Edge retention excellent, feels good in the hand, socket design is classic.

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

View eflanders's profile


329 posts in 2764 days

#8 posted 12-14-2016 01:22 AM

Surprisingly, there are some halfway decent chisels sold by a grocery store chain called Aldi. For under $20 for the set, they do really well. Be prepared to spend a lot of time flattening and sharpening them though. However, most new chisels need this work except the really high-end stuff.

View BurlyBob's profile


8009 posts in 3179 days

#9 posted 12-14-2016 01:41 AM

I spoke with a wood carver in Germany this past spring. He told me the best steel on the market today is from a company called Stubai in Austria. We spoke at length about tools and wood working. He told me, buy a cheap toll and you buy it many times, buy the best tool and it lasts you for a lifetime. I find great commonsense in that attitude.

View ColonelTravis's profile


1976 posts in 2808 days

#10 posted 12-14-2016 02:22 AM

Harbor Freight sells a chisel set that, from what I can tell, seems to be the same as the Aldi ones. They sell for $10 right now! I’ve got both sets, they are an incredible values. Yeah, yeah, Harbor Freight. Seriously. If you are just getting into chisels I’d buy a set from one of those places and see which sizes you use the most, then upgrade those sizes vs. dropping big money on a nice set. I’ve also got several vintage T.H. Witherby chisels, very nice to use. I wouldn’t get the Stanley Bailey set (not talking about the 750s, but the cheaper ones) based on JayT's review and I trust that guy.

There are so many nice hand tool makers out there, but the really good stuff is $$$. I think the investment in a nice collection of chisels is a good thing, but my advice is that before you do, figure out what you’re gonna use them for. I use 3 sizes 90% of the time.

View LittleShaver's profile


706 posts in 1533 days

#11 posted 12-14-2016 02:25 PM

I have an older set of Marples that served me well for many years. I added a full set of Narex when Lee Valley had them on sale. 1/4 through 1 1/2”. One of my best new tool buys. They hold an edge well and having the full range of sizes makes it easy to get just the right cut. I’ve been using them for a couple years now and couldn’t be happier. One caution, like mentioned by another poster, the bevels are so sharp you can cut yourself with the side of the chisel.

After an unfortunate incident with these chisels that resulted in 9 sutures to my thumb and a lot of harassment from my wife, ,I’ve taken to wearing cut resistant gloves when I’m doing a lot of chisel work or working on small pieces.

-- Sawdust Maker

View Marn64's profile


296 posts in 1699 days

#12 posted 12-14-2016 02:32 PM

Aldi chisels are nice, they do dull quicker than others, but they’re incredibly good for their price. They are made in China by a German company and I have heard from a few sources that they adhere to German manufacturing standards.

-- Benjamin, Milwaukee

View Marn64's profile


296 posts in 1699 days

#13 posted 12-14-2016 02:35 PM

I spoke with a wood carver in Germany this past spring. He told me the best steel on the market today is from a company called Stubai in Austria. We spoke at length about tools and wood working. He told me, buy a cheap toll and you buy it many times, buy the best tool and it lasts you for a lifetime. I find great commonsense in that attitude.

- BurlyBob

If you are willing to put some money into a bench chisel set I would second Stubai, both new and antique Stubai’s are great chisels.

-- Benjamin, Milwaukee

View Ron Aylor's profile

Ron Aylor

2649 posts in 1561 days

#14 posted 12-14-2016 02:55 PM

Jonathon, I may get shot for this, but given your budget … why not pick up the 6 pc set of Windsor Design wood chisels from Harbor Freight for $9.99 and then buy yourself $40-$90 worth of lumber! I have these chisels and think they are great! Once flattened and honed they seem to hold an edge quite well. No chisel will hold an edge if used improperly, and a $10 set of chisels will draw blood as well as a $200 set. I’ve compared these to the Aldi chisels and the few Narex I have … can’t say I see/feel/tell a difference, except in price. It’s your shop!

View KelleyCrafts's profile (online now)


4381 posts in 1653 days

#15 posted 12-14-2016 03:41 PM

Don’t forget to budget for a sharpening method!!! Get any chisel you want and they all suck if they can’t be sharpened.


-- Dave - - pen blanks - knife scales - turning tools

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