Irwin Marples chisel question

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Forum topic by Sirex posted 12-01-2021 11:47 PM 646 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2 posts in 51 days

12-01-2021 11:47 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

Hello all,
I just bought a set of Irwin Marples chisels to cut mortises in a workbench frame. I honed the chisels and went to work. After 20 minutes I checked the edges and saw that they were all dented and nicked! I’m chopping through Douglas fir studs. My harbor freight chisels have not done this with the same wood. Is there something wrong with these chisels?

12 replies so far

View Phil32's profile


1632 posts in 1236 days

#1 posted 12-02-2021 12:12 AM

Probably an error in the final hardening process. All of the chisels in the set?

-- You know, this site doesn't require woodworking skills, but you should know how to write.

View Andre's profile


4998 posts in 3139 days

#2 posted 12-02-2021 12:26 AM

Bevel angles the same, any knots? Not really mortise chisels, but can work as per Paul Sellers method?

-- Lifting one end of the plank.

View Loren's profile


11369 posts in 4981 days

#3 posted 12-02-2021 12:31 AM

Sometimes there’s better steel further back if you grind the chisel. Chipping can be a symptom of the chisel being too hard at the thin tip.

Mortising is pretty hard on chisels. Mortise chisels are often ground more obtusely than bench or paring chisels.

View SMP's profile


5056 posts in 1238 days

#4 posted 12-02-2021 12:49 AM

Sometimes there s better steel further back if you grind the chisel. Chipping can be a symptom of the chisel being too hard at the thin tip.

Mortising is pretty hard on chisels. Mortise chisels are often ground more obtusely than bench or paring chisels.

- Loren

I have seen this with various edge tools made from chinesium. The initial metal os like melted soda cans and as you get 2-3 mm further back it starts getting harder.

View xedos's profile


470 posts in 633 days

#5 posted 12-02-2021 01:36 AM

I think the “Irwin” Marples chisels are no longer the Sheffield steel from which Marples made there bones.

HF might be better these days.

View WoodenDreams's profile


1476 posts in 1244 days

#6 posted 12-02-2021 03:44 AM

The set of Irwin Marples’ I got in 2017 are keeping a nice sharp edge. Honing through the grits and stropping them helps, instead of just honing. You should be able to tell how the chisels are performing during each use. If your chopping the grain or knots, don’t expect the edge to stay sharp without putting the chisel through resharpening steps. Once the chisel starts to get dull, the edge becomes even more dull quicker. I’ve used my Marples chisels and Narex Mortising chisels to make 5 1/2” deep mortises with no issues.

View Sirex's profile


2 posts in 51 days

#7 posted 12-06-2021 01:57 PM

I’m guessing the factory bevel is just too shallow for mortising (maybe ~25-27 degrees). I’ll try to put steeper secondary bevels on them (~35 degrees) and see how it goes. I was just surprised that my cheaper HF chisels never dinged or dented no matter how much I hammered them into the same softwood.

View JCamp's profile


1533 posts in 1883 days

#8 posted 12-06-2021 02:22 PM

Man that’s disappointing. I’ve looked at those chisels multiple times looking to upgrade my HF set. Guess maybe I should just make a new set of handles and call it a day

-- Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might

View Axis39's profile


581 posts in 930 days

#9 posted 12-07-2021 03:37 PM

Those look like the typical homeowner bashing about chisels… Certainly not the Blue Chip chisels from years ago. Other than probably being a tad bit more finished than the Harbor Freight chisels, I would wager the steel is probably softer to make them easier to sharpen.

I have become rather disappointed with any chisel available in typical hardware stores these days.

Luckily, I own a good number of vintage chisels and my wife purchased a lot of used Japanese chisels for me for Christmas last year… All my vintage stuff has waaaaaay better steel than anything I can find for reasonable money.

I would call those framing chisels. And, resign myself to the idea that I have to sharpen them quite often to do finish work.

-- John F. SoCal transplant, chewer uppper of good wood

View LittleBlackDuck's profile


8606 posts in 2153 days

#10 posted 12-08-2021 10:51 AM

Most chisels out of then box need TLC before first use… Do/did you sharpen/shape or hone? You haven’t mentioned how you “honed”... aggressive grinder work can destroy a chisel’s life expectancy in seconds if not rectified.

I used to “water stone” mine originally and now I Tormek all my cutting gear… The chisels I inherited from my old man 30+ years ago and my Irwing chisels bough a few years ago have served me well.

BTW. Welcome to LJ.

-- If your first cut is too short... Take the second cut from the longer end... LBD

View Lazyman's profile


8781 posts in 2720 days

#11 posted 12-08-2021 01:54 PM

My HF chisels are surprisingly durable and hold an edge very well. I bought them as beaters to save my “nicer” ones but I often reach for them even when doing finer work because they stay pretty sharp.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

View NohoGerry's profile


30 posts in 43 days

#12 posted 12-08-2021 06:16 PM

LittleblackDuck’s advice is spot on. You have to work on “out of the box” chisels-especially by flattening the backs as a first step, then honing.
Irwin chisels you show look very similar to my 25 yr old Marples Blue Chips-the design works as a paring or bench chisel for joinery-they are too light for chopping mortises! It’s got nothing to do with the quality of the steel-just look at mortising chisels and you’ll see they’re more beefy through the blade can take a pounding-as they were designed for it.
All chisels get chips and dings in them from usage-if you use your hand tools frequently, you will find yourself needing to sharpen them-that’s good news because it means you’re building things.
The Marples blue handle chisels I have were the cheapest on the market for woodworkers 25yrs ago, but still hold an edge and serve me well. You can always pay more and get a prettier chisel-but if you keep even inexpensive ones sharp, they all work well.

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