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No Longer In Search Of... Stanley 750 SW Chisels!

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Review by Smitty_Cabinetshop posted 1203 days ago 12585 views 3 times favorited 45 comments Add to Favorites Watch
No Longer In Search Of... Stanley 750 SW Chisels! No Longer In Search Of... Stanley 750 SW Chisels! No Longer In Search Of... Stanley 750 SW Chisels! Click the pictures to enlarge them

Stanley 750 “SW” Chisels

Not the easiest things to purchase by any stretch (see In Search of blog entry here – http://lumberjocks.com/Smitty_Cabinetshop/blog/22223), but now these tools are in hand. If this review is entertaining, great. If you’re interested in what to expect from a purchase of Stanley SW 750s, continue reading. If it’s a side-by-side comparison with Lie-Nielsen, Ashley-Iles or 2 Cherries that the reader is after, frustration awaits.

I’ll start with a disclaimer that may lead many to completely disregard this review entirely: I have a very open fondness for all vintage Stanley products that carry the SW logo. I’ve even purchased a vintage Stanley SW-era (1929) tool catalog just to get pictures of the tools in their native marketing environment. I don’t have a lot of personal experience with other brands of wood chisels; the chisels I do have (and have been using for dovetailing, mortise and tenon work, etc.) include vintage Buck Bros., Lakeside, Defiance and vintage SW Everlasting makes / models. Enough of the asides, onto the review. I’ve organized my comments into four main areas (Packaging, Observations, Set-Up and Use) and include a summary at the end.

Packaging
I grew up listening to AOR (album oriented rock) and spent many, many hours in front of my turntable, listening to albums and devouring every detail of the liner notes and record sleeves that came with the music. To this day it’s possible for me to make a ‘connection’ with a product based almost entirely on the process of opening a package and digesting the material surrounding a product (think any Apple product, for example). That, in a nutshell, is why I have a packaging section in this review; to me it’s a tangible sign of the quality intent of the manufacturer.

The 750s arrived in a right-sized box (Picture #1) that featured a center cut-away so the leather tool roll, with SW logo, could show through. Exterior graphics of the chisel set are visible, and text on the exterior is written in English, French and Spanish. Inside this outer box, said tool roll was flanked on either side by four individually boxed and labeled chisels banded together (Picture #2). And within these individual boxes each chisel was inside a plastic bag. So getting all the tools out was at once time-consuming but pleasant: no hard plastic shrink packaging!

This combination of packaging should ensure that the product is not damaged in shipment and that’s the primary purpose of any type of box or packing material. That said, it also displayed key features of the chisels themselves and imparted the feeling that attention was being directed at details. A good start. Packaging gets an A grade.

Observations
Each handle (hornbeam, according to Stanley) was uniform in appearance, straight-grained and nicely finished from socket tip to striking end. Lacquer is applied to wood and steel to seal the product from moisture during shipping (this per an inserted strip of paper, written only in English, included in the box). The tool steel was not overly shiny, but had factory grind markings everywhere except the flared socket portion of the chisel. Each blade projected down the center of handled tool and all finished edges were ground square to the sides. The tools were ready to cut ‘out of the box,’ but with an edge that I’m able to improve on (amazing in itself; a year ago I could only marginally sharpen a pencil). The sides of the chisels were inconsistently ‘thin’ or ‘thick’ across the set, ranging from almost nil to about a 16th of an inch (no caliper, sorry). Is it an issue? Not for me and the materials I typically use but I understand it may be a significant issue for others. Overall observation segment receives an A-minus grade.

Set-Up
I’ve had the tools a little over a week and so far have had the time to work up five of the eight chisels, starting with the 1 1/4” size and working my way down to the smallest 1/8” tool. Two of the five completed so far had a 32nd of an inch ‘upturn’ to the backside of the blade, at the tip, which had to be lapped out. Note that all of the chisels were otherwise flat; not concave or convex, but flat. But with a ‘pinched off’ end on some, for lack of a better phrase. Those two (so far) were lapped flat with about forty strokes on my 325 grit DMT diamond stone, and all backs were polished through the 600 and 1200 grit stones from there. I worked up the edges on the 600 to get a burr, then repeated a final time on the 1200. Added a secondary bevel and finished using the ruler trick.

Update See comments below, but this was a mistake on my part in that the ruler trick should not be used on chisels. End of Update

I’d estimate about two hours of set up so far, and most of that was on the 5/8” chisel: it had a recess at the left corner of the blade that took considerable effort to work out. So overall, not great for ‘no setup’ enthusiasts but compared to the time I’m used to spending on vintage chisels, old plane blades, #45 cutters, etc. etc. it’s quite acceptable to me. In other words, not a deal breaker. Finally, the handles consistently slipped out of two sockets, even after the recommended ‘light sanding’. This may be more common than I’m aware, this being my only real set of socket chisels, but I didn’t like it much. So I applied hair spray to the socket tips of those handles and after setting them aside for a few minutes haven’t had the problem reoccur. I’d give the 750s an overall grade of B-minus / C-plus for required setup.

Use
I love the Everlasting bevel edge chisels; they’re heavy and I can strike them all day long with a steel hammer. So getting these 750 sockets as my intended ‘daily drivers’ was a leap of faith / a change to the way I’ve been working.

Compared with my Everlastings, these chisels are light. Actually very light indeed, even against the Buck or Lakeside. Balance is excellent and I do like the shape and feel of the (rather bulbous) handles. Because I’ve never bought a “set” of any kind of tool new before, it is fun to experiment with each of the different (especially larger) sizes of chisels in the eight-chisel set to see which is better for baselines vs. corner waste, first-run chops, etc. Picture #3, BTW, is a shot of the roll w/ a number of the chisels in the shot, on my bench. The others are ‘in use’ and didn’t make the photo op. The side edges are ‘hard edges’ on some of the chisels, so when I hold them that way they feel sharp to the touch. I’m likely to take those side edges off a bit with steel wool before it’s all said and done. And the top edges of the socket, where steel meets with wood, are also rather sharp (yes, my hands move all over these tools in use…). More softening required, I think, and that’s likely a very personal thing to get them to the ‘worn’ feel I’m used to w/ my Everlastings. And so far I’ve cut 22 pairs of dovetails in vintage walnut and haven’t noticed degradation in edge quality on the two most-used sizes. Don’t know if that’s a good track record, but I thought it worth reporting. And the hammered ends of those same most-used chisels currently show hardly any signs of use from my oak mallet. Use is an A-minus because of the sharp edges ‘issue’ that may only be personal preference.

Just for grins, I picked up my ½” Everlasting to chop out the waste on an in-work tailboard last night to see what differences I’d notice, if any. The first thing to register was the increased weight, with the second being the loss of a sense of balance when holding the tool down from the handle. Finally, the sound of hammering ‘wood on wood’ vs. hard steel is now preferred. Weird point to make, but there it is.

Use UPDATE, JAN 2013: I’ve had these chisels for quite a while now. I’ve added some other vintage chisels to the tool drawer, as well as a couple more Everlastings, but these Stanley 750s remain my top of the line. I’m a hobbyist, of course, and don’t use chisels all the time. You can check my projects and my dozen’s of blogs (if you dare) to see the work I do and how I go about using these chisels, but suffice to say I use them when I need to. And the edges created when they hit more door are still the ones getting used today; I haven’t re-honed yet. Yes, the 5/8” chisel needs a fresh edge, but the rest of them do very, very well still. And for me, that’s edge retention. My primary woods to date have been pine, cherry, poplar, sycamore and walnut, although if there were more cherry the edges would be re-honed by now (it’s tough stuff). I sprayed the wood inserts with hairspray to set them in the sockets once, and they’ve held ever since as well. The leather roll keeps the tools nice as well; I alternate them by cutting edge (in the pocket for one, next one handle in the pocket, etc) to keep the edges from clanking and it works quite well. In other words, still no complaints. That said, this is the end of this UPDATE… Smitty

In Summary…
The refrain so often repeated is ‘buy the best you can afford,’ and with this purchase I’ve attempted to do just that. It took just over $200 to get these tools to my shop (and many weeks of waiting), but I can say, at that price, these appear to be fine tools. I honestly would have considered a 6-piece, Lucite-handled “Fat-Max” set if they would be bench rather than tool bucket tools. I consider these SW 750s comparable in the marketplace to (primarily) L—N and set of six of those will require a deeper dip in the wallet. Price and the SW (implied quality) marking are what drew me to these chisels, and I’m satisfied on both fronts at this point. Overall rating, A-minus.

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




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Smitty_Cabinetshop

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45 comments so far

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smitty22

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#1 posted 1203 days ago

Thanks for the review Smitty, very thorough and useful information.

-- Smitty

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ellen35

2556 posts in 2028 days


#2 posted 1203 days ago

Mine were delivered Tuesday… your review is very helpful.
I’m dying to find time to try them!
Ellen

-- "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good." Voltaire

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Tim_456

159 posts in 2191 days


#3 posted 1202 days ago

thanks for the review…these are going to be high on my list. I am in agreement on the packaging..when the package looks like it’s worth keeping, it’s good in my book! I had the shrink wrapped plastic and the waste that comes with it. thanks for including that!

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Bertha

12951 posts in 1289 days


#4 posted 1202 days ago

I was waiting for this review to order them. I’m a big SW era guy myself and have been disgusted by the quality of the recent re-released SW planes. A real shame. I’m glad to hear these chisels haven’t suffered the same fate. thanks for one of the most detailed reviews I’ve read on any tool, anywhere.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

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Smitty_Cabinetshop

9571 posts in 1214 days


#5 posted 1202 days ago

@Bertha – Thanks. I’ve made every effort to be accurate and forthcoming with what I see in the chisels. Hope everyone’s experience is, if not better, at least consistent with what I’ve described.

@Cessna – True Imperial (English) measure per ‘primary’ labels on the boxes. And I did measure the 3/4” chisel, just for grins (zig zag ruler, not a caliper!). It’s an important point; I’ll check tonight and do an updated comment right away… If I recall (not in front of the packaging right now), there were ‘approximate’ mm equivalents provided somewhere for the Continentals…

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

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Smitty_Cabinetshop

9571 posts in 1214 days


#6 posted 1202 days ago

@Cessna – And maybe I shouldn’t be ruler tricking the backsides (!?) Don’t remember reading that it should be done, now that you mention it, but it’s likely a carry over with what I do from habit of sharpening plane blades. It’s very slight, maybe three to five stokes on the 1200 diamond stone. And I don’t do it on my #45 cutters. Hmmmm…

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

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Smitty_Cabinetshop

9571 posts in 1214 days


#7 posted 1202 days ago

Measuring the 1 1/4” chisel is dead on. Same with 1” and 3/4” tools. These are imperial measure, not metric.

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

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RGtools

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#8 posted 1202 days ago

The reason why the ruler trick should not be used on chisels is this. The back is a reference surface, any variation from flat guides the chisel away from the straight cut you want. The ruler trick is great for plane blades though.

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

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Smitty_Cabinetshop

9571 posts in 1214 days


#9 posted 1201 days ago

@RGtools – Thanks very much for that, makes total sense to me. I shall reform my ways! :-)

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

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Bertha

12951 posts in 1289 days


#10 posted 1201 days ago

^I actually have a project that suffered a bit from the ruler trick on chisels. When I would strike at the marking line, the chisel drifted ever so slighly. It took mor trimming than usual but all was not lost. If you backcut the showface a bit, I don’t think it would matter much. I reground mine without the backbevel simply because I wanted to play with my chisels and the grinder:)

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

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Smitty_Cabinetshop

9571 posts in 1214 days


#11 posted 1201 days ago

@Cessna – Congrats! I don’t think I’m alone in secretly dreading the arrival of a new tool nearly as much being excited by it. Can’t be certain of anything when it comes down to it. Hope your chisels are everything you expect and more, or Stanley will be faced with yet another serious misstep in their return to ‘our market segment.’ Good luck, look forward to reading about your experience.

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

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Bertha

12951 posts in 1289 days


#12 posted 1201 days ago

^I’m looking forward to it, as well. Congratulations.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

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OutPutter

1194 posts in 2586 days


#13 posted 1200 days ago

I loved the review (except for the @ signs which is a twitterbook thing, I guess, and poor etiquette like typing in all caps) even though I think four stars is too much. Handles that fall off, backs out of flat, and the other stuff you mention would make it an average tool in my mind and no amount of “good” packaging can make up for it. Packaging, in my mind, should only be expensive enough to be functional because anything more is added expense that increases the cost/price to no good effect. Wouldn’t you think $200 dollars for eight pieces of American steel and wood with a little leather would go further than something that came from England by way of China (my guess)? Maybe a little off the subject buy what is the ruler trick? Mayber further off the subject but, why is it that a machine shop can’t sharpen a piece of steel about ten times better than the average garage shop guy can? I think chisels and planes should come with a scary sharp to the tenth power that can never be repeated in a garage shop edge, don’t you?

-- Jim

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Bertha

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#14 posted 1200 days ago

^I have to agree with Jim about the sharpness-out-of-the-box point. My guess is that it probably involves some sense of liability, putting something uber-sharp in the mail and all. The “ruler trick” they’re referring to is a quick method of establishing a secondary bevel by upping the incident angle by the thickness of a thin ruler. It’s debatable whether to use the method on chisels but it’s a quick way to establish a back bevel.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

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OutPutter

1194 posts in 2586 days


#15 posted 1200 days ago

Thanks Bertha. How do you decide how far from the tip you place the ruler I wonder? Interesting, now I’m going to have to Google it. I don’t think the liability thing will fly though because I know you can get knives and razor blades through the mail that are sharper than your average plane when they arrive.

-- Jim

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