|Review by Smitty_Cabinetshop||posted 04-06-2011 10:49 PM||17494 views||3 times favorited||47 comments|
- Stanley Model 750 Sweetheart (SW) 8-Piece Chisel Set
- Brand: Stanley | Category: Chisels and Carving Tools
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.
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.
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.
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 sharpening was done.
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.
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.
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.
Another review of these chisels can be found here. Love the snarky prose, totally appropriate.
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.
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