|Review by JayT||posted 06-15-2013 10:19 PM||4604 views||0 times favorited||13 comments|
Needing a decent set of chisels, instead of my plastic handled beaters, I decided to try the Stanley Bailey 5pc set. Now that I have been using them for about six months, it was time to do a review. The set retails for around $70 for five chisels and a leather tool roll.
The chisels look good with brass ferrules and hoops contrasting nicely with the stained hardwood handles. I’m not a big fan of stained handles, but they do look nice out of the box. The included suede leather roll is well designed, with deep chisel pockets, a protective flap for the handles and ties sewn on the back for roll up storage.
The blades looked decent, but the machining on pretty much all of them was a bit rough. For the price point, though, I felt it was acceptable. The blades are marked with both inch and metric sizes, but are actually metric widths. Not a deal breaker to me, as you don’t really need a chisel to be an exact width, but a little deceiving on Stanley’s part, as they advertise these with the imperial sizes on their own website
Preparation for use
I decided to flatten and hone the chisels as I needed them, rather than doing all at once. The first one used was the 1/2inch (12mm). Flattening the back took quite a bit of time and effort, it was not well machined at the factory. Now I know manufacturers intentionally make the back a bit concave, but this was ridiculous, taking at least 10 minutes just on a coarse diamond stone to get a flat, consistent scratch pattern on the cutting edge, plus more time on the finer stones to get a mirror finish. (For comparison, I recently purchased a couple of Two Cherries firmer chisels and they took about 2-3 minutes each to flatten and hone to a razor’s edge)
After finally getting the back flat, it was time to work on the bevel. These come from the factory with a 25 degree bevel, but I prefer about a 30 degree. It was a simple matter to hone the steeper angle and this went much quicker than the back. The chisel took a good edge, easily paring end grain pine. The others all took really good edges, as well.
As I worked over the other four chisels in the following days and weeks, there was no consistency in the production quality. Most of the backs needed quite a bit of work, though the 1inch was nearly flat out of the box. The biggest gripe was that the 3/4inch (19mm) wasn’t square—it had to be completely reground before there was any chance of being used. It’s not like this was even close, it was readily apparent to the naked eye. Where was quality control?
I have used the chisels for both paring and chopping operations and there are good and bad points.
The good. The handles are extremely comfortable to use. They are large enough to fill the hand, yet not so large you can’t get a good grip. There are flats front and back with a slight swell on each side that both fits nicely in the palm and helps keep the chisel oriented correctly. The 1/4 (6mm) and 1-1/4 (32mm) have done well, holding their edges and doing everything I could ask. The handles on all have stood up well to mallet work, other than . . . .
The annoying. The finish on the tops of the handles doesn’t hold up when using a mallet—of course the lacquer will come off, but so does some of the brown stain so my handles are now two-tone.
The bad. While the smallest and largest chisels have performed admirably, the other three that will likely get the most use have been disappointing. The edges of both the 1/2 and 1inch chipped while chopping mortises in SPF construction lumber, while a small section of the 3/4 folded over at some time, indicating that the hardening and tempering process was not well controlled. Since the mortises were first drilled out with a Forstner bit and all I was doing was removing the corners and small areas of waste, it shouldn’t have been overly stressful use. The 3/4 seems to have stabilized out after sharpening past that one area and will probably be OK, but I’m leery about the other two.
The designers of these chisels did a good job, especially with the handles, but whoever is in charge of manufacturing and quality control of the blades should be ashamed. I’m generously giving the set 3 stars (2-1/2 would be more appropriate if we could do halves) as two chisels of the set I purchased deserve 5 stars, while the others would rate at 1 and 2 stars. I would not recommend them to another woodworker, unless you just like to gamble. Based on this set, you might get some good ones or might get some lemons. For the money, I think there are probably better options.
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