Buying A New Chisel - Will It Need Sharpening?

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Forum topic by christherookie posted 01-29-2010 03:55 PM 3582 views 0 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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45 posts in 2468 days

01-29-2010 03:55 PM

I mentioned to a friend, who does woodworking, that I would be buying my first chisel soon. He then told me it takes hours to get a mirror finish with a sharp edge on a new chisel (at least the the big borg type). I’m looking at an irwin marples set of 4 for around $40. Do I really need to spend hours sharpening something that is brand spanking new?

14 replies so far

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27251 posts in 3243 days

#1 posted 01-29-2010 04:05 PM

Chris, chisels typically are not very sharp out of the package and need to be sharpened. They are sharp enough to gouge out wood but to pare down a mortise or end grain, as chisels should, you will have to take them through a sharpening routine. I have a Worksharp 3000 and can sharpen my chisels in less than an hour. It is an activity that is similar to mowing the grass. You just put your mind on autopilot and go to it. :)

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View PeteMoss's profile


207 posts in 2891 days

#2 posted 01-29-2010 04:07 PM

A lot of that will of course depend on the chisel, but also on experience and sharpening equipment on hand. I am certainly not an expert, but for a first set of four chisels, hours is probably correct. Sorry.

-- "Never measure......cut as many times as necessary." - PeteMoss

View Eric_S's profile


1551 posts in 2617 days

#3 posted 01-29-2010 04:15 PM

I had to sharpen my chisels, they were factory sharp when I got them, but not as sharp as they could be. They definitely didn’t have a mirror finish on the edge, more like machine mill marks across the edge and back. I think I spent an hour total for 4 chisels sharpening them with the Scary Sharp method. Now its quick and painless to resharpen them.

-- - Eric Noblesville, IN

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45 posts in 2468 days

#4 posted 01-29-2010 04:55 PM

Thanks everyone. Does anyone have a link to a “how to sharpen a chisel for idiots?”

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5590 posts in 2653 days

#5 posted 01-29-2010 05:06 PM

Wood Magazine has a set of videos showing you to sharpen it on their web site. You will want a honing guide as well…

FWIW, I got a set of England built Stanley Fat Max chisels (the current ones are Chinese MFG I believe…) and they were scary sharp out of the box. A friend of mine got the Chinese version of the same chisels, and they did take a couple of hours of honing, but have been good since then…

You will need the stuff, and the technique to keep those chisels sharp as you go anyway, so it is good that you get into the practice of sharpening even before you take the chisel to the first piece of wood..

-- My workshop blog can be found at

View PurpLev's profile


8523 posts in 3070 days

#6 posted 01-29-2010 05:10 PM

sharpening supplies is something that is often not planned when setting up shop – but its a requirement, and can add up. but in the long run, it’s like drinking water -you really have to have it, and you’ll always be using it.

google ‘scray sharp’ , search youtube, and they have some good articles and videos on that subject.

also, if you can – I’d opt to get a sharpener – either a worksharp, or a wet-sharpener. it makes the process MUCH faster, and much less painful.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

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45 posts in 2468 days

#7 posted 01-29-2010 05:16 PM

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45 posts in 2468 days

#8 posted 01-29-2010 11:36 PM

I was checking out the chisels on woodcraft and saw an option for “Sharpening Service” for an extra $5. Wondering if that would be best for the intial sharpening of a new blade.

View Steve's profile


19 posts in 2472 days

#9 posted 01-29-2010 11:59 PM

I doubt it they will flatten the backs. I recently acquired some chisel that did not require sharpening out of the box. up until then, for the past 25 years, I have been using Marples blue chip and they have served me well. Though as has been said many hours of polishing were invested to get them razor+ sharp.

But if you do a secondary bevel it will save time and be easier to keep the edge longer. Primary bevel 25 degrees secondary at 30 degrees

-- Cheers, Steve

View Fuzzy's profile


297 posts in 3410 days

#10 posted 01-30-2010 12:12 AM

Why bother paying WOODCRAFT or anyone, for that matter to do something that you WILL, eventually have to learn to do for yourself. Put the $$$ towards a decent jig to hold your angle .. then read up on “SCARY SHARP” and go to work .. .. you CAN’T do any significant or permanent damage. Just go ahead and do it.

In no time, you’ll be laughing at yourself for ever considering the “Sharpening Service” .. .. ..

-- - dabbling in sarcasm is foolish … if you’re not proficient at it, you end up looking stupid … ... ...

View rtb's profile


1101 posts in 3134 days

#11 posted 01-30-2010 01:25 AM

Before you buy the Marples, which are no longer made in England, but now in China. go to highland .com and look at Narex. Much better for the same or less money, then look at the Veratas Mark II, one of the current wood working magazines has done a review, try your public library, looking for honing guides. I know, the guide may cost a bit more than the chisels but long term its a bargain, especially if, down the road. you start to use planes. Don’t be to quick to buy into the ‘glass’ for scary sharpening I use a tile with a flat surface and have seen one artical advocating a piece of hardboard. The important thing is that it’s FLAT. You should do fine

-- RTB. stray animals are just looking for love

View iamwelty's profile


254 posts in 2537 days

#12 posted 01-30-2010 02:41 AM

OK!! RTB… Just ordered a set of your Narex bench chisels….. I was ready to pull the trigger on another brand but you talked me into the Narex’s… I appreciate your wisdom and you saved me around $20 bucks. I’d send it to you but I don’t have a stamp… Thanks, though!!

-- There is a fine line between eroticism and nausea...

View Julian's profile


880 posts in 2947 days

#13 posted 01-30-2010 03:04 AM

I hate wasting my time sharpening so I use the fast method and leave the sandpaper and glass to collect dust under my bench. I think it was Karson who has the original idea of using an mdf wheel mounted in the slow speed grinder and used rouge tor honing the edge to a mirror finish. I can go right from grinding a new edge( 2 minutes) to polishing it on the mdf wheel( another 2 minutes) and have a mirror finished chisel that will shave ym arm hair just as good as a chisel that was sharpened using the scary sharp method that takes 15 minutes and many different grits of paper.

-- Julian, Park Forest, IL

View CedarFreakCarl's profile


594 posts in 3475 days

#14 posted 01-30-2010 03:16 AM

I don’t think you can go wrong with the Marples chisels. That was my first set. They hold an edge fairly well and don’t cost an arm and a leg. I’ve also got a set of Two Cherries chisels that were pretty sharp right out of the box and are fairly expensive. Guess what, I’m still mostly use the Marples. I sharpen mine with a Worksharp 3000. If you go this route, be sure to get the leather “honing” disk and an extra glass plate. Good luck!

-- Carl Rast, Pelion, SC

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