Quality chisels, which brands should I look into?

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Forum topic by Benighted posted 11-03-2010 05:51 PM 9145 views 0 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Benighted's profile


57 posts in 2857 days

11-03-2010 05:51 PM

Topic tags/keywords: chisel


I’m looking into complementing my tool arsenal with a bunch of new chisels and are now trying to decide which brand to go with. My priorities are:

1. Quality & Craftsmanship
2. Steel quality (Carbon steel, O1, A2, not some stainless alloy that is hard to sharpen)
3. “Handmade” (in the sense that I don’t want it to be mass produced by machines, not that each and every step has to be done by hand)
4. Wooden handle.
5. Made in Europe (UK, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden and so forth, not a low-wage country) or the US (and maybe Japan)
6. Price (not a high priority, but always in the list, I don’t want to pay ridiculous amounts of money just to get a limited edition tools)
7. Metric sizes (not the most important thing, just when when you think in metric it’s easier with metric tools)

I do have some special aspects I look into as i think I as a buyer “vote” with my money (and if I buy some cheap stuff I say that I want more cheap stuff to be made), and ethics is a big thing for me (which makes some countries less desirable in my book).

I have some good old (pre 50’s) Swedish Steel ones which are good but hard to find nice ones as they are no quality toolmakers left in this country (and you don’t know the history of pre-owned items . I also have a Japanese chisel that is nice, but here some ethical questions plague me a bit here. I’ve checked out some Two Cherries chisels and they didn’t really tickle my fancy.

So which brands and models do you guys and gals think I should look into?

-- Jani, a Neanderthal woodworker in Sweden.

14 replies so far

View Moron's profile


5032 posts in 3888 days

#1 posted 11-03-2010 06:05 PM

I bought a set of Lee Neilson (spelling?)

very happy with them.

I think you might have a hard time finding metric chisels ?

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

View JuniorJoiner's profile


486 posts in 3435 days

#2 posted 11-03-2010 06:20 PM

I have a set(14) of lie-nielsen chisels, if I were to buy them again, I would get the O-1 steel they now offer.
I have a set(4) of Blue spruce dovetail chisels- I like them, and they are my finishing chisels, when i need to trim that last bit.
I have a set(5) of ray Iles mortise chisels- I would buy these again, as they often prove useful.

I did have a nice hornbeam handled unmarked metric set of 12, I ended up giving away. the reason being they were metric and i work in imperial, plus, they were all ground to a shallow angle for softwoods(most european chisels do).

the only other suggestion I can give is to stay away from narex- lots will disagree with me, but i say they don’t know any better. They are not good steel.

-- Junior -Quality is never an accident-it is the reward for the effort involved.

View Benighted's profile


57 posts in 2857 days

#3 posted 11-03-2010 06:30 PM

Lie-Nielsen is on my short-list of brands that I have currently (actually on top of the list, just that in that case I guess I have to order from over the pond (which adds 25% Swedish VAT and a couple of percent in toll-charges))

The other ones on the list is, Ashley Iles (UK), E C Emmerich (Germany)

Most European made chisels (and Japanese?) are in metric, but as I said, that is no deal breaker.

Thanks for the heads up for Narex, but they are not on my list for other reasons also :D

-- Jani, a Neanderthal woodworker in Sweden.

View KayBee's profile


1083 posts in 3241 days

#4 posted 11-03-2010 06:43 PM

I’ve had some Sorby chisels with the boxwood handles for years. They’ve held up very well to all the misuse that a pro shop(and coworkers) gave them. I removed the lacquer and put some oil on the handles, so they are very comfortable. Made in England, so metric is available. But may be too mass produced for your liking.

You might try emailing some of the tool makers and ask if they’ll make some metric ones. Just an thought.

-- Karen - a little bit of stupid goes a long way

View Mario's profile


173 posts in 3391 days

#5 posted 11-03-2010 06:43 PM

1.Lie Nielsen either in A2 or O1
2. Blue Spruce, these are really sweet

View Benighted's profile


57 posts in 2857 days

#6 posted 11-03-2010 07:12 PM

Oh my, those Blue Spruce tools are just glorious. A bit to expensive for a whole set of 8, but I’ve got to get me some pairing chisels and marking tools from him.

Kay, Sobys are added to my list of potential brands, seems to be quite nice tools. Thanks :)

-- Jani, a Neanderthal woodworker in Sweden.

View Adam's profile


84 posts in 3057 days

#7 posted 11-03-2010 07:34 PM

I purchased the NAREX Bevel-Edge Chisels for Lee Valley a year ago and am very happy with them. Fine Woodworking rated them as their best value and in my opinion hold an edge very well. They also come in metric sizes and are priced very reasonably (I know that is not a big concern for you) with the prices ranging from $8.80 for the 6mm to $16.60 for the 40mm. The description from Lee Valley States “These are well-ground bevel-edge chisels with Rc59 chrome-manganese steel blades. The stained beech handles are shaped for comfort and control, and have steel hoops and ferrules for durability. Available individually or in sets of four or eight, the chisels are about 10” to 11” long overall. Made by a small firm in the Czech Republic, these are inexpensive but good-quality utility chisels.”

-- Adam, St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada

View JJohnston's profile


1622 posts in 3286 days

#8 posted 11-03-2010 07:57 PM

After looking at those Blue Spruce chisels, the Lie-Nielsen seem positively cheap! Too dear for the type of “hack” woodwork I do.

-- "A man may conduct himself well in both adversity and good fortune, but if you want to test his character, give him power." - Abraham Lincoln

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3069 days

#9 posted 11-03-2010 08:01 PM

In my opinion, the difference between a good chisel and a really good chisel is a lot of money and very little difference in performance. My Irwin Marples are good chisels and sufficient for everything I need and they are very reasonably priced.

I know there are better and more expensive chisels (e.g. Lie Nielsen) but if you covered up the names and asked me to use both, I would have a hard time telling you which was the Marple and which was the more expensive chisel.

In my shop I also have a set of basic, no name, chisels from Ace Hardware. There is a big difference between these cheap chisels and my good Marples.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View PaulJerome's profile


57 posts in 3028 days

#10 posted 11-03-2010 08:49 PM

+1 on the Marples. They have worked very well for me and hold an edge longer than expected. I keep wanting to sharpen them just to sharpen them but they don’t need it.

-- Paul, Central Illinois

View pmayer's profile


1028 posts in 3060 days

#11 posted 11-06-2010 12:18 AM

What Rich said.

-- PaulMayer,

View Benighted's profile


57 posts in 2857 days

#12 posted 11-06-2010 01:39 AM

Thanks for all the replies!

My idea currently is to buy Lie Nielsen O-1 Chisels. Good price-point I think, found a UK dealer so I don’t have the hassle with the toll-office… Later on, in the spring I will probably buy a set of 4 Blue Spruce Pairing Chisels for the special holidays when one dares to take a look at them…

Irvin-Marples: I can think they probably are good chisels, just not the stuff I’m looking for, I don’t want it from a large anonymous factory, probably in china. I prefer to give my money to a smaller company that I think do it right.. The cost aspect is quite uninteresting for me, they are cheap when knowing they will hold my lifetime and then some.

-- Jani, a Neanderthal woodworker in Sweden.

View Gofor's profile


470 posts in 3782 days

#13 posted 11-06-2010 02:48 AM

I think Lee Valley has a special on a 5 chisel Narex set for $45. May want to jump on that.


-- Go

View Marc5's profile


304 posts in 3337 days

#14 posted 11-06-2010 03:04 AM

I started with a $50 set of Marple chisels are currently using a hodgepodge of Stanley #40’s and 70”s along with a set of LN’s. They all work well and if you don’t want to mess around with tuning up the chisels pay the extra and get the LN’s. 3 minute hone and you are on your way.

-- Marc

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