What's Your Opinion of Sorby Chisels

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Forum topic by helluvawreck posted 12-11-2010 05:56 PM 9996 views 0 times favorited 21 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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31393 posts in 2892 days

12-11-2010 05:56 PM

Topic tags/keywords: sorby bench chisels beveled edge chisels

Folks, especially you lovers of handtools, what is your opinion of Sorby Cabinetmaker’s Bench Chisels. I’ve been wanting a set of these for a long time and I saw a set on Ebay the other day for an unused 9 piece set of these for $249 but the 1/8 inch chisel was missing. I almost bought this set and probably would have except that I haven’t bought anything this expensive on Ebay for a long time and Paypal was the only option so I passed it up because I haven’t used Paypal except for twice in 2 years for minor purchases. It was a Buy it Now auction and didn’t want to take a chance with Paypal messing up and leading to negative feedback. I have over 450 purchases on my Ebay record with 99% positeve feedback record and don’t want to mess it up. So I want to get my Paypal account totally squared away before starting to buy again on Ebay.

Woodcraft wants $470 for this set but you can get it else where for $370. (these are the Sorby beveled chisels with the hexagon handles and the brass ring at top and bottom (no 167-s9 on the webpage).

What is your opinion of these chisels or do you feel like some other brands are equivalent or even better. I would appreciate your advice. This would be a big outlay for me. Right now I have a whole hodgepodge of different chisels that I use. Thanks.

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

21 replies so far

View patron's profile


13607 posts in 3367 days

#1 posted 12-11-2010 06:06 PM

i have the sorby paring chisels
(set of 4)
blades are 8” long
(over all 15 “)

the steel is excellent
not beaters
the blades are made to ‘flex’ slightly

sorby is good

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

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10880 posts in 3141 days

#2 posted 12-11-2010 06:09 PM

sorry canĀ“t help you there Helluvawreck


View lew's profile


12102 posts in 3781 days

#3 posted 12-11-2010 06:10 PM

Well, when I look at my collection of chisels I see the same as you- all ages, makes and types. But, they all work and do exactly what I need. I’d guess I’d rather spend my $$ on stuff I don’t have or something that breaks and no longer functions. Guess that’s why I drive a VW beetle instead of a Cadillac ;^)


-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

10537 posts in 3454 days

#4 posted 12-11-2010 06:11 PM

Sorta depends on what you will use them for. I have a set of 6 bevel edged Marples that serve me well. They are so old that they still have wooden handles.
My use is trimming mortises, tenons, cleaning grooves and etc.
A friend has a set of Pfiels that, IMHO, are much better than Sorby. And much better than Marples, too. But then, Lew and I have the same philosophic bent.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

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31393 posts in 2892 days

#5 posted 12-11-2010 06:29 PM

Well, I appeciate what you both have said, Lew and Gene, however, I have had it in my mind to get a set of these (or another good set) for 40 long years so it’s not exactly like I haven’t waited on a good set for a long time. :) I bought my first basic set of woodworking tools 40 years ago the year that I was married and they cost me $1000. I still have and use everyone of those tools. :) Most all the other tools that I have acquired over the years have come from Ebay and have been older tools and I have restored them. My wife asked me what I wanted to get for Christmas and I said that I didn’t really know but I just happened to see these and my eyes just sort of lit up. I guess it was the little boy in me. :) Money for tools has never come to me very easily. It was 15 years after I bought that first set that I began to add to them here and there. After all, money don’t come free for nothing except for those who can print it. :)

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

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31393 posts in 2892 days

#6 posted 12-11-2010 06:31 PM

Patron, I appreciate your advice. Thanks.

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View Loren's profile


10476 posts in 3674 days

#7 posted 12-11-2010 06:57 PM

I have some Sorby’s – the registered firmer chisels. They can take
a beating but aren’t as hard as some other chisels I own and don’t
hold a keen edge as long. The chisels you’re looking at may be harder
than the registered ones.

I do most of my pounding on the Sorby’s or on various plastic-handled
chisels I have. For precision work I usually use Japanese chisels. They
are short so your hands are close to the work, can take a bit of pounding,
take a keen edge.

I’ve always thought the octagonal-handled Sorby’s were elegant looking
and probably nicely balanced. You won’t get one chisel type to do the
whole range of chopping and paring equally well in all woods.

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3141 days

#8 posted 12-11-2010 07:31 PM

Helluvawreck I remember Chris Swarz and his staff made a big beat out on 15-20 cheisel brand
of japanese and western types to so what was best you can find the result and artickel under his blog
there was some western cheisel that hold the edge as good as the japanese cheisel try to look at
that artickle


View Jamie Speirs's profile

Jamie Speirs

4168 posts in 2882 days

#9 posted 12-11-2010 07:31 PM

You cant get much better. Always a good quality steel.
The 1/8” is a real nuisance. For some reason they can charge as much for it as a 2”.
Still it is a necessary chisel for me as well.
I have 2×1/2” and 2×1” in my set as well. I hate stopping half way to sharpen.

Buy Them and enjoy them.


-- Who is the happiest of men? He who values the merits of others, and in their pleasure takes joy, even as though 'twere his own. --Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

View helluvawreck's profile


31393 posts in 2892 days

#10 posted 12-11-2010 07:45 PM

Thanks, Jamie and Dennis, I certainly have always respected you both for your opinions as well as Patrons since I have gotten to know all of you from your posts. :)

Loren, thanks for your opinion and I will take a look at the Japanese chisels as well.

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

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31393 posts in 2892 days

#11 posted 12-11-2010 07:47 PM

I’m sort of leaning towards a 4 or 5 pc set of Sorby’s and then add another chisel every couple of months until I have the set. It’s easier on my budget that ways. ;)

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View docholladay's profile


1287 posts in 3085 days

#12 posted 12-12-2010 08:11 AM

I was in Woodcraft not very long ago and was looking at the Sorby’s as well as the Pfeil’s. The thing that surprised me about the Sorby’s was that it appeared to me that a fair amount of work was going to be required before they would really be sharp. I’m sure the backs are flat, but thy are not polished. Also, the bevel is not polished and would require a bit of honing. The Pfeil’s were already polished. For the cost of the Sorby chisels, in my opinion, they should be honed and ready for use right out of the box. I have a set of Marples chisels and the Sorby’s did not look any better than the Marples did when they were new. The Marples are a lot less expensive and the ones I have, have served me very well, but it took some work to get them ready for use. Now, all that said, my favorite chisels that I use the most are some antique chisels of various makers that I have found in many varied places. I brought them home and honed and polished them and they just work. Those old tools, just seem to have better steel and I love the feel of those old wooden handlles that have been polished smooth from someone’s hands using them.


-- Hey, woodworking ain't brain surgery. Just do something and keep trying till you get it. Doc

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18290 posts in 3702 days

#13 posted 12-12-2010 08:25 AM

I wouldn’t worry about having a bad mark on eBay :-) The reason they take Paypal most of the time is eBay requieres them to take it from what I have figured out; another way to nickle and dime everyone, not allowing any other payment form.

Not sure about Sorby, I use mostly old Stanley’s I have collected.

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3141 days

#14 posted 12-12-2010 09:21 AM

Doc : just a note 2 cherry sell both polished and not polished and from one of the
stores I know that the polished rekvire a lot more work before the back is flat
becourse the technic they use to polish cheisels etc, make the sides,front and back a little round
and the fore do the store say if you wants polished planeblades or cheisels hten be aware of they
need more work before you can use them and advise people only to buy them if they want polished tool


View mafe's profile


11730 posts in 3115 days

#15 posted 12-12-2010 09:36 PM

I have different old chisels, some beautiful vintage once also, but use most of the time some new bacho (they are really good, and very fair at price), but are not too happy about them most because I’m a vintage kind of guy also, so I’m actually waiting now for a wonderful set of Japanese hand made chisels (7 pcs at app. 400 us $), and cant wait.
It’s my feeling that it’s a lot about what you use the chisels for, and temperament. If you are on the move you want hard steel that holds the edge the maximum time, and if you are at the workshop doing carpentry, you want some chisels less hard so you can give them a fast strapping and make them razor sharp in a second.
So I think that it’s a matter of feeling when you are up in that leauge.
So I look forward to hear about your choice, remember to make a review.
Best thoughts,

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

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