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Forum topic by BB1 posted 09-26-2017 10:45 AM 570 views 0 times favorited 20 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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BB1

780 posts in 627 days


09-26-2017 10:45 AM

Looking at a project that includes making a mortise. New adventure that requires a good set of chisels. Started to look online but feel lost. I am at the point where I likely don’t know what I don’t know. Would appreciate any insights on what brand/type are a good investment (realizing I’m a weekend woodworker so trying to keep the price within reason…haha, whatever that means!). Sorry for such a basic question.


20 replies so far

View chrisstef's profile

chrisstef

16844 posts in 2785 days


#1 posted 09-26-2017 11:10 AM

The narex mortise chisels arent bad but may need work out of the box. Mine needed to be ground down quite a bit to get to some good steel that will hold an edge. If your sharpening is up to snuff look at the narex. If you need something to go right out of the box ive heard good things about Ray? Ashley? Iles mortisers.

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

View toolfooldan's profile

toolfooldan

52 posts in 1417 days


#2 posted 09-26-2017 11:18 AM

Years ago I bought a set of 6 “Pfeil Swiss Made” chisels. I’m been real happy with the quality but if I had to do it all over again I would have bought chisels with imperial sizes, not metric. They advertise 12mm is 1/2”; sorry it ain’t. So if you’re like me – one that works in inches and not millimeters – then avoid metric chisels.

View jonah's profile

jonah

1253 posts in 3077 days


#3 posted 09-26-2017 11:52 AM

The most important thing with chisels is really your sharpening setup. If you know how to sharpen, most chisels will be fine.

I have a set of the Narex bench chisels and one mortising chisel, and they’re very nice. I prefer the rounded end handle style to the darker colored longer one.

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jonah

1253 posts in 3077 days


#4 posted 09-26-2017 11:55 AM

By the way, you do not need a “mortising” chisel to make a mortise. Paul Sellers has a good video where he compares the two, and the bench chisel is actually faster.

View Bertha's profile

Bertha

13381 posts in 2472 days


#5 posted 09-26-2017 12:03 PM

As Jonah mentions, you don’t need a mortising chisel, but boy are they rewarding to use. There’s a little bit of technique that feels counter intuitive to me. Stef mentions the Narex, which is certainly the best bang for the buck and there’s no hunting. You can break the bank quite easily buying modern pigstickers. An antique is likely just as good, if not better. When you’ve got the sharpening down pat, it’s not all that much more work, given that you’ll have to do significant work on the new Narex, as well. You’re going to love chopping mortises.

Oh and Brit likes the Sorby’s and I like the Butchers, if you go antique. Both solid.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View bondogaposis's profile

bondogaposis

4395 posts in 2130 days


#6 posted 09-26-2017 12:27 PM

If you have a drill press then you won’t need mortise chisels, you can remove most of the waste with a Forstner bit and then finish up with bench chisels. A lot people like the Stanley Sweetheart chisels that you can get from Amazon at a reasonable price. You are going to need a mallet of some sort. Sharpening is key, no chisels come ready to use, sharpening is job one.

-- Bondo Gaposis

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Smitty_Cabinetshop

14723 posts in 2397 days


#7 posted 09-26-2017 12:27 PM

I’ll be a broken record and suggest the four pack of Stanley SW re-issues as a great starting point. If it all possible, get your hands on as many different chisel types and sizes available, and see what feels right. Check out tangs vs. sockets, firmers vs. bench / paring, bevel edges, mortisers, etc. before laying down serious cash. And of course, be prepared to learn sharpening. It is the gateway skill to working with hand tools such as chisels.

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

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Tim

3591 posts in 1740 days


#8 posted 09-26-2017 12:40 PM

I certainly wouldn’t argue against getting some better chisels, but your current chisels if you get them sharp, will chop a mortise just fine. The only difference really is how often you need to sharpen. If you don’t learn to sharpen well, the new chisels won’t magically chop mortises for you.

So in short, sharpen up the chisels you have and have a go at chopping a mortice. It will take a few to get decent at it and chop them square, but that’s the price of admission.

View BB1's profile

BB1

780 posts in 627 days


#9 posted 09-26-2017 12:50 PM

I appreciate all the information. Looks like further investigation on Narex and Stanley will be a good starting point. I know how important sharp tools are for quality as well as safety. That is another uncharted territory. Looks “easy” on videos but expect the learning curve on technique is steep.

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Tim

3591 posts in 1740 days


#10 posted 09-26-2017 01:13 PM

It’s not so steep not to get started. It’s not easy to get them square and clean but it is fairly quick to learn to get them functional. Not knowing any better the first mortises I chopped were 45 degree angled through the 3-1/2 width of a 2×4. The middle of the mortises were off a good 1/8” or more but chopping from both sides meant the tenons fit in straight with a tight fit after some paring. It’s fun to beat on some wood with a mallet and make some chips.

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BB1

780 posts in 627 days


#11 posted 09-27-2017 10:42 AM

In looking at Narex and the Stanley, the former is a bit lower in price and seemed to have very positive reviews. What size chisels are the most used? I realize this depends on the project, but am trying to determine if the 4 chisel (I think the largest in one option is 12mm or about 1/2inch) while cover most uses. There is another 6 piece set that goes from about 1/4 inch to over an inch. Still need to check into what I need for sharpening.

View Rarebreed68's profile

Rarebreed68

75 posts in 80 days


#12 posted 09-27-2017 11:01 AM

https://woodworker.com/8-piece-chisel-set-with-wooden-box-mssu-146-522.asp
While these are not mortise chisels, they are a nice set, come in fractional sizes, sharpen up well, and are reasonably priced.

-- EARTH FIRST! We'll log the other planets later. Trust your neighbors, but brand your calves. Opinion worth price charged.

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BB1

780 posts in 627 days


#13 posted 09-27-2017 11:27 AM

Thanks for the link. I found what appears to be a simlat set for about $85, although are metric (not sure if that is an issue):
Narex 6 pc set 6mm (1/4”), 10 (3/8”), 12 (1/2”), 16 (5/8”), 20 (13/16”) , 26 (1 1/16”) Woodworking Chisels in Wooden Presentation Box 853053


https://woodworker.com/8-piece-chisel-set-with-wooden-box-mssu-146-522.asp
While these are not mortise chisels, they are a nice set, come in fractional sizes, sharpen up well, and are reasonably priced.

- Rarebreed68


View JayT's profile

JayT

5409 posts in 1990 days


#14 posted 09-27-2017 01:02 PM

I’m going to double down on a couple of the comments, while adding my own take.


I certainly wouldn t argue against getting some better chisels, but your current chisels if you get them sharp, will chop a mortise just fine. The only difference really is how often you need to sharpen. If you don t learn to sharpen well, the new chisels won t magically chop mortises for you.

So in short, sharpen up the chisels you have and have a go at chopping a mortice. It will take a few to get decent at it and chop them square, but that s the price of admission.

- Tim

This is a really good starting point. A sharp chisel will do wonders and a lot of the difference in chisels is the quality of the steel. Better steel holds an edge a lot longer and keeps you working instead of always sharpening.


If it all possible, get your hands on as many different chisel types and sizes available, and see what feels right. Check out tangs vs. sockets, firmers vs. bench / paring, bevel edges, mortisers, etc. before laying down serious cash.

- Smitty_Cabinetshop

This is the other side of the equation. Chisels that don’t feel right in your hand just won’t perform as well. The better chisel makers use different sizes of handles to keep the tool better balanced—i.e. smaller handles for narrow chisels and larger handles for wider ones. After you’ve used a well balanced chisel, you won’t want to go back to anything else. I have some Two Cherries chisels that are near perfect for me in this regard. Good feel, great steel and near perfect balance.

As far as metric vs imperial measure, it should be a non-issue. Once you are into a project enough to be working with chisels, you should be working to mark and fitment, not to a measurement. The chisel widths are never exact, anyways, there is always a bit of +/- tolerance, so a supposed 1/2in chisel will rarely measure exactly 1/2in.

The last thing I would offer is to skip the sets and buy one or two high quality chisels in the sizes you need and will use and then add to them with the same brand and style as other needs arrive. What you will probably find is that the sizes in a set will not match up with what you use. I started with a set of 5 chisels and only used 3 of them at all, 2 far more than the others, and found that there were a couple sizes that were needed that were not in the set. The way I work, the most used chisel sizes are 3/8, 1/8, 1/2 and a wide chisel for larger paring tasks. (I use a vintage 7/8, but could use anything in the 3/4-1in range) You will have a hard time finding those sized in any set offered by a manufacturer.

Someone else may use a different group of sized the most because they work differently. That is why I say to buy one at a time. If you frequently need a 1/2in chisel, then spend the money on a good 1/2in chisel instead of a lower quality set. As you have budget and need, you can gradually add chisels until you end up with a group that is appropriate for how you work, doesn’t have sizes you don’t need and is better quality than you would have started with. It’s the difference of getting the tools that work instead of taking the sizes a manufacturer wanted to package together and making them work.

-- In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock. Thomas Jefferson

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bondogaposis

4395 posts in 2130 days


#15 posted 09-27-2017 03:30 PM

What size chisels are the most used?

For me it is the smaller sizes, 1/4, 3/8, 1/2 and 5/8. I rarely use 3/4 or 1”.

-- Bondo Gaposis

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