Chisel Advice - Metric vs. Imperial

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Forum topic by LanceG posted 07-12-2011 11:39 PM 2862 views 0 times favorited 5 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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3 posts in 2799 days

07-12-2011 11:39 PM

Topic tags/keywords: chisels metric imperial

I am in the market for some decent chisels, and have been giving the new Narex cabinetmakers chisels a serious look. The one concern I have is that they only make metric sized chisels. How big a deal is it to have metric chisels, if most of my other tools are imperial?

For the “it depends” crowd :-) – I currenly use mostly galoot tools, bit & brace, grooving planes, etc. Also a cordless drill, a router, and a circ saw, and a few others. I don’t plan to do a lot of joinery with the router, but may hog out material with a brace or hand drill.

How bid a hassle will metric chisels be, if any at all?

thanks for the input!


5 replies so far

View Hoakie's profile


306 posts in 4059 days

#1 posted 07-13-2011 02:51 AM

The way I use chisels, dovetailing, cleaning out mortises, etc., there really no downside since I rarely am trying to be exact. The one advantage that I can see is that metric would be slightly undersized for fitting in cuts made by imperial bits 1/2” = 12.69 mm and the Narex set comes with a 12mm. I’m in no way an expert so take my advice for what it is worth.

BTW, I have the Narex set and they are pretty nice for the price. Had to do a little bit of work to get them tuned up but not too bad.

-- John H. [To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk. ~Edison]

View LanceG's profile


3 posts in 2799 days

#2 posted 07-13-2011 04:35 PM

Thanks for the input, John. Good point on some of the chisels being undersized. Of course, some will probably be a fraction of a millimeter oversized, too. I should probably verify that. I know I would always prefer undersized versus oversized for chisels.

View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2170 posts in 2873 days

#3 posted 07-13-2011 10:16 PM

I’m embarrassed I got sucked into this. Shame on me.

I have chisels that are marked: “1/2 – 13mm” and so forth.

There are several qualities of a chisel that trump the importance of its nominal width.

To let the width of your chisels drive the dimensions of holes in your work seems misguided to me.

Buy the ones you like. A set of four will get you a long way. Sharpen them diligently and delight in their interaction with wood fibers. You’ll never think of their width again. You’ll just reach for the right one for the job at hand.



-- " his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

View LanceG's profile


3 posts in 2799 days

#4 posted 07-15-2011 10:49 AM


No shame in helping a new galoot figure stuff out. Your feedback is useful.

It’s not like I asked “What’s the best system for sharpening hand tools?” After all, I don’t think we’re supposed to talk religion on this forum. :-)

View Loren's profile


10476 posts in 3671 days

#5 posted 07-15-2011 05:46 PM

Well, Japan chisels are only available in metric, and it seems to me in odd
widths at that.

Except with mortise chisels, the chisel doesn’t dictate the dimensions
of the joint in my experience.

In practice I’ve found it useful to have chisels in all sorts of sizes and
balances. As a practical matter I seldom interrupt what I’m doing to
sharpen the chisel, I just grab a sharper one in a similar size.

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