Chisels for a Beginner

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Forum topic by BriBri posted 11-28-2011 10:17 PM 5688 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View BriBri's profile


1 post in 2546 days

11-28-2011 10:17 PM

Topic tags/keywords: chisel affordable

Interested in buying a chisel set that won’t put me in the poor house, but also won’t need sharpening once a week. Would love some thoguhts from the experienced craftsmen out there.

10 replies so far

View crank49's profile


4032 posts in 3146 days

#1 posted 11-28-2011 10:22 PM

Blue handled Marples are good. I only have one, but it’s a good one.

Narex are very nice and very reasonable. I got mine from Lee Valley. Nice folks to deal with.

I have read good reviews of the Stanley Sweetheat 750s.

Of course, used deals on CL or Ebay are good too.

View RGtools's profile


3372 posts in 2830 days

#2 posted 11-28-2011 10:40 PM

Marples are good but will still need frequet touch up. If you have the ability to flatten the backs and keep them in shape older tools in non-rust covered condition are a good way to go. a few names to look for, swan, buck, butcher.

It all depends on what you want to do though.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


15649 posts in 2794 days

#3 posted 11-28-2011 10:46 PM

I’ve seen these in person, but not used them. An efficient (five piece) set that’s very affordable and use the same English tool steel as found in the new SW 750s. (I have the 750s and love them.) The amazon page above also has an Irwin set that’s affordable, but I have no insight into those at all (although I’ve seen lots of discussions on LJs about them… perhaps a search is in order). Read largely positive things about the Narex set Crank referred to as well. You’ve got choices, Good luck!

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

View Dave Pearce's profile

Dave Pearce

108 posts in 3848 days

#4 posted 11-28-2011 11:10 PM

I never could find used chisels that weren’t beat to death in the wild. I’ve found one or two here and there, but usually not in the sizes I needed.

Two Cherries bench chisels were rated rather highly by fine woodworking awhile back only being beaten out by more expensive Hirsh and Japanese chisels. After checking out some of the others, I ordered a set from Traditional Woodworker last November.

I’ve probably used them on a dozen projects so far, and they hold up nicely. Not sure what you mean by “won’t need sharpening once a week”, though. It depends on how much you’re using them, and what species of wood (hardness) as to how much you’ll be sharpening them. If you mean sharpening, as in taking them back to the grinder, well, I haven’t put these to the grinder yet and don’t intend to unless I actually chip the edge.

When I first got them, I ran them through my coarse stone once to flatten the backs, and establish the edge, and from there to my fine and ultra fine stones.

Since then I’ve only taken them to my fine and ultra fine stones, and then a strop when they need touching up, which like I said, depends on the species of wood you’re chopping at as to how much you’ll want to do that. In between sharpenings, while I’m working, I strop them occasionally when I feel like they’re a little getting dull. I try to rely on how they are cutting rather than put myself on a sharpening schedule. Usually start out with a test cut or two before starting anything, and sharpen them at the start. From there, it’s just touching up during work.

Good luck and let us know what you decide on.


View knotscott's profile


8140 posts in 3551 days

#5 posted 11-28-2011 11:19 PM

I’ve got the Irwin chisels and have been happy with them. I realize they’re not the best, but they’re good nuff for what I do with them.

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 3823 days

#6 posted 11-28-2011 11:33 PM

Get some sharpening stuff and learn to use it. Once you get
comfortable with making tools sharp, then it’s a routine matter.

In terms of efficiency with chisels and plane irons, a bench
grinder with a white wheel on one side and a buffing wheel
on the other makes for quick work of grinding and final
polishing. In the middle, a 1000 grit waterstone makes
quick work of making a sharp edge. A bit of green rouge on
the buffing wheel makes an edge that scares the hair off
your arm.

I have a bunch of stones and sharpening stuff, but honestly,
the buffing wheel is usually faster and easier to learn to
use. You do need a stone in the middle, imo.

View RGtools's profile


3372 posts in 2830 days

#7 posted 11-29-2011 04:02 PM

While we are on the point of sharpening. Here is a good reference on the subject.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View Lifesaver2000's profile


556 posts in 3287 days

#8 posted 11-29-2011 05:02 PM

I know that many people put down anything Craftsman, but I have four of their “Made in USA” chisels that I’ve been using for over a year. I sharpened them once, and they have stayed sharp. They are as inexpensive as the Chinese stuff but have the Craftsman Lifetime Warranty.

The only con I’ve found is that they all came a bit wider than their listed size, so if you want to use them for something where a precise width is needed, they will need the sides worked down as well as sharpening before you start.

Right now you can get a three piece set for $17 then add a fourth size (depending on what you need) for about $7. I think I spent about $25 when I bought mine to get a 1/4, 1/2, 3/4 and 1”

So I got something made in America (in fact, some Craftsman tools are made just a couple hundred miles from me) and spent less than the cost of the Made in China Irwins at Home Depot.

Of course, depending on where you are, where the tools are made may not be as important to you. But when I can I like to keep my dollars close to home, as long as I’m getting a usable tool.

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


15649 posts in 2794 days

#9 posted 11-29-2011 05:05 PM

Lifesaver – Thanks for the info, I didn’t know Craftsman USA chisels were available. I’ll have to check them out for a set of beaters. Might even rework a pair of their 3/8” chisels for skews.

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

View devann's profile


2246 posts in 2868 days

#10 posted 11-29-2011 05:28 PM

BriBri, After acquiring some chisels and getting them sharp you’ll need to protect them and keep them that way. If you don’t have a leather pouch to keep them in I’ve found that plastic bottle caps work well. Here’s an example:

-- Darrell, making more sawdust than I know what to do with

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