Mortising chisels?

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Forum topic by TCCcabinetmaker posted 03-02-2012 05:33 PM 8689 views 1 time favorited 18 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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932 posts in 2378 days

03-02-2012 05:33 PM

Topic tags/keywords: chisel resource

Ok I have tons of chisels, but what I don’t have are mortising chisels. In the past I would not have needed mortising chisels because though I have done it, it wasn’t a staple in what I do, but as it is now, it’s becoming more common, and well the bench chisels just don’t perform the same way. SO does anyone know where one would find reasonably priced mortising chisels?

-- The mark of a good carpenter is not how few mistakes he makes, but rather how well he fixes them.

18 replies so far

View Brandon's profile


4152 posts in 2974 days

#1 posted 03-02-2012 05:40 PM

The Narex mortise chisels work great, in my opinion, and they are pretty darn inexpensive. You can buy the standard sizes from Lee Valley or the metric sizes from Highland Hardware. Depending on your work, You can probably get by with just a 1/4” and a 1/2”.

-- "hold fast to that which is good"

View TCCcabinetmaker's profile


932 posts in 2378 days

#2 posted 03-02-2012 05:44 PM

Well some of the pieces are larger pieces so who knows.

-- The mark of a good carpenter is not how few mistakes he makes, but rather how well he fixes them.

View JSilverman's profile


89 posts in 2636 days

#3 posted 03-02-2012 09:17 PM

I wouldnt call them inexpensive, but I like my Lie Neilsen mortice chisels. I bought them when doing a set of dining room chairs that needed A LOT of mortices…. opted to go that route rather than a power hollow chisel morticer. It was more work but I enjoyed the process.

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

4948 posts in 3983 days

#4 posted 03-02-2012 09:23 PM

Look for some old W. Butcher cast steel jobbies. Probably won’t be able to buy in sets, but singles can be found.
Great steel, and well made.
Reasonable and mortising just don’t go well together.


View Loren's profile


10476 posts in 3671 days

#5 posted 03-02-2012 10:07 PM

yeah, you just need a couple of sizes : 1/4” or 5/16” for 3/4”
frames and something bigger for major joints. You might
want to use a smaller-sized mortise chisel that puts your hands
closer to the work for the smaller mortises. The big 14”
long mortise chisels are great for big joints but oversized
for some work just in terms of handling.

For bigger joints you might want a big chisel in the 1/2”-5/8”

I have some sash mortise chisels about 11” long and a couple
heavy duty Sorby ones about 14” long. The Sorby’s are
about twice the weight of the smaller Marples.

I made a real heavy duty mortise chisel myself following
instructions in a FWW article. I used a length of 1/2” x 1”
oil hardening tool steel. That was before ebay and
the only sources I knew for mortise chisels only sold
the registered ones.

View Brit's profile


7385 posts in 2866 days

#6 posted 03-02-2012 10:45 PM

The best mortising chisels IMO are the Ray Iles chisels which you can get from Tools for Working Wood. Here’s the link. Why not buy the one you need now and add to them as you need different sizes.

-- - Andy - Old Chinese proverb says: "If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it."

View rkober's profile


137 posts in 2315 days

#7 posted 03-02-2012 10:54 PM

I second Brandon’s post. I just got a set of the Narexs from Lee Valley for Christmas. I spent some time with the stones but felt they shaped up well. Not having used actual mortise chisels before, I was amused at well they do what they are made for.

-- Ray - Spokane, WA - “Most people don’t recognize opportunity because it’s usually disguised as hard work.” - Unknown

View BrownDog's profile


9 posts in 2299 days

#8 posted 03-03-2012 05:51 AM

All advice you have received is good. I have full sets of both the Ray Iles and Narex mortise chisels and a set of very nice Japanese mortise chisels. The Ray Iles are substantially higher quality and virtually indestructible, hold an edge very, very well, etc. The Narex require some initial work to sharpen but function fine and I like them. My Japanese set is also very high quality and takes and holds an edge very well. Lie Nielsen mortise chisels would be very good as well. I have their bevel edge chisels and they are very high quality.

It all comes down to what you think you need, now and in the future, and your budget.

If you only need one or two chisels to do a particular project now and don’t have a large budget or don’t want to invest $65 (for a Lie Nielsen) or $75 (for a Ray Iles) in one chisel then buy a Narex or two or, if you are in an area where vintage tools are readily available, search for a good vintage chisel or two.

If you want to begin collecting a set of high quality chisels that will last your lifetime buy a Lie Nielsen or Ray Iles (or a quality Japanese) chisel or two and pick the rest up as you need them.

If you have an expansive budget buy the entire Lie Nielsen or Ray Iles or a quality Japanese set. Any of these will outlast you and do all the mortising you are likely to need done.

View TCCcabinetmaker's profile


932 posts in 2378 days

#9 posted 03-03-2012 05:34 PM

Thanks guys I’ll look into it

-- The mark of a good carpenter is not how few mistakes he makes, but rather how well he fixes them.

View NJWiliam's profile


32 posts in 2590 days

#10 posted 03-03-2012 06:10 PM

I love the Ray Iles mortise chisels. I’d also suggest starting with narrower chisels, since widening the mortise sides is pretty easy, but a wide mortise chisel won’t work for a narrow mortise.

View MrRon's profile


4793 posts in 3266 days

#11 posted 03-05-2012 06:35 PM

You might also want to check out using hollow mortising chisels. Rockler sell a handle that fits hollow mortising chisels with a 3/8” shank. To use them, you just drill a hole and hammer the mortising chisel to form a square hole that can be enlarged to suit. I don’t mortise often, so I’m going to use the chisels I have in that fashion as I have another use for the motor from my mortiser.

View mamell's profile


55 posts in 907 days

#12 posted 02-06-2016 01:15 AM

I wanted to mention something about mortises with a chisel and didn’t really find a thread that seemed to fit what I have to say so I arbitrarily picked this thread..
So anyway.. I’ve been doing this awhile now and find that with age my hands shake quite a bit especially when I’m starting my cuts so they tend to wander a bit and end up rather ragged so what I do now to get started after marking the lines and cutting a shallow knife wall is to carefully chisel down about 1/8th inch the length of the mortise to give me a much more defined wall to work with instead of just banging away right off. I was having a problem with the shaking and really messing up nice wood, but this shallow channel gives me a nice guide and lets me go ahead and hammer away.
I’d like to say I’m not getting old, but that would indicate that there might be flies breeding somewhere on my body and I’m not quite ready to go there yet..
I’m just using off the shelf chisels made by the Zikzak corporation..They seem to work just fine..

-- Never underestimate the power of the history of sliced bread. Sliced bread is still the greatest thing since sliced bread.

View bandit571's profile


20212 posts in 2706 days

#13 posted 02-06-2016 01:29 AM

-- A Planer? I'M the planer, this is what I use

View bondogaposis's profile


4757 posts in 2374 days

#14 posted 02-06-2016 01:32 AM

Ray Isles are my favorites. You only need a few sizes. Tools for Working Wood have them.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View conifur's profile


955 posts in 1175 days

#15 posted 02-06-2016 02:40 AM

I got a set of the Norex 4 of them for less then one Ray Isles, 55$ from Amazon.

-- Knowledge and experience equals Wisdom, Michael Frankowski

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