Bench Chisels versus Mortice and Paring

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Forum topic by Texchappy posted 05-20-2012 06:07 PM 6609 views 0 times favorited 5 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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252 posts in 2188 days

05-20-2012 06:07 PM

Been pouring through lots of forums and taking in lots of information. Wanted to ask a question over a statement I read on another forum: with a set of mortice chisels and paring chisels, bench chisels don’t get much work. So are bench chisels enough of a comprise that a woodworker would be better served getting mortise chisels for chopping and paring chisels for paring? In other words, is the bench chisel a jack of all trades master of none proposition?

Doesn’t sound quite right to me but thought I’d run it by folks with more experience.


-- Wood is not velveeta

5 replies so far

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299 posts in 2603 days

#1 posted 05-20-2012 06:16 PM

I would have to disagree. I would say the bench chisels are the jack of all trades, and the master of most. I find that paring chisels are a little too flexible to confidently take a good use. I only use them when I have to take off paper thin shavings. They stay perfectly sharp all the time, which really just means they don’t get used that often. My bench chisels on the other hand are almost always perfectly sharp, but I don’t feel guilty in hammering them around from time to time. I also use them for chopping, and they hold up well.

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557 posts in 3720 days

#2 posted 05-20-2012 06:24 PM

Bench chisels are the BullDogs of my fledgling collection.

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David Craig

2137 posts in 3076 days

#3 posted 05-20-2012 06:26 PM

Bench chisels are a good general use chisel for some paring, trimming of parts, shallow mortising for hinges and that type of thing, etc. Mortise and Paring chisels are specialty chisels designed to do one specific task and no others. Bench chisels can do paring but not as well, and you are not going to use them for mortises (except you can use them to clean them up.) Unless you are doing a great deal of hand mortising, I would say the mortise and paring chisels are only going to be used a minority of the time with bench chisels performing most non-specialized tasks.

-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

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10274 posts in 3615 days

#4 posted 05-20-2012 06:36 PM

Bench chisels like the Marples are a bit long for some mallet
work where you’d like to have your hand closer to the work.
But they are long enough for lots off paring work but not
super long like real paring chisels.

Japan chisels are short, like Western butt chisels. They do
great with chopping and paring of smaller joints, but the
short blades limit how deep you can pare with them.

You can’t do all your chopping with mortise chisels and then
there’s the issue of bevels. A mortise chisel is typically
sharpened less acutely than a chisel used for chopping out
dovetail waste. The reason is that mortising is brute
work and they don’t stay razor sharp for long but it
doesn’t matter with all that force behind the mortising
chisel. Mortise chisels also have square sides so they
bruise the work when used in close quarters, but the
same square sides help them register in the mortise so
mortising is quicker and less tiring than with a firmer or
bench chisel.


Maybe you should be.

Rather than investing in multiple sets you may find that
you can skip the paring chisels (I don’t have any except
for skew and crank-necked ones myself) and get a small
set of bench chisels with tough handles for all around
work. They can go into your carpentry bag when you
collect finer chisels to replace them at your bench.

Then get a couple of mortising chisels and fill out with
a couple of firmer chisels which can work for light
mortising as well as other work.

So that’s a set of 4 all-rounder bench chisels with tapered
blades, a couple of mortising chisels, say 3/8” and 1/2”,
a couple of firmers, maybe 3/4” and 1” for occasional
wider mortises and general abuse. Then you fill out from
there and upgrade as your skills and commitment develop.
A pair of skews is most useful.

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252 posts in 2188 days

#5 posted 05-20-2012 06:42 PM

Thanks for the replies. They fit with what I was planning and had known up to the point I read that comment. At this point I just have one chisel – a 6mm Japanese bench chisel (oire nomi). Slowly building up my tools, chisels included.

-- Wood is not velveeta

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