Chisels...who has the best combo of value and quality?

  • Advertise with us

« back to Hand Tools forum

Forum topic by ShaneA posted 07-02-2012 02:17 AM 8153 views 1 time favorited 44 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View ShaneA's profile


6929 posts in 2595 days

07-02-2012 02:17 AM

Topic tags/keywords: chisel two cherries narex woodriver ashley isles stanley 750

I am looking into getting another set of chisels. I have a set or two already, but nothing of any real quality. I have the yellow stanleys that I like to beat on, because sometimes I just like to beat on stuff. I have a set I got at the woodworking show a year or two ago. Not even sure of the brand, some sort of chinese stuff. But these are my “good chisels” at this point. A full set of Narex mortise chisels too.

As I am no expert on the matter, making a choice of what I want, what I need, and what I prepared to pay becomes a little puzzling. I am thinking I would like to keep it to around $200 or less for some sort of set, of at least 4…but I guess more is better? I have been looking at Ashley Iles, Stanley SW750, Two Cherries, and a few Japanese makes. I am guessing the difference in chisels basically comes down to quality of steel, edge retention, balance, feel and aesthetics. But maybe I am missing something. Are some of the lesser cost chisels really where it is at? The woodriver chisels look pretty nice, as do the Narex offering. Heck I am even open to vintage, but have no idea what I am looking at. I have all the sharpening gear, so that shouldnt be a problem. But no lathe or capacity to make new handles.

Is there an ideal balance of quality and cost to be found? I cant see myself spending $50 a chisel at this point, but I would be able to lay out a couple of hundred to get something a little better that I have. Should I stay with the lower cost ones, and get some other stuff, or spend as much as I am comfortable with, because the quality will make it worth it? I know that subject has come up before, so I apologize for being repetitive. Any comments, insights, or suggestions would be welcome. Thanks for looking.

44 replies so far

View Mauricio's profile


7144 posts in 3148 days

#1 posted 07-02-2012 02:42 AM

Ashley iles, peep out Mads’ blog it sumes it up prwtty well. I think they are the best value in high end chisels¥

-- Mauricio - Woodstock, GA - "Confusion is the Womb of Learning, with utter conviction being it's Tomb" Prof. T.O. Nitsch

View lysdexic's profile


5254 posts in 2619 days

#2 posted 07-02-2012 03:04 AM

Shane, great question. I have the woodriver set and I am not impressed. I did a review on them that was not favorable. However, many disagreed with my assessment. I use them to bang on.

I ended up buying a LN set. They are beautiful and my wife gets all amorous when she sees the way I handle them. But they are too expensive and their marginal improvement in quality is not evident in my hands.

I have read Mads opinion of the Ashley Iles and for that reason I am considering them for a few mortise chisels. However, it seems they are always sold out.

If I were looking for a set of nice (not uber premium) chisels I would look at the new Stanleys. They are damn near identical to the LN’s at 1/3 the price. The reviews are good and they are made in England. Smitty has them and raved about them about a year ago. Maybe he will chime in.

-- "It's only wood. Use it." - Smitty || Instagram - out_of_focus1.618

View jjw5858's profile


1135 posts in 2599 days

#3 posted 07-02-2012 03:13 AM

Man, I feel your pain exactly. I have read so many reviews on various chisels….and will say….I totally agree with not wanting to spend $50 to almost $75 per chisel. I have 4 Stanely fat maxes and honestly on the diamond stones they really hold strong and very sharp. But I wanted some wood handles that can provide me the same great sharpeness these stanley fat maxes have. I have heard nice things on the Stanley 750 sweehearts but then I have heard some bad things like the handles are not that great. My honest idea…..find a set for the bucks you really are interested in and possibly puchase one size not included in the set of five or four lets say…maybe a 1 1/4 size….give it a go…..if you like it, I would get the rest of the lower sizes in a 5 or 4 chisel set.

I was loving the new Veritas set….than I saw $295…...omg….lol. I think thats just a little overboard….lol.

Just an idea, I am sure you will get some better replies to the problem.

All the best!


-- "Always continue to learn, laugh and share!" JJW

View lysdexic's profile


5254 posts in 2619 days

#4 posted 07-02-2012 03:13 AM

These AI’s are wonderful looking. A set of six is $150 and the same $ as the above Stanley’s. But you can’t buy the set because the 1” is out of stock.

-- "It's only wood. Use it." - Smitty || Instagram - out_of_focus1.618

View lysdexic's profile


5254 posts in 2619 days

#5 posted 07-02-2012 03:18 AM

Joe brings up the new Veritas chisels. They are high $ but we know the Veritas makes good stuff. I don’t know anything about them though.

-- "It's only wood. Use it." - Smitty || Instagram - out_of_focus1.618

View Rick  Dennington's profile

Rick Dennington

5857 posts in 3191 days

#6 posted 07-02-2012 03:19 AM

I have no idea….I just come here sometimes…...!!!

-- " At my age, happy hour is a crap and a nap".....

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


15349 posts in 2615 days

#7 posted 07-02-2012 03:38 AM

+1 for the 750 SW re-issues. Love the feel, edge retention, set-up, and overall quality. My review is here on LJs, and ia still valid today. Hadn’t heard issues with the handles, that’s news. I paid 200 for my set, good luck with your decision, Shane!

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

View ShaneA's profile


6929 posts in 2595 days

#8 posted 07-02-2012 04:02 AM

Thanks for the feedback fellas. I like the looks and price of the SW. $178 for 8. The Ashley Isles are something I have never heard anyone say something bad about. But how many people have them? Looks like they are only sold in 2 places in the US. The japanese ones look super cool, but I know nothing of them. Blue steel, white steel? Not sure what that really means.

View thedude50's profile


3603 posts in 2474 days

#9 posted 07-02-2012 04:11 AM

Shane, I buy vintage chisels. I have been building a full set of firmer chisels. I have six sets of bench chisels and I would consider a new set of the Stanly’s mostly because I like the old ones I have. I know the gripe on the new Stanly’s and think it is a bunch of crap the new sweethearts are very nice and the handles are warranty so what would I care if one broke. I have two sets of footprint chisels and a set of the old blue marples chisels they are both better than lots of the reviews say they are and by better I mean they take a beating and don’t break they sharpen fairly easy and they hold their edge fairly well but not as well as the old sweetheart chisels I have. So I would lean to the new Stanly’s if i had 200 bucks to spend. I would also like a set of AI chisels And I have considered AI for a set of pig stickers. which may be stupid because I have a dedicated mortiser.I find it more fun to cut a mortice with a chisel than with the mortising chisels and that dreadful noise that thing makes when the drill runs out of lubrication. That said The Lees have been boasting about their new chisels for 3 years and the new steel they say will change the world I may wait to buy till i can test one of these I do hope this helps you but I am in the same boat as you except that I already have a full set of antique chisels that I like and wish i had the time to turn handles from the right wood . Wood that takes a beating and looks good. there such a wood . Maybe hickory Hmm

-- Please check out my new stores and

View Loren's profile (online now)


10382 posts in 3644 days

#10 posted 07-02-2012 04:19 AM

Japan chisels feel different in the hand than Western chisels. The
handles aren’t mounted straight in line with the blades and the
blades are short so they put your hand close to the work.

You can get some really good deals on no-name Japan chisels
on ebay. Even the most basic ones are high-carbon laminated
steel and will outperform the chrome vanadium found in
many consumer grade chisels. The chrome vanadium has its
merits but the edges don’t hold up as well as the high carbon
steels. The chrome vanadium resists rust so it is popular in
the mass market and used in Stanley plane irons too.

Be wary of the new 10 chisel sets of Japan chisels sold by Grizzly
and other retailers. They are “reform” style chisels and not the
same quality as the basic “Ice Bear” and other good Japan

I guess my question for you is do you need a set for paring or
a set for chopping?

View Jorge G.'s profile

Jorge G.

1537 posts in 2472 days

#11 posted 07-02-2012 04:37 AM

Taking a different tack Shane, what I did was look at those chisel sizes I used the most and bought the best japanese chisels I could afford at the time in those sizes. After 4 years, I have yet to say “I wish I had xx size”.

While I understand the allure of buying a set, what is the use if half of them are going to sit on the shelve gathering dust?

So that would be my advise, on the other hand I have the chisels review done by FWW in PDF format. message me your e mail address and I will send it to you, it might help you make a better choice.

-- To surrender a dream leaves life as it is — and not as it could be.

View ShipWreck's profile


557 posts in 3749 days

#12 posted 07-02-2012 08:10 AM

It is hard to knock any chisel that can hold an edge pretty well and comes with a solid handle. I own a hodge podge collection of chisels. Some are expensive and some are crappers. Some of my best chisels were found at the bottom of rusty tool piles at the flea markets.

View Dave's profile


11429 posts in 2836 days

#13 posted 07-02-2012 02:46 PM

A most interesting thread. Shane let us know your decision and can we have a review?

-- Superdav "No matter where you go - there you are."

View ShaneA's profile


6929 posts in 2595 days

#14 posted 07-02-2012 03:48 PM

Will do Dave.

I imagine these would be used for paring, as I have some mortise chisels and my stanleys for chopping. Heck, can you even hit one of these wooden handled ones with a wood or uerathane mallet? So many questions….

View waho6o9's profile (online now)


8189 posts in 2573 days

#15 posted 07-02-2012 04:05 PM

As mentioned above, this ebay purchase of $99.00 USD was awesome because of the balance of the
chisels and the sharp edge.

Mortising hinges for a door install was a pleasure and I couldn’t figure out why. Then it was Epiphany time, I wasn’t
struggling with the weight of the chisel, it seemed to work with me and made the install easy peasy.

I think the company was called Jabetc if I remember correctly.

Wow, it went up to 129.99 and free shipping. Still worth it.


showing 1 through 15 of 44 replies

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics