Thoughts on the Narex mortise chisels?

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Forum topic by Purrmaster posted 10-10-2012 11:15 PM 12758 views 0 times favorited 17 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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915 posts in 2121 days

10-10-2012 11:15 PM

Topic tags/keywords: chisel narex mortise chisels bevel


I checked out the reviews for the Narex mortise chisels here. They seemed mixed and I was curious as to whether anyone had used these.

I’ve been looking for an affordable set of mortise chisels and have had my eye on these for some time. My bench chisels just aren’t cutting it for chopping mortises. But from what I can tell it seems there are two version of their mortise chisels.

The ones from Highland Woodworking:

And the ones from Lee Valley:,41504

The main difference I see is that the Lee valley set has plastic handles and the Highland set has wood handles.

Is either set superior to the other? From the reviews section it seemed that the Highland chisels got better reviews.

I won’t be picking them up for a couple of weeks so I have plenty of time to solicit opinions/advice.

Thanks in advance.

17 replies so far

View ShaneA's profile


6956 posts in 2627 days

#1 posted 10-10-2012 11:19 PM

Got mine from LV,they have the darker handles. But, they are Beech. Seem to be a good value, I am not an expert, and havent used them all yet nor have I used them a lot yet. Without looking at both sites, I thought one set as metric, the other imperical. I am easily confused though.

View mcase's profile


446 posts in 3157 days

#2 posted 10-11-2012 03:25 AM


I have become a real tool review skeptic. There are just so many reviews that rave about items that are mediocre at best or make big deals out of trivial drawbacks on otherwise outstanding tools. Having said that you may want to look at the chisel review in FWW Sept. 2008. They reviewed Narex along with Lie Nielsen, Two Cherries, Pfiel and others. Unlike many reviews I found this one had merit. According to the review, the traditional laminated Japanese chisels were superior to the Western style chisels in many ways, particularly edge retention. I have found this to be true. Even the very moderately priced Japanese chisels I own do indeed hold their edge better than relatively expensive western chisels. I found other parts of the review to be accurate as well. For Western chisels I have a set of registered Robert Sorbys that don’t hold an edge for crap. I also have Pfeil and Two Cherrries chisels. The Two Cherries and the Pfeils are virtually indistinguishable as far as edge retention goes and the Sorbys run a poor second. Again this more or less agrees with the FWW findings. The Swiss Pfeil and German Two Cherries both employ a hard vanadium steel. It seems overly brittle compared to Japanese steel. This is what I think you will find with Narex, a hard, fairly brittle vanadium alloy that is serviceable, but nothing more. That’s how I found Pfiel and Two Cherries chisels to be and the Narex are generally billed as about comparable, but at a better price. I wouldn’t be surprised if they all used the same steel bar stock from the same supplier. As I recall, Narex was given the best value award in the FWW review. So given the great price of Narex chisels, I say if they feel right in your hand when you use them be content. They will undoubtedly hold an edge better than expensive Sorbys and most likely will be very comparable to the Pfeil and Two Cherries.

View nwbusa's profile


1021 posts in 2314 days

#3 posted 10-11-2012 04:51 AM

I bought my Narex mortise chisels from LV. As stated on their site, the handles are wood (solid beech). I used the 1/2” chisel extensively on a couple of big projects and it performed very well. You can’t go wrong for the money on these chisels, IMO.

-- John, BC, Canada

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

5002 posts in 2522 days

#4 posted 10-11-2012 11:56 AM

I only have one of them (1/4”) from LV, and it really took a beating on the project I bought it for. Also held an edge real well…which was my concern.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View tenontim's profile


2131 posts in 3773 days

#5 posted 10-11-2012 02:49 PM

I have a set of the Narex mortise chisels, with the wood handles, and am happy with them. Be advised, the imperial sizes are made to the closest metric equivalent, but this is no problem if you’re cutting your mortises and tenons by hand.

View Cato's profile


701 posts in 3341 days

#6 posted 10-11-2012 03:15 PM

I got a set of these chisels from LV, and they seem well built and adequate for my needs.

Sharp out of the box and worked well for me on my last table project.

View Mosquito's profile


9355 posts in 2321 days

#7 posted 10-11-2012 03:32 PM

Going off of what Tim said, I would be inclined to believe they’re the same set of chisels, but Highland states their metric size with closest imperial measurements also listed, and LV just lists them based on the imperial size. I have the set from LV and they are stained wood handles, not plastic.

Mine were fairly flat on the back when I got them. It didn’t take too long to get them flat, and get them honed up.

-- Mos - Twin Cities, MN - -

View crank49's profile


4032 posts in 2999 days

#8 posted 10-11-2012 03:42 PM

I got the three piece set of Narex Mortise chisels from Highland. Been very happy with them. The fit and finish is very good. The edge retention good and they do not appear to be too brittle. I’d buy these again, but would opt for a larger set.

In refference to the above comment about Narex being a vanadium alloy, I dissagree. They are a manganese alloy. Manganese imparts a work hardening property to steel, not brittle. I can’t speak to the comparison to Japanese chisels, however, since I do not own any of those.

My only regret is I got the 3 pc set instead of the 5 pc. Now, if I want more they cost more per each.

View Arminius's profile


304 posts in 3832 days

#9 posted 10-11-2012 05:39 PM

Not sure if they are still the closest metric equivalent – the Narex bench chisels that LV now carries are true Imperial. Otherwise, I suspect they are the same other than the handles.

In any case, they are a remarkably good value. A bit more work to prep the first time than some premium ones, but well made and hold an edge quite well.

View MonteCristo's profile


2099 posts in 2217 days

#10 posted 10-11-2012 05:51 PM

Narex seems very good value to me.

-- Dwight - "Free legal advice available - contact Dewey, Cheetam & Howe""

View Kreegan's profile


1452 posts in 2175 days

#11 posted 10-11-2012 08:10 PM

I recently got a 6mm Narex mortise chisel from Highland Woodworking. It has a wooden, not plastic, handle. I’m pretty sure it’s beech. The back was nice and flat and didn’t really require much lapping. The edge sharpened up easily using a honing guide and diamond stones. I did a test mortise in some pine and it cut very nicely. I looked at the versions from Lee Valley and Highland Woodworking. I bought a set of Narex bench chisels from HW, and they have the same color handle, so I went with the HW version just so my chisels would match.


View Purrmaster's profile


915 posts in 2121 days

#12 posted 10-11-2012 10:00 PM

I’m not terribly concerned whether they are true imperial sizes or not. But I have heard mixed reviews about edge retention. Even with my Work Sharp, it’s a pain to sharpen chisels all the time.

I want mortise chsiels I’m having a very hard time chopping to a line with my Marples bench chisels. I like the idea of being able to position the chisel and the line and chop down into the wood. I’m also concerned about damaging my bench chsiels by whacking them, even with a wood mallet.

So is there a difference between the Lee Valley and Highland chisel sets? Other than possibly the color of the stain on the handle?

View Purrmaster's profile


915 posts in 2121 days

#13 posted 10-24-2012 10:06 PM

I ordered the 5 chisel set from Highland Woodworking. I’ll let you guys know how well they work. I am concerned about edge retention though so I’ll keep the receipt.

Does anyone know what bevel angle these are ground to?

View Rob Lee's profile

Rob Lee

32 posts in 3323 days

#14 posted 10-26-2012 10:03 PM

Hi -

A clarification on measurements… the Lee Valley Narex are all manufactured to Imperial (inch) sizes – not metric.

Cheers -

Rob Lee
(who bought two sets …. one for my brother!)

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 3137 days

#15 posted 10-27-2012 04:32 AM

When I bought my mortising chisels, they were ground at the factory at 25 degrees. I reground them to 30 with a 35 degree microbevel. Opinions vary considerably on mortising angles but I read that a higher bevel seems to offer some benefit for harder woods.

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

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