In the market for chisels

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Forum topic by Ben posted 09-24-2013 10:24 PM 1515 views 0 times favorited 16 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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387 posts in 3094 days

09-24-2013 10:24 PM

I’m in the market for a real set of chisels.
I have some vintage Witherby, etc… that I cleaned up and honed and actually they work great, but only have about 3 of them.

I particularly like the socket bevel edged chisels.

Wondering if you guys would recommend something like the Stanley Sweetheart chisels – $200 gets you a set of 8!

Or, am I better off buying vintage stuff individually from ebay?

Or, is it worth almost double the money to spring for Lie-Nielson or something?


16 replies so far

View bigblockyeti's profile (online now)


5315 posts in 1958 days

#1 posted 09-24-2013 10:35 PM

I usually buy most of mine used as I know they’re going to need flattened, sharpened and honed, much like most new chisels. Lie-Nielson stuff is nice, but too expensive for me to justify (most of the time).

-- "Lack of effort will result in failure with amazing predictability" - Me

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

5148 posts in 4198 days

#2 posted 09-24-2013 10:51 PM

I have spent some time collecting W. Butcher cast steel chisels. Seem to me that the new stuff, aside from the premium brands just don’t have the guts, feathers, and eyeballs of the older craft makers.
It’s just my opinion, but excepting newer exotic steels, most are for opening paint cans.
Guess that makes me a fuddy duddy.


View a1Jim's profile


117417 posts in 3814 days

#3 posted 09-24-2013 10:52 PM

This is a subject that has had a lot of debates on Ljs ,Many feel that only a high end chisel is the way to go with their very attractive wood handles and impressive looks, but as for me I feel just a set of Marpels will do the job fine after all sharp is sharp, I’ve had mine for 25 years and when their sharp the cut through end grain like a hot knife on butter.
Sure they have unattractive blue plastic handles,but that plastic is tough stuff and the blades hold and edge fine.
If your out to impress someone you can spend $1200 or more per chisel, could they possibly cut better than Marple chisels? I would hope so for a $1180 in price difference ,but I bet if you were not so impressed with how pretty the high end chisels are you could hardly tell the difference in how well the cut.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View planeBill's profile


506 posts in 2646 days

#4 posted 09-25-2013 12:46 AM

Just like what Jim said. It true, those marples are ugly but my project manager right now owns and uses them and the other day I borrowed one for a quick cut or two and they worked just fine. So…
I happen to own a set of the new SW’s and again, they are great chisels too. They sharpen easily enough, hold an edge well enough and are comparatively cheap so…
I also own many vintage chisels, witherby, pexto, swan, and now a butcher. They all were cheap(ish), sharpen easily, hold an edge very well and though they all needed tuning, are now set up well and ready to work, so…
I also own a set of Japanese chisels that were uber- expensive, they were a $#@ to set up, but they are like razors on handles, are exquisitely beautiful, feel like Im holding hands with a beautiful woman when I pick them up and just cause me to have certain types of dreams. BUT, are they any better at cutting, paring or mortising than any of my other chisels that cost so much less, may not be as pretty or are just down right ugly?? Maybe but does the degree of separation between them justify the cost? I don’t think so. I just wanted them and my wife said I could have them.
What it comes down to is personal choice and coming to grips with the realization that to a certain degree a chisel is a chisel is a chisel.
Best bag with the prices being what they are on ebay these days, go with the new SW’s.

-- I was born at a very young age, as I grew up, I got older.

View Ben's profile


387 posts in 3094 days

#5 posted 09-25-2013 02:03 AM

Thanks Guys.
planeBill, what are SWs?

View planeBill's profile


506 posts in 2646 days

#6 posted 09-25-2013 11:01 PM

Stanley SweetHeart

-- I was born at a very young age, as I grew up, I got older.

View Brad's profile


1140 posts in 2977 days

#7 posted 09-25-2013 11:25 PM

I would suggest that you pick up and tune a few vintage chisels until you have a lot of experience using them under your belt. That will help you learn about chisels at the same time that you shape your preferences (handles, lengths, bevel versus firmer) so that you can purchase the exact expensive ones that you want with confidence.

Chris Schwarz had a blog post recently suggesting that you pick up a high-quality chisel, or two, and stick with that. He’s of the mind that it’s better to learn to use, sharpen and maintain one tool very well versus a whole gaggle of them. He may have a point. I regularly use a 1/2” chisel, often use a 1” chisel, every so often use a 3/8” and occasionally a 1/8”. I have more sizes but could probably get by with just the 1/2” and 1”.

-- "People's lives are their own rewards or punishments."

View Sandra's profile


7207 posts in 2312 days

#8 posted 09-25-2013 11:34 PM

I have the Stanley Sweetheart set and like them a lot. Having said that, I have nothing with which to compare them.

-- No, I don't want to buy the pink hammer.

View Tim's profile


3812 posts in 2199 days

#9 posted 09-25-2013 11:41 PM

That’s pretty good advice Brad. Of course it’s two opposite bits of advice so someone has to decide which is right for them. I think maybe someone starting out would benefit from your idea and someone with some experience might benefit from CS’s advice for a while.

Also, this question about chisels comes up a lot. This was from just a couple days ago.

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 3885 days

#10 posted 09-26-2013 06:19 AM

View LakeLover's profile


283 posts in 2177 days

#11 posted 09-26-2013 01:23 PM

Lee Vally has the Narex chisels. They seem to get great reviews. Can’t complain about the price.

As mentions my old blue handles Marples do the job just fine.

Many years ago I got some un names chisles for LV on sale and they are great. I got one set for paring and one for use with a mallet.

View LRR's profile


25 posts in 2060 days

#12 posted 09-26-2013 02:10 PM

I really like my LN chisels. I am finding that I use my 1/4, 3/8, 1/2, and fishtail chisels the most. The 3/4 just sits. For larger cuts, I have a 1-1/4 Sweetheart chisel which is also a nice chisel. Depending on the work that you do a complete set is not always necessary. Amazon sell the Stanley chisels individually at a pretty reasonable price. If you can, handle the chisel before you buy. Like all tools some are comfortable, and others are not. I really don’t find the Japanese bench chisels and others with the striking rings comfortable to use. Mortise chisels are of course another thing. Just to mess thing up a bit more, I have heard really good things about the new PM-V11 chisels from Lee Valley. What ever you get – enjoy.

View Ben's profile


387 posts in 3094 days

#13 posted 09-26-2013 09:57 PM

Thanks for all the replies guys.
I’ve decided to stick with vintage for now as I already have a few. Picked another up on ebay, and a local specialty tool store has a few more I think I’ll buy.
These are used for on-site carpentry work which is 90% of what I do. Someday if I wind up transitioning into more shop work I’ll probably buy a high-end matched set for the bench.

Thanks again!

View Ben's profile


387 posts in 3094 days

#14 posted 09-27-2013 10:41 PM

So this weekend I want to turn some new chisel handles for my socket chisels.
Is there an advantage to using the spigot/leather washer method? Or just stick with wood?

If I do the washers, are you still hitting the end grain of the spigot, or do you cap it with leather as well?


View planeBill's profile


506 posts in 2646 days

#15 posted 09-28-2013 02:49 AM

Maybe its just me but I never really understand it when people say that J chisels are not comfortable in the hand because of the striking hoop. Most of the time I hold my chisels with three fingers (index, middle, and whatever that one is between the middle and the pinky) on the back of the blade and my thumb on the front of the blade (chopping) and when I do make little paring cuts with a oire nomi, my hoops are rather unobtrusive and seem to be quite alright in my hand. The end of the chisel handle with the hoop is nestled comfortably in the palm of my hand. For lots of serious paring work or cuts I reach over and get a paring chisel which does not have a hoop but either way, I don’t find them uncomfortable at all. I have seen many brands of J chisels that do seem to have rather large bulbous hoops and these I can see being uncomfortable to grip and hold for paring cuts. All this demonstrates is that everyone is different and it is sort of hard to recommend something to someone without them having used said brand/type for themselves. I know, I know, Ive asked these same questions many times and after having taken folks very well intentioned advice only to be less than satisfied I just started taking the advice given above, try very hard to handle/hold/use the tool in question for myself and see if what they like is what I like.

-- I was born at a very young age, as I grew up, I got older.

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