Inexpensive Bench Chisels

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Forum topic by Rodney posted 05-27-2014 06:06 AM 1782 views 0 times favorited 16 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Rodney's profile


12 posts in 892 days

05-27-2014 06:06 AM

Topic tags/keywords: chisel

Hello all,

I am just getting started and would like to purchase a set of bench chisels. I am rather limited on funds so I am not looking for a several hundred dollar set. However I am also not looking for a cheap set of chisels that will fall apart with the first tap of my mallet. Can anyone suggest a relatively inexpensive set of bench chisels? I am looking for something under $100.

16 replies so far

View jmartel's profile


6464 posts in 1568 days

#1 posted 05-27-2014 06:19 AM


The set of 4 should cover most of what you need for a while. Only thing I would add that it doesn’t have is a 1/8” chisel.

-- The quality of one's woodworking is directly related to the amount of flannel worn.

View Ted's profile


2785 posts in 1629 days

#2 posted 05-27-2014 06:35 AM

For your basic bench chisels $100 will go a long way.

The Stanley Baily set sold at Menard’s includes a good variety of widths, appears to be of better quality and will run you about $80. –

Marples Pro chisels, also at Menard’s, run about $11 to $18 each, depending on the size. Thus the same set as above will cost less. Personally, the Marples Pro would be my choice. –

For a bit less you could go with the Irwin blue handle chisels for even less. The are good starter chisels but I never cared for the plastic handle, as it feels too slippery when striking with the hammer or mallet.

You’ll get plenty more suggestions. Happy Chisel Shopping! :)

-- The first cordless tool was a stick. The first power tool was a rock.

View Loren's profile


8158 posts in 3065 days

#3 posted 05-27-2014 07:33 AM

New, you’re going to be in the $40-up (each) range
to get chisels that really hold an edge. Arguably it’s
not worth it.

Chrome vanadium is a common chisel steel. It resists
rust and sharpens easily. It does not hold an edge that
long in my experience, but chisels made of it take
a nice edge. Finer chisels are often made of high
carbon steel instead. Some woodworkers don’t mind
the frequent honing chrome vanadium chisels require.

Narex seem like a good deal. Handles are a bit funny
looking to me but I’m sure they work fine. Laminated
Japan chisels can be collected indidually on ebay cheap
and they are high carbon steel.

View ColonelTravis's profile


1154 posts in 1312 days

#4 posted 05-27-2014 08:13 AM

If you have the patience, hunt for vintage. I’ve been building up a line of T.H. Witherbys and love them, paid $5-$15 per chisel.

View Fettler's profile


200 posts in 1415 days

#5 posted 05-27-2014 08:46 AM

I started off with a set of Marples Blue handles which i quickly out grew. They make great general carpentry chisels because they’re high chrome vandium as mentioned above but just don’t get sharp enough. Good steel is pricey.

I mostly use my bench chisels for furniture making and/or joinery like dove tails. For this application you really only need a couple, so you could start off with 3/16”, 1/4” and a 1/2”. BTW, breaking in a new chisel takes some time so if you’re a part timer like me you could buy 1 chisel then over a 2 week period you’ll have it in working order =)

I have some Narex chisels, they’re a little better than marples but they aren’t great. If you plan on keeping these chisels for a long time i’d recommend investing in Lie Nielsen:

Keep in mind that any chisel you buy will need work to get it up to snuff. You’ll need to flatten the back and re-grind a primary bevel. For this i recommend a powertec grinder (see my review), a shapton 16k grit ceramic stone and a trend combination 1k/3k diamond stone. The sharpening equipment is whats really going to set you back. On the cheap end of sharpening you could get a 1k/8k combination norton or use a sandpaper/float glass setup, but in my experience that wont get you where you want to be.

-- --Rob, Seattle, WA

View Rodney's profile


12 posts in 892 days

#6 posted 05-27-2014 12:10 PM

Thank you for all of the comments and suggestions everyone. I appreciate everything. You have also shown I am searching in the right areas. I have been researching the Irwin Marples, Narex, and Stanley Baily. So I am glad to know you all reaffirm my research. Thanks again for everything.

View JayT's profile


4670 posts in 1629 days

#7 posted 05-27-2014 01:04 PM

My 2 pennies worth. First consider if you need a set. Many people will be better served buying higher quality chisels one or two at a time, starting with the most common sizes you need. I learned that lesson the hard way by buying the Bailey set, being frustrated with the quality, then deciding to invest in a couple better quality Two Cherries in the sizes I was using most frequently.

There are two of the Bailey’s that have not been used more than a couple of times each, so buying the set was a waste because I spent on tools that aren’t getting used.

I’ve also picked up some vintage chisels at auctions that are a definite step up in bang for the buck, if you don’t count the time to search them out and refurb—which can be significant. Here is my current “set” of vintage paring chisels—six different brands with shop-made handles to be similar in feel.

I’ve actually come out ahead in $$$ by selling off some of the redundant sizes from a lot that was purchased (and that all of the above chisels came from) and have an excellent set to use.

If you do decide to purchase a new set, then you might also look at the new Stanley Sweethearts. They get far better reviews than the Baileys for not much more.

-- "Good judgement is the result of experience. A lot of experience is the result of poor judgement."

View upchuck's profile


540 posts in 1083 days

#8 posted 05-27-2014 01:23 PM

I’ll back up what JayT and Col. Travis said. I too have gone the vintage route and what you will find out there is remarkable. Bottom feeder vintage chisel do require some real work and time to get up and running but for me it has been well worth it.

View UpstateNYdude's profile


671 posts in 1401 days

#9 posted 05-27-2014 01:28 PM

I’m actually curious about this myself what would be the most common sizes you would want to start building a set with at least the first 4-6 sizes?

-- Nick, "Choking to death on bacon is like getting murdered by your lover." - JG

View Rodney's profile


12 posts in 892 days

#10 posted 05-27-2014 01:37 PM

I found these on eBay. Can anyone tell me anything about them? I have never heard of Bracht before. But then again, I am relatively new as well.


View JayT's profile


4670 posts in 1629 days

#11 posted 05-27-2014 01:39 PM

Nick, it really depends on how and what you work on.

For me, the 1/2 and 3/4 get by far the most use as general purpose chisels and is where I would start to build a working set. Past that, a 1/4 is nice for cleaning up furniture projects, such as dovetails or dadoes for 1/4 plywood panels. If you are building boxes with smaller joints then a 1/8 might be more useful than a 1/4. Personally, I also like to have one wider chisel for the wider reference face when paring tenons or mortises. How wide again depends on what type of work you are doing. A lot people would have no need of anything wider than 3/4.

Take all of that with a grain of salt (or the whole shaker). I do a lot of hand work, so have chisels set up differently for rougher work and paring. What was learned is that if I would have started with a 1/4, 1/2 and 3/4, they would have covered all my needs very nicely for a long time, YMMV. The deals on the vintage chisels have just fallen in my lap and who am I to turn down a good deal on some hand tools? :-)

-- "Good judgement is the result of experience. A lot of experience is the result of poor judgement."

View ,'s profile


2387 posts in 2964 days

#12 posted 05-27-2014 01:43 PM

Probably the least popular answer, but I always use harbor freight chisels. We use chisels a lot in our work for some rough work and those cheap chisels never fail us. I also have a nice Irwin chisel but for like 5.00 for a set, cannot be beat for what we do. We work in our shop approximately 60 hours per week and so our chisels are getting used on a regular basis for occasional rough work. Let me say that I actually do not like harbor freight but for things you beat on…

-- .

View waho6o9's profile


7115 posts in 1995 days

#13 posted 05-27-2014 02:30 PM

3 for $6.00 can be used for rough work

Belated welcome to LJ’s Rodney!

Great advice above and have fun on your journey.

View TechTeacher04's profile


323 posts in 949 days

#14 posted 05-27-2014 03:34 PM

I agree with JayT, look closely at the work you will be doing a buy a couple of expensive chisels in the sizes you will use most ie. 1/4” or 3/8” for mortises, chopping dovetails and inlaying hinges and a 3/4” or 1” for paring and the long sides of mortises. That is my take, I have a set of Lie-Nielsens. Love the quality and the fact that they are made in the US, the job you save could be your own. Not cheap but in my experience excellent quality and edge retention.

View bondogaposis's profile


3969 posts in 1769 days

#15 posted 05-27-2014 04:27 PM

As far which sizes to get, I use my 5/8” and 3/8” chisels the most and those are the sizes I would get first. Followed by 1/2” and 1/4”. I very rarely use anything larger. If you are going to pay good money for chisels get or make a mallet, ‘cause you’re not gonna want to beat on a fine chisel w/ a claw hammer.

-- Bondo Gaposis

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