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Forum topic by WayneS posted 09-07-2007 12:55 AM 6462 views 0 times favorited 21 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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34 posts in 4170 days

09-07-2007 12:55 AM

Topic tags/keywords: chisels beginner tools shaping

I’ve done a search and read all I can find on chisels. I would be interesed in hearing what others would consider a good set of chisels for a beginner. I realize that this is probably one of those items that you don’t skimp on, and a good set can last a long time, so I’m prepared to spend a little more if need be. Found these in the LJ store. Good? Bad? Any feedback would be appreciated.

-- Wayne - Newbie looking to learn!

21 replies so far

View Zuki's profile


1404 posts in 4316 days

#1 posted 09-07-2007 01:17 AM

Woodworking Magazine had a free electronic issue (August 2004) a little while ago when they reviewed some chisels. Interesting read. I will take a look and email it to you. there are 2 *.pdf files

-- BLOG -

View Dano's profile


222 posts in 4271 days

#2 posted 09-07-2007 01:25 AM

Wayne, Darn good question, I wish I had a darn good answer but I am a Neanderthal amateur too. One thing I did read somewhere was that they recommended a cheap first set, one that you could practice your sharpening ability on. I gather that sharpening is as critical a skill as knowing how to actually use the tools. So, I have a cheap set of Craftsman bench chisels that I have had for years that I used for everything except that which they were intended to be used for.

I worried my self silly about how to best sharpen them as well as plain blades. I finally settled on using the scary sharp method and I am very happy with the results. I have a 1/4, 1/2, 3/4, and 1 inch chisel and all will shave hair from my forearm. This system is relatively cheap and easy to learn, much cheaper than buying stones or a dedicated sharpening system.

-- Dan in Central Oklahoma, Able to turn good wood into saw dust in the blink of an eye!

View Zuki's profile


1404 posts in 4316 days

#3 posted 09-07-2007 01:25 AM

Um . . . I found the issue on my PC . . . but I have no idea how to post it and I am unable to send you an email.

if you are interested pls send me a msg with your email address and I will gladly fwd it along.


-- BLOG -

View WayneC's profile


13800 posts in 4336 days

#4 posted 09-07-2007 01:49 AM

The review looks nice. I have the marples and they work fine for me. One other option is to wander around the local flea market and look for some stanleys or buck brothers with the metal ends. I see them for $1-3 quite often and perhaps as high as $5.

Something similar to the following…

For them to be useful, you will need a means of sharpening them. You should look into scary sharp or perhaps use tools at your school. I belive I saw a sharpening station in some of your photos.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View AstroGuy's profile


73 posts in 4283 days

#5 posted 09-07-2007 02:04 AM


Quality of steel is an important issue with chisels even for the rank beginner since chisels made of poor quality steel will not hold an edge for very long. This will translate into much more sharpening time, which can be very frustrating for someone who is on the learning curve for chisel sharpening. For this reason, purchasing a new set of Buck Brothers or Stanley chisels will probably not be the most satisfying for you. It may be much more worthwhile to purchase some older flea market chisels or a set of mid range chisels (Like those of the two cherries brand). Also, invest some time in setting up a system for sharpening them up front. The Marples blue handle chisels are also good although they have recently changed from their original steel formulation and the some users are not happy with the new ones. The ones to look for say “Sheffield Steel” on the blades and not “Chrome Vanadium.” Poor England loses out on the quality vrs. price war again…

I would also recommend that you check out a series of short videos by Garrett Hack that are available on These are very short videos that really stress some of the basics about chisel choices, etc.

In conclusion, an example. I have a set of Home Depot purchased Stanley chisels which I bought for cheap. Not too happy with em. They look impressive but hold an edge poorly. In contrast, I bought a $1 generic old chisel at a flea market (has the “Sheffield” stamp on the blade) which looked like it spent most of its life under a bus. Sharpened and clean up, though, that old chisel blows the Stanley out of the water and is by far my chisel of choice for important work. Holds an edge forever. I guess the moral of the story is a decent set of chisels with good steel will make you happy even if they don’t look as pretty as their modern, plastic coated bretheren with inferior steel. Its sad that with progression of time we seem to go backwards in quality for many tools.

Best wishes.


-- Richard

View WayneC's profile


13800 posts in 4336 days

#6 posted 09-07-2007 02:11 AM

I agree Rick, I was recommending buying old stanley or buck brothers chisels because they can often be found for a dollar or two and would be a good way to get your feet wet. I have the older Marples blue handles that are my primary users and a number of “antique” chisels as well.

Of course the $60 or so for the chisels in his original post is not a bad deal for a starter set if you believe the review. Of course there is always Lie-Nielsons chisel line-up.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View gizmodyne's profile


1780 posts in 4329 days

#7 posted 09-07-2007 03:58 AM

I like the Marples too. Good starter set. Learning how to sharpen is paramount though.

-- -John "Do I have to keep typing a smiley? Just assume it's a joke."

View Karson's profile


35153 posts in 4639 days

#8 posted 09-07-2007 04:59 AM

I use the Marples. I also have aset of Japanese chisles but havent sharpened them up yet.

I also purchased a set of nice chisles with rosewood handles. Also not sharpened yet.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia †

View WayneS 's profile


34 posts in 4170 days

#9 posted 09-07-2007 05:53 AM

Thank you all for the great advice, and links to the resources. This gives me a great amount of detail to narrow my choices. I’ll post the outcome when I have them in my hot little hands.

Zuki – I found the info on FWW. Thanks for the tip, and the offer to foward the PDF.

Once again, LJ proves its worth. This site is awesome.

-- Wayne - Newbie looking to learn!

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 4201 days

#10 posted 09-07-2007 07:13 AM

Wayne, I ‘ve got a mixed set of Stanley, etc. what ever.They do all right but I would like to have a nice set. I do have a full set or Robert Sorbey mortise chisels. They will do it. I read an article by Frank Klaus where he tested a bunch of chisels. He picked the blue handled Marples but said to cut some off the end of the handle.

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View snowdog's profile


1166 posts in 4222 days

#11 posted 09-07-2007 02:21 PM

I have had inexpesnive chesels my whole life and they all worked well for me. I would some what disagree with the groups recommendations. Buying cheep, soft steel, chisles may be a good idea for beginners.. hear me out :) the biggest complaint is that they have to be sharpened to often (they won’t hold an edge long) but the hardest part about (for me) about chisels is learnign how to sharpen the tool so ti can cut the hair from your arm. Here comes the plus side of cheep chisels (sorry it took me this long to get to the point), the more you practise your techniqe (sharpening) the better you get. Heance cheep chisles may be a better long term purchase due to the repeditive need to sharpen.

This year I finally bought the Robert Sorbey set of chisels ( and am very happy with them but I sure would not have wanted to learn how to sharpen on them :)

-- "so much to learn and so little time"..

View VTWoody's profile


95 posts in 4296 days

#12 posted 09-07-2007 02:54 PM

I am expecting a little bit of extra discretionary cash over the next few months and have been looking at the Ashley Iles and the Robert Iles chisels at . They are a bit pricey, but I am looking to get nice sets that I won’t have to replace for a very long time. The Lie-Nielsen set is also very tempting, but pricey as well. I like the Robert Sorby Mortise chisel I have, and would love to get the bevel edge ones that he has, but I absolutely detest the octogonal feel of those in my hands. They just feel wrong to me, and since I don’t have a lathe to make handles for them, I have decided to go with ones that feel nice in the hand.

View Douglas Bordner's profile

Douglas Bordner

4035 posts in 4303 days

#13 posted 09-07-2007 03:04 PM

I’ve read some nice things about Narex chisels for cheapness. They are metric and got 4 of 5 stars in Amazon reviews. I have a set of old Marples, and a hodge-podge antique chisels including some Peugeot Brothers chisels my Dad probably pilfered during WWII. I re-handled the 3/4 inch one in Tulipwood and ground it with a longer bevel for paring work. Steel seems better, and “Frenchie” is my go-to cleanup chisel.

If you don’t mind spending time at it, I favor the Veritas MKII Jig and scary-sharpening.

-- "Bordnerizing" perfectly good lumber for over a decade.

View che's profile


123 posts in 4265 days

#14 posted 09-07-2007 05:01 PM

If you will only do fine woodworking then I don’t think it matters which chisels you get. The less expensive ones will have softer metal which will dull faster but it will also sharpen faster. The better ones will stay sharp longer but take longer to sharpen once dull.

If, on the other hand, you do a mix of home improvement, fine wood working and other projects I would get a cheaper set of chisels first followed by a set with better steel as time and money allow. The main reason for this is if I hit a nail while working on the house I don’t feel too bad and removing the scar is a lot easier on the softer steel. I have a set of Marples Pro Touch from one of the big box stores. They dull fairly quickly but one or two minutes with a sheet of 800-1000 wet dry paper and they are sharp once again. I gave up on any kind of sharpening jig with the chisels since it can take as much time setting the jig up as touching up the chisel. I will break out the jig if I have a lot of material to remove like when I do hit that nail in the nail board in my plaster walls.

One other tip. If you ever plan on cleaning out mortises with the chisels get them in the appropriate units. (english/metric) A lot of metric chisels are sold with as the closest english size in the US. When you cut that perfect 1/4” tenon and try and slip it in the 6mm mortise it won’t quite fit.

-- Che.

View ernieb's profile


17 posts in 4164 days

#15 posted 09-10-2007 03:48 AM

i don’t know a lot about chisels but my wife gave me a set of marples for xmas 6 years ago. they work graet. i keep an eye on the edges and if they seem a bit dull, take them across a sharpening stone. i’m very satisfied with them.

-- ernieb westerlo, ny

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