• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education skip experiences global resources the cider press projects digital market permies.com private forums all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • Nicole Alderman
  • r ranson
  • Anne Miller
  • Pearl Sutton
  • James Freyr
  • Mike Haasl
stewards:
  • Burra Maluca
  • Joylynn Hardesty
  • paul wheaton
garden masters:
  • Greg Martin
  • Steve Thorn
gardeners:
  • Carla Burke
  • Jay Angler
  • Mike Barkley

Best woodworking chisel(s)?

 
master steward
Posts: 11121
Location: Pacific Northwest
4656
hugelkultur kids cat duck forest garden foraging fiber arts sheep wood heat homestead
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I got Christmas money to spend, and I'd love to get some nice chisels for woodworking. I'd love something that doesn't bend/break easily and holds it's edge well. Anyone have any suggestions on terms to look for or brands you like?

Thanks!
 
master pollinator
Posts: 4941
1114
transportation duck trees rabbit tiny house chicken earthworks building woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Lie Nelson, Warren Maine...not a very nice guy to work for, but does make decent tools.
 
master steward
Posts: 3236
Location: West Tennessee
1077
cat purity trees books chicken food preservation cooking building homestead
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hey Nicole! There are all kinds of chisels out there, from mortising chisels, dovetail chisels, paring chisels, bench chisels, and gouges, which look like a chisel but are curved or cupped. I'm sure there are more that I'm failing to mention. They can vary from cheap mass produced things that won't last to extraordinarily expensive individually hand forged works of art by a master blacksmith and costs thousands of dollars for a set. What I think you're looking for is a set of bench chisels. They're kind of an all purpose style of chisel, and a quality set can be found and have money left over for wood. ;)

Here is a link to Highland Woodworking, and not knowing what your budget is, there is a nice 6 piece set of Narex bench chisels for $120 and come in a nifty wooden box. https://www.highlandwoodworking.com/narex-premium-bench-chisel-set-wooden-box.aspx

For fun, here is a link to a page on Woodcraft showcasing handmade Japanese chisels made by one at a time by master blacksmiths. These are breathtaking works of art and extremely expensive. https://www.woodcraft.com/blog_entries/handmade-japanese-chisels

I think both of the above chisel sets will last a lifetime with care and maintenance. I think if you search for bench chisels, you'll find something just right for your needs and budget. May I suggest if you don't already own a sharpening stone, to also get a set of whetstones to keep your new chisels sharp. Sharp chisels are easy to use, dull ones require more effort, which can then slip and either gouge a hand, leg, or strike a hard surface chipping the edge, depending on how it's being used and how the material is being held (like in the other hand, on your lap or in a vise).



 
pollinator
Posts: 1278
Location: Victoria BC
151
  • Likes 6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Sometimes older chisels can be found for pennies on the dollar at thrift stores and garage sales. My theory is any older chisel made in europe or north america has a chance at being decent steel.

They usually need a very serious sharpening job as it seems a requirement that some asshat use them to open a can of paint and then drop them on a cement floor before they are literally thrown into a bin of other metal tools... but if you have more time than money, or just enjoy rescuing neglected tools, it's worth a shot.
 
pollinator
Posts: 966
Location: Chicago/San Francisco
118
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
The box or holder is important because you need to be able to _easily_ access and, more importantly, return the tool to it's proper protective home. If you just throw chisels into a drawer or tool box, it will tend to mar the edges. Also, proper storage helps prevent rust.

One common methods is a piece of heavy canvas or light leather with 6-8 pockets that the chisels slip into; the fabric is then folded so it traps the chisels in the pockets and then rolled up and tied tight. Not the _most_ convenient, but very usable.

I suggest buying a set, per James. You will likely only use 2 or 3 sizes regularly, but you won't know yet which sizes will suit your style. The "unused" ones will be there for when your have either neglected your sharpening responsibilities or have done a lot of paring in the first hours and need another sharp edge _right now_.

Per Travis, there are two or three premium tool vendors which you can expect, having given them an arm and leg, to almost always provide truly excellent tools. You probably don't actually need those top grade tools, but they always help. However, until you use a particular type of tool for many hours, and different examples from different makers or traditions, you don't know what you like and what fits you. Weight, handle shape size and texture, overall size, sharpening requirements, all that stuff goes into how the tool works for you. There _are_ noticeable and significant differences in  tools that superficially are the same. But you won't be able  to form meaningful opinions until you have 30-40 (?) hours close acquaintance with that family.

Thus a set of modest quality is likely your most satisfactory path. Reading up at woodworker's sites will take time but is probably worth it both to get brand names and also to get a feel for how people relate to that tool. I have a set of low quality Japanese chisels I got 30 years ago and use regularly. They hold an edge better than anything available in the box stores and I haven't managed to destroy any of them yet. However, I don't love their handle shape or texture - too slippery. I can't comment on what's available now, I'm afraid - the Jap chisels bid well to outlive me in SF and the Chicago shop I have supplied with garden sale chisels, most of which have turned out pretty well.

It's just as important to learn to sharpen a chisel as it is to learn to pare and carve joints. I recall Travis mentioned he uses a glass plate with sand paper. I use that also in Chicago and it works very well. Diamond sharpeners can provide fast repair and correction to an edge. A jig to set the angle and hold it the same all the time can be an excellent ploy and make it possible for you to get very good results quickly.

If you look for garage sale chisels, there is one particular configuration that has a better chance of being quality steel. It's called a socket chisel because the handle sets into a socket on the chisel blade. Lie Nielsen sells them and there must be a couple other vendors, but I don't know of any. The attached pic shows a socket chisel. The problem is that most of the used ones have been frightfully abused by people hammering directly on the socket after the handle falls out. Sometimes the damage can be ground out, but often not. If the socket has been mangled, you probably should pass on the tool. Lie Nielsen does sell handles for this type of chisel.
tool_chisel_bevel-edge-socket.jpg
socket chisel
socket chisel
 
gardener
Posts: 1455
Location: Cascades of Oregon
47
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Nicole, What are you going to make? Might help us narrow down suggestion. Cabinet making? Spoon carving? Sculptural creations? Chip carving? Wooden kuska cup? Don't forget to include sharpening stones in your purchase. You are always going to need/use straight chisels from an everyday hinge recess or installing a door jamb to intricate sculptural lines. If more artistic Flexsteel makes a nice chisel selection.
 
pollinator
Posts: 3443
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
54
  • Likes 5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
My biggest rub with new chisels is they are TOO SHORT.  Handles used to be 6-10 inches long but now are 3-6, which makes them very difficult to get the leverage for fine control.
 
Nicole Alderman
master steward
Posts: 11121
Location: Pacific Northwest
4656
hugelkultur kids cat duck forest garden foraging fiber arts sheep wood heat homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
So far, I've just been using the chisel I had (which was a file that my grandfather sharpened to use as a chisel) for roundwood woodworking. I've done saddle notches and rough stuff like that. I'm thinking maybe I could buy one medium-to-high quality chisel for that, and maybe a smaller one for finer stuff, and increase my collection if I go further into woodworking?
 
Robert Ray
gardener
Posts: 1455
Location: Cascades of Oregon
47
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Ah ok perfect. Sorby makes some excellent slicks for notching as wide as 3 and 3/8. A slick has a longer handle and usually a longer blade so that covers R. Scotts concern that some newer chisels are short. Depending on what you are making, furniture size or house log size it sounds like maybe that is what you are looking for Sorby is high end price wise but take a look and see if that (a slick) is what you are looking for. Maybe look at Baleigh's  for other round wood tools both power and manual
 
D Nikolls
pollinator
Posts: 1278
Location: Victoria BC
151
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Robert Ray wrote:Ah ok perfect. Sorby makes some excellent slicks for notching as wide as 3 and 3/8. A slick has a longer handle and usually a longer blade so that covers R. Scotts concern that some newer chisels are short. Depending on what you are making, furniture size or house log size it sounds like maybe that is what you are looking for Sorby is high end price wise but take a look and see if that (a slick) is what you are looking for. Maybe look at Baleigh's  for other round wood tools both power and manual



A slick is a lovely thing to have, especially for very fast and rough work, but also pricy.

I found I was well able to do roundwood stuff with just 1"" and 1.5" framing chisels. A larger one would be nice, but was a huge price jump. I also grabbed a gouge to play with curves, but it was not strictly necessary.

I do wish they had longer handles, definitely go for the longest handled option if otherwise comparable!

I have added a variety of smaller chisels as I find them cheap, but the bigger ones are harder to find at bargain prices around here.
 
Robert Ray
gardener
Posts: 1455
Location: Cascades of Oregon
47
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Couple other things you might like to look at are a spoke shave, cup shave, hand adze and maybe a broad hatchet all handy tools. Working on round curved pieces a spoke shave is great, anticlastic and synclastic curves.
 
Nicole Alderman
master steward
Posts: 11121
Location: Pacific Northwest
4656
hugelkultur kids cat duck forest garden foraging fiber arts sheep wood heat homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I have a tiny little spoke shave that came with a woodcarving set my father gave me years back (it's mostly just a set of various exacto-type blades), and a broad ax from my grandfather. The broad ax is very handy!

Thank you for the suggestions--I'll be looking into these!
 
Posts: 27
4
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I got most of my tools at garage sales, so they are a mixed lot.  The "Marples" brand seem to be the best I have, but they all work, the main difference being how often they need sharpening.  A used chisel will usually need work, and possibly quite a bit of it if the edge has been overheated by careless grinding.  Rather than just frequently dipping the tool in water, I make a little wet pad on a stick that can be held right on the blade and ground away with it.  When you have mastered sharpening, you'll probably grind different angles on duplicate sizes, with the sharper one used for finer work.  
 
Robert Ray
gardener
Posts: 1455
Location: Cascades of Oregon
47
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Yes a broad hatchet can be very handy in creating v-notches or smoothing a round face. I have a beautiful broad-axe on the tool wall but will probably never use it unless "I go a Viking" sometime.
 
Bob Stuart
Posts: 27
4
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
PS - My last big chisel job was trimming asphalt shingles.  It happens.  That's why I have duplicate sizes, one razor-sharp, and one with a steeper edge and a few nicks.  Wood chisels are tempered fairly soft and tough.  You can test one against a known steel, and also check if the edge was overheated by comparing that hardness to the steel farther back.  Sometimes, a long, well-cooled grinding session is needed to get back to a good edge.  
 
Posts: 340
27
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
if you want to stretch your dollars you might do some research as to what the best quality tools are then search out used tools, there are plenty of good used stuff out there at a fraction of the cost of new
 
The fastest and most reliable components of any system are those that are not there. Tiny ad:
A rocket mass heater heats your home with one tenth the wood of a conventional wood stove
http://woodheat.net
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!