Depending upon the content of the steel blade is how long it will hold an edge,
and as well, how easy or hard it is to sharpen. Example, Sweden is famous for
it's tool steel, Austria is not. So, I have one Sandvick chisel I bought at OSH
and a set of Stubai chisels. The Sandvick (Sweden, also Bahco) is very hard to
sharpen and leaves gummy black streaks in the abrasive paper (glued to glass,
using a honing guide), the Stubai's (Austria) are super easy to sharpen and
leave a lighter color of gray dust, supposedly this is much better and it's the
type off steel that will hold an edge longer, as with Japanese laminated chisels
and plane blades.
Any thoughts on this, opinions, serious knowledge, Interjections, or corrections
to my possible dellusions?
Generally there's a tradeoff between ease of sharpening and time between
sharpenings. However that doesn't mean that harder is always better.
Even if you sharpened every five minutes some hardness is indispensable because the
tool has to be able to form a good edge. OTOH a tool that is too hard seldom gets
sharpened properly, save in special situations. (I'm thinking of things like
microtome knives here.)
In my kitchen I have a chef's knife I bought many years ago because the steel was so
hard. (The guy running the knife shop was an engineer and he had a Rockwell tester
sitting on the counter.) In fact it's one of the least-used knives in my kitchen
because it is so hard to sharpen.
However traditional Chinese cleavers, which are wonderful at slicing paper thin are
made of soft steel. You touch them up constantly, but it's only the work of a couple
With chisels, I look for reasonable edge holding ability combined with ease of
sharpening. I accept that I'm going to have to sharpen tools and, as I've indicated,
I tend to hone/strop as a work. That's a legacy from carving, but it works for
chisels and things like that as well.
Interjection: I am very confused by the plethora of chisel choices. I
hear on this news group "to buy quality" and I've been taught that
"you get what you pay for."
Yet, tool reviews fequently give cheaper chisels their "first choice."
For example, the FWW issue #139 reviews bench chisels and the results
seemed uncorrelated with costs. What's up with that? It breaks my
model of the world.
I'm wantng to buy mortising chisels and the prices vary from the teens
to $70-90$ apiece.
My decision is evolving into one of the middle road -- say $30 Robert
Sorby or MGH's.
Japanese chisels seem overpriced and finicky -- from what I've
read.....I certainly don't know from first hand experience.
NO! R. Sorby uses a silicon loaded steel that "absorbs shock", therefore it
frequently needs resharpening. And are way overpriced for wearing down so
fast. R. Sorby is all about marketing and profits, seriously... (zero info besides
"they're good", on the MHG's).
But I'll tell you, the deal of the century is the Henry Taylor set here, four for
$109.95 http://www.traditionalwoodworker.com/ awesome deal.
But you also have to think about "how" you will be chopping mortices, as well.
I will be using the drill press, and in that you can see that you can use much
cheaper Stanley 200 series chisels. They are as thick as English morticing
chisels and made of hard ball bearing grade steel, shatterproof handles without
steel caps so they are good with a wooden mallet. And MUCH cheaper. It all
depends on how you feel about it. Every angle exists.
Overpriced -- no, not for what you get. Finicky, definitely. In my experience a
Japanese handmade laminated steel chisel will repay someone who's a careful worker and
willing to spend a lot of time fooling with his/her tools. Under those circumstances
Japanese chisels will do amazing work. But for more people are they better than good
Western chisels? I doubt it.
Japanese chisels aren't that expensive. Go with something like the
Iyoroi oak-handled sets and they're not subtantially different to
high-end Western chisels like Two Cherries. OTOH, I think the ebony
handled ones are a waste of money - you're putting the extra money
into the handle, which isn't really the most useful part !
Japanese chisels are good bench chisels, but they really don't care
for on-site or toolbox use ! I wouldn't say they're "fragile", but
they don't take to anything that isn;t a straight cut in the direction
they're intended for.
IMHO, handmade Japanese chisels are over-the-top for most people, for
most uses. They get to be _very_ expensive. I have a couple - each
one cost me the same as a set of the Iyorois that I actually use as my
regular bench chisels.
I bought them because I like the smithing, secondly because I wanted a
really wide (42mm) chisel, and thirdly because they might work better
than the others I had.
The biggest difference that I can _feel_ between my good chisels and
my best chisels is in the hoop on the handle ! A hand-forged hoop
seats better that the drop-forged ones and stays in place. They're
also a bit different in how they sharpen - but when you're actually
using them, you'd be really hard-pushed to tell which ones.
I wouldn't guess that the color of the dust is indicative of how the
chisel will perform. Neither (IMHO) is the Rockwell grade. The best
chisels will have a hard phase embedded in a ductile matrix. The
composite is usually designed to give the best possible tradeoff
between hardness and durability. Usually, there's a tradeoff such
that increasing hardness leads to decreased ductility and vice versa.
The RC number may indicate an extremely hard material but it says
nothing about its durability -- in fact it's possible to make a high
RC chisel that would perform terrribly for practical use (hard to
sharpen, with a brittle edge).
I don't know if my knowledge qualifies as "serious." I am a materials
scientist, but it's been 12 years since I did much with metallurgy.
HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here.
All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.