Here's my experiences on the chisel thang:
Marples Blue-handle: I bought a set 1/4-1" around 2002, before they got
bought by Erwin. They're pretty good. They hold an edge reasonably
well, and sharpen easily. Most flattened pretty quick, though the 3/4"
took longer than the rest. The 1/8" is a bit flimsy though, and I've
had some problems with poor steel. I managed to break the tip off a
1/8" cutting a 3/8" mortise in cherry. I've also had some very jagged,
asymmetrical chips occur on some edges after hitting a hard knot.
Definitely a bad batch of steel.
Sorby: Octagonal handle, pattern makers, heavy duty mortise, etc.:
These are my favorites. They are pricey, but I've had great results
with them. They make one of the best 1/8" mortising chisels I've used.
Very well made and tough. They take longer to flatten and sharpen
than the Marples, but the results are worth it. Definitely take some
600 grit sandpaper to any edges that your hand will contact. I've
gotten some unexpected cuts just from the sharp sides during paring
Japanese "Blue steel": It may be an Iroiyo or an Mistu... Don't
remember. FWW had a review and this was rated the top. Mine's a 5/8"
Great chisel, and very hard. Back is relieved for ease of flattening.
Works well, but needs a steeper bezel than I'm used to, due to the
hardness of the steel. Also, the relieved back limits the usefulness of
the tool the way I use them.
Crown: I'm not a big fan of these. I own one. A 7/8" std chisel just
to round out my selection. I'd rather see them put more money into the
steel than the rosewood handles and polished blades. The polishing
tends to round over the edges of the blade, including the back,
requiring a non-trivial amount of grinding to get to flat metal. The
steel is OK, but my Marples are better.
Two cherries: I have one backbent gouge. Not on my top 10 list.
Everything but the bezel of the gouge was highly polished and seemed to
round over the edges too much. Handle is made of laquered hornbeam,
very hard and slippery. Bezel was rough ground. This is OK since I
regrind all of the tools once I buy them, especially carving tools.
Pfiel: So far, the best carving tools reasonably available in the US.
Just don't buy them from Woodshaft. There are some Canadian dealers
that sell for MUCH less, including shipping and insurance. I haven't
tried their bench chisels. My only complaint is that they tend to "buff
the cutting edge into submission." They call it a microbevel, but it is
more of a pain than a help. Once it gets dull, then major sharpening
needs to take place. Also, I've noticed that the buffer seems to
weaken/overheat the steel at the edge and cause it to fail faster. Once
I sharpen past the microbevel, the edge holding is great and has a great
Old tools/flea market/ebay, etc.: There can be some great finds.
Older, wooden handled Marples are great. Old Buck Brothers ones are
great as well, but have become a collector's item. What a waste. Sorby
and Swan are others that can be found as well. Usually cheap.
As for usage, keep them sharp. As soon as you start to notice that they
don't cut as cleanly, take a few passes on a strop charged with
compound. My favorite is a product called "yellowstone." Woodcraft may
still carry it. Awesome stuff. It is quicker to strop for 10 seconds
every 1/2 hour than to spend time on a set of stones. If you do need to
go to stones / sandpaper, etc., try the finest stone first to see if
that will restore the edge. The further down in grit you go, the more
grits you need to proceed through to get back to the strop, and that
For sizes: 1", 1/4", 1/2", then expand according to need. The 1" is
extremely versatile. I know professional custom/repro furniture makers
that use a 1" for everything from paring tenons to carving ball and claw
feet. I use some very small (1/32") for cleaning up the corners in
stringing grooves, and I have a 1-1/2" that I use for cutting inlay and
banding. For larger cutting operations, I use a blade from a plane. It
works well for cutting parts for compass-rose inlays.
-- Blue Enamel
Sandvik cabinet scrapers are a PITA to deal with, too. I bought one
and one those Veritas adjustible burnishers, and the plain-jane
scraper that came with the burnisher works a whole lot better. It's
just damn near impossible to roll a decent burr on the Sandvik.
I've got a set of Stanleys, and they serve me well- just keep a stone
handy for occasional touch-ups. If you get an initial hollow grind
going, a quick honing only takes a minute or so. They take a good
keen edge- something that is not always true of the HSS or other
specialty cutting tools. Those pricey ones are designed to keep the
edge you give them, but not necessarily to get the sharpest edge
I highly recomend chinese HSS chisels. They are very easy to sharpen
and hold their edge extremely well.
Unfortunately you only get sizes larger than 1/2"
I bought the 5-pc Marples Blue Chips and like them a lot. They're not
too brittle, take a good edge, and sharpen easily enough on my diamond
plate. For carving, my favorite brand is Pfeil (aka Swiss Made.)
Yeah, half the time they've already been tuned for you and a bit of
cleanup and sharpening is all that's needed. GREAT value!
"See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things
over and over and over again for the truth to sink in,
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