Chisels I like

For more information on chisels, see our beginner site Common Woodworking.

Don’t you love the way wood works? Below is another flea-market find that’s slightly surface pitted. It’s an old Marples from the pre Irwin days when the Marples clan were still involved. They are still readily found here in the UK and can be had for no more than a £1. Most often less.

For those living in Britain, I can recommend the cheapest chisels I have ever found that have all the qualities I want in a chisel. They may well be available the US supermarkets too. The supermarket chain Aldi currently has in stock a four-piece chisel set with an additional (not recommended) sharpening stone at an all-inclusive price of £7.99.  They have solid hardwood handles that have a comfortable shape and the steel takes and holds a good keen edge,which is of course critical. These are full sized, well balanced western-style chisels. I have bought about fifteen sets over the past 18 months and cannot fault them in any way. I don’t know where they are made and it’s unusual for me to recommend a non-woodworking supplier for tools, but these are great chisels and I use them every day here in the school.

7 thoughts on “Chisels I like”

    1. I don’t really recommend any chisels in particular let alone English chisels. The standards of British makers is generally quite low when it comes to quality of finish, standards of hardness and so on, so it’s best to avoid disappointment. Now they could be Ashley Iles or Robert Sorby and I did think at one time they were OK but after a while I find myself avoiding them and favouring older chisels like Marples and Ward or the Aldi chisels over them because they feel better, take an edge well and hold their edges too.

      1. Hi Paul,
        I recently won a set of chisels made by the Bracht company in Remscheid, Germany, in almost new condition. They are a set of 12 bevel edge chisels with hooped hornbeam handles. According to the seller they were made in the 30’s and in storage in Germany for many years. Blades are wolfram vanadium steel. Sized from 4-30mm. It also comes with a nice display rack. There is no rusting or pitting. I have not received them yet. I am a bit worried that I have paid too much and they will be difficult to sharpen. I suppose if I went to garage sales every Saturday for a year or so I could put together a set of chisels, but……
        Any experience with this brand/era of chisels? By the way…Aldi’s does not have their chisels in stock. Apparently it is a seasonal item.

        1. I expect they’re good and sharpen well. You posted in 2016, so how did they work out for you in the end?

  1. Question:

    What chisels would you recommend for a new woodworker? Is there a set that is better for completing your Artisan DVD projects? (I just saw the first video and plan to view them daily).

    I have three recent, cheap Stanley bench chisels I inherited, and I have a set of three Narex mortise chisels, in 1/4, 3/8, and 1/2 inch. They are well made and have a feel of quality about them.

    The Stanley’s seem easily breakable. I am considering buying the Narex bench chisels, a set of four, 1/4, 1/2, 3/4, and one inch, for $50. If your projects primarily require bench chisels, then I had better invest in them.

    Please tell me if you use primarily bench chisels or you use mortise chisels also. I was thinking the mortise chisels were heavy duty and better for making mortise and tenon joints.

    Your thoughts are appreciated.

    1. It is unlikely that the Stanley range of chisels will snap and more likely that some of the high-end ones might. Stanley still produces chisels to the spec of their old and tested 5001 range with black handles and their 5002 range with blue handles. These came out in the 1960s and have unbreakable handles and I mean unbreakable. They are a little thick but ideal for general carpentry. They still take and retain a good edge and they are lifetime too. On a job site or for around the house work, garden and such they work perfectly. So if you were making a workbench or repairing window frames they do well and of course it’s better that they roll on a gravelly ground than your prized chisels when you get them. Aldi chisels on the other hand will do both fine work and cost half the amount but of course they are not available anywhere and only twice a year when they offer them. Narex chisels work fine but `i have seen two or three of the narrower ones snap under not much pressure. That is the bevel-edged versions and not their mortise ones which have more than enough strength for heavier work like large mortises. I do use bevel edged chisels such as old Marples and Ward, I Sorby. I don’t care too much about sets by the same maker, just what works.

  2. Thanks, Paul. I appreciate your comments on chisels. Also, enjoying your Artisan DVDs and book. Watching the one on making the dovetail joint now. I am learning a lot, esp., layout, accuracy, and listening to the sound the wood makes while you cut out the excess wood.

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