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

Mid-weight mortise chisels stand fairly and squarely between the massive heavy weights and the bevel edged chisels I have been using in the videos. There are many makers, from Lie Nielsen to Narex and Crown to Sorby, in my experience there is minimal difference between them. Some are well finished and some more crudely made. Chopping a mortise relies on neither feature, but there are features characteristic to a good working mortise chisel that set them apart for mortising holes and the reason they were indeed created was that the worked so efficiently yet had an intrinsic strength to weight ratio that made them popular with those making mortises by hand. My main thrust now is to ensure that new and new-woodworkers are not confused by the confusion caused by magazines and manufacturers and those who present misinformation  for one reason or another.

As I said and subsequently proved, lighter weight chisels are highly efficient in this work, but I agree that some might be concerned that in scaled-up production levels and with young students as yet insensitive to the physical limits of tools and over exuberant in their quest to achieve could bend or snap thinner chisels. My main thrust in real woodworking is to eliminate the obstacles that generally stand in the way of people getting started. Therefor, schools and woodworkers on higher level production will find registered sash mortise chisels a sturdy contestant.
For UK woodworkers, a chisel I can highly recommend is this Sorby registered mortise chisel, which sells for around £22 and can be obtained from Tilgear UK. Tilgear sells 1/8″, 3/16″, 1/4″, 5/16″, 3/8″ and 1/2″ sizes. These robust and well made chisels have split proof polypropylene handles I personally like the size and feel of. The chisels are well machined and will take minimal work to customise if you want to change the bevel or rework the surfaces of the blade, which are precision ground.
I bought this Robert Sorby chisel anonymously in the normal course of business, but I often test tools and I am willing to test any other chisels for comparison should any other maker want to submit them. Robert Sorby has a long history of making the finest chisels and I can recommend any if their products for quality. Our policy is that if a tool is submitted and we find a fault, we let you know what the problems are. We then withhold our findings for six months to make any corrections and when they are made we test again and publish our findings. If changes are made or no, we then publish our findings. If we purchase tools privately for testing we may still contact the maker, unless there is a safety issue to purchasers in which case we make the makers aware of the issues and publish our findings at the same time. We also test tools and equipment for third-party companies such as tool catalogues, stores and schools, to help them assess the validity of the tools independently.

I think that this a good mortising package if you are looking for a more stout, hard-working mortise chisel and a chisel hammer that delivers the exact direct blow you need to compel the chisel’s edge into the wood with unfaltering COP (centre of percussion).

Thorex has made good hammers for decades and they also make a very nice one for sale under the Vaughan name with a hickory shaft. We use these at the school in the US and they have become favourites. hey are actually white not shellac covered. I added the colour because of filming and photographing. More on this to come yet.

1 Comment

  1. Ken Haygarth on 6 July 2012 at 11:51 pm

    Thanks Paul, I use the Narex mortise chisels and have been happy with them. I see they now come in Imperial and metric sizes. We are getting spoilt for choice these days.

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