Irwin chisels not the same as Marples of old

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

Just to wise you up to unscrupulous eBay tool dealers. For some time I have noticed dealers selling under the name Marples bluechip chisels and using an old Marples image to give the impression they are in fact selling the old Sheffield-made bluechips which were good chisels. When you go to the actual page to view the tool it shows an Irwin Marples chisel and not the image shown on the opening page. These chisels are not the same chisel and are made in Asia. You can dig around and find the genuine article and that’s what you should look for. Most images used to show blue chip chisels show the old image with just the Marples logo so be careful if you want one from the old Marples company in Sheffield. The steel is different.. The early Marples chisel had a well-earned reputation and was first made in the mid 1960’s. Just a warning.


  1. I’ve noticed sellers pulling that trick too. (Corporate type sellers, not so much individuals) Even when you write they won’t tell you the truth, they hide behind the name Marples and blue chip.
    But… I’ve seen the reverse and bought a good set of real Marples Blue Chip from a seller who advertised his vintage chisels as Irwin but the pictures were clearly the real Marples. I sent him a question as to what the chisels said and he responded Made in Sheffield England, and I was able to get them. This is the set that I cut my finger on… they sharpen and hone well.
    If someone is having a hard time finding nice chisels I would suggest checking out Craftsman chisels. I checked today and they are still made in the US and a set of 5 is on sale at my local store for about $26. I bought them for construction but they served me well before I bought the Marples.
    Also, the coping saw and blades at my local Sears are made in the US along with some of the hammers. I bought them before that changes. I had a talk with one of the sales guys and he said that more and more, items are being made overseas to compete with HF and others. I told him that Sears was messing up by not promoting their US made tools in woodworking magazines.

  2. Yes, there is a small independent tool makers called Joseph Marples in Sheffield but I am not sure if they are the exact company of the old Joseph Marples that once made the wonderful tools of old. I have plough planes and filletsters, jacks and tri planes and manu=y moulding planes too. They seem to make a few more simple specialist layout tools today so I don’t think you will find side scrapers.

    1. Oh, and Irwin is definitely not the old Marples company we once new and loved. Sheffield is merely a name behind which Irwin hides its imports behind.

    2. You are 100% correct the last sets that were produced with Sheffield steel sold under the logo blue chip square grip. Quality has taken a dive in favour of ease of manufacture with all items not just in wood working tools. The old chisel with the broken handle is usually the better buy for those of us that can repair it. I would not recommend older chisels to anybody who dose not have a wet slow grinding wheel as correcting the primary bevel on good steel is a daunting task by hand and high speed grinders can do more damage than good, flatting the face on old chisels by hand can take hours. Thank you for producing good factual tutorials.

  3. Does anyone have a fool proof method for telling Pre-Irwin Marples Chisels from the post Irwin?

    1. To answer my own question: No, there doesn’t appear to be a FOOL PROOF method. I would say if the blue handle chisels have the icon of a man wearing safety goggles it’s not a good sign but that’s not definitive. I can say with certainty that the difference in steel between the “real Marples” and the Irwin version is huge.

      1. I cannot speak for the Irwin Marples vs Marples of old chisels but I have had first hand experience with the quality difference between the Record planes when owned by Bahco(I think) and when Irwin got their hands on them. I know from what I have read that there is a greater level of quality again when comparing to the Record of old but given a choice as the planes are now made in India as far as I know the Bahco planes are far superior in terms of quality of manufacture and materials…. even with the plastic handles versus timber. Speedbore spade bits were also great when made in the USA, forged as far as I can tell. The new ones ,now Irwin, superficially look the same but certainly do not hold an edge for as long and are just not of the same construction.

          1. Yes, but if you keep checking in eBay they come up frequently from the old stock under just Marples. Irwin sold them off cheap through Lowes USA in the late 90s early 2000s for $20 a set then introduced their own beat-the-snot-out-of-chisels version to replace them fort waffle head hammer carpenters.

      2. The tell-tale Blue Chip Marples signs… the stripe on the handle. Made in Sheffied on the blade, slight geometry in the handle any mention of Irwin. (hether it has a picture of a vintage blue chip or not.) If you can get an answer from the seller then you can lock them down. If they tell you that they don’t know then it might be time to pass.
        I always pay with paypal and their policy protects you to a large degree, if you’ve asked the seller point blank.
        On a different, but related matter, this goes for many of the vintage and new hand tools on eBay. I’ve had to return two planes within two weeks, a Lie-Nielsen 140 with a bent rod for the adjuster wheel and a vintage Stanley with damage to the throat opening. I don’t think either seller tried to intentionally sell mis-represented tools, I think they didn’t know what they were selling or what to look for when they described the product. The pictures taken didn’t show the issues either. Neither seller wanted to take them back. Paypal made one seller (paypal even sent me a shipping label/call tag for this one) and the other was finally convinced to take his back.
        There are concerns when buying online but in this age it can be the only resource for many aspiring woodworkers. Do your research and don’t be afraid to ask questions, especially if you can’t see the issue in the photos but know that many of these sellers don’t work wood and they don’t know the tool in question’s purpose.
        BTW (2014/05) I see a set of vintage Marples Blue Chip out there for $149 US. In my opinion, that is way too much, by double. They come up from time to time and many have never been used or lightly used.

        1. Hard to imagine a few short years ago Lowes was selling a set of four for $20.

  4. I have found a box of 12 marples caving chisels.very old and never used.still in there can find out much there worth.

    1. Look on eBay and see if there are an there. Ask a tool dealer for a price. Old Marples chisels are sought after if they are a set, especially boxwood handled carving chisels.

  5. I’ve got two sets of the blue plastic handled chisels. One set says “Hand Forged” and “Sheffield England” (Interestingly NOT “Hand forged IN Sheffield England) with the width in metric and English units between the two phrases.,The other has no measurements and a small icon on the front and back of the handle that looks like a man’s head wearing safety glasses. I can’t find that icon associated with Marples or Irwin. Both have “Marples” in gold lettering with a gold circle around them on the front of the is hard to tell if I had old school or new deal chisels?

    1. Probably both. Irwin uses the yellow print on theirs and Marples used silver on blue.

  6. I have used the blue handle chisels for years and they worked just fine. I have more expensive chisels but feel that they are just picking the fly manure out of the pepper to justify their cost.

    1. I still have my set from decades ago tucked away somewhere. The only reason I stopped using them is because people do think that the ones made by Irwin are one and the same chisel so I don’t want to endorse them because they’re not at all.

  7. I bought my set about 30 years ago or so from Garrett Wade when they still had a retail outlet on Sixth Avenue in lower Manhattan. I never sharpened them or used them much until I saw Paul at the New England Woodworking show a few years ago.

  8. I have a set of Marples chisels that I purchased in the late 1990’s at the big orange box. The package is marked “Made by Record in Sheffield England” and “Top quality single piece forging made from high carbon steel.” Lots of other markings and useful information on how to sharpen and hone the chisels. Additionally, the package lists three models:
    M555 For the DIY wanting a chisel at an economic price.
    M444 Blue Chip, Europe’s most popular chisel. For use with a mallet.
    M373 Splitproof handle can be used with a hammer.

    Mine are the M444 set of 4.

  9. Hi i just bought a set of chisels from ebay. They are the blue handle with a man wearing goggles a small icon on the handle. On the blade it says made in england sheffield.
    I noticed there is a black ring. The steel looks pretty good.
    Does any one know the history of who manufactured these. They seem good.
    Thank you

  10. Same situation here. Blue chip, silver on blue, with googles. Are those genuine?

  11. I just found 4 unused Marples 5 inch mallets # 7715 at an estate sale. Any idea what these are worth?

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