For more information on chisels, see our beginner site Common Woodworking.
There was a time when imported tools were both cheap to buy and cheap in quality, which of course isn’t cheap but false economy. In the sixties we in the UK were flooded with low grade products from the the German Democratic Republic, Japan, India, China’s Hong Kong and others. Those days are long gone and on every continent there are productive enterprises capably producing fine products.
About five years ago I bought a set of chisels made for and distributed by Faithfull UK. They were cheap, very cheap. I wanted user chisels and so I bought all the sizes. Back then they looked like Record Marples Bluechips in every way except the blue. The blue was a different colour – moving toward green and not blue. I have used those chisels on and off for about six years. No one expects a £2.99 to £3.59 chisel to hold up and certainly plastic handles are still seen as lesser quality than wood. Well, that’s true in some ways but not true when it comes to the amount of work it takes to use plastic instead for wood. Not really, anymore, anyway.
I wanted to really test the chisels in a different sphere beyond my own use. When 22 chisels arrived I introduced them to the workbenches in the school. I wanted dead-on 1/4” and 3/8” chisels for the two projects we just made in pine and oak and of course the next project, which is the oak Craftsman-style rocking chair in which we would be chopping 44 mortise holes and that using the 3/8″ chisels. We used Faithful blue chisels and the new colour is identical to the Marples blue of old. The chisel could be mistaken for a Marples bluechip in just about every way including the white line plastic trim between the handle and the chisel bolster. The chisels needed very little work and feel well-balanced in the hand. They took and retained a keen edge that lasted for many mortises and of course they were as shown, my favoured bevelled-edge chisels.
As to plastic handles
I have no problem with plastic handles in general and I think that Marples came up with the best shape of all for a plastic handle and having used Marples since about the mid sixties. I actually like plastic handles and I am used to them in my working of chisels. I do have a problem with what Bahco, Irwin Marples and others when they seemed to think that we woodworkers needed metal end caps so we could beat harder on the chisels and rubberized ergonomic grip inserts that peel off after a while so we can muscle them to the task of working wood. They create fashion not quality. The Faithful chisels are more than adequate for any woodworker and so for less than about £16 you can have a good set of starter chisels that will last a lifetime and may in fact never need replacing.
I like wood too
That said, I really do like wooden handles and quality wooden handles at that so I have a wonderful set of old Marples boxwood handled chisels, Robert Sorby chisels with the hexagonal London pattern handles and some made by Crown with Rosewood handles. You know that we used Narex chisels in the USA New Legacy School and Aldi chisels here in the UK. The Aldi chisels have proven to be excellent chisels and they were the very cheapest at £7.99 for a set of four and including a useless oilstone. They recently downgraded to a three-chisel set instead of four and dropped the oilstone so once again we see the ‘con’ glomerates deciding once more what’s best for us.
Yes they are made in China, but in this case that’s not hidden behind an old Sheffield user name. Google a supplier online for a dealer. I am sorry, I don’t think that they are available in the USA.