Tools & Materials

Buying a Chisel? – Pro’s and Con’s of the Major Chisel Brands – Part 1

Not all tool manufacturers do a good job of applying a bevel down the top of a chisel. Some like Lie Nielsen do a beautiful job taking that almost right down to the back of the blade, and others like Crown put a little chamber on the top of the blade and call that a bevel. As far as I’m concerned this is taking the p…s, almost to the point of contravening the Trades Descriptions Act. I don’t like manufacturers who play around like this and I won’t hesitate to point it out and steer less knowledgeable people away from them.

In the same way that a jack plane is a multipurpose tool, the bevel-edged chisel is used in lots of ways. Opening tins of No…..don’t go there. It must function when we want to pare horizontally or vertically and where we want to strike it with a mallet, not forcefully, but with purpose. We need a delicate precision tool that will hold an edge well, that will take a keen edge, and will take a gentle battering.

As I wander around the twenty or so benches here at Rowden Workshops I see four or five favourite brands of furniture makers bevel edged chisel. As none of them seem to be perfect I will describe each in turn giving you the pros and cons in each case as I see it.

Workshop favorites are the bench chisels offered by the American manufacturer Lie Nielsen. These are without doubt beautifully made tools. The bevelling is accurate and well cut, you can see the corners clearly and the backs of these blades invariably come to us straight and true. This is an essential quality and don’t let toolmakers tell you differently.

The key surface of a chisel is the back, if you’re seeking to create a flat surface with a chisel it is the back you will be pressing on to the job extending a surface that you’ve already cut to left and right using the corners of the blade. If the back of a chisel is not flat you have a great deal of work to get it flat. Or, you could use it for opening tins of…

The handles of these blades are good and two versions, a long handle and a shorter handle, are offered, different sized blades have different-sized handles. The manufacture of the blades is of exceptionally high quality. It is the design that gives me a problem, it is a relatively heavy blade and I find it rather clumsy. The steel used is a modern A2 cryogenically treated steel.

The characteristic of the steel is to take an edge and then hold it exceptionally well. The challenge I have is that I feel that this quality steel takes a good edge but is not as keen as that offered by high carbon steel, even cold rolled high carbon steel. I don’t see the advantage of holding an edge for a long time as being a great one in a professional workshop as a skilled maker you will be able to put an edge on a blade in less than a minute. I do see as a disadvantage the fact that these blades don’t take the keenest edge.

For that reason alone I would not be buying them. Sorry, Mr. Lie Nielsen.

Source by David Savage

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