• We invite you to join UKWorkshop.
    Members can turn off viewing Ads!

Mid range/budget chisels

UKworkshop.co.uk

Help Support UKworkshop.co.uk:

Bm101

Lean into the Curve
Joined
19 Aug 2015
Messages
4,124
Reaction score
527
Location
Herts.
I would buy 5 old wooden handles chisels cheap as you can by old Sheffield makers like Sorby etc. I'd get 5 sizes, 1/4", 3/8", 1/2", 3/4" and 1". Still 100s out there going cheap if you do some work on them. Get them sharp and working. If and when you need more modern steel in the future you can spend money when you know what you actually need.
 

Nic Rhodes

Established Member
Joined
25 Nov 2019
Messages
23
Reaction score
8
Location
Penrith, Cumbria
I always liked the older Footprint chisels (natural wood handles, painted black / yellow wood handles or plastic (red and blue I think)). Quality is top flight 'Sheffield steel' but prices is less than Marples. I would buy less chisels but better quality, I find you only need a few sizes generally (3 should be fine) but I do find a proper mortise chisel a great benefit that is under appreciated. You should be able to get great quality for under £20.
 

profchris

Established Member
Joined
14 Jun 2015
Messages
848
Reaction score
90
Location
Suffolk
I would buy 5 old wooden handles chisels cheap as you can by old Sheffield makers like Sorby etc. I'd get 5 sizes, 1/4", 3/8", 1/2", 3/4" and 1". Still 100s out there going cheap if you do some work on them. Get them sharp and working. If and when you need more modern steel in the future you can spend money when you know what you actually need.
This is what I did, buying job lots of old chisels from eBay. Admittedly I now have rather more 5/16 and 3/8 chisels than I want or need :) Average price buying in lots of 5 or so seemed to be around £3 each delivered, and there was always at least one in each lot that was a good one.

Single chisels seem to be much more expensive from eBay, probably because buyers are seeking a specific size I guess.

One day I will have cleaned and sharpened them all, and then I can dispose of those I don't want.
 

timothyedoran

Established Member
Joined
9 Jan 2017
Messages
45
Reaction score
30
Location
Bradford on Avon
I looked on eBay and could never really tell if they would be pitted and no good and bevel edge ones seem scarce.
In the end I bought the 6 pack of narex and a 3mm and 40mm. I have used the 40mm more than I thought I would. I like its large surface area.

My mate has the axminster richer ones and they look very nice. Maybe a tad nicer than the narex but they are more spendy.
 

Bm101

Lean into the Curve
Joined
19 Aug 2015
Messages
4,124
Reaction score
527
Location
Herts.
Just a thought.
If you really want a set of nice new chisels there is a review of these Luban 4 Piece Butt Chisel Set | By Qiangsheng Tools Co. | eBay
on here somewhere by a guy who knows what he's talking about.
Be warned they are Butt chisels and not really suited for smacking with a mallet more for hand work but great modern steel and really well finished for £50. Quangshien is the same parent company (somehow) as Quangshen who make tools for Workshop Heaven etc. They take and hold an excellent edge but might not be suitable for your present needs. I still think old steel is a better first option.
 

Picalilli

Established Member
Joined
2 Dec 2020
Messages
57
Reaction score
8
Location
Tyne and Wear
Loads of great advice here. I think I’m going to head to a local boot sale on 18th so may hold off any purchases until then and keep an eye on eBay. I am tempted by the kirchen from Axminster if nothing shows up second hand. Maybe just buy one to start. I’m hardly going to be building furniture to begin with, will mostly just be practicing different joints and things. Think Axminster are open properly on Monday coming so will pop in and have a look then. Think they stock Japanese chisels too.
 

D_W

Established Member
Joined
24 Aug 2015
Messages
5,982
Reaction score
600
Location
PA, US
I've had several hundred chisels - call it a fascination. If I were buying only one set, it would be older chisels as mentioned above -tang with bolster, mid weight to do everything.

I had narex - they're OK - they only hold up well if they're finished on a buffer (the cost level you're talking about, the regular austempered ones). Anything older from I sorby, stormont, ward, mathieson, tyzack, etc, will be a better chisel by a fair amount, but you have the guess work re: condition and your ability to refurbish them.

Of the new chisels, I like ashley iles the best, but they are light chisels and not a great choice if you want to pull on the handles sometimes to break things loose in a deep cut.

Have not tried the richter-everyone seems to like them, but their style doesn't do it for me - just as the expensive LV chisels left me cold (even without considering the price).
 

Ttrees

Iroko loco!
Joined
18 Nov 2012
Messages
2,607
Reaction score
181
Location
In me workshop
I'd have a look in homebase or similar if they have a discounted ones for 2 to 4 quid each.
Or even cheaper if a pound shop sells the same brand.
I've seen stubby ones in Homebase with chunky plastic handles the same as some I bought in a pound shop, and they're no good, but I reckon you stand a good chance of getting decent steel with the rest.
My main chisels are newish Stanley fatmax (I think) which are lapped flat, and for really heavy paring and chopping some Tesco ones which are rather stout.
Tesco chisels.jpg

I have one really delicate vintage parer with fine lands, which would do dovetails, but I might just decide to either do the Alan Peters round profile, or grind and lap a profile like Lie Nielsen or whoever's on my Stanley's as they are flat.

Even if really cheap chisels turn out to be cheese, then they might likely be used for other things, especially if one is a fond of using reclaimed stuff.
Even if you find them to be alright but not the best, you will get quick at sharpening.
Better to blue an edge on some cheap ones on the grinder, than some uber expensive steel that might have you fearing the grinder forever more.

I suggest spending money on something else that is really needed....
The Egyptians used copper chisels on stone, so fancy chisels is likely a long way down the list.

Tom
 

shed9

establiSHED member
Joined
3 Nov 2013
Messages
1,556
Reaction score
195
Location
In a forest in Wales
Paul Sellers has been using Lidl chisels for the last year or so. He gets them / keeps them sharp too.
They rarely come up these days and when they do they are sold out in minutes. I appreciate they are probably relatively decent chisels relevant to new users however they are unlikely to be available within a reasonable time frame if at all.

I would add that there is another aspect to recommended tools for a beginner and that's ensuring they are recommended something that doesn't actually put them off or meet expectations of being workable without a shed load of additional input. We always see the classic response when people ask about table saws or pillar drills for example. The request for advice on a decent quality work-out-of-the-box machine is more often met with suggestions that two ton's of old British iron is the solution to the request and all they need is a hiab, forklift, a working knowledge of 3 phase delta wiring and four months of their life to get it back to working condition - I'm fairly sure I've probably advised the same myself at some previous juncture.

I remember the days when a certain user no longer with us (departed to haven and no, not a typo) would always chastise people for wanting to buy good tooling with the usual retort that they were deluded in throwing money at tools when a perfectly sharpened plastic fork would suffice their needs. Most will know who I mean. This was and is never going to end well for people looking to get into woodworking. Yes you can get by with anything as long as it's sharp but if your starting out and have an appropriate budget to get going then invest in something nice that adds to the enjoyment and isn't a bare minimum.

People rarely regret buying good tooling.
 

Ttrees

Iroko loco!
Joined
18 Nov 2012
Messages
2,607
Reaction score
181
Location
In me workshop
Sorry I should have been a bit clearer with my post.
I ain't saying that a good tool isn't nice to have,
(definitely or obviously is what I should have written in that sense, that it's worth looking for a deal on some good ones like some mentioned here)
I do have value in a nice tool, and I don't begrudge any chisel that works well for the job at hand.
That's what I regard as a nice tool, looks are unimportant to me.
I don't mind the feel of plastic handles.
The Tesco ones wouldn't be any good for final pairing of mortises the way I like to do things personally (patching holes in timbers made me like this)

A similar task for someone with virgin timber might be making a tool like a mortise or panel gauge also might well need to be accurate.
This vintage chisel also has a big concave face/back, so can't be trusted for this job, and like with the Tesco would be way too much meat to remove to flatten it, it's thin enough already.
I actually prefer the sturdier Stanley for doing this and most everything else.
Sorry I don't have a picture of those doing the same job
SAM_2898.JPG


So I probably should have went into more detail on that for clarity.

Regardless one slight gripe with the Stanley now that I think of it, is the handle on one of the wider ones is a bit loose, and more so when it's twisted back to the correct position.
It always works it's way back to being off, so I have to keep aware of that.

I can think of four things to check I suppose... interested to see what other factors might be of importance for some.


1. How well is the surface grinding done, likely done better on good steel, maybe look at the tip for a burr which might indicate an edge that will roll.

2.A check with a ruler when your in the shop to see if they're bananas, I couldn't see some shopkeeper begrudging someone checking the thing

3.And whilst they're not looking... a giving the chisel a wee "Chinese burn" to check that handle is on square and not loose

And 4. which might be the first thing to check, is the handle in line with the chisel
(not talking about a cranked handle)

Which brings me back to...
Suitable for the job in hand, or what might be called a nice tool for a cheapskate

SAM_3735.JPG


That Tesco one has an inline handle and is a chunky bit of metal, so well suited to transfer the mallet blows better than the Stanley ones which are cranked and a bit lighter.

I don't have a photo of heavy paring with the Tesco's but found them rather impressive
compared with the Stanley's...
I think it must have to do with a convex back/face.
(edit... Heavy paring in a tenting fashion, and not paring vertically, is where these shine)

Interesting to read David W's chisel making threads and videos which is on the opposite side of the spectrum, as he intentionally makes a belly to stop the chisel diving into the work, which makes sense also.


Tom
 
Last edited:

jcassidy

Learning.
UKW Supporter
Joined
5 Nov 2020
Messages
188
Reaction score
140
Location
Ireland
I think for a £100 you shouldn't have any problem getting some decent chisels. I wouldn't agree about starting out with old chisels, I'd buy a new decent set to use straight away. Then you can take your time to find, restore and sharpen vintage chisels to your hearts content.

I mainly hammer the sh*t out of a set of Stanley FatMax chisels. I think the local B&Q or Woodies. I finally bought a set of diamond stones (off this forum, actually), and a chisel sharpening thingie to try to bring my sharpening skills to the next level.

I got a set of the Lidl chisels from my dad when he emptied his shed. Fine chisels I suppose. I mostly like them because of the Sellers Effect, if I'm honest! Everyone wants them, but I've got them, la-de-la! I believe the quality in recent years has dipped, so I wouldn't bother waiting for them to come back. If I understood correctly, they were made in Germany previously, but now in the Far East.
 

shed9

establiSHED member
Joined
3 Nov 2013
Messages
1,556
Reaction score
195
Location
In a forest in Wales
Minor caveat, when 'they' can afford it. Cost is often a real driver with DIY people.
Cost is often a real driver with many people for all things but then it's all relative anyhow. It doesn't negate the original comment of concerning the lack of regret in purchasing good tooling whatever end of the spectrum that is. I do get what you're saying but my main point was that people can be put off woodworking with cheap tooling and if the budget allows for it then invest in the best you can to extract more than just acquiring adequate tooling.
 

D_W

Established Member
Joined
24 Aug 2015
Messages
5,982
Reaction score
600
Location
PA, US
They (or Aldi) haven't stocked them for four years as far as I know (and I get the mailshots).
There's also a caveat on these chisels. There's no guarantee the next time they come around that they're made of the same thing. All of these chisels appear to be die forged out of some type of CR-V steel. This range is enormous, but for practical purposes, it goes from 0.5% carbon steel, which can get to high hardness but won't stay there well, to 1.15% carbon steel rod that's suitable for making files and straight razors. If chisels are made from CR60 or something of the sort, they may be marginal, they may not. If they're made of CR100 or some such designation, they should have a better chance of having good edge strength and sharpness, but there's no guarantee they'll be left at a hard temper.

I have a set sold by another retailer here - exact same chisels, same style, same pack except the printing is different (it was orange and they were called some fictitious americanized brand). Mine are probably about 58 hardness.

I saw reference to another set of aldi chisels that were 62 hardness or so. These numbers seem close together, but they are drastically different in edge holding (58 will not hold a reasonable edge in hardwoods without very heavy buffing on an edge, something most people don't do - the apex itself has little strength and will fold. 61/62 is kind of the sweet spot where a good piece of stock used to make a chisel (like 0.9-1% carbon) will hold up well and not chip if heat treat and everything else didn't break rules.

If one is lucky enough to get a "good" set, and they seem to sharpen about the same as any other good chisel, then that's fairly lucky. When paul said his hold an edge about as well as anything else, it made me squint. When I saw Rc testing results for another set that were much harder than mine, it solved the mystery. They are still long and light chisels, and for the current crop of blade grippers, sort of odd - they're more of a handle gripper's chisel - as in, someone who keeps their non mallet hand on the handle and never moves it during work, dragging the blade of the chisel or walking it to cuts rather than moving hands around).

All that said, I probably know more about steel and chisels than anyone on here as far as what happens when you make chisels with various steels, what happens when they're a given hardness, and how to bail them out. For the $8 that aldi chisels were here (they did come to aldi, too, but I already had my set), sure, worth a try. Even if you get a set on the soft side, you're going to be chiseling something in a doorway or against plaster at some point.

But to make a recommendation of something that will always be good. I'd go with old, but that creates the "can you get it into shape" dynamic if it's needed. What about stanley 5001s and such? I've had a set - one of the five was unhardened. The others were OK (much closer to the 58 hardness). The vintage english chisels are always going to be closer to 61/62 if they are the tang cabinetmaker type because those chisels were sold to professional cabinetmakers, not someone who may open a paint can here or there with a site chisel, too.

What's good in current? Narex are OK - their hardening method can't reach 61/62. The richter type, no experience with them, but they're made like a traditional chisel and can get into that hardness. If someone has both types and there's not something wrong with the richter, it'll be hard not to notice how they take a finer edge off of a given stone and hold it better (but they will not fare as well if someone opens a paint can).

"what can I buy and it'll be great for $100" is always a loaded question. Who knows. I could do all of my work with my softer set of aldi-style chisels, but it took me a lot of experimenting with edge geometry to figure out how to get them to hold up in hardwood (hold up means they don't show edge damage after moderate use vs. just using them at all - you can use any junk and shoot off broken chips from your work and claim that chisels are working well, but you'll have no clue how much that's holding you back from efficient work.

The only guarantee that you can get something good is to get a good set in use from an honest person who just has too much stuff. I don't see that happening often. If you were in the states, I'd put something together, prepped and sent to you, but as I've done a fair bit of that with planes and chisels over the years, I have noticed that whatever I do sometimes gets cast aside quickly after the next chris schwarz blog post.

I'd personally, of the new chisels, rather have three sizes of good chisels than five mediocre, and track down a car boot chisel in the off sizes you don't use much. 3/8, 5/8 and 7/8 would be my choices for the most use. You can pick up a 1/4th chisel anywhere. For joinery, I always liked the AI chisels - they're in the sweet spot, they're honestly made, and they cost half what LN or other prissy chisels cost here (or even less than that vs. the LV type). But you'd be ill advised to make mortises with them.

Not much tolerance from me re: the doomeflangers who chide everyone about spending money on tools. Ever buy wood? Good hardwood stock makes tools look kind of cheap, other than for the prissy tools. If you use hand tools a lot, you'll eventually gravitate toward better stock if you don't start with it. If you're looking mostly to make plant stands and shelves, then it won't matter what chisels you have, nor will you have to buy wonderful wood.
 
Top