- 2 Dec 2020
- Reaction score
- Tyne and Wear
Thanks for the detailed response. Shame I don’t live in the US!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.
I might buy one or two mid range from different makers (maybe one kirchen, one Ashley iles etc) and see how I feel with them.
I don’t mind spending a bit more on tools that I think I’ll be using a lot. Although I’m just getting into woodworking I know from general experience that although it’s usually possible to do a job with a cheap tool, it’s often much easier and more enjoyable with something better made. As this is a hobby purchase I don’t want to put myself off starting with something cheaply made that might frustrate me. That’s not to say I don’t think the cheap Tesco chisels wouldn’t serve me well ( I may get something similar anyway for the more heavy tasks like mortises - or hope to get lucky second hand at flea markets or boot sales on some older marples ones)