Best chisel sets for woodworking

Best chisel sets for woodworking In 2020

Buying a set of woodworking chisels is often the choice offered to newcomers. As a seasoned woodworker, I have collected a huge array of different chisels. If you are new to woodworking you are probably more likely to buy a set of chisels. For me, I usually look to replace a worn chisel so a single purchase is likely.

Plastic Vs Wood Handles

If you are looking to buy a chisel to chop in an odd hinge and mortise lock then the material the handles are made of should not be your worry.

If you are seriously looking to take up woodworking for a hobby and then you should consider timber handles such as boxwood or hornbeam. But if you likely be working on-site as a carpenter then some form of plastic handle might be a better option for you. My favourite plastic handle is the Stanley clear yellow cellulose. I have a few of these and they are very old and still work brilliantly although a bit short with all the sharpening.

The thing to watch out for when choosing a woodworking chisel

Let’s start with general purpose use chisels as this is likely to be your first purchase. A general-purpose chisel is a chisel that is sensible for a multitude of uses while woodworking. Frankly, I find this category a bit confusing if you are new to woodworking.

Which general purpose chisel set should I consider?

Well, I feel one thing we should get out of the way, and that is ‘What Steel is Best’? Now today we are fortunate that most of the tool steels used are quite adequate and the days of soft rubbish tool steels are not as frequently used in chisel production. Yes, there is a difference and some are better than others but not always bad just different.

Sorby bevel edged chisel 640 360 Best chisel sets for woodworking

When considering a chisel consider the following

  • what is your intended woodworking purpose?
  • are you looking for occasional use chisel?
  • Is this going to be your hobby?
  • Are you wanting a chisel set for construction?
  • Do you want a chisel set for joint work?
  • How much money do you have to spend?

How many chisels should my set contain?

You could acquire a huge array of chisels but you need to start somewhere. My first chisel was a bent Stanley 3/4 inch 5002 which my Father gifted me and probably because it was bent. It was great for paring around corners!!

woodworking chisel types

If you are buying a chisel set for the first time seriously consider a 4 or 5 chisel set  1/’ through to 1 1/4 should cover most of your woodworking tasks.

Which chisel size do I use most?

This is an easy question for me to answer and I have to admit that my go-to chisel is a 3/4 inch(20mm).  I do own a few 3/4 chisels and use either a bevelled edge or old cast steel firmer chisel.

For you, I suggest at a minimum a 1/4″ 1/2″ 3/4″ 1″ 1 1/4″  as a versatile woodworking set

Firmer VS Bevel chisels

There are two common chisel patterns the Firmer and the Bevel edged

Ward cast steel of Norwich firmer chisel 640 360 Best chisel sets for woodworking

  • The Firmer chisel has a square edge
  • Bevel edged chisels have an angled edge to the chisel

Bevel edged chisels are best for beginners

If you are looking for the perfect chisel then a good set of bevel chisels then is a good option for you.

Which Bevel Edged Chisel

When looking to buy a set of bevel edged chisels then one thing you should consider is the bevel itself. Some bevel-edged chisel has a bevel that does not taper to a narrow edge and these are no better than a firmer chisel. A good bevel edge chisel should have a thin edge to the side of the chisel. This is good because you can use it to pare around a dovetail or chop in a mortice. The point is if you want a chisel set that can suit varied woodworking tasks it is best to select a set that can do more than one job.

Yataro Chisels of Japan, set of 5

Yataro is not the cheapest but certainly not the most expensive Japanese chisel. Considering the highly skilled method of construction. Japanese steel has for centuries been respected for its culture surrounding the making of samurai swords. The folding and laminating in the forge often by hand makes for a superior tool.

The Steel

High-quality Hand-forgedJapanese High-Carbon steel, HRC63 hardness laminated to a less hard iron socket body.

Sizes inset

6mm(1/4″), 12mm(1/2″), 24mm(1″), 30mm(1 1/4″), 36mm(1 1/2″)

Grind

Hollow ground back reduces friction and workpiece deflection

Handles

‘Akagashi’ handle known as ‘Japanese Red Oak’. Reinforced with heavy steel ring. Socket mount.

Presented

Factory sharpened, unlike most chisels which are supplied ready for sharpening. 

Sharpening

Supplied sharpened but future honing must performed on a Waterstone. Warning:  Do not use a grinding wheel on this forged Japanese chisel as the wheel will chip the edge. These Yataro chisels are capable of some crazy sharp edges.  Read my article about sharpening

Kirschen (Two Cherries) German made 6 piece chisel set

Two cherries chisels are another quality engineered German product. The brand of sharp tools is very popular and respected. Electronic monitored Hand forged chisels of high quality which can hold their edge under heavy use. Established in 1858

The Steel

Electronic monitored Hand forged chisels of high quality. Hardness 61 HRc higher than DIN (German Standards Institute)

Sizes in this set

popular widths: 6, 10, 12, 16, 20 and 26mm

Grind

Bevel edged firmer

Handles

Hornbeam mounted by a Tang

Presented

Wooden storage case included

Sharpening

Supplied with basic sharpening but these chisels would benefit from some honing to get that crazy sharp edge.

Narex bevel-edged chisel set of 6 in a presentation box.

Narex chisels have earned their place in the tool kit of professionals and newcomers to woodworking. Although Narex chisels have recently been extensively talked about, what most people do not know is that this Czech republic company was founded in 1937. I personally have no need of a set as my tool arsenal is well catered for. I have used Narex on several occasions and that is why I feel this brand of chisels is a worthy contender in my list of woodworking chisel sets.

The Steel

Chrome Magnesium hardened too RC 59 standards

Sizes in set

6 pc set 6mm (1/4″), 10 (3/8″), 12 (1/2″), 16 (5/8″), 20 (13/16″) , 26 (1 1/16″) 

Grind

25-degree bevel

Handles

Stained European Beech

Presentation

Woodworking Chisels in Wooden Presentation Box 853053

Stanley 16-793 Sweetheart 750 Series Socket Chisel 8 Piece Set

Stanley is a name that has been a popular choice for many a generation. I feel their appeal had wained somewhat with their plastic-handled chisels starting with the translucent cellulose to their 500 series. But now Stanley has started to present us woodies with their Sweetheart range of tools. Classic 750 series designs at great prices and nice quality. Made in Britain

The Steel

High-carbon chrome steel with tapered bevel sides. Long thin blade

Sizes in this set

popular widths: sizes: 1/8, 1/4, 3/8, 1/2, 5/8, 3/4, 1, and 1-1/4 chisels leather pouch

Grind

Bevel edged on both sides

Handles

Hornbeam mounted by a Socket

Presented

leather pouch included

Sharpening

Supplied with basic sharpening but these chisels would benefit from some honing to get that crazy sharp edge.

My conclusion on choosing a woodworking chisel set

In this selection of chisels, I have included a diverse choice. The first choice includes the most desirable Japanese chisels but these should not be considered for beginners because they are fickle and need sharpening with water stones which can be expensive.

This leaves some popular bevel edged chisels including Narex, Stanley and Kirschen.

  • Kirchen is nice but the bevel edge is too much near a firmer so I rule them out.
  • Narex is a good chisel but for me, they suffer from much the same as Kirschen so they are not for me.
  • So this leaves the Stanley Sweetheart range of chisels. I find they are a nice set with comfortable handles. The narrow sweetheart chisels have a poor bevel but the wider chisels are very good for paring around dovetails etc. I would choose the Stanley Sweetheart.

Sharpening your new chisels

Don’t forget you will need to sharpen your new woodworking chisels. I will get to the chase and recommend a Norton India oil stone for your first sharpening system and a honing guide.

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