chisels that will hold their edge - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum

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post #1 of 26 Old 03-15-2017, 09:18 PM Thread Starter
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chisels that will hold their edge

I've been using steel chisels for decades but getting a little tired of sharpening them frequently because they do not hold a really sharp edge. Are there any chisels out there that do?
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post #2 of 26 Old 03-15-2017, 09:29 PM
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This is a table of various steel material. It tells you what various ones are good for what types of jobs.

In general, if you get a chisel that has a steel hard enough for the sharpness to last a long time, then it will be harder to sharpen. Of course the opposite is also true.

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post #3 of 26 Old 03-15-2017, 09:35 PM
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Quote:
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I've been using steel chisels for decades but getting a little tired of sharpening them frequently because they do not hold a really sharp edge. Are there any chisels out there that do?
I have everything from cheap harbor freight chisels to expensive German carving chisels and the only one that holds a edge any better is a homemade one I made from a jointer knife. If you are dulling chisels then you either are not getting them completely sharp or you are damaging the edge on the work you are doing. Sometimes you can leave the tiniest burr on the edge and use the chisel the burr will damage the edge. When I sharpen a chisel I will slide the edge of my fingernail over the sharp edge. If there is any burr left you can feel it.
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post #4 of 26 Old 03-15-2017, 09:59 PM
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I took a short turning class a long time ago and was shown how to sharpen by a well know expert. His "trick" was to hone on a power wheel. I use a 3" wide cotton wheel on my variable speed grinder to hone chisels. It only takes a couple of seconds high speed to ensure that any burr or irregularity is wiped away. Even the set of Craftsman butt chisels I inherited from my Father-In-Law will cut cleanly for a long time and I only use them for rough construction type work.

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post #5 of 26 Old 03-15-2017, 10:08 PM
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The catch with harder blades that stay sharp longer is they tend to be brittle and chip easily. Never pry with a chisel!
If you want to make a hard edge chisel, grind down a file. The edge will be brittle but stay sharp until it chips. You can heat treat it just like the following.
Most chisels have enough carbon in them to be heat treatable. Do a Google search for how to heat treat. It's pretty simple but results vary because we don't have the skill but you can come close. Take a crappy chisel you don't mind trashing, should things go wrong. Remove the handle. Heat to cherry red, at the right temperature a magnet won't stick to it. Plunge it into some oil, watch out the oil may flash to fire. Keep it moving in the oil for a couple of minutes. Test it with a file. The file should slide over it w/o grabbing. Clean the oil off. polish the surfaces until they are bright with some fine sand paper. Start heating the metal back away from the cutting end. Watch the color of the forming oxide change. When the color is near straw yellow at the tip stop. Test you handy work. The process can be done over if need be. There are finer points to the process. I just wanted to show that it is possible and perfectly doable in the home shop. Look it up before you try it. I've done it with Oxy/acetylene, I don't know if you can get it hot enough with Mapp gas. I think it is also possible to temper using about 450F in a home oven. Haven't tried it. I've got a wife that doesn't like such uses.
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post #6 of 26 Old 03-15-2017, 10:21 PM
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There has to be enough steel behind the edge to support it in service. Bone cleavers are 40 degrees, veg & meat cleavers can be 15, 20 at most and don't get them mixed up.
For chisels, you can keep making the steel harder and harder to the point where it gets brittle and chips and you have a wild time trying to fix it.

General purpose total included bevel angle for the majority of chisels works very well at 30 degrees. The tools that don't get hit as hard should be less.
My spokeshaves are all 28 degrees, my skews and drawknife are 25, like my Stubai carving adze and my elbow and D adzes.

Steels don't break at the molecular level so you can't make them have a real edge like broken glass or knapped flint.
I carve in soft woods, like over-ripe tomatoes, that takes exceptionally sharp edges to keep the wood cutting and not shredding.
I'm bashing away for hours on end. Maybe 5-6 licks honing every 30 minutes. Damage might need a fix starting at 600, usually 800.
All those gouges are 20 degrees, all the carving knives are 12 degrees.

Decide what the service work force will be. Select a bevel angle and work to that.
Don't wait until they're beat to hello. Little tune-ups make the fun last all day.
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post #7 of 26 Old 03-15-2017, 10:31 PM
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A lot depends on the initial sharpening and honing you do. Starting nice and sharp to begin with with few if any jagged edges helps. I chop quite a few mortise holes through 2x4 and 4x4 lumber with very few issues. I try to avoid knots, but I still get through them with very little damage.
I don't have expensive chisels. I believe most are from Garret Wade, but I have others from various places. I certainly don't use them as screw drivers.

I figured it's time to change my signature so hold your breath. This is it.
Impressive, huh?
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post #8 of 26 Old 03-15-2017, 10:59 PM
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Japanese steel is among the best

I was stationed in Japan for 10 weeks in 1990 where I was introduced to the fine Japanese steel woodworking chisels. I brought home as many as I could fit in my luggage and still carry it. They hold an edge better than any other I own. Their steel making process is complicated and involves multiple lamination of hard and soft steels. Only "masters"who have been raised in the traditional steel making process can sign their name to their own brand/line of tools. For example:
https://www.japanwoodworker.com/prod...7070231a000033

Mortising chisels are a different animal:
http://www.ebay.com/itm/Mortise-Chis...-/162359630656

The answer to your question will only be as detailed and specific as the question is detailed and specfic. Good questions also include a sketch or a photo

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post #9 of 26 Old 03-16-2017, 03:54 PM
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I haven't used any others but my chisels from Woodriver hold a good edge.

Measure 6 times, cut 3. Plane it down wrong and go buy a second board.
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post #10 of 26 Old 03-17-2017, 08:54 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for all the great feedback!
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post #11 of 26 Old 03-18-2017, 04:22 AM
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I use a set of Irwin chisels I got from Lowe's (I think). Plain carbon steel, they take a good edge and hold up to my abuse pretty well. Dunno how they compare to, say, veritas, but they work fine for my uses.

While you're shopping around though, don't get sucked in by buzzwords. Anything with an edge, there's no magical super steel, there's no mystical maker from a far off land, and having the latest in particle metallurgy will not make sure you have a good chisel. Honestly, even the steel type won't make it a certainty. What really makes a good bladed implement (knives, chisels, plane irons, etc) is the maker. A good maker can make an excellent blade from the most basic steel, a bad maker can make a crap chisel from the best steel you can find. Look for a good, trusted maker, I've heard excellent things about veritas, and Japanese chisels do seem to hold a justifiable respect. Not because the steel is magic, but because the Smiths know their craft.

Sorry I can't give you a better recommendation, lately I just roll my own :D

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post #12 of 26 Old 03-18-2017, 02:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by woodnthings View Post
I was stationed in Japan for 10 weeks in 1990 where I was introduced to the fine Japanese steel woodworking chisels. I brought home as many as I could fit in my luggage and still carry it. They hold an edge better than any other I own. Their steel making process is complicated and involves multiple lamination of hard and soft steels. Only "masters"who have been raised in the traditional steel making process can sign their name to their own brand/line of tools. For example:
https://www.japanwoodworker.com/prod...7070231a000033

Mortising chisels are a different animal:
http://www.ebay.com/itm/Mortise-Chis...-/162359630656
When first starting out 40 years ago I bought a full set of 8 Japanese laminated steel chisels plus 2 dog leg chisels. Always a joy to use and razor sharp.
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post #13 of 26 Old 03-18-2017, 07:43 PM
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Common tool steels

There are about 10 common steels used for making edged tools and knives. They have various properties, from corrosion resistence, hardness and edge holding ability. The lamlnated steels used by the Japanese go back hundreds of years. The Swedes have a reputation for having great steel. The German's from Soligen make good steel.

I have some Mora Swedish steel knives:
https://www.ragweedforge.com/SwedishKnifeCatalog.html

Stainless was introduced for it's corrosion resistence. The whole receipe of the different steel componets determines it's characteristics. Magnanese, Cobalt, Chromium all make a different type of steel.
To say that a bladesmith can make a good knife or edged tool out of crap steel is blather. The converse is also not true, that a poor blade maker can make a great tool from good steel,..... not if it's not hardened and annealed correctly.

http://www.midwayusa.com/content/How...rial_chart.htm


http://knifeinformer.com/discovering...t-knife-steel/

http://sharpeningmadeeasy.com/steels.htm

The bench chisel shootout by FWW:
http://www.finewoodworking.com/2008/...-bench-chisels

The answer to your question will only be as detailed and specific as the question is detailed and specfic. Good questions also include a sketch or a photo

Last edited by woodnthings; 03-18-2017 at 08:38 PM.
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post #14 of 26 Old 03-19-2017, 12:56 AM
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woodnthings: thanks. If you can't do any better than razor sharp and at the correct bevel angle for service,
you might as well get someone else to do the work.
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post #15 of 26 Old 03-19-2017, 04:31 AM
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Go to Amazon and find bench chisel sets ...

You will fiund Marples, Two Cherries, Woodriver and Narex sets all fine chisels. The Rockwell hardness is listed, ranging from 59 to 63 Rockwell. The steel is high carbon or manganese in the Narex, all of which will hold an great edge.

This Japanese set has a Rockwell of 63 and is at the high end price wise:
https://www.amazon.com/Pc-Japanese-C...ch+chisels+set

Even this lowly set of Stanley chisels features hardened and tempered high chrome steel, although the Rockwell is not listed. They even get a 5 star rating:

This set of Stanley Sweetheart chisels has a socket head design. This helps keep the wood handles from splitting when used with a mallet, a great feature. They are priced in the mid range and would make a sweet set of bench chisels in my opinion:
https://www.amazon.com/Stanley-16-79...TYRRKXCPSQRYSF

The great thing about Amazon as a research tool is the customer ratings below the product descriptions. Read them and decide for yourself before making the purchase.



I own some Robert Sorby mortising chisels that feature super thick blades for timber framing. These however, are a butt chisel set, good for general woodworking. They also hold a great edge.
https://www.amazon.com/Robert-Sorby-...ch+chisels+set

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Last edited by woodnthings; 03-19-2017 at 04:47 AM.
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post #16 of 26 Old 03-19-2017, 07:36 AM
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There is a video on Utube using a plywood wheel on a grinder with fine grade paste. Me, I am going to try paste on my cloth burnishing wheel. Old car leaf springs reputed to make good knives and chisel blades. Nelson posted an angle poster some years ago. Might have a copy somewhere on my computer. Gave the angle for every type of cutting edge. Think chisels were 25 and 15 degrees
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post #17 of 26 Old 03-19-2017, 08:47 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by johnep1934 View Post
There is a video on Utube using a plywood wheel on a grinder with fine grade paste. Me, I am going to try paste on my cloth burnishing wheel. Old car leaf springs reputed to make good knives and chisel blades. Nelson posted an angle poster some years ago. Might have a copy somewhere on my computer. Gave the angle for every type of cutting edge. Think chisels were 25 and 15 degrees
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What would work better is a piece of leather loaded down with jewelers rouge stretched over a board.
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post #18 of 26 Old 03-19-2017, 10:55 AM
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Once you have your new chisels ...

They don't come "ready to use" from the factory ... as a rule. The better ones may be just fine and you've paid for that. However, you need to learn the art and science of sharpening them to a razor edge. These articles include photos and a step by step process:

http://www.stewmac.com/How-To/Trade_...ke_razors.html

http://www.popularwoodworking.com/te...pening-chisels

http://www.toolstop.co.uk/sharpen-yo...op-guide-a1197

I use diamond stones and a belt grinder to put the edge on my chisels. You can get a 4 side diamond honing block from Harbor Freight for $13.00:
http://www.harborfreight.com/4-sided...ock-92867.html
The finest grit is 600, for finer than that you can use wet/dry 3M paper up to 1200 or even 2000 glued or taped down on glass or your cast iron table top. Keep it well lubricated with WD 40 or other easy to spray lube.

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post #19 of 26 Old 03-19-2017, 03:54 PM
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To say that a bladesmith can make a good knife or edged tool out of crap steel is blather. The converse is also not true, that a poor blade maker can make a great tool from good steel,..... not if it's not hardened and annealed correctly.
]
None of what I said is blather good steel doesn't automatically make a good tool anymore than exotic hardwoods make a good table, and the converse is also true, lower end steel's don't automatically equate to a poor tool any more than a table being pine makes it a crap table.

Let's compare a few chisels, the Harbor freight set and a set from Veritas. Now, the harbor freight set is advertised as "high carbon" but doesn't actually list the grade. Fortunately, that's easy enough to narrow down. On a commercial scale, 50% losses are unacceptable, so anything water-quenched is out, so no 1095, w1 or w2, etc. This is harbor freight were talking about, so anything pricey is also out, so goodbye 5160 and 5100. The last few of the really common high carbon steels are 1050, 1075, 1080 and O1 tool steel, and of those the O1 is the most economical, so not a far stretch to say that the chisels are O1 or a very close grade.

Coincidentally, Veritas also uses O1 steel in their chisel line. Since both chisels are using the same steel, they should be equal in quality (blades, not handles), right?

And on the good blade/poor steel side of things;

The first video is a group of guys making a sword out of recycled safety scissors, hardly an excellent blade steel. The second is a guy starting with a bar of pure iron, which isn't even steel, let alone a good blade steel, and making an excellent blade from it with proper preparation. I'd love to be a fly on the wall when someone tells a room full of ABS certified master Smiths that they made a crappy blade because they didn't start with the latest supersteels

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post #20 of 26 Old 03-19-2017, 05:43 PM
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I posted some reasonbly priced chisels

I posted the Stanley chisels as well as the Japanese laminated chisels, essentially both ends of the price range.... well almost.

I can't imagine how much a Master ABS would charge to make a custom set of bench chisels, but I would be willing to bet he would start with the "best" steel he had, and not some "crappy" steel made from roofing nails and old bicycle parts. I couldn't afford a set of those chisels and I don't think many others here could either.

The OP wanted to know which chisels would hold an edge and last under use. He has a bunch of good choices....

The answer to your question will only be as detailed and specific as the question is detailed and specfic. Good questions also include a sketch or a photo

Last edited by woodnthings; 03-19-2017 at 07:27 PM.
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