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post #1 of 30 Old 10-22-2019, 11:25 AM Thread Starter
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Used / Vintage Chisels

Hey guys... just joined the site, starting to get a wood working shop setup and looking to get a few basic tools.

One thing would be a basic set of good chisels. From what I've read, buying old/vintage ones and restoring them is a good way to go because they used better steel than most being sold today, unless you buy the really pricey ones.

Came across a set of chisels today, tried to Google info about them but not finding anything at all. Estell? Anyone know much about that brand?

Also... any suggestions what to look for? Like... how old do I need to go to get the better steel, or which brands to get or avoid?

I have a handful of older ones my Dad had, but some I think were used to sheer heads off nails with, and some have chrome peeling off so, figured I'd start looking for something a bit better. :)

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post #2 of 30 Old 10-22-2019, 01:45 PM
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Why not try restoring the ones you have, any chisel you find will only work as well as it is sharpened. A fresh edge on most chisels will work well, better steel will just hold the edge longer. You will probably find certain sizes are the ones you use most, you can then spring for a couple really good ones, and unless you are alone in your shop hide them away so they are not used to open a paint can.

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post #3 of 30 Old 10-22-2019, 01:48 PM Thread Starter
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I planned to restore whatever it was that I got... what I have though, from what I can tell, many of them are cheap chrome plated and not sure if worth white restoring or not. There are a small number of good ones though.... but only 2 or 3 that I've seen so far.

Estell set looked good, but guy finally replied... one of those where it sold and they never bothered to remove the ad type deals. :S

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post #4 of 30 Old 10-22-2019, 04:07 PM
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At a certain point, chisels are good enough and hold an edge well enough. The quality of the steel is not the only thing that is important. You may want to look at other factors, like:

* Do you prefer one chisel style over another? (The tang vs. socket debate! - save it for another thread.)
* Do you prefer one handle material over another? (Handles are replaceable; some people make their own.)
* Do you prefer a certain handle shape?
* How does it feel in your hand?
* Is it comfortable to use?
* Does it cut easily?
* Does it cut where you want?
* Does it not cut where you don't want?

-> Is it the right size?
Newer chisels are metric size. A typical set might contain 6, 12, 18, and 25 mm wide chisels, despite whatever the label says. Old chisels are mostly genuine Imperial size. A typical set might contain: 1/4, 1/2, 3/4, and 1 inch wide chisels. For many (most?) chisel uses, it doesn't matter, but there are times when the exact width does matter.

In case it matters, I use a 1/2 inch chisel far more than the others combined. It is the right size for many jobs. When I was restoring the old Crown chisels I asked my friends, and every one of them told me that they use a 1/2 inch chisel most of the time and rarely use the other sizes.

Background:
I have two nice Crown 174R chisel sets with rosewood handles. One is an old Imperial set and the other is a new Metric set. (Why I have two is a story for another day.) I like the handle shape and the feel of real wood in the hand. They just work for me. I also have a cheap, lousy, Black and Decker 1/2 inch chisel I bought in 1980. I use it the most, even though I prefer the Crown chisels.

The I hate to admit it, but most of the time, I reach for the cheap, lousy, Black and Decker 1/2 inch chisel. It has a plastic handle and does not feel as good in the hand. Despite being a cheap, crappy chisel, it cuts well and stays sharp for a long time. I find that I reach for it most of the time because:

* I am used to reaching for it.
* It is usually ready-to-go sharp and stays sharp longer than you would expect from a cheap chisel.
* It sits in the front of the tool drawer by itself, ready to use. The Crown chisels are sets in the back of the drawer.
* It just works.
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post #5 of 30 Old 10-23-2019, 01:45 AM
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To be honest the ones you get at harbor freight aren't really that bad. That's what I use a lot of the time.



Although I a have a dealer. Some people meet sketchy guys is white vans in the back of parking lots to buy drugs, I do the same thing but to buy chisels. I know a timber framer who works in Japan. Every time he comes back he brings all kinds of weird tools back with him. Really cool guy,



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post #6 of 30 Old 10-23-2019, 02:50 PM
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what ever you do get a decent sharpening system
i never had a sharp chisel until i bought this $15 guide off amazon

i added the harbor fright diamond stones on a base i made out of corian
and made a simple insertion jig for depth of chisel/plane
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post #7 of 30 Old 10-23-2019, 03:33 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WeebyWoodWorker View Post
To be honest the ones you get at harbor freight aren't really that bad. That's what I use a lot of the time.

Although I a have a dealer. Some people meet sketchy guys is white vans in the back of parking lots to buy drugs, I do the same thing but to buy chisels. I know a timber framer who works in Japan. Every time he comes back he brings all kinds of weird tools back with him. Really cool guy, -T
The seedy underbelly of the chisel black market. :D

Harbor Freight... I swear I can't go onto a forum without that place being mentioned. Even in the Canadian forums I'm on where we don't have HF, it always gets mentioned. I'll have to get my passport and take a trip down some day. Harbor Freight, and Pawn Shops... they sound so much better there than here. :D

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post #8 of 30 Old 10-23-2019, 03:44 PM
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get the terminology correct

it's called harbor fright, cuz any tool with a cord is likely to cause you headaches
though you can't beat the harbor fright $9 grinders, i keep 3 around
at $9 you don't even worry when they don't start, just toss in the can
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post #9 of 30 Old 10-23-2019, 03:52 PM Thread Starter
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We have something close to that called Princess Auto... which has virtually no car parts in it aside from light bulbs and... nope I think that's it. From what I've seen online, they definitely get some of their stuff from the same places and rebrand it, but also looks to be about 1/3 the size.

Not bad tool wise... I sometimes grabs stuff there like an oddball sized socket I'll maybe use twice in a lifetime, or stuff like pry bars and such. Not sure how much I'd trust the stuff for when it comes to bigger items like drill presses and air compressors though.

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post #10 of 30 Old 10-23-2019, 04:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by THRobinson View Post
We have something close to that called Princess Auto... which has virtually no car parts in it aside from light bulbs and... nope I think that's it. From what I've seen online, they definitely get some of their stuff from the same places and rebrand it, but also looks to be about 1/3 the size.

Not bad tool wise... I sometimes grabs stuff there like an oddball sized socket I'll maybe use twice in a lifetime, or stuff like pry bars and such. Not sure how much I'd trust the stuff for when it comes to bigger items like drill presses and air compressors though.
Princess Auto has one of the best return policies of anywhere I shop, granted you have to watch the quality of some of their products, but they can't be beat on many items.

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post #11 of 30 Old 10-23-2019, 05:41 PM Thread Starter
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Never returned anything... rare I go, bit of a trek to the nearest one for me, and again when I go I usually just buy odd's n end's no one returns anyways.... gloves, solder, feeler gauges, etc.

Wish it were closer. Lots of cheap stuff I end up spending more on at Canadian Tire simply because it's 20min away instead of 1.5 hours.

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post #12 of 30 Old 10-23-2019, 06:39 PM
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I never tried the HF chisels, but I have seen their combination squares and their hand planes. Yuck! I returned them.

I have also tried the WorkZone chisels so highly recommended by the revered Paul Sellers of hand tool woodworking fame. They are designed in Germany, made in China. In the US, they only appear at Aldi stores as a seasonal item, but the set of four chisels sells for $6.95.

When they went on sale in Fall 2018, the word spread among local woodworkers around here. Four Paul Sellers' recommended chisels for $6.95! Who could pass on that?

Well, the WorkZone chisels are not so impressive when you get them. The machining is awful, and they are not close to symmetrical. They don't come sharp, but that's expected. I kept one set to use for chisel abuse, like striking them with a framing hammer or cutting off staples during furniture disassembly to harvest wood.
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post #13 of 30 Old 10-24-2019, 01:06 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by THRobinson View Post
The seedy underbelly of the chisel black market. :D

Harbor Freight... I swear I can't go onto a forum without that place being mentioned. Even in the Canadian forums I'm on where we don't have HF, it always gets mentioned. I'll have to get my passport and take a trip down some day. Harbor Freight, and Pawn Shops... they sound so much better there than here. :D

Right Canada... Whoops. I was up there just a bit ago and was quite confused about assorted things such as the lack of pennies and sales tax existing. Had never heard of a London Drugs before, interesting store.






-T

God I love Trigger. Inferno Cop is exactly the sort of idiocy they do, It's what makes them so cool. Met them all, great guys.
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post #14 of 30 Old 10-24-2019, 06:13 AM
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Dunno who was telling you that modern chisels are only good if theyre expensive cause they use crappier steel than the older ones. Honestly, that statement is probably truer in reverse, thanks to modern advancements in the production of metals, good quality steel is cheaper and more accessible for even the lower-end stuff so even a cheap chisel will be good. Look no further than the people who swear by the Aldi chisels for evidence of that, or Harbor Freight.

Moving past that, selection of steel is about the least most important thing to get a good chisel. So long as its not got a bunch of impurities and and at least .75% carbon content, itll probably make a good edged tool. A lot more important are heat treatment, quality control, and design. Unfortunately, only that last one will be visible to you, so best to not go for bottom of the barrel stuff if you dont want to play a guessing game.

Now, the list doesnt jump straight from bottom of the barrel no-name brandless stuff all the way to top of the line $500 chisels hand-made by Japanese craftsmen who have honed their craft for generations, theres a lot of grey area in there. My personal set of chisels includes Irwin and Shopfox, both of which retail for about $10 a chisel, and they take and hold a razor edge that i sure cant complain about. As some background on that, i make custom knives, ill complain about any edge i can. Stick to a decent name brand, from a company known more for making woodworking and not construction tools, and most importantly invest in your sharpening gear as well

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post #15 of 30 Old 10-24-2019, 10:02 AM
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Aldi (supermarket chain) chisels are well worth buying when they have them (usually 3 times a year) for under $8.00 set of 4. Nice wood handles, Metric sized, Made in Germany, Quality steel, Long blades. They are nice bench chisels...But will require fettling.
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post #16 of 30 Old 10-24-2019, 02:09 PM
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I have some old Stanley chisels that I really like (1", 3/4" and 1/4"). I have another set that is ok but I prefer the size of the Stanleys. By the way, if anybody happens to have a 1/2" Stanley, I will gladly take it off your hands.

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post #17 of 30 Old 10-29-2019, 05:49 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by epicfail48 View Post
Dunno who was telling you that modern chisels are only good if theyre expensive cause they use crappier steel than the older ones. Honestly, that statement is probably truer in reverse, thanks to modern advancements in the production of metals, good quality steel is cheaper and more accessible for even the lower-end stuff so even a cheap chisel will be good. Look no further than the people who swear by the Aldi chisels for evidence of that, or Harbor Freight.

Moving past that, selection of steel is about the least most important thing to get a good chisel. So long as its not got a bunch of impurities and and at least .75% carbon content, itll probably make a good edged tool. A lot more important are heat treatment, quality control, and design. Unfortunately, only that last one will be visible to you, so best to not go for bottom of the barrel stuff if you dont want to play a guessing game.

Now, the list doesnt jump straight from bottom of the barrel no-name brandless stuff all the way to top of the line $500 chisels hand-made by Japanese craftsmen who have honed their craft for generations, theres a lot of grey area in there. My personal set of chisels includes Irwin and Shopfox, both of which retail for about $10 a chisel, and they take and hold a razor edge that i sure cant complain about. As some background on that, i make custom knives, ill complain about any edge i can. Stick to a decent name brand, from a company known more for making woodworking and not construction tools, and most importantly invest in your sharpening gear as well



I couldn't agree more.Some old chisels are absolute junk and some of the new ones are incredibly good for what they cost.Just to make it more confusing,some old chisels are wonderful and some of the really cheap modern chisels are fit only for levering the lids off paint cans.


We should have the technology to make quality tools every time and we do-mostly.Then when a youtube sage pronounces them good,gullible amateurs hand over piles of cash for a pretty basic tool.It gets funny when they advocate flattening and sharpening "systems" that require hours of effort before you do any actual woodwork.If you tried that in a professional environment,you would have somebody on your case fairly soon.....


I bought a set of the Aldi chisels a couple of years ago and they are wonderful tools.The grinding isn't perfectly symmetrical,but I don't cut wood with those surfaces.The backs were flat enough and it took very little time to get a good edge.The edge lasts a long time too.Are they the best chisels I have ever bought? No,but they are a whole lot better than some of the antiques I own which are made of soft steel. I have actually annealed,hardened and tempered a couple of old chisels.One was transformed into a very useful tool and the other was still junk.


If I wanted a set of chisels to admire for their beauty and to use occasionally,I would be looking for a set of boxwood handled Marples.I have never had a Marples chisel that wasn't good,whether wood handled or plastic handled.
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post #18 of 30 Old 10-29-2019, 09:23 AM
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At least you got a balanced view from others who appreciate Aldi WorkSharp chisel set. The price point is certainly the best anyone can find for a set of four new chisels.

Sorry, but I fail to appreciate them as much as others. Flattening the backs on them was not my idea of fun. The ones I have did not start out close to flat.

Twice I have bought them to give to our woodworking club's annual auction. At least they bring in donations for the club. I tag them as "German-designed chisel set highly recommended by hand-tool expert Paul Sellers." They usually sell in the auction for around $20. I hope that they are going to experienced people who know better, but want to contribute to a worthy cause.
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post #19 of 30 Old 10-29-2019, 10:58 AM
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I agree about the modern metals being good quality overall. As for a set of vintage 750s, with current prices exceeding the cost of new premium Lie Nielsen and Veritas if I had the money I'd buy new. As for the Aldi chisels, great for all of you that love them, bless your hearts ,

I have a set of Marples Blue handle bench chisels from the 90s. I looked at some vintage Marples with box wood handles, ouch, not cheap either.

Since I have a more down-to-earth budget I looked at Wood River chinese specials that my local Woodcraft stocks. I was disappointed by the quality of the finish and chisel-to-handle alignment. If that was what I'd get for $10~$12 each then never mind.

I took a chance and ordered a set of Narex butt chisels from Taylor Tools. All four backs polished up quickly because they were flat. I've since purchased skew, paring and crank neck sets and all of them came flat back and were easy to prep to razor sharp. Made in eastern Europe by free people feels better than made by slave labor too.

Last edited by P89DC; 10-29-2019 at 11:02 AM.
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post #20 of 30 Old 10-29-2019, 02:24 PM
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Personal observation: A big reason people tend to prefer vintage hand tools is quality control. If you purchase something made during the "golden era" of manufacturing, you can say with a high degree of certainty that it's a decent product that was built to last a lifetime. Regardless of who made it.

Today, not so much. Such a wide variety of experiences for the same exact product ranging from "I love it" to "it's junk." About the only instance where quality remains high is with the higher price point tools like Veritas and Lie-Nielsen. But then you're looking at $50-$75 per chisel, which is ridiculous.

I have a set of Stanley Bailey chisels that are okay. Sturdy handles, hold an edge, but don't get crazy sharp. They're good for beating out a mortise, but I would never use them for precision work. I have a few Narex chisels. One is worthless, the others are decent. I'd put them on par with Stanley. My Aldi chisels are a step above - the good ones, at least. I had to go through 3 sets to get the best chisels of each size, but they sharpen up to a high polish and despite being super cheap, are better than the Stanley and Narex in my opinion.

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