Chisel blades consist of a top-quality high-carbon chrome steel that will last. 4 different chisel widths included, ranging from 0.25" to 1". Blades are thinner and longer than average, which works well for precise woodworking needs. Handles are a great shape with a sturdy wood design. Features tried-and-true design.
Higher price than some other chisel sets. Not as durable as older Stanley chisel sets.
Offers chrome vanadium steel alloy blades that should last a long time. Works well for basic jobs around the house. 6 chisels, honing guide, and sharpening stone – a complete kit at a great price. Blades range from 0.25" to 1.5" wide.
Chisels won't stand up well to heavy-duty use. May need sharpening out of the box.
Quality of wooden handles is very good. Chrome manganese steel in the chisel blades will last a long time. Uses a 25° bevel. Includes 4 distinct sizes of tools, ranging in blade width from 0.25" to 1.04". Made by a small European tool manufacturer that receives high marks for build quality.
Steel may not be hard enough to precisely hold edge under high-stress jobs.
Excellent-quality blades that feature a carbon-chrome steel construction. Tend to hold a sharp edge for a longer period than others. Blade widths range from 0.25" to 1.25". Handles are extremely comfortable to use for long periods of time, and look great. 5 chisels ship in a leather pouch for safe storage.
Price is higher than some other chisel sets. Some tools may arrive with loose parts.
3 chisels included in set with most commonly used sizes of 0.5", 0.75", and 1" wide. Hardened steel blades tend to hold edge even after repeated use. Handles with sturdy grips are comfortable to use. Chisels ship in a small pouch that makes the tools easy to carry in a pocket or tool belt.
Lacks the versatility of some chisel sets with more tools. Won't fit in tight spaces.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
A good set of chisels is an absolute must for both amateur and professional woodworkers. The DIY enthusiast will also find them invaluable for dozens of jobs around the home and yard.
People looking to buy a set of chisels have a huge choice, from economical models for the home user and contractor to specialist tools for makers of fine furniture. You might not think there is much to consider – after all, a chisel is just a handle and a blade – but there are a number of options that impact tool quality and price.
BestReviews has been researching the market so we can offer practical advice, whatever your needs. Our top recommendations cover the most common types of woodworking chisel, offering both high quality and excellent economy. For those interested in more detail about the design and manufacture of chisels and what makes some better than others, we've put together the following chisel set buyer's guide.
Bench chisels are the most common type, the chisel pretty much everyone recognizes. These have beveled edges on three sides and can handle just about every woodworking job you'll ever need to do. The other chisels described below might do the job more quickly and easily, but you can make do with a bench chisel.
Firmer (rectangular) chisels are a type of bench chisel and share the same blade shape. However, while a “standard” bench chisel is a hand tool, a firmer chisel is designed to be used with a mallet. As a result, this chisel usually has a handle with a flatter end for striking and a steel band to prevent the wooden handle from splitting. In practice, the name “firmer” isn't widely used.
Paring chisels are also much like bench chisels in overall design, but these have thinner blades and are often longer. Paring chisels are designed for taking fine cuts by hand, such as when tidying up decorative joints after most of the work has been done with a more robust chisel.
Mortise chisels only cut on the front edge. The sides are flat and they are much thicker than bench chisels. These are made for heavy-duty use (usually with a mallet) to remove material quickly when creating mortise-and-tenon joints. A bench chisel can cut this kind of joint, but if you're doing it a lot, you'll thank yourself for investing in a set of these.
Japanese chisels can perform any of the tasks of the tools above but are made differently. Whereas “Western” chisels are made from a single piece of steel, Japanese tools are made from multiple layers beaten together under extreme pressure. As a result, these chisels are a bit like a highly compressed stack of chisel blades. They reveal dozens of micro-fine edges when sharpened and tend to keep their edge longer. However, making them is very labor intensive, which is reflected in the price. These are beautiful but very expensive tools.
Carving chisels are a subject unto themselves, with literally hundreds of blade shapes and sizes.
Wood: For some woodworkers, there's no substitute for the feel and balance of a nice wooden-handled tool. Generally, the handle is made of a close-grained wood like hornbeam or boxwood. In Europe, beech is popular (and relatively low cost). Japanese tools often use red oak, which is quite different than the homegrown variety. Hand tools should have a nice rounded end that fits snugly in the palm. Those designed to be used with a mallet have a flatter end and should have a steel band near the end to help prevent splitting. You never hit a wooden-handled chisel with a steel hammer.
The downside of wooden handles is their lack of durability. A protective coat of varnish can only last so long. Those struck repeatedly with a mallet will eventually split. If properly looked after, a wooden-handled mallet can last many years, but eventually it will have to be replaced.
Plastic and composite: Modern polypropylene (plastic) and composite handles don't have the luster of wood, but impact-resistant models are practically indestructible. You can hit them with a hammer all day and the only thing that will show signs of wear is your arm!
You do need to be careful, though. Some cheap chisels have plain plastic handles that look appealing but can be fragile. They’re prone to shattering under heavy use. Check the description and materials. Avoid the problem by buying quality tools.
Chisel blades are invariably made of tool steel or steel alloy, but that description doesn't really tell you anything.
Molybdenum steel is used for many tools. It's hard and has a degree of shock resistance that's good for wrenches, for example, but it's not very good for edge tools. Some cheap chisels have molybdenum steel blades. We wouldn't recommend them.
Vanadium (or chrome vanadium) steel is a popular material for chisel blades. It's hard, so it takes a good edge, it's modestly priced, and the addition of chrome prevents rust. It's probably the most popular steel for chisel blades.
Manganese steel (Hadfield steel or mangalloy) isn't common, but it does have very low wear rates and can be made very hard. As a result, chisels made from it can be very sharp. It's also used in the production of modern Samurai swords.
Carbon steel is used in many high-end chisel sets, but it's an area where care is needed. There are many grades of this material, so just calling it “carbon steel” can be misleading. It's important that it's of sufficient hardness. Look for high-carbon steel or, better yet, a number that indicates hardness (there are a variety of scales and all can be checked online). High-quality high-carbon steel is, in our opinion, the best material for creating and maintaining a sharp edge.
As with vanadium steel, chrome is sometimes added to high-carbon steel to prevent rust. This isn’t the same as high-tensile steel, which has other properties.
There are some very cheap chisel sets available – under $10 for a set of four – but you need to be very cautious. The steel on some is so soft that you can bend the blades with your hands! A tool like that just won't keep a sharp edge.
That said, we've also seen good-quality tools for similar money, so how do you tell the difference? For us it's all about the brand. If you don't recognize the maker, we'd pass. If they're made by trusted names like Stanley, Irwin, or Narex, for example, then great, you can save yourself a few dollars.
In general, a mid-range set of three or four woodworking chisels for general-purpose use will cost somewhere between $25 and $40. Again, stick with a known brand and you can't go wrong. You'll find some entry-level carving chisel sets in this price bracket, too, but beware of large sets that seem very cheap. The quality may not be what you hope for, and the ability to retain an edge is particularly important when you're carving by hand.
High-quality bench chisels cost about $20 to $50 each. You can get a very good set of four that will last many years for around $90 to $100, but you could easily pay twice that. Japanese chisels also fall into the latter category.
Always work away from your body. Think about where you’re putting your hands. Never hold a piece of wood in front of the chisel or rest your free hand there. If you slip – and it's easy to do – you'll give yourself a nasty injury.
Always wear safety glasses. Wood chips and splinters are hazards that shouldn't be ignored.
Keep your chisels sharp. A blunt chisel is not only inefficient, it's hard to control and so more likely to cause an accident. Even a blunt chisel is still perfectly capable of slicing through your skin.
Q. Is it better to use a rubber or wooden mallet with my chisels?
A. Woodworkers love a debate – and this is a popular subject! In our opinion, you should always use a wooden mallet on wooden-handled chisels. You get better “feel” and thus more control. The same is true when using a wooden mallet on plastic-handled chisels.
That said, a rubber mallet is usually heavier and so can impart more force. If you're chopping a big hole in a piece of lumber with a 1.5-inch chisel and you just want “quick and dirty” results, a rubber mallet has its place. Rubber mallets are often a lot cheaper, too. Bottom line? Wood on wooden handles; either on plastic handles.
Q. What is the correct angle to sharpen a chisel?
A. The simple answer is to mimic the angle provided by the manufacturer. That's 25° for most general-purpose woodworking chisels. Many craftspeople will sharpen most of the chisel at this angle but hone the very edge to 30°, which keeps it sharper longer, though not everyone agrees that the extra effort is worth it.
Q. Is it a good idea to use a strop and honing paste?
A. A leather strop is similar to what barbers use to sharpen straight razors and, in combination with honing paste, allows you to put just as keen an edge on a chisel. If you're doing highly detailed hand work, it's a skill well worth acquiring. It does take a while to master, though, and it's not really necessary for general carpentry.
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