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6 of the Best Wood Chisels (Every Woodworker Should Own)

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wood chisel

When buying the best wood chisels in 2018 there are a number of issues to consider. Budget is one of course. Do you opt for the money saving method of buying a set, or slowly build your collection via individual tools.

There’s also the question of which type of wood chisel to buy.

The majority of woodworkers require a combination of bench chisels, (the work horse), paring chisels (for higher detailed work) and mortise chisels for mortising.

In our top 6 selection we have brought together 2 of the best in each category, along with full reviews of each. For more information, there’s also our comprehensive wood chisel buyer’s guide.


Top 6 Best Wood Chisels

PRODUCTNAMETYPEOUR RATING
TOP PICK BENCH
CHISELS: Stanley 16-791
750 Series (4pc set)
BENCH
Narex Premium
8pc Bench
Chisel Set
BENCH
TOP PICK PARING
CHISELS: Narex Premium
5pc Set
PARING
1/2" Robert Sorby
#241 Paring Chisel
PARING
TOP PICK MORTISE
CHISELS: Narex 3 pc set
MORTISE
MHG 3/16"
Mortise Chisel
MORTISE

Best Wood Chisel Buyer’s Guide

wood chisel buyers guide

Image Credit: Thegogreenblog

As part of the chisels review section we have incorporated a buyer’s guide to help you fully understand the different types of chisel available today, and what to look out for before you buy.

The fact is, it is very easy to forge ahead and waste time and dollars purchasing the wrong chisels. After you start using them you may find the quality isn’t up to what you expected, or that you have inadvertently bought chisel styles or sizes that you do not need.

This guide will hopefully help you avoid such issues.


Most Common Types of Wood Chisel

bench chisels

Image Credit: IBC Chisels

Bench Chisels

All good workshops should have a set of bench chisels. More specifically, if you are buying chisels for the first time you should opt for a bevel-edged set, (anything between 5 and 10 pcs is a good starting point).

Bench chisels are the most common type of chisel because they are so versatile. A wide range of woodworking projects can be completed with a good set of bench tools.

The fact they enjoy such widespread use is even evident in the name. They are called bench chisels because they will quite literally live on your bench. As a woodworker you will be using them all the time.

We recommend a bevel edged set because this type of chisel offers greater versatility. They also provide better results; the bevel edge (which means the chisel sides are tapered at an angle) allows the tool to fit into joints more easily.


Bench Chisel Reviews

TOP PICK: Stanley 16-791 Sweetheart 750 Series

The Stanley 16-791 Sweetheart 750 Series is our number one pick bench chisel set because they combine excellent design (with an extremely satisfying nod to the past) with superior build quality.

First of all, it is very difficult to go wrong with industry stalwarts Stanley; these guys have been providing skilled tradesman the tools they need to get the job one for over 170 years. The quality of their output has hardly faltered in all that time.

The same applies here. The chisel set opts for the Classic 750 series design (considered by many in woodworking circles to be the best Stanley wood chisel ever made).

Durability is the name of the game here, (the design comes from a time when tools were built to last forever), with the hornbeam handle being both strong and beautiful to look at in equal measures.

The handle is also comfortable to hold, while being very efficient at transferring energy through to the chisel tip when struck by a mallet. There’s also a wide butt end to help increase striking accuracy.

The 4 piece set opts for socket construction (longer lasting than tang chisels as they are not so prone to splitting), with a high carbon chrome steel with tapered bevel sides.

Ideal for expert or beginner, the Stanley 750 set is also easy to sharpen with edge retention to please even the most ardent skeptic of mass-produced tools.

The bevels on the side of the chisel are thinner than traditional edges, allowing the Stanley to work in tight corners, (these actually double up as paring chisels too).

So with both striking and paring jobs taken care of, this really is a versatile set of chisels to begin the collection with.

Manufactured in Sheffield, England this formidable set of chisels includes 1/4″, 1/2″, 3/4″, and 1″, sizes as well as authentic leather pouch that evokes the tools Woodsmiths would have used, generations past.


Pros of the Stanley 16-791 Sweetheart 750 Series Socket Chisel Set

  • Classic design based on one of Stanley’s greatest chisel series
  • Robust build quality that will last you years
  • Great to look at, with features such as the ultra thin bevel edges for greater accuracy
  • Well balanced hornbeam handle with wide butt end
  • Exactly the range of sizes you need for a top quality set of chisels

The Cons

  • Some users have experienced the need to sharpen the chisels upon arrival from the factory
  • A small minority have also experienced some manufacturing flaws

Bottom Line

The Stanley 16-791 Sweetheart 750 Series Socket Chisel Set really is one of the best on the market today. Well built with a classic design philosophy that really satisfies, beginner or experienced woodworkers will enjoy using these. Highly recommended.


Narex Premium 8 pc Chisels Set with Hornbeam Handles

If you have a little more money to spend and wish to get your chisel collection off to a bigger start, then you will not go wrong with this Narex Premium 8 pc set.

Narex is another manufacturer of quality tools that has garnered an excellent reputation within the industry, with much of their output considered to be of superior quality.

Originating from the Czech Republic, Narex chisels are now widely available all over the world. So what makes them so sought after?

Let’s take a closer look…

Each of the blades in this particular Narex set have been made from fine-grained, tempered chrome-manganese steel. In order to achieve maximum sharpness and edge retention, the guys over at Narex have gone as far to harden the steel to Rockwell Hardness 59.

This level of accuracy on the bevel (ground at a 25 degrees) is a firm favourite with wood smiths.

Like the Stanley 750s, Narex have opted for hornbeam handles (stained in this instance for even greater aesthetic finery), ensuring that each tool is sturdy and well balanced throughout.

Despite the fact the chisels incorporate a tang construction, the blades have been well seated and are fixed into the handles with brass ferrules. In short, these chisels will take a beating for the majority of woodworking tasks.

The Premium 8 piece set contains 6 (1/4″), 8 (5/16″), 10 (3/8″) 12 (1/2″), 16 (5/8″) 20 (11/16″) , 26 (1″ 1/16″) and 32 (1 1/4″) mm.

Narex (Made in Czech Republic) Premium 8 pc set 6 (1:4%22), 8 (5:16%22), 10 (3:8%22) 12 (1:2%22), 16 (5:8%22) 20 (11:16%22) , 26 (1%22 1:16%22), 32 (1 1:4%22) mm Chisels w: Hornbeam Handles


Pros of the Narex Premium 8 pc Chisel Set with Hornbeam Handles

  • Crafted from Narex, a small scale, yet highly regarded manufacturer based in the Czech Republic
  • Excellent versatility due to the fact this is an 8pc set
  • Superior build quality
  • Beautiful design with well balanced hornbeam handles

The Cons

  • It is difficult to fault this set of wood chisels. Barrier of entry could be high considering they are more expensive than other chisel sets available. You get what you pay for however.

Bottom Line

Narex have come up with an excellent wood chisel set here. The 8 pc selection will mean you will not need to buy any other chisels for some time to come. Design and build quality is right up there. If you’ve got the money, then you should definitely check these out.


Paring Chisels

When it comes to the fine paring of joints, the tool of choice is definitely the paring chisel.

Despite the fact a bevel edge chisel can carry out this job, the paring chisel offers greater finesse in this area, the result being smoother joints.

Paring knives are normally longer than a normal bevel (or non bevel) edge bench chisel. The greater length allows for added control when doing the detailed work.

The size of paring chisel you buy will depend on the type of project you are carrying out.

A 1-1/2″ paring chisel is a good for smaller projects such as model planes etc. Smaller sized paring chisels are also good for small tenons and dovetails on furniture.


Paring Chisel Reviews

TOP PICK: Narex Premium 5 Piece Set Paring Chisels

Another offering from Narex makes our top selection, this time in the paring wood chisel category.

Similar to the Narex chisels reviewed above, the blades here are made from fine-grained, tempered chrome-manganese steel (with that added addition of Rc 59 hardness).

Again, the blades have been accurately ground (incorporating a 25 degree bevel) with the manufacturers opting for a slimmer cross section for greater performance and accuracy.

Like all good paring chisels, the blades are long at 9 ½ inches long. The 5 piece set contains: 1/4″, 1/2″, 3/4′ 1″, and 1 ¼ inch sized chisels

Handles are stained super-hard European hornbeam, (needless to say they look the part) and have been well-seated using the aforementioned heavy steel tangs and brass ferrules.

Narex Premium 5 Piece Set Paring Chisels w: Hornbeam Handles 1:4%22. 1:2%22 3:4%22, 1%22, 1 1:4%22 Overall Length of 15.25%22


Pros of the Narex Premium 5 Piece Set Paring Chisels

  • Just look at the pictures, this is a beautiful set of paring chisels
  • Attention to detail – those Czech craftsman know what they are doing
  • Well built construction, with durable bevel edged blades
  • Nicely balanced super-hard hornbeam handles – you’ll be handing these down to your grandchildren.

The Cons

  • At the time of writing this Narex paring chisel set is the most expensive in our top 6 list
  • You will need to sharpen these on arrival from the factory.
  • When it comes to paring, some users may feel content with just one or two tools and will not require the use of a full set like this.

Bottom Line

If you are looking for a dedicated set of paring chisels, your search can very likely end here. This is a superior quality set of chisels that comes highly recommended.


1/2″ Robert Sorby #241 Paring Chisel

One of the cons we listed above with the full Narex 5 piece set is the fact you may not require various paring chisels for your workshop.

If the kind of work that you do needs a specific sized chisel, you may wish to purchase only that.

For this we recommend that you take a look at the output from UK based Robert Sorby. The company does a range of paring chisels that really do push the boundaries of quality craftsmanship.

Here we have opted for the ½ inch chisel, (with 9-1/2″ blades) however a look at the page on Amazon.com will reveal a number of options depending on your requirements.

The extra long blades are able to work with excellent degrees of accuracy taking shavings where other thicker chisels could not hope to perform.

This slender yet strong construction is what makes these chisels so damn good.

The 6″ boxwood handles feel great in the hand while offering that aesthetic finesse you come to expect from a tool of quality.

sorby241-2


Pros of the 1/2″ Robert Sorby #241 Paring Chisel

  • You can opt for exactly the size you need rather than being committed to buying a set
  • Ultra thin blades with extra length – these chisels can get into work areas beyond the scope of much of the competition
  • Well balanced and attractive handles

The Cons

  • Opting for just the one tool means you need to be sure you are getting the right one for you. (this may put of beginners)
  • Value for money is not as good compared to purchasing a full set

Bottom line

A superior crafted paring chisel with high performance attributes. If you are a seasoned woodworker looking for a specific chisel for the job, checking out the range from Robert Sorby is an undeniably good starting point.


Mortise Chisels

mortise chisels

Again the clue is in the name, mortise chisels are used to chop out mortise joints by hand; (as supposed to the increasingly popular mortise machines that do the job via a motor).

Because of the nature of the job they do, mortise chisels need to be tough. When buying one a set of these tools you should ensure that the build quality is up to the standard required.

A good comfortable handle is also a priority on a mortise chisel, depending on the size of mortise you are creating and the hardness of the wood, you may be exerting more than a little force when creating the cut.

Socket chisels rather than tang handles are also recommended, as the later tends to split more easily during the heavy-duty nature of mortise making. However build quality remains a factor in this.

Very often, the more money you invest into a good set of mortise chisels will pay dividends in the long run as premium quality tools will last you longer.

Mortise Chisel Reviews

TOP PICK: Narex 3 pc Mortise Chisel Set

Narex get our best wood chisel choice once again with this 3 piece set of mortise chisels.

The same robust build quality has been provided here, with the Czech base tool manufacturer prioritising attention to details above all else.

As we mentioned above, a good set of mortise chisels has to have the strength to carry our the task of mortising.

To ensure this, Narex have opted for a blade thickness that taper from 3/8″ at the tip to 1/2″ at the shoulder. This also provides excellent sidewall clearance.

As with the Narex chisel sets reviewed above, the blades in this 3 piece set are made from fine-grained, tempered chrome-manganese steel, (hardened to Rc 59.)

The selected sizes should please the majority of woodworkers, with 6 mm (1/4″), 10 mm (3/8″) and 12 mm (1/2″) chisels being included in the set.

Total blade length of each is 5 7/8 inches long, (and as per previous designs, ground at a 25 degree bevel).

In keeping with the Narex design philosophy, the stained beech wood handles really are lovely to look at, while also providing the firm grip that you need when beating out a large mortise.


Pros of the Narex 3pc Mortise Chisel Set

  • Superior build quality from Narex
  • Sturdy blades suited to the tougher task of creating mortise joints
  • Good firm grip with the beech handles
  • A trio selection to cover most mortising requirements

The Cons

  • Narex have opted for the tang construction that in our opinion is not as strong as the socket build
  • Some users may not require the range of sizes offered in the set

Bottom Line

Yet again Narex have manufactured a superior set of wood chisels that deserve the attention of both beginner and experienced woodworker alike. If you’re looking out for a new set of mortise chisels, you may well have found it with these.


MHG 3/16″ Mortise Chisel

To cover all bases with our wood chisel reviews, our alternative best wood chisel for mortising is this MHG 3/16 inch offering. If buying a set is not what you are after, this individual tool may be of more interest.

First off the build quality from the ever reliable MHG (Messerschmidt of Germany) is what many have come to expect from this superior tool manufacturer.

And that’s important. When you are buying a single chisel of a specific size, you want to know that you are getting value for money.

Here you can be reassured by the fact the German Chrome Vanadium steel is extremely durable, (especially when you consider it has been hardened to a formidable Rockwell hardness (Rc) of 61.)

Tough European hornbeam makes up the handle, and to ensure extra robustness, the chisel features steel reinforcement hoops at both top and bottom of the grip.

Quite uniquely MHG also cater specifically for the American market by providing chisels in true fractional sizes.


Pros of the MHG 3/16″ Mortise Chisel

  • Extremely hard and durable steel construction – exactly what you need from a mortise chisel.
  • The large handle has been prioritised for strength too, with steel reinforcement hoops.
  • The one size means you are not spending money on the superfluous chisels that might be provided in a set
  • Great value for money

The Cons

  • On the flip side, some woodsmiths may require the range that is offered within a mortise chisel set such as the 3 piece Narex.

Bottom Line

A fantastic mortise chisel at a great price. If a 3/16 inch tool meets your needs and you have no need for a set, this robust tool could certainly be a good option. Well worth a look.


Best Wood Chisels: Socket vs. Tang

The majority of chisels western buyers can get their hands on (both vintage and brand new) come in either “socket” or “tang” style.

Let’s take a closer look at what that actually means:

Socket Chisels

socket chisels

Image Credit: Woodworking Talk

Socket chisels are built to sit on top of the handles cone. This design is actually slightly more difficult to craft than tang style chisels. The result being they generally last longer and are more durable.

Tang Chisels

tang chisels

Image Credit: Wonkeedonkeetools

Tang style chisels sit inside the handle’s mortise. While being easier to craft (and simpler to manufacture), the trade off lies in the fact the tang can split the handle when too much force is used.

Related: How to use a wood chisel


Wood or Plastic Handles?

Chisel Handles

This one is down to personal preference rather than anything else. From an aesthetic point of view wooden handled chisels often look better. Fans also state that the balance on a wooden handled chisel is superior to that of the plastic handled counterpart in that the latter is often a little top heavy.

However, for the budget-conscious buyer the chisels that opt for plastic handles are often cheaper to buy.

Related: Choosing The Best Scroll Saw Blades For The Job

Images: Wood Designer, Paragon Code, Woodworking Talk, Wonkee Donkee Tools, The Go Green Blog