My lands! You shouldn’t buy just any chisels
If the flats on the sides of your chisels are too wide, you may have wasted your money.
I don’t want to be prescriptive on my tool list – and I’m not going to publicly share bad comments about a particular brand of chisels. But I will share bad comments about a critical thing that is wrong with most cheap chisels (and some that are not so cheap): bad lands. The “lands” are the flats on the sides that intersect with the back (see above). If the lands are too wide, you can’t get the chisel into an acute corner, as is needed when cleaning out dovetail waste on a tail board. (And yes, you can grind them … but no one new to woodworking should be expected to modify tools before their first class!)
Even premium chisels have small lands (the edges would be too sharp to hold if they didn’t; it would be like gripping the business end), so you’ll still leave a small bruise when getting the tool all the way into the corner – but much less of one than a chisel with huge tracts of land would cause.
But what saddens me the most about these cheap chisel sets is that they’re not actually that cheap. The worst, and least-expensive, set used in one of my recent classes costs $76 from a large online retailer. The other set that saddened me lists at $115. But we needed only two of the chisels (and could have gotten away with just one) for this class – I rarely use more than two chisels in all my dovetailing. And for less than $115, the owner of that set could have bought the two premium chisels he needed from Lie-Nielsen, and for just a bit more, the two PMV-11 ones from Lee Valley. (Well…maybe not right now, because supply chains are causing lots of problems – but were it me, I’d save my money and wait until the good stuff is available.)
There are lots of other problems I’ve found with cheap chisels, but the lands are an easily identifiable red flag to even the newbie user.
It wasn’t a big deal for this class – we have plenty of good chisels to lend. But I felt bad that my tool list led anyone to make what I feel is a bad purchase. I think it might be time to stop being circumspect, and if not tell people what to buy, tell them what not to. So before committing to new chisels, look for less real estate on the edges.
An (almost) foolproof method for hand-cut dadoes
Time-Tested Finishes that Just Work
Grind and get back to work – fast
On a few new chisels, the sides were sharp enough to cut my fingers when using. I had to run a few strokes from a fine stone to soften the edges.
It's a lot better problem to have than giant lands, or those expensive chisels that have been really rounded over on a buffing wheel.
Here is a link to a method (I'd like to call it my idea, but we all know it is likely that someone else invented it sometime ago) ...
This will create perfect dovetail chisels from mediocre chisels with high lands. All you need is a belt sander, or similar, and about 60 seconds.
Regards from Perth
FYI, the Narex Richter Extra Bevel Edge chisels have a fine be bevel edge, as the name implies. The backs are flat out of the box. $252 for the boxed set of five on Amazon. The Narex standard six piece set for $134 on Amazon have thick bevel edges. I own both, and also a set of Sorby butts, which have bevel edges thinner than the Narex standards. Four piece set is $130 on Amazon. But you wouldn't use butt chisels for dovetails anyway. Three LN bevel edge chisels, dovetail sizes, would run $180 if they were available, which they are not. I have three LN mortise chisels and they are fine tools but I can't speak for the LN bevel edged. If I were on the market for a quality set of bevel edge chisels with fine bevel edges, presently available, I would seriously consider the Narex Richters.
The leather "shock absorbing washers" just rub me the wrong way. Total marketing malarkey.
Maybe so, but the bonus supply of Urquell made up for it.
LOL! "We're here for the beer", eh?
Megan, You've overlooked a couple of points re chisels. Firmer chisels, with the lands that you dislike are good for any job except for removal of material in sharp corners like dovetails that you've mentioned, and for many jobs they do just as well as bevel sided chisels. I built a whole set of house frames with a firmer (square edge 1.5") chisel, housing the studs, noggings and braces. And of course you can cut much better mortices with a mortice chisel, that has wider lands than cutting width than any bevel sided chisel. A premium chisel maker in UK, Robert Sorby makes high quality firmer chisels, along with other types -- and they're not cheap!
I took classes from Lonnie Bird. He uses Stanley 750 chisels and grinds the first two inches of the chisel at a more acute angle that has no flat at all. Haven't had the guts to do it with my Lie-Nielsen chisels, but I think I will. Someday. Maybe.
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