Narex Classic Bevel-Edge Chisels and the Narex Premium Bench Chisel

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  • #24498
    John Purser
    Participant

    Recently I bought a set of Narex “Classic” bevel edge chisels (1 1/4″ – 2″) from Lee Valley (who I believe is the only distributor) and the 6 chisel set (6mm – 26mm) of “Premium Bench Chisels” from Highland Hardware. Here are some things I observed about both models. This is NOT a “review” or evaluation of the chisels. Just some comments about the two lines of chisels.

    These two lines advertise the same steel, the same hardness, and the same blade profile. When I was flattening them I didn’t see a difference in how flat they were to begin with. Both begin with 25 degree bevels. Both come with a layer of some sort of lacquer or other coating on the steel. I wanted to get that off before using my stones on them and found it wasn’t easy to remove. This stuff appears to be impervious to turpentine and acetone. You’ll know you’ve got it all off when the size marking on the top of the chisel are gone. NOT a handy feature by the way. Both lines also come with a blade protector that stretches the full length of the blade. I like the fact that these protectors are MUCH harder to lose.

    The Classic model, which I believe is available only from Lee Valley, comes with the extra metal hoop at the top of the wooden handle. Paul has commented that this feature has no real use in protecting the handle on a bevel chisel. I found that it does change the balance. These chisels also have a flat spot on top and bottom of the handle to prevent rolling. These are true imperial measurements, not the closest available metric size.

    The “premium” line (8116) of chisels has a round handle, no top hoop of steel, the new blade profile, and appear to be the successors to the standard bevel edge Narex Chisels. I’ve run into a few references that say the older Narex bevel chisels, with the unstained handles and reinforcing upper steel loop and the older blade profile, are discontinued. The handles for the Premium chisels are somewhat scaled to the width of the chisel so the 6mm chisel will have a slightly but noticeably smaller handle than the 26mm one. This line of chisels is metric.

    My Classic chisels have a coarser final finish on the steel than the Premium line. On the Premium chisels 0000 fine steel wool stripped the finish with a little time and elbow grease leaving a mirror finish on the steel. The rougher finish on the Classic chisels caused a problem. Instead of stripping the finish off the steel wool just scratched the finish turning the blades an unsightly milky white. I finally resorted to “Zap” to dissolve the finish out of the grooves in the steel. The attached picture is the best I could do of capturing the rougher finish.

    I personally prefer the shape of the Premium chisel handles. The Classic ones would be fine if I always held the chisel the same way. In a few positions the flat spots feel right but in others it feels awkward. The round handles on the Classic line do roll when laid down in the smaller sizes but fit my hand more naturally no matter how I want to hold the chisel. I do wish the Premium line came in English sizes but I don’t expect that to be a big deal. I also wish the sizes of the chisels didn’t come off with the protective coat on the blades. For me that’s a real annoyance. I’m going to have to mark them to avoid spending time trying to figure out if the one I’m holding is the one I want.

    As I said in the beginning this isn’t a “review”. I don’t have the experience to tell you how good or bad they are or whether or not they’re right for you. But if like me you’ve seen both lines and wondered what the difference was between them I hope this helps.

    John

    John Purser
    Hubert, NC

    #24501
    Steve Follis
    Participant

    Thanks John, I have the original set from Highland Woodworking, and the premium set, I like and use them both. I also bought the new paring chisel set from Lee Valley, they are really big, but I have not used them yet.

    Memphis, Tennessee

    #24502
    John Purser
    Participant

    I’d like to hear your thoughts on the paring chisels some time Steve. I don’t need a set right now but they got me looking.

    John Purser
    Hubert, NC

    #24518
    Greg Merritt
    Participant

    Nice write up John. I have the classic set. Two years ago the wife’s side of the family gave me just about every size available. Anyway, I removed the hoops, cut off the knobs and reshaped the handles. I have no complaints with these chisels. Like others I will dream of a set of LN socket chisels but don’t need them…the Narex chisels serve me just fine.

    http://hillbillydaiku.com

    #24523

    @Greg: I would stop dreaming about the LN chisels. I have 7 of them (including the skewed ones) but I just don’t reach for them that often. The handles are pretty small and they keep coming off. Even after using the hairspray method. I find them unsuited for chopping mortices and honestly only suited for fine paring. Just my 2 cents.

    #24524
    Juan-M
    Participant

    I like your revised handles! I just might do that to my LV Narex set in the future.

    Regarding the rough finish on the classics, I actually spent some time with fine sandpaper (1500g) and a green scotch-bright pad to sort of “age” the feel of the chisel. I got tired of the sharp edges and machined looks. I got most of the machine marks off all the sides (maybe not as much from the back). I finished with 0000 steel wool and Simichrome metal polish, which restored much of the shine. I like how they feel now, and no harm done really.

    Also, it took me a ridiculous amount of work to get the coating off! I finally had to buy lacquer thinner and soak-n-scrub the blades (like 3 or 4 times) until it all came off.

    #24526
    norm lafond
    Participant

    Thanks for posting your remarks about Narex chisels. I have purchased several of their chisels from highland hardware: mortise chisels, premium, and the standard bench chisels. I have been looking at the new “Classic” chisels at leevalley but I was unsure about what distinguished them from the Premiums. And I also wanted to know if they were true English measure and not metric. You answered both questions for me, Thanks.

    As for removing the varnish from the blades; I eventually used Citristrip and it came right off on a rag. Unfortunately, so does the size labeling. But you wont have to grind, rub or sand to get to that point.

    Someone mentioned the paring chisels. I might suggest that you look into Buck Bros.. These are made in Mass. USA They come in a wide range of sizes, starting with 1/4 inch up to 2 inches. And they also have a crook necked version of the entire line. You can get them online from diefenbacher.com, jamestowndistributors.com and craftsman studio. You can get the complete line from james town. I have them and they work very well and they are priced below the Narex chisels.

    #24532
    John Purser
    Participant

    Merry Christmas Norm!

    Thanks for the word on Citristrip. I’m happy to find a safer alternative. I used something called “ZAR Finish Remover” after the owner of the local hardware store couldn’t get anything else to remove that finish from the blades. She also made me promise to wear gloves when handling the stuff. I really don’t like using anything that comes with that many warnings AND instructs you to inform the local authorities before attemtping to dispose of it. Scary.

    I agree with you on the vanishing size labeling. What a pain!

    Thanks for the information on Buck Chisels. I had one still in the wrapper when I started down this road but it came from Home Depot and I didn’t expect much from it. Somewhat rough finish and way over built IMHO. But one day I sharpened it up, mostly to get practice without assaulting my “good” chisels, and it became my utility chisel. And it’s holding up well. Not pretty but it works well. I’ll look at the rest of their line. Good to know they aren’t a Home Depot captured brand.

    John Purser
    Hubert, NC

    #24534
    John Purser
    Participant

    Merry Christmas Juan,

    I bow to someone WAY more committed to tool care than I am! At least at this point. I’m begrudging the effort to flatten the backs before I can sharpen then and GO!

    Respect!

    John

    John Purser
    Hubert, NC

    #24535
    John Purser
    Participant

    Merry Christmas Greg,

    I would keep those in-laws if I were you. That or get a REALLY good price for them on Ebay.

    John

    John Purser
    Hubert, NC

    #24543
    Greg Merritt
    Participant

    Thanks for the info Michael. It’s good to here the input from folks that have used them.
    Juan, I find the chisels much more comfortable to use after I reshaped the handles. Never regretted doing it.

    http://hillbillydaiku.com

    #24544
    STEVE MASSIE
    Participant

    Greg your chisels look really nice with your new handles. I have a couple that I bought from Highland Woodworking when I lived in Atlanta. I use them frequently but I really like my vintage Marples and Weatherby’s also.

    Hopefully this year I can learn to turn better, I have a Shopsmith but haven’t done much turning.

    Steve

    Steve Massie, I live in the great State of Florida, US

    #24545
    Greg Merritt
    Participant

    Steve…same handles, just reshaped with a spokeshave.

    http://hillbillydaiku.com

    #24552
    Mark Armstrong
    Participant

    John I don’t understand why you had to remove lacquer from top side of chisel with lettering on them. The lacquer would have protected from rust and you would still see lettering and would have had no effect with sharpening.
    The time spent on doing top side could have been spent on flattening backs.
    Just my two penny’s worth.
    Now that you have gone to those extremes I hope you enjoy your chisels.
    I have the 8116 black handled chisels very fine chisels indeed.

    Dagenham, Essex, England

    #24553
    John Purser
    Participant

    Mark,

    After I saw the problem on the first chisel my first thought was to leave the top lacquer on the rest. However I quickly found the lacquer collected smudges and marks but couldn’t be wiped clean. It made the chisels look dirty. So I shrugged and stripped them bare.

    John

    John Purser
    Hubert, NC

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