Suggestions for decent beginner chisels?

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    I’m about half way through my workbench, and the mortice holes have absolutely destroyed my 1/2″ bevel edge chisel.  They are a fairly cheap set of chisels which were obviously not meant to take this kind of pounding*.  Can anyone make a recommendation for a good set of bevel edge chisels for a rank newbie?  I’ve not got much to spend, and I really wouldn’t know quality low end products if they slapped me in the face.

    Any guidance (within the rules of this forum) would be appreciated!  I’m sure I’ll have more questions for this area.  I’m very new, and working on a VERY tight budget.


    * – I was very careful, as Paul suggests to not lever too much material at any one time.  The handles are just poorly made and the chisels don’t seem to hold an edge well to begin with.

    Nathan Wertman (Grand Junction, CO, USA, 81507)

    “But ‘it will do’ is a very bad maxim, especially for a person learning a business; the right principle is to ask oneself, ‘is it as good as it can be made?’ or, at least, ‘is it as good as I can make it?’” - The Joiner and Cabinet Maker

    Greg Merritt

    If your in the USA you can’t go wrong with Narex chisels.  They are what I use and I have had no problems with them.  You can get a boxed set at Highland.  I’ve used them to chop the mortises for my bench and to chop mortises thru white oak to build my saw vise.

    Gary Hodgin

    I have a set of older Blue Chip Marples, but I’ve heard the newer ones are quite the same in terms of quality. I don’t know about that but I use the Blue Chips most of the time. I also have a set of Asley Isles roundback dovetail chisels that I use mostly for paring. I’ve used my 3/8″ Sorby or 1/4″ Iyoroi mortise chisels for mortises, but I’m going to give the Blue Chips a go next time using Paul’s method.

    As mentioned above, it seems the Narex’s sold by Highland Woodworking and Lee Valley are considered the top dogs in lower priced chisels. Narex also sells mortise chisels.


    Narex Chisels are available in UK . Not sure of distributor. I got mine at Burhouse 2,  Dunkeld, Perthshire 01350  727273


    Apologies. Correction to last response: Phone is 01350 727723


    Also available here in the UK……….

    Remember there are two types the 8105 bevel edged chisels and the 8116 cabinetmakers chisels 


    Hi Nate,

    I’m in a similar situation as yourself, picking up hand tools again after 20 years and and I didn’t want to spend an arm or a leg. 🙂

    For both cost and newbie reasons I got the Harbor Freight chisels ( Yes, they are not the top of the line by any stretch, but they have done the job for me. My reasoning was I was looking for something similar to the aldi chisels that Paul refers to (, but I think they are only in UK. I didn’t want to spend too much on my first set that I was going to learn to sharpen on etc.

    They worked great in the pine for the workbench. I have also cut some mortises in oak with them. In oak I had to resharpen after every 3 – 4 mortise (more practice for me 🙂 )

    I think you have to spend more time upfront on these cheap chisels to flatten the back and get good edge, but it a great learning experience. When I feel that my skills are good I will then move up to the Narex chisels.


    Dallas, Texas


    For chopping I would get Narex, just get the size you need to start. For paring I would get Shopfox.  The blades are longer on the Shopfox and so are the handles, so the can reach farther. The harbor freight chisels with the wooden handles are pretty soft. I can bend the ones I have with my hands.  I agree that they are really great for sharpening practice has they dull quickly and sharpen easily.

    Robin HC


    Robin ... Richmond, Virginia, USA


    Hi I recommend the Ashley Iles chisels, the bubinga handle model, but unlike our colleague Ken Haygarth I recommend along cabinetmaker chisels and you can use them with the mallet and are also good to peel you all measures available, I buy the team of 11 that come in a sleeve and the truth, and use the gavel to strip and I’m very happy for a price of about $ 300 you chisels for life.

    see a photo.


    Well, I can’t see where I recommended any chisels in this thread. you could not chop mortices like Paul dose, with the Ashley Iles cabinetmakers chisels, the blades are far to thin 



    The Mk2 bevel edged chisels from Ashley Iles have all of the qualities that define good English cabinetmakers chisels. Because Ashley Iles chisels are individually hand ground they are not subject to the limitations of mechanised chisel manufacture. They have light, very thin blades that taper to almost nothing on the sides but are still plenty strong enough for gentle tapping with a mallet. The backs are ground a few thou concave, so although they are well within the flatness tolerances required for fine joinery chisels, they are a doddle to prepare and maintain.


    Hi Ken:


    I have the mk2 chisels for joiner and use it with the harness and I have no problem and the truth is that it is a very versatile since the models are for peeling long without problems and you can hit without problems but obviously if you use mainly for roughing, recommend the shorts.


    Nathan had 2 parameters; decent quality on a tight budget. Narex is the one that fits both. A set of 4 is around $40 US from Lee valley. They hold an edge well and feel good in my hand.

    I saw Paul using them at one of the shows in the US. After his demo, we talked about them,, then I went to the LV both and bought them. I also got a 1/4″ mortiser and a pair of ske ws.

    I’m very happy with them and they were easy on the wallet. $300is way out of line for set to learn on with a right budget.

    Cleveland, Ohio U.S.A.

    George Bridgeman

    I used Narex 8116 chisels when I made my bench and they worked a charm. My rubbish mallet came off much, much worse! The chisels are easy to sharpen and hold an edge very well considering the cost – they’re fantastic value.


    "To know and not do is to not know"

    Eddy Flynn

    thanks for that link Ken they are £8 cheaper @workshopheaven than Ebay for a set of six

    Eddy .. Liverpool, Merseyside, UK


    Narex is the one I continually have read great things about for value. If I did not already have a pile of vintage chisels, I would definitely buy the Narex if I was on a budget.

    Please note that Lee Valley contracts Narex to grind their chisels to imperial widths, while elsewhere the Narex are available in metric.

    The Narex mortice chisels are also a great price.


    -Scott Los Angeles

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