Bench Chisel Buying Guide
As an experienced woodworker, I know that the right bench chisel can make all the difference. As you work on varying projects, you will find yourself relying on bench chisels to do everything from joinery to trimming and pairing. That’s why it’s essential to choose the right tools to keep on your workbench.
Chisels are not created equally. With the right tool and plenty of practice, you can become a much better woodworker than myself. People could be lining up to see your latest creation, but it all starts with a perfect bench chisel. Below, I’ll guide you through the many considerations to make before making a purchase.
Bench Chisel Reviews
Let’s talk about some popular bench chisel options. Remember that I’m just a fellow woodworking enthusiast with an opinion. So, if your gut tells you something different from what my review says, go with your instincts. This is just my opinion, after all.
Narex Czech Steel Premium 8-Piece Set
Narex is one of the most well-known names in the woodworking world. You can get an 8-piece set of these for a great price. This set is an excellent option for anyone who is just getting into woodworking.
This set is made in a small factory in the Czech Republic, and the brand ensures high-quality on every product. Narex uses chrome-manganese steel that has a hardness rating of 59. These Western-style chisels have a 25-degree angle and come in the following sizes: 1/8”, 1/4”, 3/8”, 1/2”, 5/8”, 3/4”, 7/8”, and 1”.
- Many different sizes
- Great price
- Wood handles
- Great quality
- Lower-than-average hardness rating
- Need to be sharpened when you get them
- Tang chisels
Two Cherries 500-1561 6-Piece Set
Two Cherries is one of those brands that is known for its high quality. Woodworkers know that these chisels hold their edges well. This 6-piece set comes in a beautiful wooden box with chisels in the following sizes: 6mm, 10mm, 12mm, 16mm, 20mm, and 26mm.
Two Cherries makes each of these blades to get a 61-degree hardness rating. That’s standard for Western tools and perfect for working with all types of wood. The handles are hornbeam, which feels great to use.
The Two Cherries factory that produces these chisels is in Remscheid, Germany. That means you get famous German engineering. Maybe that’s why some reviewers said they could shave arm hair with the blades right out of the new box.
- Sharp out of the box
- Great hardness rating
- Wood handles
- Wood Sharpen less often than some
- Only six pieces
Narex is a well known brand that constantly delivers chisels of high quality. This is a great kit to have in your shop if you are working with the imperial scale. They cover the most common sizes that you need.
The edge is a 25 degree bevel that holds an edge very good and is perfect for introducing a micro bevel.
Handles are made of a very hard natural Hornbeam wood that is turned to form a very nice grip, but be careful the small ones can roll away from you. Blades are with a solid tang that is held in place with a large brass ferrule, so this chisel can take a lot of abuse.
- Sensible imperial increments
- Well made and can take al lot of abuse
- Machined at a low angle
- Good quality wood for handles
- Small ones have a tendency to roll
- Do not buy if you're working in metric
Sukemaru HSS Bench Chisel Set 10-piece
Master Blacksmith Yoshio Usui is the mastermind behind this set of chisels. He began by shadowing his father and making tools one at a time in 1962. Even now, he works alone to craft perfect woodworking tools.
The difference is the high-speed steel (HSS) he uses. This steel stays sharp for an incredibly long time, which makes this ten-piece set a great buy. It has chisels in the following sizes: 3mm, 6mm, 9mm, 12mm, 15mm, 18mm, 24mm, 30mm, 36mm, and 42mm.
- Unique HSS steel
- Hand crafted by a Master Blacksmith
- Stays sharp for a long time
- Beautiful ebony handles
- Made to last a lifetime and then some
- On the expensive side
Tasai Wakizashi Migaki Chisel
In the previous reviews, I looked at chisel sets because they are helpful for those building a collection. However, this 27mm chisel is unique enough that it deserved a review of its own. Mr. Tasai is another master craftsman who hand-forges these tools.
The Yasuki blue steel in this chisel makes it great for working with softwood as well as North American hardwoods. That’s somewhat rare for a Japanese chisel. This tool has a hardness rating of up to 66, which is well above standard.
Mr. Tasai uses durable Japanese White Oak on the handle so that your chisel can retake a beating time and time again. This tool also comes with a genuine leather scabbard.
- Expertly crafted
- Great for hard and soft wood
- Beautiful craftsmanship
- Durable handle
- Lasts a lifetime and then some
- May be too pricey for some users
- The size isn’t right for all jobs
All About the Handles
Your new bench chisels will be in your hands a lot, so it’s vital that they feel good to hold. While there are many styles and weights of handles, we can break them down into two categories: wood and plastic.
If you like working with wood, it seems apparent that you would want wooden handles on your tools. Usually, the wood handles give a better counterbalance to the chisel and just feels better in your hands. It’s hard to say precisely why, but wood-handled bench chisels just feel pleasant to use.
Just because I prefer wood handles doesn’t mean you can’t use their plastic counterparts. After all, my personal preference on handles isn’t the end-all, be-all. If you are budget conscious, plastic handles can be an excellent option for you because they are usually cheaper. Also, if you’re just getting started and not ready to commit to high-priced wooden handles, you can get going with a little plastic. Once you fall in love with this craft, you can upgrade.
Woodworking is about craftsmanship. As such, how your tools are made is essential. There are two basic types of bench chisel construction: Japanese and Western. Many woodworking enthusiasts just use the style that the person who taught them used. However, it can be worthwhile to consider each form before you decide.
The first thing to note is that there is no wrong answer here. Western and Japanese bench chisels can be great. It all depends on what you prefer and what type of woodworking you want to do.
The steel used in Japanese-style chisels is typically a bit harder than what you find in Western tools. Furthermore, Japanese manufacturers put the chisels through a forge-welding process that makes the incredibly sharp edges last a long time.
Remember, there’s no such thing as the one perfect chisel. There are some drawbacks to the Japanese style. The tough steel that is evenly spread can cause the chisel to be brittle. You have to treat these tools with care.
For beginners, Japanese chisels can be better for softwoods. Once you get the hang of how to use these specialized tools, you can start to use them with harder woods effectively.
Socket vs. Tang Construction
We’ve covered the differences in handles and the steel in chisels, but what about how they come together? That’s right; there are many ways for handles to meet the chisel itself. Namely, you can choose between socket and tang tools.
In this type of chisel, the handle fits inside a socket in the chisel. Generally, socket chisels can last longer than their tang counterparts. Their design allows them to take a beating without breaking, so you can hit as hard as you need to.
These chisels fit into the handle. It’s the exact reverse of the socket chisel. When it’s time to choose a pairing chisel, a tang-style can be okay, since you won’t hit it with a mallet anyway. However, tang bench chisels can be challenging to work with and can split the wood.
In addition to the construction and handle, there are a few other things to keep an eye out for. First, consider the reputation of the brand. Some brands are known for making incredible tools that you may be able to pass down for generations. Others are known for making cheaper introductory tools.
Next, you want to think about how much maintenance the tool will take. Will you need to sharpen it all the time? If so, you may want to choose a different model. If you spend all your free time honing your tools, when will you actually make something?
You also want to think about the sizes you will need. The answer depends entirely on the project you’re doing. If you’re just starting out, you may want to get a whole set of chisels to get you going.
Which Bench Chisel Would I Pick?
With 10 years of experience, I have quite a few bench chisels sitting around in my workshop. However, if I were starting fresh today, I would get the Sukemaru 10-piece set. These chisels will last longer than my hands will allow me to do this. The dependability provided by this set makes the price tag worth it for me.
Plus, this set is just right for both hard and softwood projects. Knowing that it is handcrafted by a true professional is also appealing. You can’t go wrong with any of the choices reviewed here, but if I could only choose one, I would pick Sukemaru.
I’d be remiss not to mention Narex’s 8-piece set here. It’s an affordable option from a well-known and trusted brand. This premium-quality set will work well for most people on the spectrum – whether it be a more novice woodworker or someone who has been at it much longer.