Highland Woodworking Wood News Online, No. 144, August 2017 Welcome to Highland Woodworking - Fine Tools & Education Learn more about Highland Woodworking View our current woodworking classes and seminars Woodworking articles and solutions Subscribe to Wood News
 
The Madcap Woodwright
By John McBride
Denver, CO

Narex Chisels Tool Review - Yummy Narex Goodness

As a general rule, I tend to shy away from writing anything that may be considered a "Review" of various tools.

One reason, as many readers already know, is that I tend to buy vintage tooling rather than all new products.

Chisels are something of a fetish for me. I think I have something like, three complete sets of chisels of various description.

So, of course I needed to order up a new set of Narex Bench Chisels and a set of Narex Mortise Chisels from Highland Woodworking. Lord knows it has been, what…..like a whole year since I purchased any chisels?

I have been running across reviews of these tools for several years now. Nearly all of them positive in their tone. I had been looking for a quality set of "daily driver" chisels to replace the Marples Blue Chip set that I have moved to my travel set of tools.

I got both sets of chisels in Highland's normal timely manner. The initial appearance of them was quite pleasing in my opinion. The handles felt good in my hand, and the weight and balance of them were also pleasing.

I will review the bench chisels first since I have honed/sharpened them and also have actually put them to use in my shop. The mortise chisels remain un-honed/un-sharpened as I haven't had a need for them just yet, and I haven't had time to go through them seriously.

Now, normally I tend to like smaller, more refined looking and feeling chisels. Think Lie-Nielsen Chisels. However, I have got to admit that I really liked the feel of the Narex handles in general, and the overall feel in particular, the more I manipulated them.
As I set about bringing these chisels into service, i put them through my normal sorting. I wiped them down with lacquer thinner to remove the lacquer that protects the steel that you normally find on chisels purchased new.

A word about that, both the marking on the handle and the blades WILL come RIGHT off if you use lacquer thinner to clean your newly purchased chisels. Initially, I had a bit of an "OH NO' moment. But these chisels seem to do quite well visually with the removal of the labeling. I seem to think that Narex may have done this purposefully, as the tools look lovely without the extra ink on them.

On to the honing. I am not going to go into the minutia of my process, to say that honing has "been covered" is an understatement. Suffice to say that I basically do two things. First I flatten the backs of the chisels, then I work the cutting edge.

In reading about these chisels, you will hear tales of arduous flattening times for these as they generally come with some "Hollow" in their backs from the grinding they get at the factory.

There are two schools of thought at play here. Those that seem to need the entirety of the back of their chisel to be flat, all evidence of a hollow removed. Or, those that find that only the cutting edge and perhaps as much as 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch of the back of the blade needs to be flattened true.

Put me in that second camp.
The picture above shows these chisels in various levels of flatness. The widest chisel showing only a quick couple of passes over the stone in order to show the hollow.

I was able to get the backs of all the chisels flattened acceptably in approximately 5 to 10 minutes per tool, depending on the size. The largest taking 10-15 minutes to make pretty.

The cutting edges also had a reputation for being brittle, and thus returned to the seller in some of the reviews I read. Later, as the tools gained notice, it was discovered that if you work the cutting edge back a little further than say, an initial honing, you get into the "real" steel of the tool. Use a grinder or elbow grease on a stone to take the edge back maybe just a smidge more than a 32nd of an inch, and you should be into good steel.

Let me say this, Since the demise of the "true" Marples Blue Chip chisels, and since the advent of the more boutique quality chisels available today, I have yet to find a better quality chisel at such a reasonable price. Nothing I have used so far comes close in terms of fit, finish, feel, edge retention, and performance as do these Narex Bench Chisels.

Let me reiterate, I am NOT one to write reviews of new tools. I am NOT one to gush all over the latest and greatest. But I have got to say, that in terms of overall value, these tools are a delightful surprise.

I have used them to clean small mortises, cut dovetails (practice dovetails), and in general shop use. Since their initial sorting upon arrival, I have had to hone them a couple of times and they take very little in the way of effort to refresh an edge. I can feel good about the edge simply by running it over a DMT Diamond Plate (Extra Fine) and have it be serviceable. Normally, I will start there and then work it through various Waterstones if I am feeling extra persnickety.

If you are looking for a set of bench chisels that both won't break the bank, but will serve well in the shop with a minimum of fuss, these Narex Bench Chisels should be on your short list.

Click here to find out more and purchase your own set of Narex Bench Chisels.


John McBride is a professional woodwright, blogger, and writer, living and working joyfully and with abandon in Denver, Colorado. He welcomes feedback on any of his writing, and can be reached at madcapwoodwright@gmail.com. Feel free to drop him a note.

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