Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Paring Chisels

If you want/need a new paring chisel there are not too many options. Sorby, Narex, Blue Spruce and Japanese are about it for new, otherwise it's boot sales and eBay for used ones.

I have not tried chisels made by Blue Spruce because Blue Spruce uses A2 steel for their blades. For my use A2 has two problems in a paring chisel. The first, A2 doesn't fit my sharpening methods and the second problem is not as great but still a problem with paring chisels is A2 working best with bevel angles of greater than 30 degrees. Except for the A2 I expect the Blue Spruce paring chisels are very good.  The blade looks to be very thin and there are a number of handle options. Maybe some day I will try and fall in love but not today.

Narex chisels tend to be bargains with none of their paring chisels over $37 USD when I checked Lee Valley's site.  This is personal preference but Narex handles are big and clunky. I just can't get comfortable holding one. Of course YMMV. The other "problem" with Narex paring chisels is the thickness of the blade, I like/want a thin pattern maker's blade for paring use.

If you like Japanese chisels the "push" chisels from many makers can be very good paring chisels. I have a number of Japanese push chisels and use them often.

The paring chisel that tickles all my chisel G spots are from Robert Sorby. Sorby paring chisels have a wonderful long thin blade like a turn of the last Century pattern maker's chisel and is made of a HC steel that is easy to sharpen and holds a good edge. The boxwood handle is both pleasing to the eye and hand and the chisel has near perfect balance. If you can't tell I really like Sorby paring chisels.

A couple of photos of some of the Sorby chisels with some Japanese push chisels:

We have lost or almost lost a couple of chisel types that I find very useful. The first of course is the paring/pattern maker's and the second is firmer chisels in both bench and paring styles. About the only firmer style bench chisel I can find is made by Narex and no one I know of makes a firmer paring chisel. While I'm glad Narex is making a firmer bench chisel they have the same problem all Narex chisels have, a handle only Shaq could love.

BTW, a roll around kitchen cart/work surface is on the bench. Photos when I get just a little farther along in the build.



  1. I strongly agree with you about A2 steel, especially for paring chisels but for bench chisels as well. It puzzles me that Lie-Nielsen dropped O1 steel bench chisels and only sells them in A2. I have both and find the O1 infinitely superior. It's a shame because other than this they make great chisels.

    A2's supposed durability is outweighed by its being harder to sharpen and requiring substantially higher bevel angles. Lie-Nielsen concedes that you may well need 35 degrees.

  2. Andy,

    Form what I understand O1 is harder to heat treat and control. Of course that could be BS and it was just marketing because for a while there A2 was the "hot" tool steel. What ever, not offering HC steel makes me shy away from LN tools. Or at least that's my story and I'm sticking to it :-).


  3. Steve D10:36 AM

    A2 is very stable dimensionally due to the slow quench rate. O1 warps more so the yield on a batch of A2 widgets will be higher than O1. As far as "ease", A2 has restrictions on the atmosphere during heating that could be considered a difficulty, where O1 doesn't.

    Then there is the marketing sizzle for the first guy to offer the special steel. It would be interesting to see how Lee Valley sales break down since O1 and A2 are the same price with V11 being the premium option.

    I do like the V11, and I like the traditional look and feel of the LN, so I buy Stanley and V11 blades. Tough to do for chisels, though.

  4. Steve,

    That is my understanding as well. I've some V11 in both chisel and plane cutter form. It works well but really needs water stones to sharpen. Not a big deal because with water stones it is almost as easy to work as O1 on Ark stones. My plane irons are a mixed bag some of the Stanleys have Veritas O1, some V11, some Hock, and some OEM. All work. All the LN's have one version or another of Veritas Iron.

    I use the Stanleys more than the LN.


  5. Steve D8:04 PM

    Call me crazy but something rubs me the wrong way about buying a replacement iron for a brand new $400 plane.

  6. Steve,

    Nope not crazy. It pisses me off as well. I tried to develop some thick cutter A2 love but it just wasn't there. It came down to either selling or replacing. If I wasn't dumb as a post I would have sold and taken my loss. BTW, the LN's mostly just set on the shelf unused even with the Veritas irons. The old Stanley's are just more comfortable to use.

    Every time I think about down sizing my tools the first thought is sell the LN's but I've always backed off. Some day a guy might make an offer and catch the right mood, if he/she does they better be ready to walk out with a arm load of very pretty but heavy planes.


  7. Hi Ken

    Could it be a solution to rehandle a Narex chisel, just as an experiment?
    If it turns out OK, then I guess it might be the way to go if you like the steel part of the chisel.

    I haven't got any experience in telling the difference between A1 O2 or what they are called steels.
    I mainly use old E.A. Berg chisels, and I have no idea what steel they are made of except that it is something good.

  8. Jonas,

    The Narex chisel all seem to have pretty good steel but balance and feel is just a half count off for me. Others love them. The other problem with their "paring" chisels is the blade is too thick, again for me, of course others YMMV.

    Jim Bode , the last time I looked, had a full set of E.A.Berg bevel edge chisels for a pretty fair price. Even though I have no need for more chisels I damn near whipped out the AmEx anyway. If they stay around much longer I may still do it.

    Take care,


  9. Jonas
    These EA Berg chisels are High Carbon steel, of reputed Sweedish iron ore, some of the best steel around. Pstt, some of the best Sheffeild steel, contains Sweedish iron ore 🤓

    Bob, the tool guy

  10. Ken
    You hit the nail on the head, regardless of price point or material, if the chisel does not fit well in your hand...pass...
    Fit and balance must be right, or nothing else matter

    Bob, patting Rudy