A Small Review
They are multi-branded and ubiquitous - racked on shelves in discount stores, bundled in hundreds at Sunday Markets, sold on the internet by the thousands, and packaged in boxes at every hardware store in the country.
I have seldom even given them time of day - let alone taken them seriously. Funny how end of financial year sales can trigger a person's consciousness to think in a completely different way.
I was in our local big green hardware store last week (because it has a toilet and ........ never mind!) and I had to pass the GOING CHEAP sales trolley. There it was - a box of Trojan bevelled edge bench chisels for $15.
Now, a set of five Veritas bench chisels sells for $295 plus freight, and a set of five Lie Nielsens is $340. A set of six Ultimax Harold and Saxons will set you back $750.
For less than $4 each, these seemed insanely priced - even if they were junk. If that turns out to be the case, I could always use them to open paint tins.
To say that my expectations of these chisels were low, is almost akin to the hopes that supporters have for the success of the Parramatta Eels and the Western Sydney Giants this year.
So, off to the checkout to part with some small change.
You know that these have a lifetime warranty quipped the checkout chap.
Yeah, sure, as soon as they break, their lifetime is over - thought I as I walked out the door.
Here's what was in the box - four bevelled edge chisels sized 1/4, 1/2, 3/4 and 1 inch. On the front - precision ground for easy cutting ......! Hmmm, the grinding might be precise, but it was done with a fairly coarse grinder - look at those striations on the back of the blade.
So, first task will be to flatten the backs of all four chisels.
The bevels that create the cutting edge were indeed precision ground, and merely needed a touch up on the fine oilstone, followed by a honing on a hard white arkansas stone. In both cases I use a kerosene/oil mix of 3/1 for lubrication.
The handles are made from red polycarbonate, and can take a beating. There is a black rubberised material on both sides to aid hand use and provide grip. The blade has a type of socketted tang connection to the handle, which is moulded onto it.
Sadly, I discovered the hard way that the side edges of the back of the blade were quite sharp - a by product of the precision grinding no doubt. Nevertheless, while paring, it is my custom to support the blade in my left hand and slide it forwards into the cut with my right. My left index finger sported a band-aid for the rest of the day.
All of the blades need the edges relieved on the oilstone to prevent this occuring again.
So - how good are they?
An easy test that anyone can perform on a sharpened chisel - is to see how well it handles the paring of end grain. I tried paring blackbutt, rose gum, spongy pine, and even western red cedar. These latter two are likely to simply fold under dull chisels. No trouble at all. Above is a sample series of cuts in black wattle - like a hot knife through butter.
They even come with plastic blade guards to keep them sharp and protect one's fingers.
Will these chisels slice through jarrah and gidgee all day - don't know - probably not, but what chisels will. I usually don't use those timbers, and neither do the majority of woodworkers, I'd venture to suggest. For the kinds of woodworking that most of us do, most of the time, these chisels will not only be fine, they will perform very well.
Clearly they aren't junk - if anything they are an absolute bargain - even at full retail price. On sale, they are a steal, and they would not be out of place in any workshop, or as a set in a mobile tool chest.
...... and happy woodworking to all ........