This page is to help you to avoid wasting money on tools you don't need and spending what you have to spend on tools that are going to do a good job for you. Hopefully you are only going to buy something once. You may as well try and buy the best one you can. Our advice is impartial, we are not linked with any tool manufacturing organisation and we receive no free samples that may blur our judgment or colour our opinion.
Our knowledge is expert, gained over decades of experience of handling these tools and working them ourselves and making our living with them. Our objective is to get the best tools in your hands and show you how to use them properly.
Forged High Carbon Steel
Lets start with the most important part the cutting edge. All your work your effort is through this point. This sharpened steel wedge. You need to have the best steel to save yourself effort and gain more control. Do not worry about manufacturers that claim their steel that holds its edge for soooo.... long. What you really want is SHARP. My experience tells me that "high carbon steel" takes a sharper edge than the A2 kind of steel offered by most modern toolmakers. High carbon steel was at best forged, hammered in a hot state. However modern steels even modern high carbon steels are cold rolled. This gives a"tougher" edge that is lacking a bit of the hardness of genuine forged high carbon steel. Yet it is good steel common in many brands of western chisels as a steel it is acceptable (just). But that edge is just a bit too dull for me. The best forged high carbon steel now seems to come from Britain France and China.
If you can find genuine forged high carbon steel try it. Clifton make a really good genuine forged steel blade "The Victor" plane blade is forged in Sheffield I have these in my planes and replaced an A2 blade from Lie Nielsen to great effect. If you know how to sharpen properly without a silly set of training wheels then it should give you the very best edge most easily. Other sources are blades from Ron Hock he worked with Jim Krenov to develop blades for his students and I believe imports steel from France. www.hocktools.com I have also bought small spoke shaves from Lee Valley that were made in China to a very high standard of steel
Old forged steel blades
Beware of "old steel" this is wonderful stuff hard as good tool steel as it can be, and romantic, however it can be so damned hard it cannot be flattened easily enough to make good contact on a sharpening stone. Those old guys did not have the quality control to be sure that every blade was flat so many are not. Getting an old blade flat is a tough job, once you get it flat then you got a real tool for life but boy that is an effort. [I will talk about flatness later its very important.]
A2 steel is popular with many modern toolmakers "A-2 steel hardened to Rockwell 60-62 cryogenically treated and double tempered" is the info on L -Ni chisels.They are without doubt made with a tough steel, the toughness enables them to hold an edge for AAAAAAges. But that edge is just a bit too dull for me. Many of my students buy these chisels and I don't discourage them. They are a teeny bit tricky to learn to put an edge on but thats not a problem. I prefer teaching people new to this with a high carbon blade as the burr comes away really sweetly. Once you get the idea its no problem to sharpen these A2 blades.
Woodworking Tools Badly Made
Woodworking tool manufacturers need to be aware that they cannot continue to make more inferior products than their forefathers. Or they cannot do this and maintain a market share. Woodworking Tools should work straight out of the box, its not your fault if that tool don't cut, its theirs and they should be made to do better, all of them.
When we see in our own workshop tools that arrive bent we will tell you. We will put it up on this page. We will shame the makers of these tools until they stop making tools that are impossible to put into use without a week course in tool fettling, a $1000 granite slab and a load of wasted time.
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