Japanese 1/2-in. Bench Chisel - Fine Woodworking Tool Review
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Japanese 1/2-in. Bench Chisel

Blue Steel - Japanese 1/2-in. Bench Chisel

A small chisel, sturdy and well balanced

$38 (As of 10/25/2005)

(4 user reviews) Write a Review

Editor's Review:

by Rex Alexander

review date: October 25, 2005

This small Japanese chisel -- only 8-1/2 in. long -- is well balanced and a pleasure to use. After 30 blows with the hammer head, the cutting edge on this chisel, like two of the other Japanese chisels, showed virtually no signs of wear. The tool scored an “excellent” on the toughness test.

Editor Test Results:

Toughness ranking 2

Manufacturer Specifications

Manufacturer Blue Steel
Manufacturer's Web Site www.japanwoodworker.com
Manufacturer's Phone Number 800-537-7820
Blade Size N/A
Rockwell hardness 67C
Materials N/A

Japanese chisels, even very expensive models, tend to be very brittle at the leading edge when new. It's not uncommon for the edge to chip in use at first. After a few sharpenings, you'll work past the brittle area to the properly tempered steel and chipping should happen far less often. I've worked with this brand of chisels for 8 years and they are excellent for chopping and fine paring. The neck is a little thin, but holds up well to striking with a hammer. They represent a good value if you are looking to introduce japanese chisels in your work. I'd recommend buying a single chisel in a size you use often to see if it fits your woodworking style before investing in a set.

I have had this chisel and other sizes of the Matsumura Blue Steel chisels for over 10 years. I have used them on all different kinds of wood, from red and white oak, cedar, teak, cherry, pine, and maple. The steel is extremely hard and holds up very well against the very hard hardwoods. The sharpness and edge hold up extremely well but because the steel is so hard, it took me a very long time to really learn how to sharpen these chisels properly. Although it was hard to learn the best method to sharpen these chisels, now that I have mastered it I can get an excellent edge that holds up very well pretty quickly. Although other reviews have stated that the chisel chips easily, I have not experienced this with my chisels. But since the steel is so hard and feels a bit brittle, it doesn't surprise me to hear that others have experienced chipping. I think that a chisel like this is something that I grew into and as my skills of using it and sharpening it got better, the chisel felt like it got better and better.

I am a novice woodworker, and do not profess to be an expert on chisels. I have about 5 different chisels 1/8"-Stanley, 1/4"-Stanley, 3/8"Stanley, 1/2"Freud, and a 1/2" Japanese, Blue Steel, and have used all of them in building dovetails joints. My favorite is the 1/2" Japanese chisel. It maintain a very sharp edge and I just checked, and there are no chips in the blade. I like using this Japanese chisel purchased from www.japanesewoodworker.com and because they have an excellent section on how to sharpen chisels and how to care for them is important to me.

I purchased these after first buying the japan woodworker brand, but after talking to one of their salespersons in person at the store, returned the japan woodworker brand and purchased the more expensive blue steel chisels because, because according to the salesperson, the japan woodworker brand were much inferior.These sharpened up very well, and came to an excellent edge.This is where the nice points end.Upon using one chisel, the ~ 1/2 inch with a wooden mallet to cut out some dovetail waste, and not really hitting the chisel hard or using it as a lever, I noted after 5 minutes that there were 2 significant sized "V" chips out of the edge. I don't know about others, but my marples blue chips, while not coming to the same edge, have never chipped like this. This is really disappointing given the price. Not sure what I'm supposed to use these for now? At this pace, these will be ground to nothing after making one piece of furniture if they continue to chip like this.

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