By Brad Holden
A bench chisel is probably the only type of chisel
most woodworkers require. It’s used to pare dovetails,
chop mortises and for every job in between.
Some bench chisels are definitely a cut above the rest.
Here’s a new entry in the high-end class from Lee Valley,
makers of Veritas tools. The new Veritas chisels are comparable
to Lie-Nielsen and Stanley Sweetheart chisels;
they’re a bit pricey, but you’ll never need another set.
The back of a chisel must be absolutely fl at for
accurate paring. Fresh out of the package, most chisels
aren’t fl at enough for my taste, so I expect to spend
up to an hour to lap the back of each one. Not so with
the Veritas chisels. Their backs are so flat that you’ll be
done in no time, a huge saving in time and frustration
if you’re working on a complete set.
The blades are made from O1 steel (Rc 58-60). Lee
Valley also carries plane blades made from harder A2
steel (Rc 60-62), but chose O1 for these chisels so they
will be easier to sharpen. That’s good news for those
of you who sharpen on sandpaper, which cuts slower
than ceramic or diamond stones.
The sides of the Veritas chisels taper right down to
a point. Fully tapered sides allow you to sharpen Veritas,
Lie-Nielsen and Sweetheart chisels using an inexpensive
side-clamping honing jig. Ironically, many less
expensive chisels won’t fi t in the jig because their sides
are too square.
Tapered sides that come down to a point are ideal
corners of dovetails. The
sides of Lie-Nielsen and Sweetheart
chisels don’t quite come to a point, but
they’re close. Awhile ago, I carefully ground the sides
of my Lie-Nielsens and Sweethearts to come to a point,
but it takes a steady hand. The Veritas chisels are ready
The maple handles of the Veritas chisels have shallow
flats to quickly register the tool in your hand and
help prevent it from rolling off your bench. I love that!
Veritas bench chisels come in five sizes: 1/4", 3/8",
1/2", 3/4" and 1". The 1/4" and 3/8" sizes have a 30°
bevel, while the other sizes have a 25° bevel. This puzzled
me, but an engineer at Lee Valley said, “Narrower
edges are subject to a greater concentration of force
when driven by a mallet,” so their bevel angle should
be steeper. All sizes come with a 2° micro bevel and are
sharp enough to make shavings right away.
Lee Valley & Veritas, leevalley.com, 800-871-8158, Veritas Bench
Chisels, Set of 5, #05S20.50; 1/4", #05S20.04; 3/8",
#05S20.06; 1/2", #05S20.08; 3/4", #05S20.12; 1",