Chris Schwarz's Blog

More Details on the New Stanley Chisels

Until we get some sets of these chisels in-house, there’s no way to answer all of our (or your) questions about these tools. However, thanks to Publisher Steve Shanesy, we now have more details from the Stanley press conference and , if you can stand it , a little speculation on my part at the end of the blog entry.

The Stanley Sweetheart chisels are, according to the company, aimed at the woodworking market.

“We are going back after the professional woodworking market,” according to a Stanley official. “We want to compete with Lie-Nielsen and Veritas.”

Well the obvious way to do this would be to hunt around in the couches at New Britain, Conn., for loose pocket change. That should be enough to buy out both Lie-Nielsen and Lee Valley with some money left over for soda. (Stanley had 2009 revenue of $3.74 billion, according to AOL’s Daily Finance statistics.)

But no, Stanley wants to do things the old-fashioned way.

The Sweetheart socket chisels are modeled after Stanley’s 750 line and will be made in Sheffield, England. The blades will be high-carbon steel and machined flat. Stanley officials say the side bevels of the tools will be very small to make it easier to work into tight corners , a common complaint against many bevel-edge chisels.

The handles? Hornbeam. The sizes? 1/8″, 1/4″, 3/8″ 1/2″, 5/8″, 3/4″, 1″ and 1-1/4″.  You will be able to buy the chisels individually: $29.99 (retail) for the six smaller sizes; $39.99 for the two larger ones.

And there will be sets, too. A set of four (not sure what sizes will be in that) will retail for $110. The complete set of eight will retail for $199. Both sets come with a leather pouch and will be available in September of this year, according to Stanley.

The other chisels are intended for the contractor crowd that also does some woodworking; these carry the Bailey name, after Leonard Bailey, one of the fathers of the modern handplane.

The Bailey planes will also be made in Sheffield, but will be made from a carbon/chrome alloy (for rust resistance). These will be tang chisels that feature a “through tang,” according to press materials. In the photos it doesn’t look like the tang goes through the entire handle, so we’ll have to look into that. And no word on the wood used in the handles.

The chisels will be sold as a kit that includes 1/4″, 1/2″, 3/4″, 1″ and 1-1/4″ chisels and a leather tool roll for $79.99.

The Speculation
Here’s that speculation I promised you: I think these chisels, the Sweehearts in particular, could end up being quality tools. Here’s why: Though some details of the Stanley Sweetheart handplane line disappointed me (the machining of the castings), the blades were very nice. They were heat-treated properly, came in at the right hardness, were flat and held an edge for a long time.

The blades were made in the United Kingdom, the same place the chisels will be made.

I hope to have some answers for you as soon as I can get my hands on these tools.

- Christopher Schwarz

Other Hand Tool Resources You Might Like

- Get all of Adam Cherubini’s “Arts & Mysteries of Hand Tools” articles on one handy hand-tool CD.

- “Hand Tool Essentials,” our very well-priced book of the best hand-tool writing from Popular Woodworking Magazine.

- Want to buy some vintage Stanley woodworking tools? You need to get to know Walt Quadrato at Brass City Record and Tools. Yes, you read that right. He sells vinyl and iron.

29 thoughts on “More Details on the New Stanley Chisels

  1. Fister

    It’s actually SweetHart not Sweetheart. William H Hart was the CEO of the company back in the the late 19th century. They decided to honor him by implemting his name in the logo.

  2. Scott Kloster

    Chris,
    My feeling, like others, is that Stanley abandoned this market long ago in favor of mass production for the trades. They have done well. Thomas Lie-Nielsen and others tapped into and in many ways created the niche market that Stanley now wants to return to using volume and price as their competitive advantage. I also prefer being pragmatic about tool purchases and not blindly loyal, but I do have criteria that will probably lead me to continue to purchase Lie-Nielsen products in the future.
    Let’s assume they are equal to LN in tool quality and performance (a big assumption, but possible). Let’s also say they will be priced temptingly less that LN and Veritas. Why would I still buy LN?
    Continuity of production.
    Continuity of research and design
    Continuity of business model and ownership.
    LN maintains complete control over every aspect of a tools production from metals, castings, hardware, knobs, fittings and final tune, pack and ship, customer service, customer information and market enhancement. LN has been a constant steward ot the fine woodworking market since it’s inception and constantly promotes the work of fine craftsment. In return, LN has a finger on the pulse of the market in a unique and vital way that allows them to develop and test new products by listening to the end user. This means that when I buy a LN tool I know that real woodworkers made it.
    LN takes it’s time to design and bring to market new products.
    Last I checked, Thomas Lie-Nielsen still answers some emails himself and he certainly makes himself available to the market via workshops, seminars and conferences. i wandered into the store last year and found Deneb sharpening a plane blade. I was the only one there for over half an hour and got the greatest lesson on sharpening anyone could get…for free!!!! Check their YouTube videos out.
    LN is small for a reason. So it can handle and control the aspects of their business that are most important to them. Quality product and customer support. That all adds up to a confidence in their products that I have in few other things. And a successful business for them. They will continue to get my business.

  3. Frank D

    Stanley will crush Lie-Nielsen within ten years and Lie-Nielsen will be forced to lower prices within two from today. I can’t wait for Stanley to get back into the marketplace with high quality affordable tools.

  4. David Hall

    Chris, do you have any indication that Stanley might also have plans to resurrect their old 720’s line of paring chisels? They were truly classics, and to my knowledge, no other company is making those today.

  5. Skip Carlson

    Stanley has a real opportunity … they have the brand recognition and the distribution outlets, something that neither LN or LV have … and they are resurrecting brand names of high quality tools from the past – "Baily" and "Sweetheart" When I first started getting serious about improving my woodworking skills I just about croaked over the cost of LN and LV. If Stanley had a "professional" line of chisels and planes – they would have been my first choice. Also, unless you are a very serious woodworker – you likely know very little about LN or LV … so Stanley has an opportunity to sell good quality tools – at a mid-level price to entry level woodworkers. They will likely succeed. I say "Welome home !!"

  6. Sean

    I’ll take that bet. It’s sort of like predicting that McDonalds will make serious inroads in fine dining with emphasis on the use of locally grown organic produce, meats and cheeses. Boutique level quality is not likely to come ut of large multinational corporations. Stanley may make things that resemble fine tools, just as they have made chunks of pot metal that resemble planes for the last several decades, but that won’t make the tools fine, any more than it made those plastic and pot metal jacks anything more than plane shaped paper weights. Quality comes from honest pride in the production – LN has it, LV has it. Stanley just don’t.

  7. Capt Barnacle

    I bet 95% of the people blasting Stanley are grumpy old men.

    It simple economics. When Thomas Lie-Nielsen started reproducing the No 95 edge plane there was a very small market for fine quality hand tools. The guy who originally made them for Garrett Wade quit so Thomas picked up where he left off. Fast forward twenty years and the market has grown considerably since then. Stanley simply wants to get back into the action again. Give Stanley five years and I bet you they will have a whole slew of high quality tools available to serious woodworkers. And they’ll sell them through Woodcraft and other high end woodworking retail outlets because Lie-Nielsen would rather sell direct.

  8. Ed

    If the anti-Stanley establishment read my complete statement, I was merely suggesting that larger companies often have to move in directions that small artisan groups do not based on the market.

    Some of you have even suggested that it could be possible that some of these artisan groups might actually "want" to see themselves bought out.

    The real point is that no one is is holding a gun to your heads to purchase a new Stanley tool. Let your money do the talking.

    Many of us have spent time and money trying to polish tool turds. It’s those experiences that allow us to see the light.

    Ed

COMMENT