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. me.yahoo.com/a/g77zPrkczPB8.ad63uxEVK8Z.w--

    Looking at the picture of those chisels, they still don’t seem to get it.

    The sides of the chisels are still fat. The old 750s that I have don’t have fat sides.

    The delicate sides are basically what separate lie nielsen chisels from all of the hardware store sort of shape chisels, even the "bevel edge firmers" that effectively have as hard and as durable of steel as the LN….

    .. they don’t have that and the beveled sides.

    Come on, Stanley. You want to compete in the market, do a little bit of research and pay attention to the details.

  2. Mitchell

    Hey Ed, great comment that makes a lot of sense, but I think you are missing the point those of us that stand against Stanley are trying to make here.

    If someone coming into the hobby of hand tools wants to purchase Stanley’s new line, bless them and tell them to go for it.

    Many of us, however, started out using Stanley Tools years ago. You are right, the market did change and so did Stanley, as the junk tool market was too lucrative to ignore. Many of us have no argument with that either.

    Its wanting us to come back to them that I have the issue with.

    To use your own analogy; years ago the gas company said to us, "There is not enough of you so light your own damned lamps". Other companies came in and said, "Not only can we light your lamps, but we can light them better than the gas company". We went with them and have been happy with our lamps ever since.

    Now that there are enough of us, the gas company wants us to let them light our lamps again. No Way! Why would we hurt the guys who supported us over the years to return to a company that didn’t?

    Get the point?

    Peace

  3. David B.

    I don’t know about the rest of you, but I like to my my little bit of buying power to buy things made in the US. I hope to return to the days when we made quality products here in the US. To this end, I will still buy the Lie Nielsen products. I expect that these chisels are a quality product and I’m glad that stanley is slowly returning to its roots. When I see their tools being made and assembled in a US plant I would gladly purchase them.

    David B.

  4. Ed

    Of course Stanley is going to try to capture part of this market resurgence. If you owned a tool company, you would too. The development or redevelopment dictates where to put the resources.

    What in it’s right mind would a large company like Stanley keep producing scores of esoteric plane designs and wooden handled chisels, when for twenty years, Norm Abram sold the weekend warrior woodworkers on the time saving advantages of a huge collection of power tools.

    And for twenty years prior to that, handyman encyclopedias showed the homeowner what could be done with a Craftsman radial arm saw and a drill press.

    Something tells me that some of you may have a Shopsmith that doesn’t see the love it used to and that our sons and daughters of the robot generation might collect Lie Neilson products to mount on shelves above their CNC machines someday.

    We simply must realize that Stanley is in a way different place than these smaller companies.

    It would be like having asked your local gas company to keep the lamplighters on staff for old times sake after the electric light became the lighting of choice.

    I don’t think it’s quite fair to bash them for trying to capture some of that median level expendable income. If these tools turn out to be boat anchors, the market will not bare it, and they may just turn into the next run of collectible Stanley tools due to their limited run status. Then we’ll all wish we had bought them.

  5. Mitchell

    Just what every woodworker wants; another plastic handled chisel.

    As for Stanley buying out Lee Valley or Lie-Nielsen; shame on you Chris for even thinking such a thing, let alone writing that thought down. Maybe the owners of these companies would like to see themselves bought-out, but the last thing the industry needs is another hallmark company trashed and gutted.

    You do shock me when you state that the blades on Stanley’s new planes are flat. The last new Stanley plane I bought had to be returned because if I kept trying to flatten the blade, there wouldn’t me anything left of it by the time I got there.

    When it comes to Stanley, there is proof you can make a cow’s ear out of a silk purse. I’m just not sure they can, or even want to, achieve the opposite.

  6. Bill Melidones

    Wow,

    I’m thinking Stanley manufactured and sold what the consumer wanted over the last umpteen years. Either that or the $3.47 Billion is missing from someone’s bank account. Be honest enough to admit that the AMERICAN PUBLIC caused the downfall of the quality hand tool market, and in a VERY small way we as a group are trying to fix it by driving it yet again. I doubt we’ll ever see the day that quality hand tool production makes up any real percentage of the GNP. The best we as a group can hope for is to develop, and pass on, a love for working with them.

  7. Kurt Schmitz

    Stanley didn’t squander 50 years of opportunity to make quality tools; my father and my grandfather bought the cheaper products the market offered and in turn drove manufactureres further towards that extreme. I myself will buy Stanley chisels if they’re quality; I llike the price point. We’ll see.

  8. www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawlkjU1USPBreBV1FVL4biT65Oa30vMjzS0

    One could write volumes about the ‘buying behaviors’ of people that appreciate and buy premium handtools. This thread already shows quite a range of opinions and preferences. Let me add two more:
    1. A friend of mine who has a fairly substantial assortment of new and old high-quality tools, recently told me that he won’t buy any Pfeil tools with the etched Pfeil logo. He only bought some LN chisels after he noticed that they are marked on the underside of the socket. If the new Stanley chisels are not stamped, I bet he won’t consider them for purchase.
    2. Myself: I maintain a minimal collection of tools that I actually use. One exception – an old J. Cam chisel. I often buy an ‘improved’ tool and then get rid of (give away most of the time) the tool that is replaced by the new one.
    I do have a bias to good, small manufacturers like Lie-Nielsen. A few good -or very good- tools is all I need.

    Alfred

  9. Dusty Lenscap

    Too little, too late for Stanley.

    Their sincerity in addressing the needs of serious woodworkers is, IMHO, as phony as a $3 bill.

    They make nice looking paint can openers.

  10. joel

    My guess is that these tools are made on the old Marples chisel line which Stanley bought from footprint who bought it from Record. THey have obviously changed a lot of stuff but the real challenge will be if they can make the backs flat or slightly concave, and even hard can they get the heat treat consistent.

  11. John Cashman

    It most certainly is a serious statement. Lie Nielsen resurrected Stanley designs that hadn’t been produced for half a century, at least. And they made improvements in both design and materials that made them better than the originals ever were. They weren’t copying anything currently produced.

    In the case of the bench chisels in this particular case, the Lie Nielsens are an improvement in every way. Get an original Stanley 750 and look at it closely. Stanley is doing it’s best to mimic current Lie Nielsen tools, even to the shape and use of hornbeam handles. Lie Nielsen has chosen not to copy tools made by competitors. I won’t buy Wood River planes that try to cash in on Lie Nielsen’s success, and I won’t support Stanley’s attempt to do the same, either. If they want to make a contribution by coming up with something different, I might consider it.

  12. Eric R

    Wow, some pretty strong sentiment about this topic from these comments.
    I’m going to wait & see how you rate these new entry’s Chris.

    You haven’t steered me wrong yet.

    It’s going to be pretty tough to best Lie Nielsin and Veritas
    though.

  13. Patrick

    I agree Niels. I have 3 Everlast chisels that came with a Stanley Tool Cabinet that belonged to my great uncle. It’s from the 1930′s. The Everlast chisels are amazing. Stanley should have produced those as a reasonable competitor.

  14. Niels

    I really hope that these are quality items rather than "premium-looking" knock-offs.

    I think competition is a healthy part of any industry and it’s always better to have more options available. However, even before this press conference it’s pretty clear who they were targeting as competition. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery- but it’s application here is a bit suspect.

    It would be nice if Stanley could enter back into the market (it abandoned many many decades ago) and throw some of it’s heft into R&D and INNOVATION. Right now, it seems as though they are attempting to cash in filling in the blanks by looking over the shoulder of cleverer folks like Tom Lie-Nielsen and Rob Lee. Anyway, no need to beat that drum, I’m sure the interwebs are going to have a lot more to say about that in the coming months.

    When first saw the blog post title was expecting to see an image of a resurrected version of the Stanley Everlast chisels. I’ve always wanted a set of no. 40′s and prices for the originals have already gotten a bit out of hand. Come on New Britain, you you should fill in THOSE blanks!

  15. Mark

    grrrrrrrr….Good tools are not all that hard to make. The know-how is and has been out there a long time and if you have good steel and the right equipment, there’s just no reason to make junk. Stanley chose to put out inferior products in the late 20th century even though they certainly could have chosen otherwise. In short, they squandered 50 plus years that could have been used to build upon an established reputation. Enter Lie-Nielsen and dozens of other small companies and toolsmiths who went out and did their research, recreated and in many cases improved upon what had been done before. Kudos to them. They’ve earned the support of every woodworker out there that Stanley felt was too insignificant to cater too. They flubbed their re-intro into the hand plane market, opting to foist inferior tools on us under the guise of a nostalgic name. I don’t care what they offer now. I won’t give them a dime. I say spend your money with the little guy who is, first and foremost, trying to put out a top product and backs it up with his/her name. You know who they are. Their names are posted all over this blog since the beginning. Large corporate interests are driven by a different set of rules but have no problem trying to convince you otherwise.

  16. RJ Whelan

    Hmmm. If these are close to the quality of the L-N that certainly seems like a reasonable price.

    While I have nothing against Stanley (modern day) I think I’ll continue buying from Mr’s Lee and Lie-Nielsen as they had the vision and nerve to bring out small run quality tools for those of us who value quality and utility over price.

    I know I can buy old steel and iron and bring it back to life (that’s what I did until L-N and Japan Woodworker came along), but I just don’t enjoy restoring tools anymore (never did, actually). Heck I don’t have that many years of woodworking left in me – I need to concentrate on building all of things I’ve promised to people over the years.

  17. John Cashman

    Stanley wants to do things the old-fashioned way? Actually, the way they did things back in the day was to buy out the competition. They bought out every patent, inventor, and company they could, and the ones they didn’t they colluded with and fixed prices. None of which was illegal in the nineteenth century. Actually producing better tools at lower prices? That’s just silly, and seldom has been the goal of major corporations.

    I hope they do turn out a good tool. Really, with modern technology it should be easy to get good quality steel and heat treat it well and consistently. It doesn’t always happen, but there’s no reason it shouldn’t. I expect the finish and details, such as the sidewall height, to fall short of Lie Nielsen’s standards, however.

    Come on, though. Do they really have to copy Lie Nielsen even to the shape of the hornbeam handle? Even though Lie Nielsen used the long-defunct Stanley 750s to base his chisels on, they are improvements over the originals. Stanley could be a little less blatant in ripping off a competitor.

    The prices may be a little better than Lie Nielsen and Veritas. But they are still not inexpensive, and not nearly enough to turn my loyalty to those outfits that have been leading the way in putting great quality tools into the hands of us woodworkers, something Stanley abandoned long ago.

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