After a number of delays and revisions, Stanley has released its long-awaited line of 750 series
of chisels for woodworking. One of the first sets arrived on my desk on Monday, and I’ve been examining them during endless conference calls.
I’ll be setting up the chisels during the coming week, in between filling in for Megan (who is on vacation) and our still-vacant online editorial position (we should have some news on that in a day or two). Oh, and building the cover project for the June 2011 issue.
I’m eager to get these chisels set up because that project has about 120 dovetails, which will be a good break-in period for the tools.
Until I set them up, here are some initial and surprising observations about the new chisels.
The Best Chisels?
At first glance, it looks like Stanley sent a set of Lie-Nielsen socket chisels over to England and asked their employees there to copy them. While I think there’s little doubt that Stanley is eying Lie-Nielsen’s success with its chisels (which are my personal favorite – I own three sets), it’s not quite that simple.
The Stanley tools are different in several ways, some small and some significant.
The biggest difference is in the blades of the tools. Stanley’s tools are considerably thinner than the Lie-Nielsen tools in all the sizes except the 1/8″, where they are identical. For example, the Lie-Nielsen 3/4″ chisel is .328″ at its thickest point. The same-size Stanley chisel is .216″ thick.
As a result of the thin blade, the Stanley chisels are surprisingly lightweight. I think this is a plus in Stanley’s column. While I consider the Lie-Nielsen chisels to be lightweight and perfectly balanced, these Stanley tools feel even lighter. And that’s a plus when chopping out waste – to a point.
Some people don’t like thin blades, which can flex, and it will be interesting to see how these Stanley 750s take a beating. So stay tuned.
The second thing to note about the Stanley blades is that the company is obviously trying to thin down the side bevels of the chisels to make them suitable for dovetailing. On this point, the Stanley’s are good but are inconsistent. For example, the 1″ chisels has a nice side bevel that ends in a flat only 1/32″ high. But the 5/8″ chisel has a 1/16″-high flat. All of the Stanley chisels had flats between those ranges. That’s good, but Lie-Nielsen has them beat on this point.
Lie-Nielsen chisels have a flat that consistently measures out at less than 1/32″ – more like 1/64″.
Another difference with the blades is the fit and finish. I would rate the Stanley blades as very good, but the Lie-Nielsen blades are even better. Of course, the real test on the flatness of the blades will come when I start setting up the Stanley chisels. They look well-ground, but who knows at this point?
The Stanley tools are high-carbon steel with some alloy in them to make them resist rust. The Lie-Nielsen’s are available in cryogenically treated A2 or O1 high-carbon steel. Take your pick.
The handles of the two brands are similar, but not identical. Overall the Stanley handles are a little
thicker, the striking end is more rounded and the swelling up by the socket is located a little further back compared to the Lie-Nielsen. They feel about the same in your hand, though I can detect the thicker profile of the Stanley. This is neither good nor bad – just different.
Both brands are available in a leather tool roll. The Stanley’s is bigger than the Lie-Nielsen’s, yet the smallest pocket on the Stanley needs to be slightly bigger – it won’t fit a handle of the chisel (the proper way to store your tools). So you have to put it in blade-first. Not a deal killer, but I hope they send a note to the robot that is doing the sewing.
And finally, one of the best things about the new Stanley line is that the company is making a 1-1/4″-wide chisel, which is an excellent size to have for joinery. At this point Lie-Nielsen goes up to 1″, though I’m told the company is working on bigger sizes.
It’s too early to make any purchasing recommendations on the new Stanley line. So if you ask me via e-mail, I’m going to digitally shrug my shoulders. We’ll be doing a full review of the tools in the June 2011 issue, and I’ll be discussing them some more in the coming weeks.
— Christopher Schwarz
Want to Get Started in Hand-tool Woodworking?
I recommend these two books and have managed to get them into our ShopWoodworking.com store. With these two books, you will be well on your way to doing it right.
• “Woodwork Joints” by William Fairham
• “Woodwork Tools and How to Use Them” by William Fairham