Chris Schwarz's Blog

Stanley's New 750 Chisels Have Landed

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.

An Apt Comparison?
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
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.

And So….
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

30 thoughts on “Stanley's New 750 Chisels Have Landed

  1. Craig

    Chris,
    Do you know when the Stanley 750’s should be in stores? You mentioned inconsistencies in the side bevels. Do you know if Stanley is doing anything to make them more consistent? Are side bevels that range up to 1/16(that we know of from the set you recieved) what they’re settling on for their premium chisels? From what I’ve heard, they made changes to improve the Sweetheart planes. Why not get it right the first time and prove they are serious about going after the PROFESSIONAL woodworking world. The only thing they have proven so far is that they are going after hobbyists at best.
    Thanks,
    CRC

  2. Andrew Yang

    I don’t have a wide range of comparison points. I have a few LN chisels in A2 and O1, as well as an old Stanley #720. The #720 came on account of Mr. Schwarz’s recommendation for 1. a 1 1/2" paring chisel, and 2. vintage tools. (Although the his suggestions were Buck, Swan or Witherby, Walt didn’t have a good summer for chisels)

    At the end of the day, given the relative importance and prominence of the chisel in handwork, I don’t see that a nominal price difference outweighs the quality of the product. The amount of time it takes to flatten and sharpen a chisel is worth much more to me than an extra $20 for a brand new premium chisel (whether LN, Blue Spruce, et al) that’s nearly ready to go out of the packaging.

    Woodworking’s my hobby, and I’d rather spend my precious few moments actually doing my hobby versus fettling irons and chisels.

  3. Kurt Schmitz

    I wish Stanley would resurrect the #40 Everlasting line -eBay prices for long, bevel-edged examples are really crazy. And if any portion of the Stanley facility in New Britain were not being used to manage international resources, maybe make them here in the US? Okay, dream sequence over…

  4. Greg M

    Bob, Stanley’s previous press releases have stated that these chisels (the steel portion, anyway) is make in UK. The rest (handles, leather tool rolls, packaging) is probably from "international sources". No portion of them is advertised as being made in the US.

    To everyone – healthy debate is one of the things I love about America! Some of you are pretty passionate about supporting local manufacturers, others are looking for value, still others (although probably not on this forum) simply want the lowest price possible. Don’t you just love diversity?. The bottom line is that more choices benefits us as woodworkers and consumers. So let each one vote with their conscience, and the principles of free enterprise will work themselves out.

  5. Lawrence Richards

    Thank you for the update on these chisels– I’m sure there are more than a few of us here that have been waiting on updates before making chisel choices (the hinted at in forums Lee Valley Veritas chisels are the others I am waiting on before deciding) I also appreciate the detail you go into when comparing them to similar brands.

    I’m curious if the chisels are "off the shelf" or were sent to Pop WW’ing by Stanley? If they are off the shelf I’d love to know where they could be examined. (if it is a bricks and mortar establishment)

    Thanks in advance for your response and thank you for all you and the others at PWW do to keep us in the loop between magazines– it truly sets you apart from many other mags and is one of the reasons I keep my subscripton going.

    Lawrence Richards

  6. Paul

    This question is out of the ordinary, but packing the chisels in the tool roll with handles in the pockets and the blades out, wouldn’t that lead to dull edges when you roll it up? I figure put the blade in first so it’s fully enclosed by the leather and so it won’t bang against another edge when rolled. Am I missing something? Paul

  7. Niels

    Chris,
    Thanks for the update- can’t wait for the review in-use. how do like the LN O1’s for paring? I was thinking about getting a couple. I don’t think there is a thing as too many chisels.
    Cheers,
    Niels

    Brutus,
    Way to keep it classy. Glad you came out from under the bridge to take a quick anonymous stab in the back. By the way the "cl" in classy is silent.

  8. Socrates

    I can only assume that these chisels will not carry a premium price tag and will therefore have their place in the market. For some of us they may even be a second set for some of the rougher jobs in our workshop.
    But Chris, if you truly want the best chisels money can buy, you need to contact Trent Powrie from Harold and Saxon Chisels in Australia. Go to http://www.haroldandsaxon.com and have a look. Trent uses exotic metals such as D2 steel and a range of Timbers for the handles. Much much better than your Lie Nielsen I beleive.
    BTW, I have no association or interest in Harold and Saxon, I’m just over the moon with their chisels.

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