by James McConnell
The Veritas (Lee Valley) mortise chisels are awesome in every sense of the word. They’re big, heavy and can plow through a mortise in just a few good passes. The size, shape and substantial thickness of the blades bring English “dagger”-style mortise chisels to mind, while the overall shape and length give them the feel of elegant Japanese or sash mortise chisels in the hand.
The chisels are available in 1⁄8″, 1⁄4″, 5⁄16″, 3⁄8″ and 1⁄2″ (and as a set of five). I tested the 1⁄4″ size in both A2 and PM-V11 steel and found little practical difference between the two in terms of edge retention or overall performance. (Their paths diverged at the sharpening stones, however, where PM-V11 was the clear winner, taking a finer edge with fewer strokes.) The rounded heel of the blade might seem like a small detail, but it provides a smoother fulcrum and changed how I used the tool to clear waste. I found myself almost shearing with the edge as I levered, leaving a cleaner and more uniform mortise, especially in the corners.