Whenever I buy a blade, like a tablesaw blade or a router bit, it’s always sharp. How come when I buy chisels they’re duller than a math lecture on the last day of school?
Although it seems reasonable to expect new chisels to come sharp, there are three good reasons why they don’t.
First, sharpening is expensive. Some chisels do come presharpened, but they cost about $5 more per chisel. Would you be willing to pay for the first sharp edge when you’ll resharpen your chisel dozens of times?
Second, the roughly ground edge on a new chisel is actually a useful secondary bevel. At 25 degrees, it’s a lower angle than the chisel is meant to cut at. Your job is to hone the chisel to the primary angle: 30 degrees. The manufacturer has saved you some time by giving you a lower angle so now you have only to hone the tip of the chisel.
Third, a sharp edge is fragile. Chances are it wouldn’t survive shipping and handling. With a dull edge, you know what you’ve got.