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Review: Are stanley 750 sets the best wood chisels?

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.

What are the best woodworking chisels?

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.

Are these Stanley 750 chisels the best woodworking chisels?

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 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

Product Recommendations

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Showing 30 comments
  • Craig

    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.

  • 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.

  • 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…

  • 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.

  • 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

  • frank arcidiacona

    I have some older stanley chisels, the steel is not bad.
    They hold a secondary bevel after mallot strikes. Also have narex mortise chisels,they are very good for the money.

  • 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

  • Niels

    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.

    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.

  • Brutus

    Lie Nielsen is made by a bunch of hippy Mainites who don’t consider themselves Americans anyway.

  • 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 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.

  • Bob

    Are these actually made in USA or no? I too would rather keep the money in North America, but if they are not produced here, then it really isn’t helping the local economy any more than the company that imports Narex chisels (for example) helps the economy… That being said, if they are good and good value, then they will sell.

  • John Cashman

    I’m not very concerned with who initially came up with a design. After all, Stanley didn’t really design very much originally — they bought ideas and companies and applied their brand to them.

    Lie Nielsen has done the same thing on occasion. They bought out Independence Saw from Pete Taran and Patrick Leach, and had Brian Boggs design a spokeshave for them. But for the most part they are known for resurrecting, adapting, and improving Stanley tools that have been defunct for fifty or a hundred years.

    But Lie Nielsen is not trying to make a buck copying tools that anyone currently makes. That’s an important distinction. I don’t for a minute think that Stanley, in a fit of nostalgia, is harkening back to those days of yore when it made quality tools. It’s copying a tool whose current popularity is the result of the hard work, investment, and risk by a current manufacturer. Ditto for Wood River. That leaves a bad taste in my mouth, and I won’t patronize either one. If Stanley were to take some initiative and resurrect tools that no one currently produces — rules would be just one of many possible examples — I would wholeheartedly give them my business.

    If Lie Nielsen started making clones of tools produced by Lee Valley I would take the same attitude and not buy his product either.

    And in addition, L-N tools are made locally — that’s the icing on the cake.

  • Gary Roberts

    It almost sounds as if the Stanley chisels were meant to be paring chisels with added length of blade and a longer handle. That makes me wonder if Stanley did the math on how much metal they’ld save in producing the thin design and the cost savings.

    There is something karmic in Stanley copying LN copying Stanley buying out earlier makers.

  • Kris

    I find it so humorous when people accuse other companies of copying Lie-Neilsen tools which are almost all copies of old Stanley tools. Doesn’t it make more sense that Stanley is using their original designs as the basis for their new tools? A year or so ago, there was a thread on this forum and many were very upset that Woodriver was copying L-N planes. L-N openly copied the Stanley designs which is what Woodriver was doing.

  • Mike Meade

    Your comment to send a note to the robot doing the sewing of the leather pouch took me by surprise. While the chishels are made in England, given Stanley’s presence in the Racific Rim it’s much more likely the leather pouch is being hand sewn and very likely by children. China, India, Malaysia, Thialand are responsible for the majority of child labor sweat shops. Add to this the fact almost all hide goods come from those conuntries, it’s highly unlikely the pouch is being sewn on a robotic sewing machine.

    Mike Meade
    Beloit, Wisconsin

  • Chris C

    An advertisement for Stanley’s new line of planes featured
    text that read as follows:

    "Stanley Revisits A Cherished Era of Quality and Craftsmanship…"

    And then it finally clicked. Stanley is "revisiting", but that
    implies they’ll eventually leave. Where as in my opinion
    companies like LN and Veritas aren’t "visiting"; they live there.

    So, I am trying not buy into too much of the Stanley hype. As
    David Lee Roth says "Here today…gone later today."

    I just hope that they don’t decimate the smaller tool makers, and
    then exit.


  • I still consider myself a woodworking neophyte.

    I tried some classic 750’s but found them to be too light. I have big hands and the inexpensive Irwin chisels suit me well in the bigger sizes.

    The only really small chisels that I like are the Lie-Nielsen and classic 750 (I own neither, unfortunately). I haven’t tried Narex, but am always open to changing my opinions.

  • Ed

    I would find it interesting to see how Stanley compares to itself by comparing the classic Stanleys to the new Stanleys.
    Obviously, Stanley not only competes with Lie Nielson, but also, and perhaps more importantly, with its own legacy. Why else would everybody get fired up about Stanley releasing a set of chisels?
    If anyone else put out the same exact tools with a different brand on them, this would probably not light the conflagration that a Stanley release seems to.

  • Bill Melidones


    Thanks for the early comments. I hope that Stanley is quick to make changes off your observations. They seemed fairly reactive to your early comments on their new planes.

    Its guys like you that are helping to keep woodworking alive, and we appreciate it.


  • Bob D.

    Since as Ken said (and you have avoided responding to) the L-N chisels are copies of the old Stanley 750 series it might have been fitting to include a comparison of the old and new Stanley 750 sets along with the L-N copies.

  • Rick E

    Na, I’ll stick with the American made ones. I like my money going to the local guys as much as possible. I know, the world is flat…yada, yada… but with our Economy in the crapper why would I ever send my $s somewhere else? My government already does that for me. Sorry, didn’t mean for this to turn into a political post.

    Also, based on your very cursory review of them it sounds like the same old (or should I say not so old) Stanley. They are doing just enough to get by. Hit-n-miss design and execution. I don’t like supporting companies like this because I feel they care just enough to get my money. I know TLN wants my money as well but I’ve NEVER had a bad experience with any of his tools (well, except for maybe his small bronze spokeshave). I feel he his genuinely concerned with woodworkers and their success. And I know he isn’t getting rich off of us.

  • Kevin Thomas

    I hope you’ll be able to give us an update when you come to KC. I’m considering buying a new set of chisels and want to hear all about the new Stanleys.

  • Glen Van Cise

    Do you know who’s selling them? I’ve looked at several providers; nothing.

    Any help would be appreciated.

  • Christopher Schwarz


    I forgot to mention that. Thanks for bringing it up.

    These are dead-on Imperial sizes. In all cases they were within two thou.

  • Dan Sherman


    are they actual imperial sizes, or are they "close" metric equivalents?

    I have a set of Narex bevel edge chisels, but they are metric. If these are imperial I’m going grind the Narexs for paring and use these for regular bench chisel work.

  • Christopher Schwarz

    I have a set of A2 chisels at home.

    I have a set of A2s at work with 35° secondary bevels, and a set of O1s with lower secondaries for paring.

    This is more than anyone needs.

  • jim marsh

    Look forward to your set up procedure and comments on these. Curiosity forces me to ask the question of your three sets of LN’s. Is each set set up with different bevels and micro bevels? If so How do you have them set up?



  • Ken

    Interesting to mention that the Stanley chisels look like copies of the Lie Nielsens, since L-N copied the look and feel of the original Stanley 750s. Here is a quote from the L-N website: "Lie-Nielsen Chisels are based on the Stanley 750 Bevel Edge Socket Chisels."

    Nothing new under the woodworking hand tool sun.

  • Jonas Jensen

    I think they look good, I’m curious as to what the price ends up to be for a set.

  • I know I’ll be ridden out on a rail for not buying american, but I love the Narex chisels. I haven’t owned all the different brands. I have had a chance to use LN and others. I find the Narex to "feel" good in my hands. As far as how the chisels interact with wood….I’m not a good enough woodworker to tell the difference. JMHO

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