If you’re frugal when it comes to tool purchases, check out the U.S.-made Buck Bros. “Professional Wood Chisels,” available at Home Depot. A set of three (1⁄2″, 3⁄4″ and 1″) is less than $20. (I bought several sets from three locations for comparison purposes.)
While nowhere near the fit and finish of a high-end chisel, these are awfully good for the price – and with a little work can be set up to perform at a high level. Eight of the nine I bought had flat backs, but with significant linish marks. It took about 30 minutes on stones to get the backs polished to an acceptable scratch pattern, and I had to grind the cutting edge straight on a couple of them. But none of that is difficult. (The ninth chisel had a small concavity on the back – still usable.)
No, I’m not a fan of the feel of the “high-impact acetate” handles, but these are well-balanced and of a comfortable size.
But what I like about these Buck Bros. chisels in comparison with other hardware-store brands is the lands – the flats on the sides between the bevel and back. On the Buck Bros. sets, these are remarkably narrow, which makes them great for getting safely (no crushing) into corners when dovetailing. And the high-carbon steel holds a decent edge – I chopped two sets of dovetails (four tails each) before the chisel started crushing the pine rather than cutting it – no problem; just stop and hone.
You can also buy a 1⁄4″ chisel on its own for about $9 – but here’s a weird thing: The lands on the smaller chisel (shown at top above) are quite a bit larger. I talked to a representative about it, and he agreed it was odd – the parent company (Great Neck Saw) is now looking into machining the smaller tool with smaller lands (so hold off on buying that one for a while). PWM
Video: coming soon