Harbor Freight Chisels

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  • Harbor Freight Chisels

    I picked up a 6 piece Chinese Chisel set for $8.00 at Harbor Freight expecting to find I actually had a 6 piece gasket scraper set (1/4" thru 1 1/2"), but once I cleaned them up with some wet/dry sandpaper and glass (Scarysharp trick) and gave them a little hollow grind with a cool grinder I was delighted to find they work just fine and keep an adequate edge for what I was doing (softwood shaping). I wouldn't expect them to hold up under heavy pounding and abuse, but I was trimming some round tenons on fir and they were great. If I win the Lottery I'll have a big box of Marples chisels for every task at hand, but until then these will do fine, and I won't worry too much if I drop them off my boat.

    The original grind marks are VERY coarse, so I had to start with 320 to get those out. Going thru the grits, it became obvious that these were salvaged steel as there is a preceptible change in both color and hardness across the face of the bigger blades. I didn't try the full treatment, just used 320, 600, 1000 and 1500 to give them a workable edge. The grips are round softwood with a brass ring at the back to keep them from splitting should you need to beat on them a bit. The finish is inelegantly sprayed shellac, but they're workbox tools, not showpieces. Ferrules are cheap stampings but the edges on mine were deburred adequately. These tools were obviously much softer steel than my good chisels, but for something I can take outside or down to the dock I'm delighted! If you get some, do invest the time in cleaning them up and giving them a proper edge and I think you'll be as pleased and surprised as I was.

    • Uncle Cracker
      Uncle Cracker commented
      Editing a comment
      Surprised to hear that. I have not tried any HF edged tools, as I have heard so many horror stories. I was not surprised about the salvaged steel comment, as I know that China is rehabbing their rail system, and railroad steel is abundantly recycled in their manufacturing sector.

    • Guest's Avatar
      wilderness1989 commented
      Editing a comment
      Originally posted by Uncle Cracker
      Surprised to hear that. I have not tried any HF edged tools, as I have heard so many horror stories. I was not surprised about the salvaged steel comment, as I know that China is rehabbing their rail system, and railroad steel is abundantly recycled in their manufacturing sector.
      I forged a large Bowie Knife out of reclaimed US railroad iron. It worked well and really holds an edge.....let's hope Chinese RR iron is as good.

    • Guest's Avatar
      Halverson commented
      Editing a comment
      I also bought a set of those chisels and like you, I found there were a lot of burs along the edges. But I worked to get them scary sharp and now have edges that can and will shave my arm. Plus, they're not too hard to resharpen. I haven't used them on heavy dense wood - so can't comment on how long they will hold an edge in that type of wood, but for the doors around the house and the trim pieces I usually work with - they're great.
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