Time to Try Something Different
By the beginning of this year, my most often used chisel, an A2 Steel, 1/2 inch Lie-Nielsen Bevel Edge Socket Chisel, had reached the end of it's usable life in my shop. Rather than replace it with another Lie-Nielsen, I decided to try a different brand.
I was just beginning to use hand tools when I bought this chisel back in 2013. At the time, I was drawn to the bomb-proof socket design and shrugged off the potential for handles that might fall out with every swing of the weather. I planned to use it in a production environment, so the durability of the A2 steel was a no-brainer. It also didn't hurt that I was buying them for a class. Lie-Nielsen offered a nice little discount to students buying items on a recommended tool list.
But as my experience with this tool has grown, so has my list of small, but nagging, frustrations.
Random loose handle days - This has more to do with the conditions in my shop, and the overall socket design, than any specific defect of the tool. But it happens several times a year. And common fixes to keep the handles in place, like hair spray or lacquer, don't always work that well.
The blade is getting a little too short - It's still got more than two thirds of it's theoretical useful life left, but it's already too short for the type of work I do. Cleaning up mortise corners in a 4" thick bench slab doesn't work that well with a butt chisel.
Grinding is getting more complicated - When I place this chisel on the tool rest of my bench grinder it no longer sits flat. The socket gets in the way. This is easily corrected with a piece of scrap to shim the socket off of the rest, but it's one more adjustment to make.
Sharpening issues - This is the big one. A while back I modified a set of long jaws for my L-N Honing Guide so that I could set my plane irons for a 40 degree bevel without having to use a jig. With the long jaws on the guide, the socket on the chisel is just about to keep the chisel from properly registering in the guide. I could switch jaws, but that's just more friction keeping me from sharpening. And the only friction in sharpening should be between the stone and the blade. Anything more than that and you'll suffer too long with a dull tool.
I could have resolved nearly all of these issues by simply buying another Lie-Nielsen chisel. But I've been wanting to try something new.
So, which brand am I switching to and why?
I've used a couple of the Veritas Bevel Up Bench Planes for a while now. I'm not enamored with the design and styling of Lee Valley's planes, but I am a big fan of the PMV-11 Steel. So, when they announced the powdered metal version of their bench chisels a while back, I decided I wanted to give them a try. But I'm too cheap to buy a new chisel before I really need it.
It's surprising how wanting to earn a new tool will encourage you to sharpen more often.
So there's the steel, but that's not the only difference.
Useable Length - The distance from the tip of the chisel to the point where the handle begins to interfere with the cut is at least 1/2" longer on the Veritas.
Handle Design - The Veritas chisel uses a Socket-and-Tang design to join the handle to the blade. I have a Blue Spruce chisel that uses a similar setup and I've had no issues. The socket supports the handle during striking while the tang keeps the steel from falling off when the humidity drops.
Flat Spots cut into the top and bottom of the handle work to keep the chisel from rolling off the bench. They also serve as a tactile cue. So you'll be more aware of the blade orientation simply by holding it in your hand.
After 4 months of use, this chisel has not disappointed.
If you want to get an idea for how this chisel looks out of the box and what it takes to get it set up and ready to use, you can take a look at this video I posted back in February.
It should go without saying, but I'll say it anyway... This is NOT a sponsored post. I paid full price for this tool and I'm not being paid to use or write about it. There are no affiliate links in this post.