Narex Classic Bevel Edge Chisels, reviewed by Damion Fauser
Sized from ¼” to 2”, these chisels represent extremely good value for money. They are made by Narex, a company based in the Czech Republic. Their chrome-manganese high carbon steel blades are attached to stained beech handles with a tang and secured with a steel ferrule. I was immediately curious about how this steel would sharpen and hold an edge. Overall length is from 10–12” and useable blade length is 3-¾”.
I checked the straightness of the back of the blade of a ½” chisel and found it to be ever so slightly concave along the length. Consequently, it took me longer to lap and polish the back of this chisel than it otherwise would with a premium chisel. Factory ground with a primary bevel of 25°, I applied a 30° micro bevel with only three strokes on my 1200 waterstone. I then polished this to 8000.
I tested sharpness by paring the waste from a set of ¼” cherry dowels that I had glued in to simulate paring a plug or a pinned tenon. The chisel sliced effortlessly and cleanly through the waste and left a perfectly flush surface behind, showing the blade can take a very keen edge.
To test for edge retention, I chopped down through a piece of 19 x 10mm rock maple, taking around 0.5mm each pass. The tool chopped cleanly and with little effort for the first 18 passes, but then I noticed some compression failure in the endgrain. This is when I would usually refresh an edge but I continued until the chisel could no longer perform. The chisel made 37 passes before it was taking noticeably harder and more numerous mallet blows to make it through. From experience premium chisels would perform for longer under these test conditions and therefore my conclusion is that this steel does not hold an edge as well as some of the more expensive steels.
These chisels are ground on the sides to allow clearance into acute waste areas. I measured the thickness of the land and found it to be 0.9mm, compared to 0.5mm on some premium chisels. After refreshing the edge, I knocked up a set of tails (1:8) in some 13mm cherry and found this chisel was not able to get into the corners without leaving some slight bruising in the corners. I must stress slight.
If you are prepared to invest the time in properly preparing them, these chisels would make an excellent choice for the budget-conscious woodworker.
Narex chisels are available from Timbecon www.timbecon.com.au