WoodRiver Butt Chisels
Reviewed by Robert Howard
This Chinese-made chisel set is well presented in a finger jointed wooden box, with each having a plastic edge guard. The chisels look great with their solid bubinga wooden handles and machined, polished and tapered ferrules.
A small quibble is that the fit between the ferrule and the tapered end of the blade is not precise, and leaves a small, sharp shoulder. This might become annoying during an extended period of work, however the shoulder can be softened with a slipstone or some fine emery paper. The chisels are well balanced, with an excellent feel in the hand.
The blades are a high carbon steel, rather than the A2 or O1 of the more expensive brands. The set I have to evaluate is supposed to have been sharpened, an option that is supposedly available overseas, but I can see no evidence of it. The blades have been well ground to the usual 25° bevel angle, but not honed.
The backs of the chisels in this set are all admirably hollow, bearing on my stones at each end of the blade, and not touching anywhere in the middle (this might just be luck, but the fact that all four were the same would seem to suggest otherwise. It could be part of the preparation for the sharpening that was supposed to have happened). What concerned me more, however, was that in preparing the back of each chisel, probably with a linisher, the manufacturer has dubbed over one long edge on each one of them. Fortunately, I found that by the time I had polished the back to an acceptable level across the back and just behind and up to the edge, the dubbing had been removed from that critical area. What remained did not affect the performance of the chisels.
I set up my usual chopping test for toughness of an edge. I cut a square end on a piece of 150 x 50mm Australian cedar, marked a knife line 1mm in from that end with my cutting gauge, and clamped a square section piece of hardwood across the board on the line. I was then able to chop down through the cedar with the chisel held square against the piece of hardwood. I did this with a number of chisels of different makes.
After 32 cuts all the chisels were still cutting cleanly, so I prepared a piece of 30mm thick spotted gum. Without resharpening, I put all the chisels once more to the test. No edge was intact after the first cut.
I was not surprised or dismayed by this. My conclusion was that if the chisel will cut through 50mm cedar at least 36 times, and keeps up with well known brands, it is good enough for me. Tests like this are extremely variable I have learned, and seem to depend very much on the particular piece of wood used. However, if the same wood is used for each chisel, it does give some basis for comparison.
As always with the WoodRiver tools, the best news is the price. At less than $20 each, these chisels are amazingly good value. Remember though that they are butt chisels, so the blades are just over 60mm long – about the same as a Japanese chisel – and you need to be able to work with that.
Review tools supplied by Professional Woodwork Supplies: see www.woodworksupplies.com.au