WoodRiver Bevel Edge Socket Chisels

Well made chisels that are comfortable to use, have good edge retention, are easy to sharpen, and provide great value for the price.

WoodRiver Bevel Edge Socket Chisels

WoodRiver Bevel Edge Socket Chisels



Bevel-edge chisels, also referred to as ‘bench chisels’, are the most common style woodworking chisels, in part because they excel at both paring and light to medium chopping tasks. They get their name from the three distinctive bevels on the blade – one at the front that does the actual cutting, and the long bevels along the sides (edges) of the blade that run from the tip backwards to the neck. This design allows the tip to penetrate into tight areas, such as when cleaning up narrow mortises or dovetails.

There are two handle styles of bevel-edge chisels – those that use a tang, and those that use a socket. When it comes to socket style bevel chisels, just about every manufacturer looks to the Stanley 750 design for inspiration – they're esteemed for their ergonomic design, robust construction, and darn good looks. 

Woodcraft's new WoodRiver socket chisels may have their genesis in the Stanley 750, but they've added their own distinctive touches to the classic design.


WoodRiver socket chisels come in eight standard widths, from 1/8" to 1-1/4". The set that I tested consists of  1/4", 1/2", 3/4" and 1".  This is a good compromise set that works well for a wide range of paring and chopping tasks. They come in a stiff cardboard presentation box that you can use to store the chisels until you make a decent tool cabinet in which to display them. You also get a set of silicone tip guards, which are especially useful if you tote the chisels to a job site.

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In the photo above you can see the WoodRiver alongside the Stanley Sweetheart, their modern-day version of the original 750 (both are 1/2" chisels).

The most apparent difference is in the thickness of the blade. Both blades are about 9/64" thick at the tip. The Stanley flares to 13/64" at the shoulder while the WoodRiver blade is, at 19/64", almost 50% thicker. 

The side bevels on the Stanley are a common 30°, and they flare back very gently towards the centerline. On the WoodRiver they're considerably steeper at 70° with a more pronounced flare towards the centerline – from about 5/32" at the tip to 3/8" at the shoulder. 

The flats on the outside edge of the sides are much larger on the Stanley, going from 1/16" at the tip to 1/8" at the shoulder. On the WoodRiver the flats are a fairly consistent 1/32".

Interestingly, the blades on both chisels weight the same - 2 ounces. Likely this is because even though the WoodRiver blade is thicker, the steeper grind has removed more metal.

Because of the side bevel angle, I find the WoodRiver does a better job of cleaning the side of tails on dovetail joints. For paring work, both work equally well, while for mortise work I feel more comfortable with the thicker blade on the WoodRiver.

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While I love the look of the Stanley hornbeam handles I do find them too light and small for extended paring and chopping work. Overall they're 3-1/4" long and about 1-1/8" at their widest. The WoodRiver handles, made from tropical hardwood, are 4-1/8" long and just under 1-1/4" at their widest – which provides a more substantial grip. Plus, their slightly heavier weight does a better job of counterbalancing the blade.

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As on all socket chisels, the tapered cone of the handle is wedge fitted into the corresponding cone at the base of the chisel. Once installed you tap it a few times with a wood mallet to seat the handle. You'll want to make sure the handle is tightly seated before using the chisel - I've had blades fly out occasionally. However, I've never had a socket chisel handle split, as can happen with a tang handle – the angle of the tang and repeated force applied to the end of the handle can cause the tang to split the handle apart. This usually happens when you use bevel chisels for heavy mortise work (which they're not designed to be used for), and is, in part, why you need a set of mortise chisels. 

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The back of a chisel, especially just below the cutting edge, should be perfectly flat so that you can obtain a better formed cutting edge when sharpening and honing the bevel. On the WoodRiver chisels I found that, in general, the first 1/2" to 5/8" of the back was as close to flat as you'd want. As you move down the blade toward the shoulder, a very slight belly begins to form. So, while you could work the back of the chisel to get a mirror smooth finish, it isn't, in my view, necessary. Depending on how often you regrind the bevels, you'll eventually have to flatten another 1/2" to 3/4" of the back. But,unless you'll be doing one keck of a lot of woodworking, that won't be for years to come.

I also measured the widths of all four chisels and found them to be well within .001” of their stated widths.

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The chisels are ground from a 100 CR-V (chrome vanadium) high carbon, solid-forged steel and tempered to between Rc 58 and 63. The 100 refers to the amount of carbon in the steel – in this case, .99% by volume, along with other alloys including chromium, vanadium, manganese, and silicon. The vanadium increases strength, hardness, and temperature stability. It also makes the steel more shock and corrosion resistant. The Rockwell hardening level is similar to what you'll find on most bevel chisels – it  enables them to hold an edge well, yet makes them reasonably easy to sharpen.

They come with a common flat ground 25° bevel, a general purpose compromise grind for paring and light chopping. 

There are proponents for both flat and hollow grinding. Even those who prefer flat ground blades will usually add a secondary bevel, as it makes the cutting edge less fragile. I prefer a hollow grind, and reground all four of the chisels on a Tormek. This also gave me the opportunity to compare resharpening these chisels with other brands that I've used.

I found them very quick and easy to regrind – about the same as the Stanley, Two Cherries, and Narex chisels I use.

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I used these chisels over a period of four weeks for a variety of tasks – chopping shallow mortises, paring, and cutting dovetails – enough that they eventually needed to be rehoned several times, and eventually re-ground. Edge retention is a key feature on any cutting tool, and I'm pleased to report that the edges on the these chisels held up as well as other chisels I use in my shop.

 
As you can see in the photo above, those steep side bevels are especially welcome when you're paring pin sockets for dovetails. Here I'm showing a 1/4" chisel inserted into a 5/16" socket. 

The real test for any tool is consistent use over time, so it will take some time longer to tell how good these WoodRiver chisels really are. But, so far, I quite like them. They're well balanced and very comfortable to hold and use for both paring and chopping operations. The steel is hard enough to hold an edge for a respectable period to time, yet easy enough to sharpen and hone. Though bevel-edge chisels are usually not used for mortise work, I found that they could easily chop out the typical 3/8" wide by about 1" deep mortises I typically use. And, because of their thickness, they have enough strength that you can leverage out waste without fear of breaking the blades.

I wouldn't mind seeing another version of these chisels offered in a kit that contains both a 1/8" and 3/8" size. The 1/8" is useful for cleaning out waste in dovetails and in tight spots, while the 3/8" is invaluable for mortise work, especially since the vast majority of woodworking is with 3/4" stock. 

This makes a great starter set for the new woodworker, or an upgrade set for someone who wants to graduate from a mediocre set of chisels. And, at $220 Canadian, they're excellent value.

KEY FEATURES:

  • Steel: 100 CR-V
  • Rockwell hardened: 58-63
  • Bevel angle: 25°
  • Handles: Tropical Hardwood
  • Blade length: 4"
  • Overall lengths: 9-5/8" to 9-7/8"
  • Sizes included: 1/4", 1/2", 3/4", 1"
  • Optional sizes available: 1/8", 3/8", 5/8", 1-1/4"
  • Includes: Heavy cardboard storage box, silicon chisel guards

COMPANY:Woodcraft
MODEL:161640W
PRICE:$220.78
MADE IN:China
SOURCE:Woodcraft

Author: 
Carl Duguay
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