Grizzly Japanese Chisel Review

by Tim "Spokeshave" Gillespie

This article first appeared as a thread on theWoodNet woodworking forum on 5.18.04. It was compiled and reproduced here for easier public consumption. All Text and Images are the property of "Spokeshave."

They arrived today. 10 chisels in sizes ranging from 1/8" up to 1-1/2".

Fit and finish is OK. The castings are rough on the top, as is typical for japanese chisels. The back is machined with the typical dish, which displayed obvious grinding marks. No biggie. This part never gets sharpened. The flat part of the back was nice and flat, and nicely honed. Not a mirror finish, but smooth nonetheless.

The bevel was nicely honed too, and in the picture, you can clearly see the two distinct layers of steel - the darker, softer top, and the hard, lighter colored steel near the cutting edge. This is supposed to be hardened to Rockwell 62 or so. The picture looks like there is a chip in the edge, but that is just cosmoline - a very light coat.

The handle is oak, and has a rather rough varnish on it. It has some minor runs, and some nibs in the finish. I'll take some 400 grit paper to all of the handles to make them smoother to the tough.

The socket seems to fit nicely and is quite firm. The ferrule also fits nicely and has a good, solid feel to it. It is cast - not stamped steel.

Right out of the box, the chisels are pretty sharp. I could easily shave a piece of fingernail off with them.

But, they were not sharp enough for serious work, so I gave one of them (the 1-1/2" one) a quick honing. I took both the back and the bevel from 30 micron up to 0.5 micron diamond grit paste. Six steps in all. I really like the diamond paste method of honing. The back quickly polished to a mirror finish. There are some minor scratches from my haste to try the chisel, and being sloppy about wiping off previous grits. But, it was good enough for this review.

The bevel took a little more work. Usually, this is the other way around. The back takes the most work, and the bevel is easier to hone. Thanks to the dished out back, though, it went very quickly.

I did not polish the entire bevel. It appeared to have a slight crown, as the middle honed more quickly than the edges. Eventually, I got the honed portion to span nearly the entire cutting edge. I chose not to hone in a microbevel until I could spend more time on the honing. This was good enough for this test.

The edge was quite sharp now. By feel it seemed every bit as sharp as I am able to get my Marples Blues - in fact, it seemed a bit sharper. I tried it out on a piece of paper, and it sliced through effortlessly.

So, I decided to try it on some hard maple pins in a dovetailed carcase that I am working on. The pins are about 1/16" proud, and covered with glue. Normally, I would take the glue off with a scraper before using a chisel or plane, but I wanted to see how this chisel handled the glue, and how the edge stood up.

So, I began. Paring hard maple end grain is one of the toughest challenges I could throw at this chisel.

It handled the task very nicely. Though the glue was quite hard and brittle, the chisel easily sliced through it and the hard wood. I finished all 9 pins, and the chisel cut the last one as easily as the first. Even though I was being rather reckless by using the chisel on hardened glue, I saw no evidence of edge degradation. In comparison to my Marples chisels, in which I can usually tell that the "sweetness" of the edge starts to go after even just a few parings. My sense is that the edge on the Japanese chisels will outlast the Marples. This stands to reason, since they are quite a bit harder.

So, overall, I am quite impressed. Though I recognize that I need to use them for more than 15 minutes to truly gauge their worth, I am quite certain that I got my money's worth. The set of 10 is on sale for $119.95. That is about $13 a piece shipped. I think I can safely say that they are easier to sharpen, and the edge lasts longer than my Marples chisels. I feel like they take a keener edge too, but that is hard to judge. The only complaints that I have are that the finish on the handles is not very good, and they are difficult to fit into my honing jig. Other than that, I think they are great, and I recommend that anyone who wants a set of Japanese chisels get this one. The price is definitely right.


Cian: Please note that these chisels come with the rear hoops not yet set. To learn how to properly do this, go here.

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