Paul Sellers loves these chisels from Aldi. And it was this post and others like it that finally inspired me to pick up a set the last time they appeared in store locally.
Apparently I wasn’t the only one paying attention to Paul as I was just in time to grab the last available set just a few hours after they were put out for sale.
I should be clear. I’m a socket chisel guy and I had no illusions these would replace my beloved Stanley Sweetheart set, but I wanted to see if they could truly be fettled into something worth having around the shop. Or, worst case scenario, I could hang onto them for my daughters to learn how to sharpen and use them when they get old enough.
Either way, they were worth the seven bucks. That’s right. Seven whole US dollars.
When I got them home the first thing I noticed is the steel felt very serviceable, but like any new tool would need some work to bring it up to speed. I have yet to lap and sharpen these chisels, so that will have to wait for the next post. They were about as sharp as baseball cards out of the package though, so anything is an improvement here.
For the moment I want to focus on the handles (and what I did to them).
Some people might get on with these just fine, but out of the package I could not find a comfortable way to hold them. They were bulbous in all the wrong places and despite the flats, rolled around the bench like marbles.
I immediately cut the metal ring off the end. I forgot to even take a picture before I did that. Here’s a comparison, of where they started (bottom) and what I ended up with (top)
Not sure what wood this is, but it looks and feels a lot like ash? It’s really light though and resistant to being worked against the grain. What you see here was all done with a block plane, a spokeshave, a chisel and some sand paper. I did not remove the tang from the handle because I wanted to hold it in my hand as I shaped it down to test for balance.
When I pick up a tool, I don’t want to think about how uncomfortable the handle is. In fact, I don’t want to think about the handle at all. All I want to think about is that razor sharp edge that is working the wood. I want the handle to be transparent. That means different things to different people.
For me that means the length was just about right. I have big hands, but really they’re longer than anything, so I need the butt of a chisel to extend far into my hand. I sometimes choke up on my socket chisels for this reason. The flats were nice but the thumb landing was in the wrong place. I moved it closer to the blade and removed that beach ball right before the ring. Speaking of rings, the one at the back of the chisel had to go.
I know I’ll get some resistance on this one. “What about hitting it with a mallet?” “Won’t it split?” “Didn’t you weaken the part where the tang sits?”
The answers are as follows:
1) It won’t stop me from whacking it with a mallet
2) It was $7. If it splits (years from now presumably) I’ll make a new handle.
I generally prefer a natural finish, but after shaping them down I stained them with some red mahogany stain. This easily distinguishes them from other tools in my shop and it covers up a pitch pocket that popped up when shaping one of them. A few coats of oil and these will be ready to go.
They feel pretty good now. We’ll see how they work when I put an edge to them.