Last week, ALDI stores around the States once again did us all the favor of stocking a couple 4 packs of “Work Zone” chisels at each of their stores.
Chisels from a grocery store?
Yes, and if you’ve been around the inter-web of hand tool geeks long enough you’ve probably already read opinions on these chisels by Paul Sellers, Graham Haydon and others. I read another opinion on an Instagram post I made concerning these chisels this week. And I quote:
“They are cheap for a reason, they are rubbish, only a handyman should use these chisels”
Apparently only handymen are allowed to use periods and complete sentences as well. Alas.
First of, let me say they are cheap for a reason, but not the reasons this bloke was touting. They are cheap because they’re made off-shore. They are cheap because not a lot of thought is given to quality control in fit and finish. They are cheap because someone is probably getting paid too little to sit in a factory and pound these out.
Some of those reasons are objectionable to me, but the chisels themselves are not.
The Chrome-vanadium steel seems to be well tempered. It takes keen edge and keeps it for a serviceable amount of time. You can pass these down to your grand-kids, but like all chisels, they’ll need to learn how to sharpen them too. The machining is rough but the backs are all either flat or slightly concave so lapping them is a quick affair. I went the extra mile and sanded out the machine marks on the face, back and beveled edges to a decent polish.
The handles, as they come, are ill-proportioned and covered in lacquer of some sort. The ring at the top is useless and they feel a little too long to me. They’re also round so they roll around on (and right off) the bench and the flattened part meant as a landing for your grip is rough.
Seriously though, we’re woodworkers aren’t we? There’s some really fine ash under all of that mass-production. I popped off the ring with a nail-set and took 1/2″ off with my carcase saw. From there, literally fifteen minutes with a rasp, float and sandpaper can turn it into something like this.
I put this 1″ chisel right to work and it has been reliable, comfortable and useful in every way you really need a chisel to be those things. So, they may be cheap for a reason, but a handyman (or handywoman) sure could do a lot worse.