Wednesday, June 20, 2012

In The Balance

” The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price has been forgotten.”  Benjamin Franklin

Well in case you haven’t heard, Veritas has released their new line of Bench Chisels. I first laid my eyes (and hands) on them back in 2011,  while visiting the Lee Valley Tools head office in Ottawa, Ontario. After a year of anticipation, I finally have a set that I’ve been putting through their paces and wanted to finally share my thoughts with you. I’ve read a few reviews and comments already on the inter-webs and thought I’d throw my two cents into the mix. This review may seem a little late but I wanted to actually work with these things for a while before giving any opinions.  I think that’s a pretty important step to take before spewing opinions around the internet, don’t you?

These things are FLAT.

The first thing you’ll notice when you pick up one of these chisels is the weight of them. For their size, they’re extremely light. A good thing in my book. The second thing you’ll notice is they’re balanced. Let me say that again, they’re really, really balanced! That point is probably the most important thing with any hand tool- how does it feel in hand? How does it feel while in use? These things simply put- feel great. From paring and chopping to fine tuning joinery, I find these chisels an absolute joy to use.
The standard set comes in O1 tool steel and that suites me just fine. I personally prefer O1 for it’s ease of sharpening. Some will argue that in laboratory tests, A2 steel will hold an edge longer. While that may be true, I don’t work in a laboratory! I’ve never found a noticeable difference in wear between the two except as mentioned, when it comes to sharpening. I prefer  O1 tool steel but if you often work with dense exotic timbers and need a tool that will hold up longer in the hardest woods, then  you’re in luck. Veritas will be producing these things in a ‘powdered-metallurgy steel known as PM-V11™ – a tough, wear-resistant alloy that retains its edge longer when used on dense, abrasive woods, yet sharpens as easily as A2 steel.
And speaking of the steel, the chisels come to you absolutely flat and when I say flat, I mean FLAT!
‘… flatness tolerance of ±0.0005″ (half of one thousandth of an inch!)
Half of one thousandth of an inch? Well then, that should do it, eh? In fact, these things are so flat they they’re actually a little sharp on the edges. If I could say anything negative about these chisels it would be just that. The outside edges should be ‘broken’ a little before use. Nothing more than a gentle rolling across a stone or a rub with some sand paper to ease the edges. Maybe this is something Veritas will address in the future? I asked about the sharp outside edges (or lands as they’re called in Galoot World) and was told it’s due to the extensive lapping process carried out during manufacturing to insure these things come to you absolutely flat. Fair enough.

Baked Maple...mmmm.

The handles are made from hard maple that goes through a high temperature, kiln-baking process that eliminates almost all moisture content and caramelizes the sugars in the wood. Oh how Canadian, chisels with maple syrup handles~;) But seriously, the handles feel great in use and that’s the important part. Aesthetically,  they look fantastic and I for one was happy to see a Veritas tool made from a Domestic wood species instead of their instantly recognizable, Bubinga handles and totes. They have small flats on the handle sides that feel great in hand. The blade to handle connection is an innovative cross between a tang and a socket-like ferrule. This makes for a perfect union between the two and you won’t have to worry about loose chisel handles anymore. Something I couldn’t say about ANY of my other chisels.
So, if you’ve been thinking about purchasing a new set of chisels and want something that will last a few lifetimes then I think it would be hard to beat the new chisels from Veritas. The full set of five is priced at just under $300. That is an extremely reasonable price to pay for a set of premium hand tools that will no doubt become extensions of your arms.
Already, they’ve become my go-to chisels and I think they were well worth the wait.

Size compared to some of my other chisels.

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