Harbor Freight Windsor DesignChisels

//Harbor Freight Windsor DesignChisels
Harbor Freight Windsor DesignChisels2016-06-18T13:17:32+00:00
  • Creator
  • #2028946

    Mike in TN
    Post count: 289

    Hi all,

    I know there is nothing out there in the tool world that stirs up controversy like bringing up Harbor Freight so here goes. I just bought a set of the wooden handled Windsor Design chisels, number 62641. I picked these up ( you can never have too many chisels) as a beater set and out of curiosity since they were labeled as “new” and as chrome vanadium steel. I have some experience with this steel alloy on some other edged tools and wanted to see how they compare.

    Handle material, balance, overall shape, etc. are personal preferences that everyone has but I have always been able to work with nearly every style I have come across so I will leave it up to you to decide if you like these or not. For me, I found nothing truly objectionable or unworkable on the new set. Let me also say that I have a couple of sets of the older similar style chisels that have been around for several years that have been my carpentry beaters. I can’t say a lot of good things about the older ones except to say that they will do the work if you can keep them sharp.

    Out of the package, I noticed that they are heavily coated with lacquer that I removed with thinner. The grind marks are coarse and there were sharp edges where there should be no sharp edges. The side bevels on one chisel were noticeably uneven but nothing that would make the tool unusable. There were some nicks on the tools and on the edges from rough handling at the factory. A couple of the tools were ground so that the edges were not square with the chisel bodies requiring some minor grinding. The backs flattened fairly well and the rest of the work was pretty much standard chisel sharpening work.

    The real surprise was in the change of quality in the steel. I could tell pretty quickly that the blades were harder than the older sets, requiring more effort in the flattening and sharpening and leaving less black residue on the stones. Even at that, in an hour all six chisels were ready to work and some test time at the bench against some maple and old oak showed that the chisels are clearly superior to the older sets. Even after several minutes of paring end grain they were still able to shave arm hair and had no curled edges. I have never been able to recommend Harbor freight chisels before but they have definitely upped their game with these. I have over a couple of hundred chisels now from European, Japanese and high end American makers ( new and antiques) and while the Harbor Freight chisels are definitely not my favorites for bench work, they represent a good beginner set or “beater” set for the money, certainly better than the big box store offerings.  Any of the “old timers would have been tickled to have a set of these for their bench.  Just be sure that the set you pick up are marked as chromium vanadium.

    Have fun

  • Author
  • James Wright
    Post count: 108

    I picked up the same set a little wile ago and really like them. mine though are all significantly thinner then the measurement they claim. like the 1/4″ is actually 0.237″. not sure if that is by design or not.

    • Mike in TN
      Post count: 289

      Hi again James,

      I haven’t measured my chisels but I suspect they are actually metric equivalents of standard Imperial sizes. Having said that, I don’t think I ever ran into a situation where the exact width in a chisel was a requirement.  Even in the case of mortise and tenon work the marking gauges are normally set to whatever chisel width was convenient and appropriate to the task at hand. Even at that, a set of six decent chisels for less than nine bucks (with the 20% coupon and local sales tax) isn’t a bad deal.

      Have fun

  • BFgeronimo
    Post count: 38

    MY wife and son got me three Matsamura bench chisels for father’s day, completing my set of Japanese chisels. They are like that… metric equivalents and slightly smaller, but as long as you are aware of it, it actually is a useful feature.

    For years I was using a cheap set of wood handled chisels that I bought in Mexico and got a lot of mileage out of them. I am a believer in buying the best you can afford, but if all you can afford is cheap, treat them as if they were the best made and you will be surprised how much they will give back.


    • Mike in TN
      Post count: 289

      Hi again BFgeronimo,

      You bring up an interesting subject, buying the best you can afford. First of all you have to determine”what is best” and after you do, you have to make a judgement call on whether the difference in “quality” is worth the difference in “price”. There are of expensive tools being produced that are truely works of art in their own right. While I could raise the money to purchase some of them I also realize that many of them will not perfom their intended task any better in a meaningful way as compared to most of their less expensive counterparts.

      There will always be more exclusive, more accurate, shinier, items to be had for those willing to spend the money and unfortunately many woodworkers fall into the trap of assuming that more expensive tools will take their work to a higher level, which is seldom the case.  I think the right  idea is for you figure out what will give you the results you are after at the most reasonable price, and then if you want to spurge a little, for whatever reason, then have at it. Unfortunately, and all too often, beginning woodworkers are put off of the craft because of the belief that you have to spend a lot on tools to produce good work and that perception is often fostered by writers fawning over the higher end tools that are offered. Just remember that the wonderful work from the colonial period that we all admire so much was accomplished with tools that today we would consider as poor to adequate at best, and many better quality tools are available at low cost from your local flea markets, yard sales, estate sales, and used tool dealers. I could “afford” a $500 shooting plane, or I could do the work with a $50 plane and buy a whole pile of other fine tools to enjoy. That doesn’t mean I believe a person is foolish to buy that $500 plane, just that they made a different decision than I would have.

      My message to the beginners, and to those on tight budgets, is that you can get good tools that will perform well at a relatively low cost now and splurge later if you want to. I have some “splurge” tools, most of which I bought secondhand, and my woodworking quality would not suffer if they were all gone tomorrow.

      Have fun

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