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Post by Chilli-head on 21st May 2011, 10:43 pm

I've already mentioned my fondness for old tools, but sometimes it is quite nice to get on with a bit of woodwork rather than fettle tools, so new ones which (hopefully) work out of the box are useful. What is on offer though is quite a mixed bag, so I thought I would share some recent experiences of tools bought in the last few months. I should confess up front that I have a bias towards tools which are, like myself, made in Sheffield !

Crown hand tools are a fairly new Sheffield maker established to fill a gap in the market for modestly priced quality tools. To a measure they succeed. I have their Try square, mortice gauge, marking knife and 3 registered mortice chisels. The quality of the chisels seems variable, I initially returned 2 of the 3; one had a hairline crack in the blade and another was poorly finished. To their credit I was sent an apology and replacement "good uns" (sic) by return of post. Perhaps a Sheffield accent helps. They still required quite a bit of flattening and grinding to sane angles (as supplied, they were ground anywhere between 30-40 degrees). Once done though, they are good chisels. Solid handles, and steel which holds a good edge. The other tools were all of pretty reasonable quality and finish.

Hamlet Craft tools, another Sheffield company, make a range of woodworking and woodturning chisels. I have beveled chisels. They are are nicely ground, needed little sharpening to use out of the pack, and hold a good edge. Halmet are now owned by Henry Taylor, makers of the Acorn brand. I'm told that Hamlet and Crown use the same blade and handle suppliers, so the difference is in the grinding. From my experience, the Hamlet tools have the edge ! (groan).

Joseph Marples, are a long standing Sheffield toolmaker. I bought their "Trial 1" mitre square pictured in the link. Very pleased with it; nice traditional look, lovely finish with the double brass faces to the rosewood. And, as far as I can measure it, it is set at 45 degrees (no, don't laugh, see below). I will be using this to make a large mirror frame soon I hope.

Silverline tools - I have a set of carving chisels and a mitre square. The chisels were a gift. They have a bizzare collection of shapes - some ground as if for wood turning, some at more conventional chisel angles. They can be ground to a good edge, but it does not last. Some handles fell off, and the ferrules are very thin and cheap tinny stuff. The mitre square was remarkable - it was very cheap and I thought I had nothing to loose. Wrong. It is miniscule - only fit for making models, and wonky ones at that - it was a good degree out ! Returned for refund.

Veritas (Lee Valley) tools - a Canadian manufactured tool sneaked into my collection - their medium shoulder plane. Got a great price on it from Elliotts tool warehouse. Even though it's not made in Sheffield I can't really fault it. Though I was sceptical about the A2 stainless blade, it does seem to take and hold a keen edge; I used a fine oilstone to add a 2-3 degree microbevel to the blade as supplied. The little brass knob on the handle is possibly an innovation too far though- it does not lock up firmly, and it is not that obvious to me how it is supposed to help; still, if you hate it, you can take it off ... The system of 4 grub screws allows you to position the blade precisely, and the depth of cut adjustment is fine with little backlash. Nice little tool.

So, I've seen the good and the not so good. And, as ever, you get what you pay for. I will personally avoid Silverline in future if looking for precision tools ...
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