Narex’s New State of The Art Chisel, Part 1

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The new Richter chisel is a real treat. Its feel and finish are exceptional, the ash handle is very comfortable, the blade is polished – which, in addition to its pure appearance, is very useful in preventing the accumulation of rust.

At the end of January Narex, the renowned Czech hand tool maker, sent me a box which contained three chisels for review. The sturdy but old-fashioned gray cardboard box sewn together with staples contained three elegant jet black capsules that contained the new line of Richter bench chisels. It took me a few months and now I’m finally able to release my review on this chisel compared to the chisel with Sweetheart 750 STANLEY binding.

Unpack the new Narex Richter chisels:

The chisel blade is made of chrome vanadium steel, a steel that Narex uses extensively on most, if not all, of their edge tools. The blade is heat treated through a cryogenic hardening process which is considered by many to be the most advanced hardening process in circulation.

A year before the Narex box arrived, I learned that the company intended to release a special line of high-quality bench chisels to celebrate their centenary. Incorporating the Cryogenic heat treatment process these chisels were intended to have a higher quality of hardening which would make them with an exceptionally hard and long lasting edge. They had to have a new and comfortable grip design that included a stainless steel ferrule and a leather cushioning washer above the cushion. And finally, the factory promised to push the production envelope further to ensure that the trapezoidal geometry of the blade cross section will be uniform and crisp, and therefore will allow it to slide smoothly into tight dovetail corners.

In full disclosure: I have a friendly relationship with Filip Stanek, who has become the driving force behind Narex’s success over the past fifteen years. So when I heard that the new Richter line was finally out, I emailed him and he sent me three chisels in return for review. The ones I got were ¼ ’, ⅜” and I “, of which I decided to review the ¾” – as I believe it is one of the most versatile chisel sizes for which we reach daily.

At an average price of $ 35 dollars, the Richter ranks at half the price, on par with the new chisel with socket Stanley 750 and Two Cherries of German production. It’s cheaper than the standard Narex bench chisel or other mass-produced department store chisels, yet it costs $ 20 less than the acclaimed American product Nielsen chisel lie.

The feel, appearance and finish of the chisel are impressive. The metal is mirror polished, the back is flat and the edges of the side bevels (along the length of the blade) are minimized. This feature that I mentioned earlier is essential to allow the chisel to excel in tight corners. While Narex managed to make the corners of the blade base very narrow, it also kept them away from being frighteningly sharp. This is important, as you don’t want to risk cutting your hand while grabbing the blade or guiding it while dividing the wood.

The Richter chisel has a flat and smooth back.

The Richter’s chisel has a beveled edge that tilts sideways and culminates in a sharp angle.

A leather washer is inserted over the tongue and is heel against the cushion to provide some cushioning. The washer is intended to dampen the thrust impact between the blade and the wooden handle when the chisel is hit by a hammer.

The ergonomic handle is made of ash.

Here are some pictures of the Stanley 750 chisel which is the main competitor of the Narex-Richter:

Along with the Two Cherries bench chisel, the 750 Stanley Sweetheart bevel chisels were perhaps the only chisels in the mid-range price. Neither Stanley nor Two Cherries have a real beveled edge.

Beveled chisels with Sweetheart 750 recess

Stanley’s rounded edges end abruptly in a “wall”.

Unlike the Richter, the Stanley blade leaves the factory unpolished.

Side by side comparison between Richter and Stanley:

Contrary to the sharp beveled edges of Richter’s blade (right), Stanley’s bevels are tilted to the rear and end abruptly with a right-angle “wall”, like what we see in the basic quilted chisels.

Narex produces a series of chisels, some of them have blades with chamfered edges “on the wall” (see photo below), while more advanced designs, such as the one sold by Lee Valley they are milled to incorporate a bevel that culminates in a very narrow edge. In the Richter chisel line, Narex went even further and minimized the corners of the beveled edge, but moved slightly away from the edges that were too sharp to hold and handle them.

This Narex bench chisel is not sold in North America. It has a “walled” beveled edge.

Lee Valley sells a Narex chisel whose edges are milled much closer to a real beveled edge.

Only Richter chisels can be considered real chisels with chamfered edges.

With all due respect for the superb geometry, the choice of material and the attractive aesthetics and the comfort of both the handle and the blade, the proof of this Czech pudding will be in the cutting performance and in the retention qualities of the edges of the blade.

Next time I will show how I refined both the Richter chisel and its competitor Stanley and prepared them for their edge to edge tournament.

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