Imagine being a builder and having to work without chisels. The bluntness alone would make things a lot harder.
This is why chisels are every builder’s staple. And this is also why you should focus on getting quality chisels over inexpensive ones.
But what if you wanted a balance between both options? Would buying cheap chisels and sharpening them be worth it?
There’s a lot to consider here. Edge retention, material, cost – you’ll have to consider everything. So what’s the answer? Let’s take a look.
Is Sharpening Cheap Chisels Worth It?
Unfortunately, the answer to that is no. sharpening cheap chisels isn’t worth the time and effort put into it.
You’re much better off with high-quality chisels.
And if you really want to keep the cheaper ones, don’t bother investing a lot of time in sharpening them.
No matter how much you sharpen the cheap chisels, they’ll never beat the more high-quality ones.
Plus they’ll take a lot of time and effort but the output is nowhere near that level.
You’ll also have to spend more money so really, might as well get a new set that won’t need all this time.
If you’re a beginner and need practice more than anything else then maybe the outcome would be worth something. Time invested in learning anything is never wasted, you know.
But for a professional who already has plenty of stuff going on, the outcome won’t level with the effort.
There are a bunch of reasons why sharpening your cheap chisels isn’t worth it. There’s time and money involved, the quality, and a bunch of other things too.
Beginners usually have these to spare, plus the practice is what matters to them. That’s why sharpening cheap chisels only work out for their level.
Why Shouldn’t You Sharpen Cheap Chisels?
The question of the hour. It is understandable that you’re already wondering about the answer, so let’s get there.
There are a bunch of reasons why sharpening your cheap chisels won’t be worth the work. Too much time involved, material issues, cost issues, edge retention- these are the major reasons but there are some other reasons too.
Let’s take a deeper look.
- Needs Too Much Time
Honestly, it doesn’t sound like a big issue now. But it will once you get to the middle of it.
Sharpening cheap chisels takes lots of time and you won’t even see the progress you want.
That really isn’t a good point for them.
Sharpening cheap chisels takes work, a lot of it. The sharpening will depend on what tool you’re using.
But no matter what tools you use, sharpening them will take much longer than regular chisels.
Don’t think one hour, think almost double the time you would spend to sharpen a good chisel.
All that time behind this but the sharpening will still be meh at best. Cheap chisels don’t get sharpened well, you’ll probably be wearing your stone down for three hours and all you will see are some dents on it.
So what this all mean is that sharpening cheap chisels take a lot longer than normal ones and they don’t sharpen well either.
- Material Issues
Cheaper chisels are made from different kinds of steel than expensive ones. They usually aren’t pressed much compared to expensive chisels and they barely can get through regular sharpening without getting ruined.
Let’s face it, budget chisels are always made of budget steel. This means that the material quality will be much lower than the high-quality, expensive chisels.
Lower quality materials also have the issue with proper finish and fit so there’s that.
Because the material used is much lower in quality, the chisel can barely hold it together through regular use.
If you pair sharpening with that, your chisels will be crying for their lives and you’ll have a higher risk of ending up with a ruined chisel.
- Cost Issues
Is there a point in sharpening cheap chisels if you have to spend more money on them than you would spend buying some good quality chisels?
As you can guess, the answer would be no. But that’s exactly what happens with cheap chisels.
Cheap chisels need more work and most of the time, different sharpening materials. Yes, you’ll need the same materials for sharpening expensive chisels but they won’t be the exact same ones. Cheap chisels may need a different water stone or other material.
The amount of money you’ll be spending on getting the tools for sharpening your chisels is going to be pretty high. You can easily get some good chisels with the same amount, so why bother spending it multiple times over the years?
- Edge Retention
This is the biggest reason why sharpening cheap chisels isn’t worth it.
Cheap chisels can’t hold the sharpening for long so you’ll be sharpening your chisels pretty frequently.
And that’s pretty exhausting, to say the least.
Cheap chisels are made from different quality steels. Since the quality is different, most chisels take time to be sharpened.
Like that wasn’t enough, the sharpening doesn’t last very long in them. One small project and you’ll be sharpening them twice during it.
Expensive chisels are better at retaining edges for a long time. They rarely need frequent sharpening unless you’re constantly working with them.
So really, sharpening your cheap chisels isn’t really worth it unless you have time and energy to spare. Better to invest in quality chisels anyways.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
It is hard to cover everything about chisels and sharpening in a single writing. So if you still have some questions left, that’s understandable.
Here are a bunch of questions about sharpening cheap chisels we often get from people. Hopefully, this can be a little extra help for you.
You’ll need sharpening materials like leather strops, water stones, or diamond stones. Strap them to the leather strop with a green compound and angle it right. Start with the back and raise a full burr. Remove all factory patterns, refine the edge and strop.
Yes. New chisels might be sharp but not sharp enough to do everything you need. It isn’t pressed hard enough in the factory. So you’ll have to sharpen them properly before using them.
That depends on how often you’re using your chisels. If they’re your “good ones” and you rarely use them, once every three months is good enough. If you use them regularly, sharpen them the moment your chisels feel a little dull.
Try testing them with a piece of end grain. Place the chisel and try to shave the piece. If your chisel is sharp enough, it will easily shave off a thin piece. Otherwise, it will press down but won’t do a clean cut.
So, it’s not worth getting cheap chisels sharpened, right? There are lots of reasons but the major ones are time, material, and edge retention issues.
Of course, you can get your cheaper chisels sharpened anyways, but it won’t really give you the output you want. So it is better to buy good quality ones in the first place.