Workshop Heaven six-piece Victorian Cabinetmakers Chisels set

It’s said that a poor workman always blames his tools, but the opposite is also true: a good workman will refuse to work with poor tools. While good tools in themselves won’t make someone a good craftsperson, they certainly help. Cheap woodworking chisels made using poor steel – that won’t take and hold a decent edge – are a source of frustration, whereas high quality items will contribute to good and accurate work. The psychological aspect is also important, as fine tools are a joy to own and use, in addition to helping engender fine craftsmanship.

Packaging & blade guards

It was a pleasure, then, to be able to try out a set of ‘Victorian Cabinetmakers Chisels’, which are available exclusively from Workshop Heaven. The full set of six chisels are supplied individually wrapped in brown paper tied with a piece of string, in a cardboard box lined with corrugated card troughs. Each chisel has a plastic guard to prevent damage to the cutting edge. The box is of good enough quality to store the chisels in when not in use, although purchasers may decide to buy a leather tool roll – also available from Workshop Heaven – for more permanent protection. I’m not a fan of plastic packaging if an alternative exists, and found the cardboard box rather pleasing.


The chisels tested here feature Narex high carbon steel blades and rosewood ‘Best London Pattern Rosewood Octagon’ handles

High carbon steel blades & rosewood handles

The chisels feature high carbon steel blades, made especially for Workshop Heaven by Narex – a well-known and respected firm located in the Czech Republic. As these are general-purpose chisels, for robustness when being struck by a mallet, the bevels are at a steeper angle in comparison to those on dedicated paring chisels. All steel surfaces have been carefully ground and polished, and fitted with what are described as ‘Best London Pattern Rosewood Octagon’ handles, turned in Sheffield. I’ve come across this style of handle before, as seen on some Ashley Iles’ tools, and am a big fan. They’re easy to grip and comfortable in the hand in all situations, although some users might prefer the handles on the narrower chisels having been scaled down in proportion.


An interesting attention to detail is the leather washer, situated at the point where the tang enters the handle

The rosewood, which is sustainably sourced – beech handles are also available as an alternative option – has a matt oil finish, which not only looks the part but also contributes to the tool’s non-slip quality. An interesting attention to detail is the leather washer where the tang enters the handle. I assume this helps to absorb impact when the chisels are struck with a mallet, though it’s worth noting, of course, that bevel-edge chisels aren’t intended for heavy-duty work such as the chopping of mortises.


Forged from high carbon steel, blade composition is very similar to late Victorian crucible. They’re ground to the 8116 pattern, which Workshop Heaven and Narex worked on together some years ago

Ready for use

The chisels are supplied ground and honed ready for use, although I decided to touch them up on a 6,000 grit Japanese waterstone, as is my usual practice. The chisel backs are ground and polished minutely hollow, which is all to the good, and makes removing the ‘wire edge’ a quick operation. As such, there was no need to dress the backs of these chisels on a lapping plate made for this very purpose – also available from Workshop Heaven and the subject of a future article.


Each handle is finished with Peacock Oil Regal Red, from Skelton Saws, before being installed with a hand-cut leather washer, which matches Workshop Heaven’s handmade leather tool rolls

Crisp cutting

I tested a selection of these chisels on an actual project that was underway in the workshop: an occasional table made from a combination of ripple sycamore bandsawn veneers laid on a plywood substrate and Australian blackbean – a tough wood with a reputation for being hard to work, which has a blunting effect on cutting edges owing to its high mineral content. These chisels cut crisply and sweetly and didn’t require resharpening throughout the paring of several sets of dovetails, which is testament to the steel’s high quality. The chisels’ dimensions and weight made for accurate and pleasurable work, also helped by the handles’ design.


Each handle is finished with Peacock Oil Regal Red, from Skelton Saws, before being installed with a hand-The chisels cut crisply and sweetly and didn’t require resharpening throughout the paring of several sets of dovetails


In conclusion, Workshop Heaven has come up with an excellent range of chisels here, which will satisfy the needs of fine craftspersons – professional and amateur alike – and available at a price that won’t break the bank.


Chisel widths: 6mm, 10mm, 12mm, 16mm, 20mm & 26mm
Overall lengths: From 280-290mm
Blade lengths: 95-96mm
Blade thickness: Tapers down from 5mm
Handmade suede leather tool rolls: Six-pocket: overall size – 420 × 420 × 2mm; 12-pocket: overall size – 780 × 420 × 2mm


I tested the chisels on a project that was underway in the workshop – an occasional table with ripple sycamore bandsawn veneers laid on a plywood substrate and Australian blackbean

Typical costs: Victorian Cabinetmakers Chisels with rosewood handles – set of six – £168; Handmade suede leather tool rolls – £42.50; (six-pocket) – £67.60 (12-pocket)


PROS: High quality steel; capable of taking and holding a fine edge; beautifully made and finished; versatile chisels that’d suit the needs of most woodworkers

CONS: All chisels in the set have the same size handles, which may not suit everyone’s personal preferences; the bevels’ steepness may limit their use in certain situations




Handmade suede leather tool rolls, with either six or 12 pockets, are available from Workshop Heaven