Grocery List: Milk, Eggs, Handtools?

 In Tool Reviews
The hardware store for cheap bastards.

The hardware store for cheap bastards.

If you watch any of Paul Sellers great videos online, you will know he almost exclusively uses his set of razor sharp chisels from ALDI. When he first mentioned these things I was still a little hot in the pants for like an old set of Stanley Sweetheart chisels, or something like the wonderful Lie Nielsen chisels that Mark Spagnolo uses, really even a set of Marples just eager to spend a veritable ass-load of money. The only experience I had ever had with chisels was Buck Bros, and a set of Kobalt chisels that held a decent edge. They had done their job for me cleaning up tool marks and squaring up routed tenons, I figured something much more expensive would make me a much better woodworker. Working with handtools really teaches you that “A tool does not make a man.” but a man certainly can become a tool. But I was starting to get into “REAL woodworking” as Sellers often says, and to quote my own terrible dad joke, “I was sold…get it sellers/sold.” I suck, I get it. That guy knew his stuff, and if he could use a set of 5$ chisels then why couldn’t I?


I quickly ran to ALDI and asked the clerk where are your handtools, and low and behold, I found myself in the foreign land of a grocery store. This was mid winter and they had no such thing so I grabbed a box of off brand lucky charms and a gallon of 2% and went home to drown my sorrows. My wife is a deal hunter and she looks at ALDI’s ad like a poker player hoping his bad hand is going to change, so I put her on the scent.


Come, whenever the hell Father’s Day is (3rd Sunday in June, that you Google,) and those pandering German SOBs put out an ad to tempt us dudes to come in or to tempt our wives to buy their brand nazi husband some off brand tool. I am by no means a brand nazi, equal opportunity in my shop, I know how to misuse tools of all brands.


As I said earlier I am a firm believer in the old sayings (maybe) “A tool does not make a man” and “The best tool for a job is the one you have,” or a hammer definitely bring a hammer. So I went in and they had everything: a lever lock measuring tape (crap), as set of files and rasps, chisels (metric only damnit) and 2 different sets of quick clamps, all 5 bucks each. The chisels are exactly as sexy as Paul Sellers makes them out to be ash handles, chrome vanadium steel, long side bevels, and great balance and feel. I stocked up, I filled the cart and I even got the eggs my wife had asked for (I forgot the eggs.) Either way I had so many ideas for these tools, I would grind one set of chisels down for pairing, on set for skew chisels and another set for clean-up mortising work.

Building the floating campaign nightstands with full blind dovetails was a joy, and the best value in handtool woodworking, the Aldi Chisel.

Building the floating campaign nightstands with full blind dovetails was a joy, and the best value in handtool woodworking, the Aldi Chisel.The Chisels

The Chisels

At first I was concerned about the metric sizing, but after working with them a bit I realized these were perfect for a hybrid woodworker. Mark Spagnolo says it better than I ever could in his article about chisel sizes but an 18mm chisel is perfect for squaring up the edges of a dado or mortise made with a 3/4 “ router bit and cleaning up the bottom of a ½” dado is way easier with a 12mm chisel that a ½” one.


The WorkZone chisel set comes with ¼” ½” ¾” and 1” mm equivalent chisels they come out of the box not at all flat and not at all sharp, which is what I would expect from a 5$ set of chisels. After about an hour on the stones and my secret to easy sharpening (video to come soon) I had 4 dead flat, razor sharp chisels. I have used these for several dovetails, which I prefer to cut and remove waste by hand, and to clean up and fine tune tons of joints. With a little bit of edge maintenance and care not to nick the edges, I have only had to really “sharpen” them twice in the past year. Some of the chisels had some big ole’ beer bellies to grind out but none of them took more that 20 minutes to get perfectly flat and the chrome vanadium steel has held an edge incredibly. If you were to buff off all the text on the blade, sand and stain the handle people would be hard pressed to tell you that set wasn’t 100$


The Clamps


First of all let me me preface this, I hate quick clamps. For the most part they are neither quick nor clamps and no matter the price, my gorrilla mits have managed to snap each and every brand I have tried. The Irwin clamps are great for the price, and I haven’t tried the newest model, but I still don’t trust them to get a proper glue joint. I use quick clamps to hold stock, while I go and get the real clamps for awkward joinery and sometimes to hold a jig against a workpiece or to function as an extra set of hands.


The WorkZone clamps are a nice solid resin body with a steel rod and removable mar resistant pads. The trigger is as easy to snap off as any other ones but it is also easy to take apart and repair. They only had up to 24” lengths and down to 3” lengths but…did I mention each set of 4 to 6 clamps was 5$? The 6 piece set from Irwin is at the time of publication of this article, 58$ on amazon. I’ll take 10 please Aldi…


The Files and Rasps


They are tool steel, they are rasps, they works on metal and wood, they are 5$. I just hate having to brush out or sharpen rasps ever. It usually involves chemicals and tedious brass brushing and I just don’t want to do it. 4 of the 8 piece set keeps that down to a minimum. They don’t do as well as some of my antique files on hardened steels, but they are more than hard enough for most work.
Keep an eye out on the ads around father’s day and hopefully you will be drawn in as well. The chisels are a must buy, you can never have enough rasps and files, and the clamps, they are basically disposable, but great to have around, better than the comparable Home Depot house brand offering or something from Harbor Freight for twice the price.

Keep your tools sharp, and your mind sharper



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