In this article, we will look at the best Japanese chisel sets that you can buy in 2021.
I looked at 5 of the top-rated Japanese chisels online and found that the Hachiemon 3-piece Wood Chisel Set offer the best quality for the price point.
As an avid woodcarver and overall DIY enthusiast, I have realized the usefulness of hand tools. Through the years, I have come to appreciate their accuracy and dependability. The humble chisel is perhaps the most important of all the hand tools that are part of a woodworker’s fundamental toolset.
From complicated joinery projects to seamless finishes, a good set of chisels will make your woodworking a lot more professional and enjoyable. And as is usual in this world, the Japanese have really thought through and refined the standard western chisel that we all know.
So if you are ready for a deep dive into the fascinating world of Japanese chisels, read on.
Best Japanese Chisels In 2023:
Best Overall: Hachiemon 3-Piece Japanese Oire Nomi Chisels
The Haceimon set has two things going for it – the price and the build quality. For less than $20 apiece, the chisels are of excellent quality. The product page highlights the source of the tools, naming the towns in Japan where they originate.
I will recommend the Hachiemon to anyone who wants to try out Japanese chisels, beginner or a professional. At this price point, it is an easy decision to make. Additionally, most users report being pleasantly surprised by the quality and edge retention for the price.
If you have read my chisel buying guide, you know that almost all chisels need some flattening and sharpening out of the box. However, Hachiemon chisels tend to hold an edge much longer and most buyers have reported getting a well-sharpened set right out of the box.
The Runner-Up: Kakuri 3 Piece Oire Nomi Japanese Chisels
Kakuri is a well-known and well-loved brand when it comes to Japanese. I have recommended their wood-carving Kiridashi knives and wood-plane (Kanna). So I was looking forward to checking out their chisels.
I found that they were reasonably priced, much like the other Kakuri products that I mentioned. They are also by far the most sold Japanese chisels judging by the sheer number of reviews. However, they do fall short in a few areas.
These chisels are a good set for beginners. They may not last too long under heavy workloads. The various options for the handle wood – white oak, red oak, etc. – are an excellent feature to have. They almost made it to the top because of the price point and decent overall quality.
Best For Pros: Fujikawa Okyo 10-Piece Set
The Fujikawa Okyo set has not received much attention because it is a large set with a hefty price tag. However, if you are looking for a complete set of Japanese chisels, this is a good option. This set is excellent for those who do a wide variety of projects that vary greatly in size and shape. Most professional woodworkers will resonate with this.
Overall, the Fujikawa Okyo chisels are an excellent choice for those professionals who need to use many different sizes. At around $25 per blade, it is neither very cheap nor too expensive. This makes it an ideal choice for most workshops. A 6-piece set is also available.
Yataro Set Of 5 Japanese Chisels
This set is for those looking for the highest quality available and is willing to pay for it. At about $40 a piece, these are decidedly on the expensive side of the price wars.
Get these chisels if you want some fine craftsmanship and minimal setup out of the box. That said, most mass-produced chisels require some setup, and these are no different. A little bit of sharpening and tuning may be necessary on some pieces. Otherwise, they are relatively worth the cost.
Best White Steel Japanese Chisel: Kazu 4-Piece Japanese Chisel Set
You may be wondering why this one did not become my number one pick. The answer is because not everyone needs this quality and thus doesn’t need to pay this much for good Japanese chisels.
What makes this set special is its white steel laminate edge. Most other Japanese chisels use regular carbon steel for their edges, laminated with iron to make easy sharpening and prolonged edge retention. White steel is better than ordinary steel, and blue steel is better than white. The pricing follows the quality in this case. Regular carbon steel is the cheapest, blue steel is the costliest, and white steel is in the middle.
If you are looking for a decent set of white steel laminated Japanese Oire Nomi chisels, these are a good set to buy. Since this is a bit of an overkill for most woodworkers, I include it as more of a special mention.
Now that we know which are the best Japanese chisels on the market let’s learn more about them and what you should look for when buying a set for yourself.
Japanese Vs. Regular Chisels
I have mentioned Japanese wood carving knives and hand planes in my previous articles (these ones: best woodcarving knives and best hand planes). I have said that they can be more efficient and precise once you get used to them. The same holds for the Japanese chisel, called “Oire Nomi”.
There are a few main points of difference between the Oire Nomi and the regular western chisel. The use of it is just like any other regular chisel.
Laminated Steel And Iron
Hard steel retains its edge longer but is harder to sharpen. Soft iron is easy to sharpen but dulls very quickly.
Japanese master smiths started the tradition of layering hard steel with soft iron to make chisels that are easy to sharpen and yet retain their edge. The steel part goes at the back, so that edge is all steel and the rest of the body is iron. It is also cheaper in a way because it uses less steel.
Overall, this is what gives these chisels their legendary sharpness and edge retention.
The lamination uses one of three different types of steel. These are regular carbon steel, white steel, and blue steel in the least to most expensive order.
Hollowed Out Backs
You see Japanese chisels, and they all have hollowed-out backs. This would typically be a sign of shoddy manufacturing. But in the case of the Japanese, it is meant to add to the tool’s efficiency.
A hollow back means less area to flatten when tuning and less contact with the work surface. Since hard steel is difficult to grind and adjust, this technique speeds up the process.
Steel Ringed Handles
All Japanese chisels come with steel rings on the striking end. This design stops the wooden handle from splitting under hammer blows.
While most regular chisels are either hammered or had driven, each Oire Nomi can be used both ways. The rings can take a lot of hammering once set up correctly. The razor-sharp edge makes it easy to work using just hands.
Fair warning – it takes some learning and getting used to. Here’s a video that demonstrates a typical setup of the rings or hoops, as they are also known.
Handles are traditionally made out of Red Oak but are also available in other varieties such as white oak and evergreen.
Why Buy A Set of Japanese Chisels?
Each unique aspect of the Oire Nomi solves some of the vexing problems we encounter in the western chisel. The laminated blade bridges the gap between soft and hard metals, using the best of both worlds. The hollowed-out back makes for faster tuning and sharpening, even though it is the hardest part of the blade.
The handle is simple, yet with proper mushrooming over the hoop, it can take hammer blows with ease and not crack. At the same time, the razor-sharp blade will cut through the hardest of wood with just palm pressure.
So each Japanese chisel, in a way, is two chisels. Most regular chisels can be hammered but do not perform well without one. On the other hand, palm chisels cannot be hammered at all. I am not saying that these chisels can replace palm chisels specially designed for the task. I am simply emphasizing that the Oire Nomi is better suited for precision work than the standard fare.
If you are in the market for a good set of Japanese chisels that don’t cost the earth, go for the Hachiemon set. They are good chisels that will last through years if handled correctly. Hachiemon is good value for money and makes for a great starter set.
Starting with Japanese chisels might spoil you for life, though! Most woodworkers who have switched over tend never to switch back.
Kazu offers a good set of white steel chisels that will likely last decades in the right hands. It is for those looking for quality at a reasonable price. The Yataro set is for those who need a wide variety of sizes for their daily work. Most users are usually well equipped with just 3 or 4 of the most common sizes.
So there you have it, the best Japanese chisels or Oire Nomi that are available online. If you choose to buy any of the tools mentioned in this article, please consider using the links given in this article. As Amazon affiliate program members, we get a small commission for your purchase at no extra cost to you. So you still get the best deal while we get to create more free content like this article.