A Look at the MHG Socket Chisel

I bought a MHG socket chisel on a whim, solely based on its look. My chisel collection is fairly complete and there was no real need for another in the size I choose, but it looked so cool.

The chisel comes with two handles, a hooped one to prevent splitting when using a mallet and a rounded one for better pairing ergonomics. It’s very well balanced around the neck. There’s a recess for the thumb at the top of the blade and for a finger at the back. This is common on chisels but with the balance point, it makes for a very comfortable grip when choking up on the blade. In some ways it feels like a clumsy Japanese chisel.

The blade is very thick and this comes with advantages and disadvantages. The chisel will take a serious beating without concerns for its well being (flatness). On the flip side it will make sharpening more time consuming and it may have trouble going into tight places. It’s thick enough so that it will not fit in a Lie-Nielsen honing guide for example. I’ll free hand sharpen mine as a Japanese chisel to maintain the flat bevel aesthetics, but this will take some elbow grease. My plan is to always completely re-grind the primary 30° bevel on a coarse Shapton glass stone and then put on a sliver of a secondary bevel on an 8k water stone.

I find the machining exact but coarse. On the front it adds to he look but on the back it makes initial flattening more of a chore. The coarse machining will include a few deeper scratches that takes time to grind away. For practical purposes, only an inch or so closest to the edge needs to be made flat and polished. As I bought this chisel for the look, I flattened and polished the whole back of the blade. It may come as a surprise but almost all chisels, even premium ones, require some tune-up before they are fit for use. Flattening serves two purposes, as a reference surface for precision work and to make it possible to make the chisel wicked sharp. Sharpness is determined by the intersection of two planes, the bevel and the back. Thankfully my chisel came slightly concave. Flattening it for practical purposes had been much less work.

There are two other minor complaints about the machining of the chisel. Firstly the factory established micro bevel. I don’t think I’ve ever received such a dull chisel. This is no concern in itself as sharpening is required as part of the initial tune-up of any chisel or plane blade. However it makes the initial sharpening more laborsome for those that wish to maintain the flat bevel aesthetics. Secondly the chisel sides are ground down very close the the blade back. With the back flattening required for precision work it makes the sides very close to cutting edges. Depending on initial flatness, the width of the chisel could also be altered by this activity. I think the Narex Richter chisels strikes a better balance here, leaving some more material at the sides close to the back. Given that the chisel is as thick as it is, it’s not really made for fine tuning the insides of dovetails anyways.

Initially I thought the chisel heavy, some comparisons shows that it’s not so bad.

Chisel Weight (g)
24 mm generic Japanese 158
22 mm Narex wood line plus 196
26 mm MHG socket 218
1 12 inch Narex Richter “the spade” 273

Even though I gave some critique, I’m really happy with the chisel after tune-up and that I bought the 26 mm one. I find this size perfect for most things I use a chisel for and this has become my go-to chisel. Some pictures can be found in the gallery.

Published: 2023-10-02