I have owned a complete set FastCap chisels for a few years. When I initially reviewed them I focused on the folding handle, because that is what made it unique. I was (and still am) amazed you can chop wood using a big hammer with these things and then fold them up and put them in your pocket. I have not used them much, and to be honest I always think of them as an outside or job-site chisel. There is no doubt they accel in this area but until now I could not give a recommendation on how they perform in a wood shop doing real pairing and chopping.
I also have a set of three Irwin Marples ($25.00 USD) and four Robert Sorby’s ($190.00 USD). Recently while sharpening chisels I thought I might as well pull out the Fastcap’s and put and edge on them too. My Irwin’s get 95% of the use and the Sorby’s only come off the rack when I need to clean something up that requires precision pairing. In the end that is not very good logic but it sounds better than admitting my Robert Sorby’s have been shelf queens and might be displayed mostly to impress my buddies. The fact they are still running on the factory hone job is even more embarrassing. I think its time to quit handling them with kid gloves and start using them. They were in fact built to do work.
So yesterday became a “day of sharpening” and when I pulled the FastCap’s out of the box I decided to compare the 1/2″ Robert Sorby to the 1/2″ FastCap. Just a quick test to see how they stacked up in initial flatness, edge and performance. For reference we are comparing a $19.00 folding chisel to a premium $56.00 bench chisel. Seems fair right?
To sharpen, I used DMT diamond stones in 220x and 600x and then jumped to Japanese wet stones in 1000 and 4000 grit. It’s obvious after looking at the the edge with 8x magnification, I need to consider spending more time between steps, and possibly purchase another stone beyond 4000. Another thought was to quit looking at them with an 8x magnifier because they looked much better until I did so.
I started off by flattening the backs. Since I was comparing the 1/2″ chisels I started with those. I was disappointed in how much twist there was in the 1/2″ Robert Sorby. I was removing material on the right near the tip and on the left back near the tang. Because of the hardness of the material it took about 15 minutes with my coarsest diamond stone to get it flat enough to proceed with the finer grits.
Fortunately, the other three in the Robert Sorby set did not have this issue. The Fastcap on the other hand was dead flat and polished quickly not only because there was less work to be done, but the chisel material did not seem to be as hard. I moved on to the main bevel which was 25 degrees on both chisels, and once the primary bevel was complete I added an additional micro-bevel to both.
Time for testing. I started out with a chunk of pine and chopped and paired with both chisels and they handled it with ease. I moved on to Douglas fir, walnut and finally some hard maple. The most surprising thing about the Fast Cap chisel is once the handle was opened into position, you never thought about it being a folding tool. Although the handle did not fit my hand as well as the Robert Sorby it was much better than one would assume.
By the time I had finished chopping in the maple I could tell the FastCap chisel was starting to give up its edge. As I mentioned during the sharpening process, the material appeared to be softer so I expected the Robert Sorby would hold an edge longer. You can see from the 8X magnified photo that the Sorby was holding up much better to the literal pounding I was giving it compared to the FastCap. After a little research I found that the FastCap chisels have a Rockwell hardness between 56 and 58 and Robert Sorby claims theirs to be 61.
FastCap sells a complete kit which includes four chisels ranging from 1/4″ to 1″, a putty knife, diamond sharpening stone with two separate grits and a”combo” putty knife which also acts as a scraper and paint roller cleaner. You can also purchase all of them separately. Buying them as a kit not only saves you $30.00 but includes a carrying case.
Absolutely amazing product for those that need something like this. I am not suggesting anyone replace their quality woodworking chisels with a set of these because the the main benefit as I mentioned is the folding handles. If you are someone that uses chisels and keeps them in a tool pouch, works from ladders on a regular basis then this product is probably for you. Can they be used on a woodworking shop? You bet. As a matter of fact, I have already moved the 1/2″ chisel to my shop apron.
The Fast Cap Chisel kit can be purchased at any stocking FastCap dealer or directly from their site. FastCap Link