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Wood Chisels

Jan 23 2016

Wood Chisels


With modern technology, many of the old school woodworking tools have become less used and often left to sit rusting on a shelf or hung on the wall above the tool bench. One tool that is still used by many craftsmen today is the wood chisel. Although many of the tasked once performed solely by the wood chisel can now be done with power tools, it is sometimes more efficient to just reach for the chisel to either make a shallow mortise for a hinge, or just to clean up the square corners in a recess.

Wood carvers also continue to use the chisel when removing large quantities of material when not only forming the outline or shape of an object, but also in shaving areas with precision accuracy. They are easy to control, when used properly, and will leave a smooth clean cut when needed, while still being able to remove larger chips with one pass.

Craftsmen will use their chisel to make fine adjustments to the work they are doing eliminating the need to take the piece back to the table or out of the area they are working to shave a little more material to get that perfect fit.

In order for the chisel to function properly, the cutting edge must remain razor sharp. The sharper the better. This allows the user to be able to shave a fine amount of wood with very little pressure. The less pressure needed to push the edge through the material, the more it can be controlled. It also leaves behind a smooth surface that will need very little if any cleanup.

Chisels are purchased either in sets, or singly. Even new they should be honed before they are used. Honing is the process of polishing the very edge of the blade to remove any leftover burrs from either production, or from use. Once they are honed to a razor sharp edge, they need to be carefully handled and stored to keep for cutting yourself as well as maintaining the edge. The handling of the tool is simply, never force the blade through the material and always push away from you while keeping hands and fingers out of the line of travel. Always handle it by the handle rather than the blade. The storage part of this is sometimes more difficult. In many cases they come either in a storage pouch, or they have a tip protector made of plastic covering the cutting edge of the blade. It is always good practice to return the blade to the protecting of either the case or the cover to keep the edge from becoming damaged if dropped. Even a short fall will nick or chip the cutting edge. When this happens they will need to be sharpened and honed to get the cuts needed in fine wood working. Unless the blade is damaged, a light honing from time to time will be all that is needed to keep them cutting like they should.


Above is a picture of a chisel that had been dropped and abused. With the nicks in the cutting edge, it would be hard to get a clean cut in any type of wood. The bevel of this chisel is also much larger than it should be. This comes from using a bench style grinder and not following the original bevel angle. If not reconstructed, but just sharpened, this chisel would tend to dig deep into the wood, removing more material than you might want to remove. In most cases the bevel should be between 20 and 30 degrees. This one was more in the neighborhood of 42 degrees.