Woodworking Tool Tips: The Chisel

Most people immediately think of power tools when they think of a home wood working shop. You must have a table saw, a drill press, a band saw and a jointer if you have a wood shop right? More power! While these tools are very effective and indispensable in the home wood shop, it is important not to underestimate the importance of some hand tools as well.

Many hand tools do not have a very important place in a modern workshop, however when it comes to a tool that is useful for almost every project, consider investing in a quality set of chisels.

Chisels are a very old fashioned tool, however their use is still very common, and almost all wood workers; both professional and amateur find them indispensable.

Chisels come in a wide variety of sizes ranging from ¼” to 2” wide and everything in between increasing in increments of 1/8”. If you are just starting out, it is a good idea to buy a set of chisels. A good four piece set will get you ¼” ½” ¾” and 1” bevel edged chisels which are the most common. With bevel edged chisels you can remove large chunks of unnecessary wood debris and even trim down a piece of wood for the perfectly snug fit.

You can buy chisels with wooden or plastic handles. Some chisels are designed to only be used by hand, while others can be used with a gentle tap of a mallet as well. It is important not to use a mallet with most wood handled chisels as you may split the handle and damage the tool.

Bevel edged chisels are the most common; however you can find other types of chisels as well. A skew chisel is designed to cut cleaner than a square ended chisel and it requires much less force, which may make it easier to use.

You can also purchase trimming chisels which are designed to do just that, trim the edge of a project.

It is important to store your chisels properly so you do not dull the edges too quickly. The best way to store them is in a wooden box or in a canvas roll. Be sure to use a material that will not cut easily as the edges of properly sharpened chisels are very sharp and can harm you.

When your chisel is dull, you can have them professionally sharpened or learn the proper techniques to sharpen them yourself. It is not a difficult process; however it does require care and proper technique in order to do it properly.