Chisels have been used in woodworking ever since the craft first made its self useful to society, and even today, can do a lot of things. They are a necessity for any person working with wood, and here is why.
There is no tool that is as simple as the chisel. They are normally found with wooden handles, but nowadays, may even have plastic handles. As chisels have to be driven by mallets used on handles, the plastic ones are better able to resist deformation and are also able to absorb shock, and this makes them ideally suited to use in a wood workshop.
If the chisel you buy has a wooden handle, make sure that it has a leather washer, between the handle and the bolster, as this will help it to absorb the shock of the mallet blows. You can prevent mushrooming of the wooden handle by using one that has a steel hoop around its top.
Names Are Unimportant
Chisels have been referred to by many names over the centuries. An all purpose chisel that has a blade that is three to five inches long is called a firmer chisel, a shorter one is called a butt chisel, a wider one referred to as a framing chisel, a longer one is a mortise chisel, and a chisel with a long flexible blade being called a paring chisel, while there are many other nomenclatures.
The names are not important when you are buying chisels. When you choose a chisel, look at it and see whether it will function as you need it to, and the name then becomes irrelevant. The chisel you choose must have a handle that is durable and a blade made of steel that has a high carbon content.
Keep Chisels Sharp
Never use a chisel that is dull. Maintain the factory bevel angle when you are using a grinding wheel to sharpen the edge of the chisel, by hollow grinding it.
Use a sharpening jig to hone the blade on a waterstone or flat oilstone. The blade must be kept flat right up to the cutting edge so that this is done properly. If the chisel curves up, it will not cut cleanly and will be difficult to control.
Making Chisels Work
Many situations in a workshop are ideal for a chisel. But never use them to remove window and door trim, or to pry open lids from paint cans, which should be done with other tools. Use the chisel to clean dried glue that has been squeezed out from a joint, or to size a tenon so that it fits into a mortise, or if you need to trim a plug to make it flush to a surface. There are also a lot of other chores that you can use the chisel for.
Cleaning a Mortise
Use a drill to remove most of the waste form a mortise, and then use a chisel to do the finishing. The bevel must be up or face away from the wall of the mortise. When the mortise is a through one, use the chisel from both sides, so that the back never gets splintered.
In the next article, there will be many more tips and hints that will act as an incentive to persuade you to have the right set of chisels in your workshop.
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