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Your Wood Workshop Must Have Chisels (Part 1)

Craftsman's ToolsChisels 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.


DO YOU HAVE a woodworking project or tip that you would like to submit to WooDesigner and get it added to our site? Then go to the contact tab below OR at the top of this page and let me know. Just make sure you are able to give us step by step instructions on it, as well as images as you see here, and we will put it on this site just like you have read on this page! As long as it is clear and concise like you just saw, it will go up. Your name will be credited to the project, as where you live. (Please include that.) Also include the type of lumber you use for the design. We look forward to hearing from you! (Take note that the tip and images and instructions have to become ours. I do hate that so much but in today’s society so many will sue, and yes, you can sue for a lot of money over images.) The tips will need to include YOUR IMAGES that you take. They can’t be images from somewhere online. Remember, we have to go through these images and if they aren’t your own, we will not be able to use them. This is illegal and it won’t be tolerated and you will be banned from this community by being blocked. We can get sued for this, and just one bad apple can ruin our community.

Ted Leger –


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Updated: January 5, 2015 — 2:28 am
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