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Introduction to Different Chisels Used in Woodworking

It’s important to choose the right wood chisel that is both utilitarian and economical. Often, one is tempted to buy a cheaper model which soon becomes blunt or in some cases breaks altogether.  This article helps you make a good choice of a chisel that is both economical and durable.  There are three types of wood chisels to start a basic woodworking activity.  Let`s understand these basic types, different brands available in the market and ways to choose the Best wood chisels from among them.

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Bench Chisels, Mortising Chisels, and Paring Chisels are the three basic types of wood chisels. These are the basic chisels you should acquire while starting on woodworking. When your basic woodworking skills are honed, you may upgrade to speciality tools like Japanese Chisels, dovetail chisels, fishtail chisels and gouges. Some chisels are also used in woodturning and are also a special category. This information should ease you into making the right choice of a wood chisel. We shall discuss the speciality chisels later.

Bench chisels, as the name suggests are those which are generally on the woodworking bench. They are used for a different type of jobs and are most commonplace in a woodworker`s armoury. These are usually in three shapes called, firmer, bevel-edge or firmer. These are used for chopping and pairing wood.

Mortising Chisels are used for heavy chopping of mortises.  “Registered” Mortise Chisels, “Pig Sticker” Mortise Chisels, and “Sash” Mortise Chisels are some of the common Mortising Chisels.

When you are attempting more delicate jobs like pairing and careful slicing of wood, you are advised to use Paring chisels. They are used when one is working on thinner steel grades like the pairing end-grain or low angle pairing. One important point to note about these chisels is that they should be only used with hands and not with any mallets.

Handles of a chisel determine the grip and aid efficient cutting, chopping and slicing. Socket Chisels and Tang Chisels are the two most common handles types.

Wood chisels

So what is the difference between these handle types and how does one choose?

Wood chisels are attached to their handles to enable efficient functioning. They are designed and manufactured in a “Socket” form, or a “Tang” form A socket chisel, as the name suggests, has a conical chisel handle. Its shape affords it the flexibility. On the other hand, Tang chisels are fastened to the inside of the chisel with a sharp metal tang.

Socket chisel handles score on durability over Tang handles. They are placed on top of the conical structure of the handles. This design allows the chisel to withstand a heavy beating.  In the case of Tang chisels, the handles sit on the inside of the chisel and become vulnerable to heavy and repeated beating. The beating pushes the chisel into the handle and slices it.

As is evident from above, it is better to use a Socket chisel handle, if you are a beginner.

Wood or Plastic Handles?

Wooden handles are better than plastic handles because they are stable across both sides of the chisel. This provides a firm grip, and a feeling of comfort Plastic handle chisels are heavier and are cumbersome to use. They are however lighter on the purse, and it is worth looking at some options on these too.  Plastic handles almost always tolerate repeated strikes, but since we never use a metal hammer to strike a chisel handle, wooden handles are more durable than plastic ones.

Best Brands of Chisels

Want to know which are the best brands of Chisels? This list provides details of both old and respected brands as well as modern ones. Most woodworking chisel makers offer you options of good quality bench chisels, mortise chisels, and paring chisels of both Western and native brands.  Most brands listed below are available on e-commerce sites like the e-bay. On these sites, you can compare models, design and also prices before placing your order.  If a brand that you are looking for is not available today, check back a few days later before deciding on an alternate brand.

  • Ashley Iles Chisels
  • Barr Chisels
  • Beaver Chisels
  • Blue Spruce Chisels
  • Buck Bros. Chisels
  • Butcher Chisels
  • Dastra Chisels
  • Disston Chisels
  • D.R. Barton Chisels

How to choose the Best wood chisels?

Chisels that should be given top priority:

The following is the list of woodworking chisels that should be purchased first. But it is important to understand that different workers have different priorities.

Bevel-Edge Bench Wood Chisel Set: your first best cutting mate

Bevel-edge bench chisels are your first utility chisel tools. A set of 5 to 10 will make the best tool kit for you.  The multiple uses that it can be put to is surprising, and the reason that they are called Bench chisels is that they can be worked on workbenches.  In a  ”Bevel-edge” chisel the sides move in such a way that they go up to let the chisel flexibly go into the joints.  If you purchase a complete set, you can use suitable chisel that can be used for different needs. The following are the traditional as well as modern bevel edge and wood chisel sizes.

Traditional Bevel-edged chisels:

The best traditional chisel sets are Stanley 750 chisels. It comes in various sizes like ¼, ½, ¾, 1-1/4 etc. which you can use for various purposes.  The ones with  1/8-inch of the brand are not used frequently and expensive. Some commonly used Stanley chisels are:

  • 1/4″ Stanley 750 Chisel
  • 1/2″ or 5/8″ Stanley 750 Chisel
  • 3/4″ Stanley 750 Chisel
  • 1″ or 1-1/4” Stanley 750 Chisel
  • 1-1/2″ Stanley 750 Chisel

The new age chisel sets:

Out of the many good new chisel sets, one thing that can be very useful to you is  Lie-Nielsen’s Bevel Edge Bench Chisels. They are a bit costly but are definitely worth the price and have a long shelf life. They are fit for all and ready to use.

They’re more like Stanley 750 chisels with a minor modification here and there like the A2 material used.

You can choose your Chisel according to your budge — some chisels act good for starters.  Narex bench chisels and Mortise chisels are also a must have as basic tools for your cutting needs.  Search yourself what other options you have apart from the above discussed to meet your requirements.

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