Chisel is a popular type of hand tool, one that you
always you want to keep around in your home. Available in varying shapes
and sizes, the origin of the chisel goes back to prehistoric times when
sharp rocks were used to carve wood. Even today,the chisel remains one
of the most competent tools for any carpenter.
What is a chisel?
A chisel is a hand tool with a flexible shaped cutting edge blade on
its end. A chisel is used for carving or cutting material like wood,
metal or stone. The handles of most chisels are made from beech, ash,
hickory, box wood or plastic.
How is a chisel used?
There are hundreds of different types, shapes and uses for chisels but
the basic operating principle is the same for all chisels-a cutting
blade is guided through the object with a handle that is specifically
designed to aid the chisel's cutting task. In other words, for cutting
any material, the chisel is forced into the material. The driving force
to cut is done manually by using a mallet or a hammer. For industrial
usage, a hydraulic ram or falling weight is used to drive the chisel
into the material to be cut.
Types of Chisels
- Bevel edged chisels: These type of chisels are little
undercut which makes them easy to be pushed into corners and used
for finishing dovetail joints.
- Firmer chisels: These chisels have a blade with a
rectangular cross-section. They are strong and can be used for
- Paring chisels: Its a longer chisel but a thinner one
which can be pushed into long joints. Such a chisel can be used for
cleaning up the joint and to make it appropriate for a correct fit.
There are different types of chisels, each specially designed to do a
specific task. Some of the common ones are as follows:
Features of quality woodworking chisels
- Woodworking chisels: Typically used for carpentry work
from wood carving to remove big sections of wood to wood finishing,
including timber frame construction and wooden shipbuilding, there
are chisels of different shapes and sizes. Different varieties of
woodworking chisels are as follows:
- Butt chisel: A short length chisel having
beveled sides and straight edge and used for creating joints.
- Carving chisels: There are many cutting
edges for this type of chisel like as gouge, parting, straight,
skew, paring, and V-groove and are typically used for intricate
designs and sculpting.
- Corner chisel: This type has an L-shaped
cutting edge which is used to clean out mortises, corners,
- Flooring chisel: Ideal for
tongue-and-groove flooring, this chisel is also used for cutting
and lifting flooring materials for removal and repair.
- Framing chisel: It has a longer, slightly
flexible blade, compared to a butt chisel.
- Slick: This is a large sized chisel
worked by manual pressure but never struck.
- Skew chisel: The chisel is used for
trimming and finishing and has a 60 degree cutting angle.
- Metalworking chisels: The chisels are specially designed
to work on metals and are classified into the following categories:
- Hot chisel: This is used to cut those
metals which have been heated in a forge to make the metal soft.
- Cold chisel: Made of tempered steel, it
is used for cutting 'cold' metals. That is, they are not used in
conjunction with heating torches, forges, etc. They come in a
variety of sizes. Cold chisels are used only for cutting and
chipping cold metals such as unhardened steel, cast and wrought
iron, aluminum, brass, copper, etc.
- Hardy chisel: A hot chisel with a square
shank and it is held in such a way that the cutting edge face
upwards by placing it in an anvil's Hardy hole and the object is
placed over the hardy and struck with a hammer. The hammer
forces the chisel inside the hot metal which snap off with a
pair of tongs.
- Stone chisels: As the name suggests, the stone chisels
carve or cut stone, bricks or concrete slabs. To increase the force,
they are hit with club hammers, a heavier type of hammer.
- Masonry chisels: These chisels are heavy, having a
relatively dull head that wedges and breaks, rather than cuts. They
can be mounted on a hammer-drill, jack hammer and considered to be a
demolition tool. Some of these types are:
- Brick Chisels: For cutting brick.
- Brick Tooth Chisels: For cutting soft
stone such as Bedford limestone.
- Bull-point Concrete Chisels: For breaking
and drilling concrete.
- Large, ergonomically shaped handles for a comfortable, sure grip
and better control.
- Blades should be of high-quality carbon, heat-treated steel with
precision ground cutting edge.
- Crowned steel strike caps to help center the blow.
- Chisel size is etched or stamped into the blade.
- Tip guards with built-in sharpening guide to help protect the
For buying chisels, the important considerations are its blade and the
gripping factor of the handle.
It is necessary to know about the quality of the blade in the chisel
which is made of steel. The quality of steel blade of the chisel used in
carving is known by three factors:
- How easy they are to sharpen?
- How they hold an edge?
- How much they cost?
It is to be noted that the softer the steel, the more easy it is to
sharpen. There are many steel alloys and mixtures available in the
market which balance hardness against brittleness with sharpening ease.
The cheaper chisels use the softer carbon steel and are heat treated
over the edges to improve the durability. The more expensive chisels use
the complex alloys which are hard in the edge and still are not too
Chisels come in either plastic or wooden handles. For basic chisels the
handle, should be such that it can stand up to use with a hammer. The
best ones available today are the split proof high tech plastic ones,
which are preferred by professionals. The handles usually get misshapen
over repeated use as they are continuously struck by hammers. The basic
plastic and wooden handles without ferrules should only be used with a
mallet and not with a claw hammer. The wooden handles with steel or
metal ferrules are designed mainly for mallet use but can also stand up
for sometime with a hammer. For many, the chisel handles that are
preferred are not quite round but either squared or octagon in profile.