The tools of woodworking have a come a long way over time. Carpentry used to be all hand tools. Now we have big motors, noisy saws, and other tools that cut the time a project will take in half.
But when it comes to true artisanal precision, there is still no beating the hand tools. If you are a dedicated woodworker you will need some chisels. But there are lots of different options out there, and they all have their own unique purposes.
Today we will look at some of the chisels that are out there and help you choose the one that is perfect for your needs.
If you are a woodworker that makes furniture or cabinets, there is no getting around the need for a set of beveled edge bench chisels. These are the most basic options out there.
They are actually pretty simple and straightforward, and require minimal prerequisites to be considered decent.
All you really need out of a beveled edge bench chisel is for it to feel comfortable in your hand, and be able to hold an edge well.
Naturally, these tools are going to experience their fair share of wear and tear, but the right tool will be able to hold its own against it for awhile.
They come in a variety of sizes, and you will need a set to tackle a wide range of projects. All of them will feature beveled edges on the side, and include blades of moderate thickness so that they can be used vigorously, but still be malleable.
If you are only going to get one type of chisel, it should be this one. Invest in a set, and your workshop will have what you need to get started on some basic woodworking projects.
Similar in appearance but different in application we have the heavy-duty beveled edge chisel. This product is much like the bench chisel but it is also hyper durable, and much better suited for major projects that require something that has a little bit of grit.
You might use the beveled edge chisel if you are building a boat.
As a result, these tools are a little bit less commonly seen (because how many people are building boats by hand these days).
These tools are actually a little bit harder to find than most other chisels, but there are still plenty of good options out there. I
The same considerations that you would make for the bench chisel set apply here. You want to get a durable product that stays sharp and feels good in your hand.
The Japanese bench chisels are almost the exact same as the version we have in the west. The real difference is that the blades are thicker, and they get a whole lot sharper at the edges.
This increased sharpness makes them really excellent at taking clean cuts through softer woods.
Why does this matter? Duller blades make softwoods a crumbly mess. You can circumnavigate this problem with the Japanese bench chisels, and you can also use them to do just about anything that the western versions can do as well.
The only other big difference is that the edges are slightly less beveled. However, for general application, this really will not make much of a difference.
Mortise chisels are most often used in the world of cabinetry. They are durable, and feature a fine edge on either side that looks a lot like the blade of a knife. They also usually feature comfortable wooden handles while also standing up against the wear and tear of the job.
The blades are usually very hard so as not to chip, and made of tempered steel.
The sash mortise chisel is much like the last tool that we looked at, but more specialized for specifically cutting shallow mortises.
Because of its limited range of application, this is not an extremely popular tool, but if you want to ensure that your collection is as versatile as possible you may think about investing in one.
Pairing chisels are made for creating joints. They are thin, and sharp at the end, and can only perform very delicate work. You might use them to extract extremely thin layers of wood from a workpiece.
It is a highly specialized tool with a very limited range of function, but if you need one, you really need one.
So, which of these options is going to be right for you? Over time, you actually might find yourself investing in nearly all of them.
Chisels are relatively affordable and most people won’t hesitate to get the ones that they need for the project they have on hand.
That said, the beveled edge bench chisels are going to be the most widely used tools that we have featured on our list today.
As an alternative, you may go for the Japanese variant. As we discussed earlier in the article, they are virtually identical, except for the fact that they are better equipped for working with soft woods.
The other chisels are best suited for specific situations. You’ll need a mortise chisel for when you are cutting mortises, or a paring chisel for when you are making joints.
Choosing the right chisel is simply a matter of planning out what you need to do. There’s a chisel out there for every job, you’ve just got to look for it. An option that we’d recommend is to buy a set of chisels. That you way you have a chisel for all the different scenarios that will be thrown at you.
If you are a woodworker, there is no escaping the need for some good chisels. All of the options that we have looked at today are going to help you take your work to the next level. Maybe you need some of them. Maybe you need all of them.
Only you can decide which chisels are right for you. However, with the guide that we have presented here today, you should have no trouble selecting the right products for your exact needs.
Image credit: Ozzy Delaney, Flickr
Hi there! My name is Adam and I write for HealthyHandyman. I have a great passion for writing about everything related to tools, home improvement, and DIY. In my spare time, I'm either fishing, playing the guitar, or spending quality time with my beloved wife. You'll also often find me in my workshop working on some new project!