All About Straight-Blade Wood Chisels

Chisels are cutting and shaping tools that are essential to many carpentry jobs. All the chisels shown here have straight blades. Curved-blade chisels, known as gouges, are used to cut curves in wood and rounded corners.
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©2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited

©2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited

©2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited

©2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited

©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Firmer Chisel

The blade of the firmer chisel is rectangular in cross-section, making it strong and suitable for heavy-duty work. Chisel handles are struck repeatedly and so they need to be exceptionally hardwearing. Traditional handles are wooden, but modern handles, such as this one, are made from shatterproof and impact-resistant cellulose acetate. Further protection is sometimes provided by a metal cap on the end of the handle.

Bevel-Edged Chisel

The bevel-edged chisel is by far the most multipurpose and widely used. One side is completely flat, but the other face has tapered edges. This chisel is designed for multiple uses and provides the most accurate cuts. This design lends itself to removing wood in the construction of many different joint types.

Mortise Chisel

Designed for cutting deep mortise joints, the mortise chisel is a stronger version of the firmer chisel. The deeper blade usually has a profile that is more square than rectangle.

Paring Chisel

The blade tends to be much longer than the bevel-edged chisel, but otherwise they are very similar. Paring is the gradual removal of small shavings of wood, which can be done with most chisels, but the longer blade on a paring chisel makes it easier to control when used by hand.

Care and Maintenance

Oil stones composed of silicone carbide are the most common sharpening stones. There are other types available, such as more expensive diamond stones. It is best to buy more than one so that you have a coarse stone to remove large amounts of metal from a chipped blade and a smoother one for final honing. In fact, some stones are made with one coarse side and one fine side. Depending on the stone's composition, apply water or oil to the stone’s face to lubricate it for sharpening.

Storing Chisels

Because chisels must be kept sharp, they need to be stored carefully. Chisels often come with plastic covers that clip over the end of the chisel blade to protect it. These covers should always be used when the chisel is not in use. The alternative is to store the chisels in a specially designed case.