Different Types of Wood Chisels & Their Uses (With Pictures)

A chisel, the most versatile tool for woodworking. You can chop out the mortise and dovetails. With this hand tool, you can get precise and controlled cuts through your workpiece. There are various types of wood cutting chisels. You should know about each type to become a professional artisan.

The good news is that this article focus on types of wood chisels and their uses. Hopefully, it will give you a clear understanding by the end of the article.

The List of Different Types of Woodworking Chisels

Different Types of Wood Chisels

1. Paring Chisel

Paring Chisel

So let’s start with the paring chisel. You would probably look at a paring chisel and get amazed by its excessive length. There is a good reason behind its length.  If you need a groove in your workpiece or want to clear out the bottom, a paring chisel would be your best bet.

You would be able to go all the way through and to have much farther reach than the standard chisel. Also, having something this length means that you could use it to pair down tenons fitting into a mortise.

If you don’t have a shoulder plane, you have no better option but to rely on a chisel. Using a paring chisel gives you a more significant point of reference. You can also fine-tune the angle by holding the handle. You can get micro-adjustments with this chisel.

2. Firmer Chisel

Firmer Chisel

Before the days of power tools, a firmer chisel would have been used to chop out hinges, chop out locks, and things like that. Firmer chisels have a very robust build. The handles are made of beech, so you can whack it with a hammer without losing any force.

They’re Good all-rounder tools for carpentry, but in furniture-making, you’ll occasionally find uses for them. Timber framing chisels won’t be quite versatile.

Some modern-day firmer chisels have bevels on the top of them. So this particular characteristic makes a lot of people confuse. They think that all they need to get is a bevel edge chisel for furniture making, and buy this version. This is still a firmer chisel, and you know that by how thick the sides are. Generally, having flat spots that thick on the chisel side can be limiting for furniture making.

In the past, firmer chisels used to be sort of the norm, but now they’re kind of a little bit outdated, but people still find uses for them.

3. Mortise Chisel

Mortise Chisel

The mortise chisel kind of got a similar shape to a firmer chisel. Flat on top and the sides are square, but there is a thickness difference.

As the name would imply, a mortise chisel is useful for chopping out the mortise. It has a robust build, and you can absolutely whack this thing with a hammer. You’re not going to experience any power loss when you’re hitting it.

The mortise chisel is just so thick and the sides are square to the cutting faces. This tool also has a large bearing surface. Once you start getting further down into that mortise, it’s going to help it locate side to side, which is obviously great because no one wants a Bendy Mortis.

4. Corner Chisel

Corner Chisel

A corner chisel, as the name would imply they are for chopping out at a 90-degree corner. So this is really handy, especially in the modern-day as well. Because when you’re routing out hinges, you want to chop that corner out to get the final 90 degrees in there.

If the router bit hasn’t been able to get right into the corner, pop the corner chisel out, whack it once and then you’ve got a perfect 90-degree corner, and finish off the round left by the router.

The corner chisel is pretty handy for its versatility and application. Moreover, it’s quick and easy. You can’t really get it wrong. Also, if you’re doing a shallow mortise, this chisel will be your best bet.

5. Fishtail Chisel

Fishtail Chisel

The fishtail chisel is best for doing lap dovetails. The shape of it allows you to get right into the back corner of all the sockets. You can clean out all the waste in there that might prevent the tales from bottoming out in them. So they’re pretty handy in that respect. And obviously, you can use them for other skewed applications.

The only thing you gotta watch out for is that you can’t overuse them because fishtail isn’t a massive length there; you can’t regrind this to start with.

Work with secondary bevels on this. Mainly and really lengthen the life of that tool. Just use it for that final nipping out of the corner. So that’s pretty good, and you might call it limited use but handy to have.

6. Skew Chisel

Skew Chisel

Skew chisels are very good at cleaning out the corners of dovetail sockets on lap dovetails. You can get right into the corner of the right-hand side with this one.  These are standard chisel shapes. So you can grind these all the way down.

You’re not limited by the steel that you have on the end. A skew chisels obviously have other uses as well. However, they can be a bit of a nightmare to sharpen.

7. Bevel Edge Chisel

Bevel Edge Chisel

Bevel edge chisels are probably the most versatile ones out there. Obviously, if you get a specified mortise chisel, that can be better for mortising, but you can still do it like mortising with bevel edge chisels. Similarly, you could also do a pairing with these, and you don’t necessarily need to get a paring chisel.

A micro chisel would be best for detailing work. It has a really tiny blade on it, and it actually has a bevel edge on it.

When you come to dovetailing, the fact that you have those tapered edges on them. You can get right down to the Baseline when you clean out the tails. Simultaneously, the square corners on a firmer chisel would bruise the edges of the tails and then show up in the finished joint. So that’s kind of the main advantage with bevel edge chisels.

In a good quality bevel edge chisel, the bevels come down to a fine point on end. There are many unfined end chisels, and they’ll still call them bevel edge chisels. You’ll start to bruise the corners when you’re cutting dovetails with such a chisel.  So, when it comes to buying these, check to see how small that flat spot is on the side. Ideally, you want it to be as short as possible.

8. Butt Chisel

Butt Chisel

Butt chisels, yes, a great name, isn’t it? Butt chisels are pretty much exactly the same as a bevel edge chisel, but they’re smaller. So not really many advantages.

The advantage these have over standard chisels is being able to fit into smaller spaces. If you’ve assembled a carcass and you haven’t cut out the hinges yet. You need to be able to chisel inside its carcass and still have enough space to hit you on top with the hammer. Something this would allow you to do that in most cases. In comparison, something like butt chisels can easily fit inside the place.

9. Carpentry Chisel

Carpentry Chisel

You can define carpentry chiseled by two things. Firstly the handles on them are made from plastic or rubber sort of thing and secondly on the ends, it got metal caps on them.

On most of the chisels, the metal end goes all the way through the handle and right the way through. These are great for whacking with a hammer, and you lose no energy whatsoever. The hitting force transferred straight through to the blade.

Whereas if you’re whacking something like a wooden handle chisel with a hammer, firstly, you might end up splitting the handle, especially if you’re using a metal hammer. Generally, these are okay with wood malice, especially if they’ve got split proof handles on them. But if you’re working these with a metal hammer, you’re going to start damaging the end of it. It’s going to begin mushrooming over, and you’re going to lose a lot of power in it.

Having a carpentry chisel, you’ve got a metal end &  it goes straight through, and you can whack these things.

Carpentry chisels got two types; both have bevel edges on them, and they are both sold as bevel edge chisels.

As I said earlier, if you’re going to try dovetail with these, you will bruise the hell out of your dovetails on that. So these will be good for carpentry. Don’t get me wrong on that, but don’t be fooled by the name on them. They have bevel edges on them, but they’re just not quite there.

You’ll love the latest dovetail chisels available from top brands.

What chisel should you buy?

We’re sort of getting into rugged terrain because it depends on the kind of work you’re doing. So when it comes to buying your first one, let’s start narrowing them down. This is obviously going to be a quick process because I kind of gave away the final results.

I am going to start with Paring chisels.  You don’t really need it to begin with, and you might find uses for it later.

Firmer chisels; they’ve kind of been outdated by bevel edge chisels. So if you do stuff around the house, you might still find a use for firmer chisels, but it’s not necessarily needed for furniture makers.

You don’t need a corner chisel in particular. When it comes to clearing out the back of dovetail sockets, you’ve kind of got a choice between fishtail and skew chisels. I would probably go with the skew chisels because, firstly, they’ve got a broader sweep on them. You could get into step-less cues.  Secondly, the last bit longer as well. And fishtail chisels are also nice to have in most cases.

You’re obviously going to need a mortise chisel if you have access to mortises. Drilling out mortises and then cleaning up with my bevel edge chisel. Also, it is much better to have a designated mortise. I wouldn’t say get them to start with, and I would say buy them when you actually need them or when you’re going to be doing a lot of mortising.

Fishtail and skew chisel will be excellent if you are doing lots of lap dovetails. These are pretty versatile, but in terms of starting off, you probably don’t need them again unless you’re going to be doing lots of dovetailing in furniture-making.

Now it’s time for the bevel edge chisel. They are usually the most versatile for furniture making. I would highly recommend it if you are doing furniture work.

Conclusion

I hope you have an in-depth idea of types of wood chisels and their uses.

Keep in mind what size you get to start with. And again, this is very dependent on what sort of work you’re doing. I would advise you to look at what sort of kits that manufacturers have available. Take care.

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