The Wood Chisel
The Wood Chisel
A wood chisel is shaped cutting edge with a blade on its end for carving and cutting wood. A wide selection of chisels are available, for the large range of possible tasks and variety of projects that are often completed with a chisel. Woodworking chisels are used by forcing them into a board cutting the wood. Force is applied by hand or by striking it with a mallet. Chisels run from small chisels for tiny details, to large chisels used to rough out the design by remove big chunks of wood. The wood carver will start with a larger tool,roughing out the design and progressively use smaller chisel to finish the increasingly more fine details.
Woodworking chisels are used to rough out joints, and also to pare down pieces for a perfect fit. The right chisel for the job will lead to a successful end. Woodworkers of all sorts use chisels for everything from paring down a thousands of an inch off a mortise, to opening a paint can. We have invested heavily in paint can openers, so that isn't necessary in our shop.
The chisels I use on the show (most times) are Fujihiro Japanese chisels. In general, Japanese chisels are made with harder steel than their Western cousins, which means it can take a lot longer to flatten their backs.>And a flat back is an absolutely critical component to any chisel you actually intend to use.
Gouges are available is wide range of shapes and sizes. It is important to have a good selection to cover a full range of tasks. You can often purchases sets of gouges that contain a range of shapes and sizes. Before using a gouge it is important to ensure it is sharp.
Wood chisels range in size from 1/4" to 2" wide in 1/8" graduations. They are available with wooden or plastic handles. Use a chisel about one half the width of the cut to be made. Thin cuts can be made by pushing by hand, heavier cuts are made by tapping on the end with a wooden mallet.
Woodworking Hand Tools Do Not Buy a Steel Banana
I use all kinds and many brands of chisels, in the 1980s I was one of the first western woodworkers to advocate using Japaneses chisels and one of the first to stop using them as the only solution. Now my tools are a mix of western and Japaneses.
Take a look at any catalog and the number of woodworking and carving chisels you'll find can be intimidating. Wood carving is a tradition that is centuries old and the tools have evolved into a dizzying array of specialized areas. Knowing the type of carving you'll be doing is a great first step to picking the tools you'll need.
We get a lot of questions about chisels. Some of the questions are about different brands, but many are about how different styles of chisels are used for different applications. A century ago, tool catalogs carried pages and pages of chisels - different sizes, different shapes, different styles, an amazing array. A good many of the styles and shapes popular then have disappeared. However, the basic criteria for selecting a set of chisels have stayed the same.
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