September 18, 2022
If you’re in woodworking, you should know what chisels are. If you’re new to the entire thing, chisels are simple to explain. It’s a long, metallic bar with one sharp end for cutting. On the other end, you can find wood, plastic, or other durable handles.
However, you won’t find the chisel you want with that name alone. Chisels have labels according to their cutting ends’ shapes! All these ends have their own unique purpose.
Some woodworking chisels are for the fine details. They’re small hand tools, so you can work with them carefully. If you need to remove large sections of wood, there are big woodworking chisels for you! You can rough out a pattern or design with a more enormous tool before switching to a smaller tool to refine the details.
Chisels have a wide range of uses. For the different chisels you can use, we have a list:
Wood Chisels in Woodworking: A Comprehensive List
1) Firmer Chisel
You can identify a firmer chisel when you see a thick rectangular cross-section on its blade. It’s not just for aesthetic purposes – this makes them durable! You can use firmer chisels for challenging, heavy projects.
However, firmer chisels weren’t always like they are now. They used to be made of steel laminates and had square edges. Due to the structural differences, the name “firmer chisel” spread like wildfire.
But what made the name “firmer chisel” make sense to the general public? Take a guess. Yes, they’re one of the oldest chisels in existence! Calling this new chisel a “firmer chisel” was logical, so it stuck around.
If you want to create sharp, ninety-degree corners for your project, this wood chisel is your best bet.
2) Bench / Bevel Edge Chisel
Bench chisels are one of those tools you can use anywhere. Their edges may be beveled or straight, but you can count on a medium-length blade. The handle may have a tang or socket style attachment, with a cutting edge at 25 to 30 degrees. Due to its usefulness, try to include this chisel when you’re working on your first projects! You can count on a bench chisel at any point in time.
You might already have this chisel in your workspace. It’s no surprise! After all, they’re one of those chisels that are at the right length. They’re not too short, nor too long. You can hold them comfortably, create a good edge, and they’re a no-brainer to sharpen.
You should look for flat, hollow chisel backs like the bevel edge if you want easy sharpening. The beveled sides allow all users to have access to the dovetails. If you’re going to start with your woodworking project right away, consider getting a set of these chisels first! There are diverse sizes and designs available. Some designs of this chisel are hooped or have a balance point.
If you want a broad chisel, consider this chisel as your first investment.
3) Registered Chisels
You can count in all the chisels you know under this category, except for the mortise chisel. Instead of beveled sides, everything is square! They’re usually hooped, and most woodworkers don’t use them as much. They have quite limited use if you want to do a wide array of projects.
The fear back is the most obvious feature of a register chisel. It is mostly used for flattening larger surfaces on the wood and also cleaning up the mortise cheeks.
4) Mortise Chisel
The thick blade cuts mortise joints, but it’s also great for prying anything up! Though we want you to take good care of all your tools, mortise chisels have steel caps and hoops that can endure mallet blows.
Mortise chisels are beveled at an angle of 30 to 40 degrees. When mortising, you use this chisel to mallet into the wood before levering out. The last step is done to remove waste. Mortise chisels are durable compared to other types. If you think about it, bench chisels don’t have the same thickness nor the angle to withstand the same functions mortise chisels do. Instead, most chisels would chip and mushroom at that kind of weight!
You want to look for mortise chisels that are fashioned like the original ones in history. These chisels are thick, heavy tools, with bolsters and hardwood handles like oak or beech. While they’re toughened for many projects, mortise chisels should still be easy to handle. You shouldn’t stress yourself out handling these chisels or feel frustrated while doing so.
You don’t have to collect several mortise chisels like you would other types. Go for a strong, mortise chisel in your ideal weight and size.
If you need a durable chisel – and not just for mortise joints – this chisel is a good choice.
6) Paring Chisel
Paring chisels are characterized by light, long, thin blades. They’re so thin that they’re almost flexible! It’s best for accessing narrow spaces, cleaning grooves, shaving wood, and dressing mortises.
The long blade is always helpful as it gives you the most control over your projects. If you need to do joinery for most of your projects, it’s a good idea to invest in a paring chisel.
Push the chisel forward with one hand, then guide the cutting with the other. You can use this process for shaving off wood while joining joints together. It’s not a central feature of any woodworker’s collection, but it’s an excellent investment to have!
If you need something for joinery or a flexible blade in general, get a paring chisel.
7) Skew Chisel
Do you need to pare away wood? Use skew chisels. Its 60-degree angle helps trim, finish, and paring across the wood grain. While you can argue other chisels can do this work, the cutting action is lighter and faster with skew chisels.
However, you need to note two types of skew chisels on the market: left-handed and right-handed. Make sure you choose the one for your dominant hand! You can use skew chisels primarily for paring after you cut dovetail joints.
If you need a specific tool to trim, finish, and pare off your wooden projects, use a skew chisel.
8) Dovetail Chisel
Speaking of dovetail joints, there’s a chisel just for them. You might think you won’t need one, but the thickness and angle allow easy join access. Dovetail joints benefit from dovetail chisels, so incorporate the thin blade into your woodworking journey! You can find the edges beveled in between 20 to 30 degrees.
While the primary use is for cutting dovetail joints, you can also use it for cleaning and sharpening the interlocking edges. In the end, you benefit from a more accurate project!
Working with a lot of dovetail joints? Get a dovetail chisel right away. It’s best not to substitute other chisels – get the tool that targets your needs.
9) Butt Chisels
The name might make you giggle, but its usefulness is unlike any other. A door’s butt hinges would be nowhere without these butt chisels! Butt chisels are short, with beveled sides and straight edges—a blunt chisel with beveled sides and a straight edge for creating joints.
If you think butt chisels look familiar, you have a keen eye. Butt chisels are essentially modified bench and firmer chisels, just with a sharper blade. You can choose from bevel or straight edges!
10) Carving Chisels
True to its name, carving chisels are made to cut intricate designs into your project. However, the carving isn’t its only use! With carving chisels, you can sculpt, gouge, skew, part, pare, and groove. Carving chisels usually have curved cutting edges. If you’re new to woodworking, you’ll find that these chisels help a wide range of projects. Get a whole set if you can!
11) Corner Chisel
We all want to make sure that our woodworking measurements are at maximum accuracy. If you want to make sure all your angles are at precisely 90 degrees, go for a corner chisel! They’re characterized by a punch-like look and an L-shaped cutting edge.
Though primarily used for measurements, corner chisels also clean out square holes and mortises. They usually have a medium-length blade. You can choose from beveled or non-beveled angles.
12) Chisels With Cranked Handles
Cranked handles are there for a reason. Instead of the handle being aligned to the blade, it’s offset instead. It’s a welcome change for those who need to create a flush, flat surface! Hold the chisel against the flat surface and trim off the appendages you need out of the way. Slide the chisel easily on the surface – you don’t have to worry about anything!
13) Slick Chisels
Unlike other chisels, a slick chisel is driven by manual pressure. They may look familiar, and for a good reason: they’re just larger versions of paring chisels! They’re characterized by the large size and the 20-30 degree cutting edge.
14) Drawer Lock Chisel
There are times you have to work with old, antique furniture. The drawer lock chisel is the perfect choice for the latter, and they get their name from those antique pieces, too! The drawer lock chisel is characterized by an all-metal structure with two angled blades.
Old antique furniture has key-operated locks. These locks are mortise locks, and they require narrow, tapered chisels. Luckily, the drawer lock chisel is the perfect invention for them! Fit in new locks or cut-out spaces with the blades.
How Do You Differentiate the Mortise and Bevel-edge Chisels?
Both chisel types, of course, come with similar looks. Besides, both chisels feature beveled tips. Yet, upon closer scrutiny, you will notice that the mortise chisel comes with square sides. The bevel-edge chisel, on the other hand, has beveled sides.
The mortise chisel, likewise, thrives in chopping mortises. Hence, its blade has a square feature to withstand the rigors of repeated blows and prying.
On the other hand, the bevel-edge chisel is pushed with one hand and directed by the other. Besides, it is not as sturdy as the mortise chisel.
But its beveled edges can reach tight angles and spaces, which the mortise chisel will have difficulty reaching. Lastly, most chisels you can buy from home centers are of the bevel-edge type.
Types of Woodworking Chisel Handle
Unlike the chisel blades themselves, there are only two main types of woodworking chisel handles. You can have a wooden or plastic one.
Wooden chisel handles are perfect for those who love the traditional feel of timber. After all, it only follows that woodworking chisels are made of wood, too!
Meanwhile, plastic chisel handles are more budget-friendly, but they’re still usable. They’re high-impact, so you can expect the most sturdiness out of them!
Whatever kind of handle you choose, you’ll find both durable and easy to handle.
Did you enjoy this article? We hope you did! As woodworkers, you need to know every detail of every type of woodworking chisel. You can tailor-fit your starting chisel set to the projects you have in mind. It’s still best to have a complete set in your toolbox, but the first few chisels are enough!
Before you buy chisels, make sure you know what each type is made and how to use them properly. You want to be confident and safe in your projects, after all.
We hope we helped you out! We’re excited to hear about your new woodworking project. Let us know about any inquiries or experiences in the comments.
Jason is a 40-year-old woodworker, carpenter and author who have been involved in the woodworking and woodcraft industry with 17 years of experience. He is expertise in technical aspects, woodcraft and furniture building projects.