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What Is Chiseling? (How to Use Chisels in Woodworking)

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Wood chisel.

Wood chisel.

What Kind of Chisel Should I Use?

If you are a beginner it is more efficient to use a firmer chisel, paring or trimming by pushing the tool with your hand on the handle and manage the cutting with your other hand on the blade. Most of the time the flat side of the blade is put parallel to the surface.

The bevel side is used when you are removing an excess amount of wood. Use a vise to clamp the wood if you cannot hold it by your hands firmly. Cut the waste side of the wood while watching the grain.

A large chisel is used in a shearing cut for pairing, trimming or pushing when you want to chisel a curved surface. Make sure it will be done with the grain so that the border of the chisel will not split the grain. The hand of the chisel must be handed carefully, and chiseling must be done little by little.

Tips for Handling and Storing Chisels

You must be very careful with a chisel—know how to handle and use it.

  • The first requirement for chiseling is to make sure that the chisel is always sharp and in good condition to produce good work. A dull chisel makes the woodworker’s work inaccurate (and at the same time will cause too much fatigue).
  • Chisels are sharpened in the same way as plane blades. Their cutting edges must be handled with caution.
  • Never try to throw them on a bench or pile them with other tools.
  • If possible, it is good to make boxes so that chisels are placed in sets, as there are different types of them.

Cold Chiseling

There are several ways a cold chisel can be used, and they can be bought from your local hardware store. It must be kept well-sharpened and properly used like the other tools.

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The general use of cold chisel is it must be ground with the bevels on the cutting border, making a 70 degree angle. A Keene end may be ground for cutting a thin sheet or soft metal. And you will also observe that a cold chisel is more often used than a wood chisel.

How to Use a Cold Chisel

  • The chisel must be held securely enough to guide it, yet loose enough to ease the shock of the hammer blow (and it will keep the hand from getting tired). And always remember to hold the hammer handle near the edge. Make light blows with the motion of your wrist, and motion from the shoulder to make heavy blows.
  • To avoid damage from the chisel, all cutting in the anvil should be done on the chipping block. The chipping block is softer than the face of anvil. Cutting can also be done in a heavy vise. Clamp bars and rods in a vise when cutting, and then nick them deeply by using a chisel near to the jaws. The rod can easily be broken by bending, and always make sure that you're hammering in the stationary jaws of the vise and not against the movable one.
  • It is better to use a chisel in cutting an iron bar than using a hacksaw. It must be securely clamped in a vise with the cutting line just even with the top part of the jaws, and after that the chisel is placed at one end of the piece with the bevel and flat against the top of the vise jaws.
  • Place its cut near to the jaws when using a chisel in order to avoid splits. This will provide a nice shearing cut, which will make cutting in metal fast (which will produce a smooth surface). Metal can also be cut by a pair of snips if it is not too thick.
chiseling via

chiseling via

Skills and Safe Practices When Using Wood Chisels

Chiseling is not a simple job: You need to be careful to avoid cuts and accidents. If you don’t know how to use a chisel, you are risking yourself—any single misuse of it may harm you. Here are some of the following reminders that you must kept in mind in order to work safely.

  1. To avoid tearing the surface, always cut with the grain of the wood.
  2. If possible, clamp the work in a vise so that both hands are free.
  3. Make sure to push the chisel away from you and keep the other hand at the back of the cutting edge.
  4. The left hand is used in guiding the chisel and the right hand in pushing the handle forward.
  5. Use the chisel with the bevel down for rough cuts and bevel up for fine paring or finishing cuts.
  6. Move the chisel back and forth in pushing the chisel forward to make a better and easier cut.
  7. When chiseling across the board, you must cut from both edges to avoid splitting the board.
  8. If you have a lot of surplus to remove, make a rough cut first, leaving about 1/6 in. to be eliminated later with a finishing cut.
  9. Use a mallet when any considerable force is needed. Never use a steel hammer for this—it will destroy the chisel handle.

Chiseling is one of the most important elements in finishing woodwork, and having these skills and practices will make your work better.

Reference: Basic Woodworking by Arsenio J. Galauran

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.