Summary: Learn how to use a wood chisel, how to chisel a piece of wood and sharpen a wood chisel.
Although a more basic tool in today’s world of power tools and specialist equipment, the chisel is still very much relevant to modern woodworking and carpentry. Chisels are used for cutting mortises, shaving the surface layer of timber and for other smaller and more basic jobs. As some chisels have different uses and ways of being used, make sure you have the correct chisel for the job you are undertaking.
Using a wood chisel
- It is important for the quality of the job and the ease with which you can work that the chisel is sharp. A dull blade will make things very difficult and so no job should be attempted until you have either sharpened the blade or purchased a new tool.
- Depending on the job at hand, decide upon the size of the chisel you require. The three basic sizes are 1/2 inch, 3/4 inch and 1 inch.
- Start by checking the piece of timber to see if any nails or other unwanted remains are still attached. Remove them if so, and clamp the wood to a workbench of some kind so it cannot move.
- Keep the area you are working in clear from obstructions and make sure you have full access to the surface you are working on. Overstretching can cause accidents or a poor quality job. You may wish to practise using a chisel on a scrap piece of wood before attempting on the final piece if you have no previous experience.
- You can either have the bevel edge of the chisel facing upward or downward. The way you hold the tool depends on what you want to achieve. For deeper cuts or chiselling on a convex curve hold the bevel edge facing up. For fine shaving and chiselling concave curves you should have the bevel edge facing downward.
- While holding the chisel at a 45 degree angle in the required position, gently use a wood or rubber mallet with a large face (not a hammer) to knock the chisel. Always make sure the chisel is facing away from the body.
- To make final, smooth finishing cuts, use the chisel free hand. This is slower but more accurate.
Sharpening a wood chisel
In order for your chisel to work effectively, it is essential that you keep the tool sharp. A blunt edge will simply not work properly and will require more effort whilst achieving poor results. Sharpening requires the use of a sharpening stone. The most common type is made of silicone carbide. There are different grades of stone depending on what state the metal blade is in.
- Start by moistening the sharpening stone with oil or water before placing the bevel edge of the blade at the correct angle onto the surface.
- Move the blade back and forth repeatedly to sharpen the blade.
- Once satisfied the blade is sharp enough turn it over and lay flat on the stone. Move the chisel backwards and forwards again to remove any burrs caused by the initial sharpening process.
- Make use of a blade protector which can be placed on top of the blade when the chisel is not in use.
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