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Types of Wood Chisels

Types of Wood Chisels

Woodworking is an age-old craft that has seen a wide variety of tools, each with their specific uses. Among these tools, chisels hold a special place. They have been used for centuries to shape, carve, and refine wooden structures and furniture. This article explores the different types of wood chisels, their specific uses, and how to pick the right one for your project.

8 Common Wood Chisels

1. Bench Chisels

Bench chisels are the most common type of chisels used by woodworkers. They are versatile tools that can be used for a variety of woodworking tasks, from carving and shaping wood to chopping and paring. Bench chisels typically have bevelled edges and come in various widths, ranging from 1/8 inch to 2 inches. They can be used with a mallet or by hand, making them a staple in any woodworker's toolkit.

2. Mortise Chisels

As the name suggests, mortise chisels are used for creating mortise and tenon joints. They have a thick, robust blade that can withstand the mallet's impact, enabling the woodworker to make deep square cuts into the wood. These chisels typically have a rectangular cross-section and a bolster to prevent the handle from splitting when struck with a mallet.

3. Paring Chisels

Paring chisels are used for precise, detailed work and for shaving off thin layers of wood. They have long, thin, and flexible blades that are designed to be used with hand pressure alone, not with a mallet. The edges of a paring chisel are often bevelled for more precise control.

4. Dovetail Chisels

These chisels are specifically designed for creating dovetail joints, a popular joint type in woodworking known for its strength and aesthetic appeal. Dovetail chisels have a narrow and pointed blade that allows for precise cuts, which is essential when creating the interlocking pins and tails of a dovetail joint.

5. Corner Chisels

A corner chisel, sometimes called a right-angle chisel, has an L-shaped blade and is used to clean out square holes and corners. They are often used in conjunction with other chisels, such as mortise chisels, to clean up corners and create sharp, precise edges.

6. Skew Chisels

Skew chisels have an angled cutting edge and are used for creating precise, angled cuts and for reaching into corners where other chisels may not be effective. They are often used in detailed carving work and can come in a variety of sizes and angles.

7. Carving Chisels

Carving chisels are a broad category encompassing a variety of chisels used for detailed carving work. These include straight gouges, V-tools, spoon gouges, back-bent gouges, and fishtail gouges, among others. Each type of carving chisel has a unique shape and is used for a specific carving task.

8. Japanese Chisels

Japanese chisels, or Nomi, are unique in their construction and use. They are often made with a layered steel construction, which gives them exceptional sharpness and durability. There are several types of Japanese chisels, including bench chisels, paring chisels, and dovetail chisels, each designed for a specific woodworking task.

Choosing the Right Chisel

Choosing the Right Chisel

Choosing the right chisel depends on the task at hand. For general woodworking tasks, a set of bench chisels of various widths is usually a good place to start. For more specialized tasks, such as creating mortise and tenon joints or detailed carving work, you'll need specialized chisels like mortise chisels or carving chisels.

When choosing a chisel, consider the quality of the steel, the handle material, and the chisel's balance. High-quality steel will stay sharp longer and withstand the rigors of woodworking. The handle should be comfortable to hold and durable enough to withstand repeated use. The chisel should also be well balanced, which will make it easier to control and more comfortable to use.


Chisels are an essential part of any woodworking toolkit. Each type of chisel has a specific purpose and use, and understanding these can help you choose the right tool for your project. Whether you're a professional woodworker or a hobbyist, having a variety of chisels at your disposal will enable you to tackle a wide range of woodworking tasks with precision and ease.

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