Types of wood carving chisels: a comprehensive overview

In the world of craftsmanship and artistry, few tools hold as much significance as wood carving chisels. These humble instruments, with their sharp blades and ergonomic handles, play a pivotal role in the creation of intricate wooden masterpieces. The importance of wood carving chisels cannot be overstated, as they form the very foundation upon which skilled artisans bring their creative visions to life.

Types of wood carving chisels: a comprehensive overview

Understanding the scope

In this article, we delve deep into the world of wood carving chisels, exploring their various types, applications, and the key role they play in woodworking. Our aim is not only to inform but to provide a comprehensive resource that will empower both beginners and experienced woodworkers alike. So, let's embark on this journey and unravel the significance of wood carving chisels.

Types of wood carving chisels

1. Straight chisels

Straight chisels are the quintessential tools for wood carving. With their flat, straight-edged blades, they are ideal for creating clean, precise cuts in wood. These chisels are versatile and can be used for a wide range of carving tasks, making them a must-have for any woodworker's toolkit.

2. V-parting chisels

V-parting chisels, as the name suggests, feature a V-shaped blade. These chisels excel at creating deep grooves, adding intricate details, and forming angular cuts. They are particularly valuable for relief carving and adding texture to wooden surfaces.

3. Gouges

Gouges have curved blades that come in various profiles, including shallow and deep sweeps. These chisels are indispensable for creating concave or convex shapes, making them essential for sculptural carving. The wide range of gouge profiles allows for versatility in carving depth and curvature.

4. Skew chisels

Skew chisels have blades that are skewed at an angle. This design allows woodworkers to make clean, controlled cuts, particularly useful when creating intricate details or working in tight spaces. Skew chisels are prized for their precision.

Applications of wood carving chisels

Wood sculpting

Wood carving chisels are the artist's paintbrush when it comes to sculpting wood. Whether you're crafting figurines, animals, or abstract forms, these tools allow you to shape wood with precision and bring your artistic vision to life.

Relief carving

For those who appreciate the beauty of three-dimensional artistry, wood carving chisels are indispensable for relief carving. They enable woodworkers to carve intricate designs and patterns that seem to emerge from the wood's surface, adding depth and dimension to their creations.

Furniture making

In the realm of furniture making, wood carving chisels are used to add intricate details to table legs, chair backs, and other furniture components. These tools transform ordinary pieces into works of art, enhancing the overall aesthetic of the furniture.

The key to mastery

While wood carving chisels are undoubtedly essential tools, mastering their use requires time, practice, and dedication. The quality of the chisels themselves is paramount. High-quality chisels, made from premium materials, retain their sharpness and durability, ensuring that your craftsmanship remains top-notch.
Additionally, understanding the wood you're working with is crucial. Different woods have varying hardness levels, and each responds differently to carving. It's essential to adapt your technique and tool selection accordingly.
In conclusion, wood carving chisels are the unsung heroes of woodworking and artistic expression. Their significance in shaping wood, whether for functional pieces or intricate sculptures, cannot be overstated. As you embark on your woodworking journey or seek to refine your carving skills, remember that the right chisel, wielded with skill and precision, can turn a simple piece of wood into a masterpiece.
History of wood carving chisels

History of wood carving chisels

Wood carving chisels, with their rich heritage and timeless utility, have a history as captivating as the intricate creations they help produce. In this article, we delve deep into the annals of time to uncover the fascinating journey of wood carving chisels, from their early origins to their cultural significance.

Early origins

The birth of a craft

The history of wood carving chisels can be traced back to the dawn of human civilization. As our ancestors ventured beyond basic survival, they began to shape wood for practical and artistic purposes. These early craftsmen, armed with rudimentary tools resembling chisels, carved wood into functional objects and artifacts.

Ancient Egypt: masters of woodworking

One of the earliest documented civilizations to excel in woodworking was ancient Egypt. Egyptians meticulously crafted furniture, statues, and intricate wooden jewelry using chisels and other woodworking tools. Their expertise laid the foundation for the development of wood carving techniques that would be refined over millennia.

Evolution of chisel designs

The Roman influence

With the expansion of the Roman Empire, woodworking techniques and tools, including chisels, spread throughout Europe. Romans incorporated wood carving into their architectural marvels, and chisels evolved to meet the demands of intricate ornamentation. The Romans introduced the concept of beveled chisel blades, a design innovation that allowed for more precise and controlled carving.

Medieval Europe: craftsmanship flourishes

During the Middle Ages, Europe witnessed a flourishing of craftsmanship and woodworking. Monasteries became centers of learning and artistry, and monks played a significant role in refining the art of wood carving. Chisel designs continued to evolve, with specialized chisels for creating detailed religious sculptures and intricate wooden altars.

Renaissance revival

The Renaissance period marked a rebirth of artistic expression, and wood carving chisels played a pivotal role. Masters like Donatello and Michelangelo used chisels to create iconic sculptures that are celebrated to this day. Chisel designs became increasingly specialized, catering to the demands of intricate, lifelike carving.

Cultural significance

Wood carving traditions across the globe

Wood carving chisels are not confined to a single culture; they hold significance across the globe. In Asia, intricate wooden sculptures and temple carvings have been created using traditional chisels for centuries. In Africa, tribal artisans have crafted masks and figurines with great cultural and spiritual significance, relying on the precision of chisels.

Contemporary woodworking

In the modern era, wood carving chisels continue to be indispensable tools for artisans and craftsmen. From crafting ornate furniture to creating exquisite wooden instruments, these tools bridge the gap between tradition and innovation. The legacy of centuries of woodworking craftsmanship lives on in the skilled hands of contemporary artisans.
The history of wood carving chisels is a testament to human ingenuity and creativity. From humble beginnings in the early days of civilization to the intricate works of art produced today, these tools have played an integral role in shaping our world—both functionally and artistically.

Types of wood carving chisels

Wood carving chisels are the artisan's trusted companions, each type serving a unique purpose in the hands of a skilled craftsman. In this comprehensive guide, we explore three essential categories of wood carving chisels: Bench Chisels, Gouges, and Skew Chisels.

Bench chisels


Bench chisels, also known as straight chisels, are the workhorses of the woodworker's toolkit. They exhibit several defining characteristics that make them indispensable:
  1. Flat, straight blades: Bench chisels feature flat, straight-edged blades. This design allows for precise and controlled cutting, making them ideal for creating clean, straight lines and smoothing flat surfaces.

  2. Variety of blade widths: These chisels come in various widths, allowing craftsmen to choose the most suitable size for their specific task, from fine detailing to heavy material removal.

  3. Durable handles: Bench chisels often come with durable wooden or composite handles that provide a comfortable grip and excellent control during carving.

Common uses

Bench chisels find application in a wide range of woodworking tasks, including:
  • Dovetail joinery: They are essential for creating tight-fitting dovetail joints, a hallmark of fine woodworking.

  • Mortise and tenon joints: Bench chisels are used to create precise mortises and tenons for strong, durable joints.

  • Sculpting and detail work: Craftsmen use them for intricate detailing and shaping wood into desired forms.


Different shapes and sizes

Gouges are perhaps the most diverse category of wood carving chisels, with a multitude of shapes and sizes to cater to various carving needs:
  1. Sweep: Gouges come in different sweeps, ranging from shallow to deep. A "sweep" refers to the curvature of the blade, with lower numbers indicating shallower curves. This variety allows artisans to achieve a range of carving depths and shapes.

  2. Profile: Gouge profiles vary from U-shaped to V-shaped, and even compound shapes. These profiles enable carvers to create intricate contours and textures.

  3. Width: Gouges can have narrow or wide blades, providing flexibility for different carving tasks. Narrow gouges are excellent for fine detailing, while wider ones are suitable for roughing out the initial shape.


Gouges are versatile tools used for a wide array of applications, including:
  • Relief carving: They excel in relief carving by creating depth and dimension on wooden surfaces, allowing artisans to create lifelike designs.

  • Hollowing: Gouges are used for hollowing out concave shapes, such as bowls or spoons, with precision.

  • Texturing: Their varied profiles make them perfect for adding intricate textures and patterns to woodwork.

Skew chisels

Profile and usage

Skew chisels are characterized by their unique blade orientation, which is skewed at an angle relative to the handle. This distinctive profile provides several advantages:
  1. Precise cutting: The skew angle allows for exceptionally precise and controlled cuts, making them ideal for delicate work.

  2. Clean edges: They produce clean, smooth edges, reducing the need for additional finishing.

  3. Versatility: Skew chisels can be used for both shaping and smoothing, making them versatile additions to a woodworker's toolkit.


Skew chisels are employed in various woodworking techniques, including:
  • Trimming and shaping: They excel at trimming excess material and shaping wood to specific angles and dimensions.

  • Joinery: Skew chisels are essential for creating precise joinery, especially in making dovetail and chamfered edges.

  • Fine detailing: Their ability to produce clean, sharp edges makes them indispensable for intricate detailing work.

In conclusion, the world of wood carving chisels is rich and diverse, with each type offering unique characteristics and applications. Whether you're crafting intricate sculptures, joining wood pieces seamlessly, or adding texture and depth to your creations, these chisels are essential tools that empower artisans to transform their visions into tangible works of art.

Materials used in chisel making

The quality and performance of a chisel depend not only on the craftsmanship of its maker but also on the materials chosen for its construction. In the world of chisel making, two primary categories of materials play a crucial role: steel alloys for the blades and handle materials. Let's delve into the details of each.

Steel alloys

High carbon steel

High carbon steel, also known as tool steel, has been a staple material for chisel blades for centuries. Its defining characteristics include:
  • Exceptional sharpness: High carbon steel is prized for its ability to hold a razor-sharp edge, making it ideal for precision woodworking tasks.

  • Ease of sharpening: This steel type is relatively easy to sharpen, allowing craftsmen to maintain the chisel's edge with minimal effort.

  • Durability: When properly heat-treated, high carbon steel exhibits excellent durability, with blades that can withstand the rigors of carving and shaping wood.

Stainless steel

Stainless steel has gained popularity in modern chisel making due to its corrosion resistance and ease of maintenance. Key features include:
  • Corrosion resistance: Stainless steel chisels are highly resistant to rust and corrosion, making them suitable for use in humid or damp environments.

  • Low maintenance: These chisels require less maintenance than their high carbon steel counterparts since they don't readily react with moisture.

  • Longevity: When well-maintained, stainless steel chisels can offer a long service life, making them an excellent choice for both amateur and professional woodworkers.

Handle materials

Wood handles

Wood handles are the traditional choice for chisels and continue to be favored for their aesthetic appeal and ergonomic qualities:
  • Aesthetics: Wood handles exude a classic, timeless charm, often showcasing the natural beauty of the wood grain.

  • Comfort: They provide a comfortable grip and excellent control during carving, allowing craftsmen to work for extended periods without discomfort.

  • Customization: Wood handles can be easily customized to suit individual preferences, with various shapes and finishes available.

Plastic and composite handles

Plastic and composite handles have gained popularity for their durability and versatility:
  • Durability: These handles are highly resistant to impact and moisture, making them suitable for heavy-duty tasks and outdoor use.

  • Low maintenance: Plastic and composite handles are easy to clean and maintain, requiring minimal care to keep them in good condition.

  • Cost-effective: Chisels with plastic or composite handles often come at a more budget-friendly price point, making them accessible to a wide range of woodworkers.

In conclusion, the choice of materials in chisel making plays a pivotal role in determining the chisel's performance, longevity, and suitability for specific tasks. High carbon steel and stainless steel offer distinct advantages in blade construction, while wood, plastic, and composite materials cater to varying preferences in handle design and functionality. Ultimately, the best chisel material depends on the intended use and the craftsman's personal preferences.
How to choose the right chisel?

How to choose the right chisel?

Selecting the right chisel is a critical decision for woodworkers, as it directly impacts the quality and precision of their work. To make an informed choice, consider the following factors:

Wood type considerations

1. Wood hardness

Different wood types vary in hardness, with some being soft and others exceptionally hard. Consider the type of wood you most frequently work with. For softer woods, a chisel made from high carbon steel may suffice. However, for dense hardwoods, a chisel with a tougher blade, such as one made from stainless steel, is preferable as it can withstand the increased wear and tear.

2. Grain direction

Understanding the grain direction of the wood is crucial. For instance, when working with wood that has interlocking grains, like oak, a chisel with a steeper bevel angle can help prevent tear-out and ensure cleaner cuts.

Project specificity

1. Type of woodworking

Consider the nature of your woodworking projects. If you primarily engage in delicate, intricate carving work, gouges with various sweeps and profiles are indispensable. In contrast, if your projects involve more general tasks like mortising or dovetailing, straight or bench chisels may be your go-to tools.

2. Size of chisel

The size of the chisel should match the scale of your projects. Smaller chisels, often referred to as detail or paring chisels, are ideal for fine, detailed work. Larger chisels are better suited for heavy-duty tasks, like timber framing.

Handle comfort and grip

1. Handle material

Consider the material of the chisel handle. Wooden handles offer a traditional aesthetic and a comfortable grip, but they can be less durable and may require occasional maintenance. On the other hand, handles made from plastic or composite materials are rugged and require minimal upkeep.

2. Handle shape

The shape of the handle should feel comfortable in your hand. Ergonomically designed handles reduce hand fatigue and improve control. Test different handle shapes to find the one that suits your grip style and comfort preferences.

Budget constraints

1. Quality vs. budget

Balancing quality and budget is a common consideration. While high-end chisels made from premium materials may offer exceptional performance, there are also quality chisels available at more affordable price points. Assess your budget and explore chisels that provide the best value within your financial constraints.

2. Long-term investment

Think of your chisels as long-term investments. Higher-quality chisels, even if initially more expensive, can last for many years with proper care. Cheaper options may require frequent replacement, potentially costing more in the long run.
In conclusion, choosing the right chisel requires a thoughtful evaluation of the wood type you work with, the specific projects you undertake, the comfort and grip of the handle, and your budget constraints. A well-informed decision will not only enhance the quality of your woodworking but also ensure that your chisels serve you effectively for years to come.

Maintaining wood carving chisels

Wood carving chisels, like any other tools, require proper care and maintenance to ensure they perform at their best and remain safe to use. In this guide, we'll explore essential tips for maintaining your wood carving chisels.

Sharpening techniques


Honing is the process of refining and polishing the edge of your chisel to maintain its sharpness. Here's how to do it:
  1. Use honing guides: Honing guides help maintain the correct bevel angle while sharpening. Secure your chisel in the guide.

  2. Choose the right stones: Select sharpening stones with different grits, starting from coarse to fine. Coarser stones remove material, while finer stones refine the edge.

  3. Oil or water lubrication: Depending on the type of stones you're using (oil or water stones), apply the appropriate lubricant to the stone's surface.

  4. Maintain the angle: Keep the chisel in the honing guide and maintain the correct bevel angle (usually around 25 degrees) as you slide it back and forth on the stone. Start with the coarsest stone and progress to finer stones.

  5. Check for a burr: As you sharpen, you'll develop a burr on the opposite side of the chisel. Ensure you remove this burr by lightly honing on the finest stone.


Grinding is a more aggressive technique used to reshape a damaged or blunt chisel edge. Here's how to do it safely:
  1. Safety gear: Wear safety goggles and a dust mask to protect your eyes and lungs from debris.

  2. Use a grinder: Secure your chisel in a jig or holder and use a bench grinder with a coarse wheel (typically 80-120 grit).

  3. Maintain the correct angle: Keep the chisel in the jig and maintain a consistent bevel angle as you gently grind the edge. Avoid overheating the chisel by frequently dipping it in water to cool it down.

  4. Cooling breaks: To prevent the chisel from overheating and losing its temper, take regular cooling breaks during grinding.

  5. Finishing with honing: After grinding, hone the chisel's edge using the honing technique mentioned above to achieve a sharp and polished edge.

Proper storage

Proper storage is essential to prevent damage to your wood carving chisels and ensure they remain in good condition:
  1. Tool rack or holder: Store your chisels in a dedicated tool rack or holder. This keeps them organized, easily accessible, and minimizes the risk of them coming into contact with other tools.

  2. Blade protection: Consider using blade guards or edge protectors to prevent the chisel edges from chipping or nicking when stored.

  3. Dry environment: Store your chisels in a dry environment to prevent rust. You can also apply a thin coat of oil to the chisel blades to provide rust protection.

Safety tips

Safety is paramount when maintaining wood carving chisels:
  1. Wear safety gear: Always wear safety goggles and hearing protection when using power tools for grinding or honing. Additionally, use a dust mask to protect against airborne particles.

  2. Secure workpieces: Ensure the workpiece is securely clamped or held in place to prevent unexpected movements while carving or sharpening.

  3. Sharpen away from the edge: When honing or grinding, always move the chisel away from the sharp edge to avoid accidents.

  4. Maintain good lighting: Adequate lighting is crucial for precision work. Ensure your workspace is well-lit to clearly see what you're doing.

By following these maintenance and safety tips, you can prolong the life of your wood carving chisels, maintain their sharpness, and work with confidence, knowing that you are doing so safely and effectively.

Woodworking projects with chisels

Woodworking with chisels is a versatile and rewarding craft that allows you to transform raw wood into beautiful and functional objects. Here are three exciting woodworking projects you can undertake using chisels:

Relief carving

What is relief carving?

Relief carving is a woodworking technique that involves carving figures, patterns, or designs onto a flat wooden surface while creating the illusion of depth. The carved elements stand out from the background, giving the artwork a three-dimensional appearance.
How to get started:
  1. Choose your design: Begin by selecting a design or pattern that inspires you. This could be anything from botanical motifs to intricate scenes.

  2. Prepare the wood: Select a wood panel or board for your relief carving project. Softwoods like basswood or butternut are excellent choices for beginners due to their ease of carving.

  3. Transfer the design: Transfer your chosen design onto the wood surface using transfer paper or by drawing it freehand.

  4. Carving process: Use various chisels, particularly gouges with different sweeps, to carve away the background wood, leaving the design elements raised. Start with shallow cuts and progressively deepen them to create the desired depth.

  5. Detail work: Pay close attention to detail. Smaller gouges and chisels are invaluable for creating intricate features and textures.

  6. Finishing: Sand the carved surface to smooth it, and then apply a finish of your choice to protect the wood and enhance the beauty of your relief carving.


What is whittling?

Whittling is a form of wood carving that involves shaping and carving wood with a knife or chisel to create small, often handheld, objects. Whittlers typically work with small pieces of wood, making it an accessible and portable craft.
How to get started:
  1. Select the wood: Choose a softwood, such as pine or cedar, that is easy to carve. Start with a small block or a branch.

  2. Safety first: Always practice safe whittling techniques by keeping your fingers out of the path of the blade and using a sharp knife or chisel.

  3. Basic whittling techniques: Start with simple cuts like the push cut, pull cut, and stop cut. These techniques are the foundation of whittling.

  4. Choose your project: Begin with straightforward projects like carving a wooden whistle, a figurine, or a small animal. As you gain confidence, you can move on to more complex designs.

  5. Detailing: Use smaller chisels or carving knives for fine detailing, such as carving facial features or adding texture to your whittled objects.

  6. Finishing: Sand the surfaces for a smooth finish, and consider applying a wood finish to enhance the appearance and protect the wood.


What is joinery?

Joinery is a fundamental aspect of woodworking that involves creating strong and precise connections between two or more pieces of wood. Chisels play a crucial role in this woodworking technique, especially for creating mortise-and-tenon joints and dovetail joints.
How to get started:
  1. Understanding joints: Familiarize yourself with various types of woodworking joints, including mortise-and-tenon, dovetail, and lap joints.

  2. Select the wood: Choose the type of wood that matches your project requirements. Hardwoods like oak or maple are often preferred for joinery due to their strength.

  3. Marking and measuring: Precision is key in joinery. Use marking and measuring tools to lay out your joints accurately.

  4. Cutting the joints: Chisels are essential for removing material to create the joints. For example, a mortise-and-tenon joint involves chiseling out a rectangular mortise and creating a matching tenon on another piece.

  5. Test fits: Always perform test fits to ensure that the joints are snug and fit together precisely. Make any necessary adjustments with your chisels.

  6. Gluing and assembling: Once the joints fit perfectly, apply glue and assemble the pieces. Clamps may be used to hold the pieces together while the glue dries.

  7. Finish and sanding: After the glue has dried, finish the project by sanding the wood to achieve a smooth surface and applying a finish if desired.

These woodworking projects with chisels offer a range of creative possibilities, from intricate relief carvings to functional joinery that strengthens your woodworking projects. As you gain experience, you'll find that chisels are indispensable tools for bringing your woodworking visions to life.

Chisels in different cultures

Chisels have been integral tools in woodworking across the world, with each culture contributing its unique designs, techniques, and craftsmanship. Let's explore how chisels have evolved and been employed in three distinct cultural contexts: Japanese, European, and African/Indigenous.

Japanese chisels

1. Materials and craftsmanship

Japanese chisels, known as "nomi," are renowned for their precision and exquisite craftsmanship. They are traditionally made from high-carbon steel, laminated with a softer iron backing. This construction allows for an incredibly sharp edge while maintaining durability.

2. Design and bevel angle

Japanese chisels have a distinctive design, with a hoop-shaped hollow on the backside of the blade. This design makes them easier to control and maneuver. The bevel angle is usually around 30 degrees, allowing for clean, precise cuts.

3. Applications

Japanese chisels are commonly used in intricate joinery work, such as creating precise dovetail joints and mortise-and-tenon joints. They are also favored for traditional Japanese woodworking techniques, including "sashimono" (joinery) and "kumiko" (lattice work).

European chisels

1. Materials and craftsmanship

European chisels come in a variety of styles, often differentiated by the steel used in their construction. While high-carbon steel chisels are common, modern variations include those made from stainless steel. European chisels are known for their durability and versatility.

2. Design and bevel angle

European chisels typically have a simpler design compared to Japanese chisels. They often feature flat backs and beveled edges. The bevel angle varies depending on the intended use, with a steeper angle for chopping and a shallower angle for paring.

3. Applications

European chisels are widely used in general woodworking tasks, such as mortising, shaping, and carving. They are essential tools for creating various joints, including dovetails, mortise-and-tenon, and lap joints. European chisel designs have influenced woodworking traditions around the world.

African and indigenous chisels

1. Materials and craftsmanship

Chisels used in African and indigenous woodworking often reflect the available local materials. These chisels can be made from a variety of materials, including stone, bone, antler, or even wood. Craftsmen in these cultures demonstrate remarkable ingenuity in adapting to their surroundings.

2. Design and bevel angle

Designs of chisels in these cultures can vary widely, but they often prioritize function and efficiency. Bevel angles may differ depending on the material being worked, but they are typically optimized for the specific woodworking tasks in each culture.

3. Applications

African and indigenous chisels are used for a broad range of purposes, from carving intricate masks and figurines to crafting functional tools, weapons, and household items. These chisels reflect the deep connection between culture, tradition, and craftsmanship.
In conclusion, chisels have played a pivotal role in woodworking across different cultures, showcasing the diversity of craftsmanship and the adaptation to local resources and needs. Whether it's the precision of Japanese chisels, the versatility of European chisels, or the resourcefulness of chisels in African and indigenous cultures, these tools remain essential in shaping the world's woodworking heritage.

Chisels in furniture making

Chisels are indispensable tools in the craft of furniture making, enabling woodworkers to create strong and precise joints that form the foundation of sturdy and aesthetically pleasing furniture. Two of the most essential joints in furniture making that heavily rely on chisels are dovetail joints and mortise and tenon joints.

Dovetail joints

1. Overview

Dovetail joints are celebrated for their strength, durability, and elegant appearance. They are often used in furniture making to join two pieces of wood at right angles, such as the corners of drawers and cabinets.

2. Chisel usage

Chisels play a critical role in creating dovetail joints:
  • Marking and layout: Woodworkers use chisels to mark and score the wood, creating precise guidelines for cutting.

  • Waste removal: Chisels are used to remove the waste material between the tails and pins of the dovetail joint. This process requires precision and patience to achieve a snug fit.

  • Detailing: Chisels are employed for fine detailing, including chamfering the edges of the joint for a polished finish.

3. Types of dovetail joints

There are various types of dovetail joints, including:
  • Through dovetail joints: These joints are visible from both sides and are commonly used in box and drawer construction.

  • Half-blind dovetail joints: One side of the joint is hidden, making it an excellent choice for drawer fronts where you want the joint to be concealed.

  • Sliding dovetail joints: In this variation, a dovetail-shaped groove is cut into one piece of wood, and a matching protrusion is made on another piece to slide into it, providing additional strength.

Mortise and tenon joints

1. Overview

Mortise and tenon joints are versatile and robust connections used in various types of furniture, including tables, chairs, and cabinets. They consist of a projecting tenon on one piece of wood that fits into a corresponding mortise (hole) on another.

2. Chisel usage

Chisels are fundamental in creating mortise and tenon joints:
  • Marking and layout: Woodworkers use chisels to mark the location and dimensions of the mortise and tenon on the wood pieces.

  • Mortise preparation: Chisels are employed to remove the wood within the marked mortise area, ensuring it is the perfect size and depth to accommodate the tenon.

  • Tenon shaping: Chisels are used to shape the tenon, ensuring it fits precisely into the mortise.

3. Types of mortise and tenon joints

There are various types of mortise and tenon joints, including:
  • Through mortise and tenon: In this common variation, the tenon passes entirely through the mortise.

  • Half-lap mortise and tenon: One piece of wood has a half-lap joint while the other has a corresponding tenon.

  • Tusk tenon: This variation includes a wedge (tusk) that locks the tenon in place, providing extra strength.

Chisels are invaluable in creating the clean, precise cuts required for strong and durable mortise and tenon joints.
In conclusion, chisels are essential tools in furniture making, especially when crafting joints like dovetail and mortise and tenon. These joints not only provide structural integrity but also add to the aesthetic appeal of the furniture, making them a testament to the woodworker's skill and craftsmanship.
Chisel maintenance tools

Chisel maintenance tools

To keep your chisels in optimal condition, it's crucial to have the right maintenance tools on hand. Three essential tools for chisel maintenance are honing guides, sharpening stones, and a strop. Let's explore how each of these tools contributes to the upkeep of your chisels.

Honing guides

1. Purpose

Honing guides are indispensable tools for maintaining a consistent bevel angle while sharpening your chisels. They ensure that the edge is honed evenly, resulting in a sharp and precise cutting edge.

2. How to use

Using a honing guide is relatively straightforward:
  • Secure the chisel: Place your chisel in the honing guide and adjust it to achieve the desired bevel angle. Most chisels have a bevel angle of around 25 to 30 degrees.

  • Lubricate the stone: Apply a suitable lubricant to the sharpening stone, such as water or honing oil, depending on the type of stone.

  • Honing motion: Hold the honing guide and chisel together, and with gentle pressure, move them back and forth across the sharpening stone. Ensure that you maintain a consistent angle.

  • Progressive grits: Start with a coarser grit stone and progress to finer grits to achieve a polished edge. Remember to remove any burr that may form on the opposite side of the chisel.

Honing guides help maintain the chisel's bevel angle, ensuring the edge remains sharp and consistent.

Sharpening stones

1. Purpose

Sharpening stones are the primary tools for removing material from the chisel's edge and refining it to a sharp and polished state. They come in various grits, with coarser stones used for initial shaping and finer stones for honing.

2. How to use

Sharpening chisels with stones involves several steps:
  • Secure the stone: Place the sharpening stone on a stable surface or in a stone holder to prevent slipping.

  • Lubricate the stone: Depending on the type of stone, apply water, honing oil, or another suitable lubricant to the stone's surface to facilitate the sharpening process.

  • Position the chisel: Hold the chisel at the desired bevel angle (typically 25 to 30 degrees) and begin making controlled strokes along the stone's surface.

  • Progressive grits: Start with a coarser grit stone to remove nicks and reshape the edge. Gradually move to finer grit stones for honing and polishing. Ensure you maintain the same bevel angle throughout.

  • Burrs and deburring: After sharpening, check for any burrs on the opposite side of the chisel and remove them by lightly honing.

Sharpening stones are available in a range of grits, allowing you to achieve a sharp edge suitable for various woodworking tasks.


1. Purpose

A strop is a leather or fabric strip used for the final stage of sharpening, honing, and polishing the chisel edge. It helps refine the edge, removing any remaining burrs and achieving a razor-sharp finish.

2. How to use

Stropping is a simple yet effective process:
  • Apply honing compound: On one side of the strop, apply a small amount of honing compound, which is a fine abrasive paste.

  • Honing motion: Hold the chisel at the desired bevel angle and gently stroke it across the strop, pulling it toward you. Ensure you maintain the angle consistently.

  • Alternate sides: After several strokes on one side, flip the chisel and repeat the stropping process on the other side.

  • Test the edge: Finally, test the chisel's edge by making a few test cuts on a piece of scrap wood. It should effortlessly slice through the wood fibers.

Stropping helps refine the edge and ensures it is sharp enough for the most delicate woodworking tasks.
In conclusion, honing guides, sharpening stones, and a strop are essential tools for maintaining chisels in prime working condition. When used together, they allow you to achieve and maintain a sharp, consistent edge on your chisels, ensuring your woodworking projects are precise and efficient.


In conclusion, chisels are the unsung heroes of woodworking, playing a vital role in shaping, carving, and joining wood with precision and artistry. These versatile tools are not only essential for various woodworking techniques but also require proper maintenance to keep them performing at their best.
Honing guides, sharpening stones, and strops are indispensable tools for chisel maintenance, ensuring that the chisel's edge remains consistently sharp and ready for use. With these tools, woodworkers can achieve clean cuts, intricate joints, and finely detailed woodworking projects.
In furniture making, chisels shine in creating two essential joints: dovetail joints, known for their strength and elegance, and mortise and tenon joints, celebrated for their versatility. Chisels are the key to marking, shaping, and fitting these joints precisely, resulting in furniture that is both functional and visually pleasing.
Ultimately, chisels are a testament to the craftsmanship and dedication of woodworkers who transform raw wood into beautiful and functional pieces of art. With the right maintenance and skillful use, chisels remain a cornerstone of woodworking excellence, ensuring that each project is a masterpiece of precision and craftsmanship.