20 Different Types of Chisels & Their Uses – Which is Right for You?
Chisels cut, shape, carve, and chip away at a variety of materials. They’re an incredibly useful tool with a wide range of uses that makes them one of the most versatile instruments in any tool kit. But one chisel isn’t made for every use. Depending on your needs, a specific chisel will likely suit you best.
But how can you find that one certain chisel? Well, you already have. On this list, we’ve gathered the 20 chisels that you need to know about if you’re serious about your craft. From woodworking to masonry, these chisels will find use in just about every setting imaginable.
1. Paring Chisels
Unlike most mallets, you won’t want to hit your paring chisel. These are thin, long, flexible chisels that are meant for shaving off very small amounts of wood for creating precise-fitting joints.
2. Mortise Chisels
Mortising chisels are made to create a special hole called a mortise. A mortise is a special hole that’s made for a tenon joint. These holes are square or rectangular so that an interlocking piece (the tenon) will fit.
These chisels are made thick and strong so that they can withstand the hard hits it takes to make a hole in solid wood. Luckily, you don’t need these chisels in a wide range of sizes. One or two should do, with ¼-inch and ⅜-inch being the most common sizes.
3. Framing Chisels
These are large, heavy-duty chisels that are intended for making deep cuts in wood. They’re meant for the heaviest woodworking, so they’re built extra-durable with reinforced handles that can take repeated heavy blows without mushrooming or splitting.
4. Sash Mortise Chisels
Very similar to a standard mortise chisel, a sash mortise chisel is made for cutting mortises. Unlike a regular mortise chisel, this type of chisel is meant for cutting shallow mortises, limiting its usefulness. Unless you need this very specific ability, you probably won’t need a sash mortise chisel.
5. Skew Chisels
These are long, beveled-edge chisels that have an angled tip. The long point of the tip is called the toe and the short point is called the heel. This type of chisel is great for smoothing and beading or creating tapers on a spindle. It’s also the best choice for V-cuts and beads.
Skew chisels are made for advanced woodworking techniques and they’re considered to be some of the most dangerous chisels to use because of the sharp tip. They can also easily gouge your wood, so they require great care.
6. Butt Chisels
These are very stubby, short little chisels that are made specifically to work with butt hinges. You might find other uses for them, but they’re the perfect tool for installing these hinges. You’ll need them to carve away at the edge of your door so that the hinge can lay flush inside of the depression you carve.
7. Slick Chisels
Slick chisels are paring chisels on steroids. They’re great for paring thin bits of wood off of large pieces such as logs. These chisels are very large with a handle that’s shaped like a baseball bat, making them easy to hold and comfortable to work with.
8. Bench Chisels
Bench chisels are so named because they typically sit on the bench rather than accompany you in your pocket or tool belt. These are multi-purpose chisels that can shape wood in various ways.
9. Beveled Edge Chisels
These are the most common and versatile type of chisel for woodworking. They’re comfortable to hold with hardened butts that are meant for hitting with a mallet so you can shape wood, though they can also be used by hand for fine paring. They can do everything from rough work to finely finished work, making them a must-have for any woodworker’s tool collection.
10. Dovetail Chisels
Dovetail joints are a type of strong interlocking joint that’s commonly used in woodworking. Dovetail chisels are specially shaped to create these joints by hand. They can also be used to clean up joints that you cut with a machine.
11. Curved Chisels
If you look at the tip of a curved chisel, it will appear to be U-shaped, running down the length of the blade. This allows a curved chisel to remove more material in a single pass, making for faster, more efficient shaping. They’re also often used for carving complex shapes into wood.
12. Lathe Chisels
A lathe is a specialty woodworking machine that spins the piece of wood you’re working on. Lathe chisels allow you to shape the wood while it spins by holding the chisel against the wood to remove material with each pass.
13. Masonry Chisels
Masonry chisels are specifically made to work with materials such as stone, bricks, concrete, and even harder materials. You can gently score the surface of these materials with a masonry chisel, allowing you to snap off the line with a harder tap once scored all the way across.
14. Concrete Chisels
Unlike most chisels, concrete chisels come to a point at the tip instead of a flat blade. They’re made very hard with a wide butt that’s meant to protect your hand when you’re swinging hard with a mallet or mini-sledgehammer. These chisels can score concrete or even cut through it. They’re perfect for demo tasks that require the use of a finer tool than the likes of a jackhammer, hammer drill, or demolition hammer.
15. Brick Chisels
This type of chisel is also known as a bolster chisel. They’re meant for cutting straight sides on bricks and they’re a variation of the standard masonry chisel. You don’t want to use a brick chisel on anything but brick though. Doing so will ruin the edge and make it difficult to cut bricks.
16. Stone Chisels
As you might guess from the name, this type of chisel is meant for use in stone. Since stones like granite are extremely hard, stone chisels are made of hardened steel that’s able to withstand the abuse. But they’re not just a tool for blunt force. On the contrary. This is the type of chisel used for creating sculptures of fine art. It all depends on the skill of the user.
17. Cold Chisels
Cold chisels are one of the few hand tools made for working with metals. These are made of extremely hard steel that’s hardened so it’s even more durable. Because of this, these chisels can be used to cut any material that’s softer than the chisel, making them great for cutting off rivets or rusted bolts.
18. Cape Chisels
Cape chisels are a special type of cold chisel with a long, tapered blade. They’re perfect for creating details and art in metals by carving tiny grooves into the surface.
19. Gouge Chisels
This type of chisel has a curved blade like a half-moon. They’re meant for cutting round or semi-circular grooves in metal.
20. Power Chisels
Until now, all of the chisels on this list resembled the basic chisel that we all know. But power chisels are a purely modern invention. These chisels are powered by a motor, giving them far more power and accuracy than you can get while hitting a hand tool with a hammer. When you need some serious power behind your chisel, then the power chisel is here to provide.
Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Chisels
How Long Have Humans Been Using Chisels?
Chisels are one of the earliest tools that ancient humans developed. The earliest ancestors of the modern-day chisel were made of flint. These early chisels date back to 8,000 B.C.E., which means that humans have been using these tools for more than 10,000 years!
What Are Chisels Used For?
Chisels might seem like a very basic tool, but they can be used for a wide range of uses. Obviously, they can be used to chip away at different materials, but they can also do much more than that. These tools can be used to shape and carve just about anything. In fact, some of the most impressive pieces of art in the world are statues that were carved with chisels.
What Kind of Materials Can A Chisel be Used With?
Chisels are a versatile tool that can be used in a variety of mediums. You can use them with all types of wood, including plywood and medium-density fiberboard (MDF), though both of those are likely to splinter and fall apart under the impacts. There are also chisels made for working with masonry, and they get more specific with brick and cement chisels. You can use chisels with stone, metal, and just about any material you can think of.
What is Dressing a Chisel?
Chisels take a lot of abuse. After repeated hits on the butt end of the chisel, you’ll start to see it spread out, getting fatter and flatter. This is referred to as mushrooming because the butt of the chisel takes on a mushroom shape once it spreads out enough.
Unfortunately, a mushroomed chisel can be quite dangerous. The mushroomed end is weakened and liable to break off and go flying. You probably don’t need us to tell you that flying metal projectiles can be dangerous.
Dressing is the process of removing the mushroomed head by grinding down the edges until they’re flat again. For a complete guide on how to dress a chisel, check out this video.
Can You Sharpen a Chisel?
You may not realize this, but using a chisel with a blunt tip is dangerous. Naturally, as the tip is continually beaten into hard materials, it begins to lose its sharp edge. This means that it takes greater and greater force to get the same effect, leading you to hit it harder and harder. As you swing the hammer harder, your risk of injury increases as well since you’re much more likely to slip or miss when banging the chisel so hard.
How Do You Sharpen a Chisel?
There are several ways to sharpen the tip of a chisel. Some require special tools, others you can perform with stuff that’s probably already in your workshop.
If you have a workshop or garage full of tools, you most likely have some sandpaper lying around somewhere. Luckily, that’s all it takes to sharpen your chisel. Check out this video to learn how.
Whetstones are a common tool that can be used to sharpen just about any type of metal blade, including the tip of a chisel. It’s a simple process involving dragging the edge of the chisel’s tip against the whetstone and shaping it. To learn the exact steps to take, check out this short video.
If you have a bench grinder, you can easily sharpen a chisel in just a few minutes by shaping the edge on the grinder. This video will give you the lowdown on exactly how to do it.
As you can see, there’s a chisel made specifically to fill just about every purpose you can imagine. From wood to masonry, metal, and beyond, these tools can be used with almost any material. They’re one of the first tools that humans ever invented and they’ve been in use for more than 10,000 years, yet they’re still one of the most useful tools you’ll add to your collection.
Only you can decide which chisels are right for you. However, with the guide that we have presented here today, you should have no trouble selecting the right products for your exact needs.
Featured Image Credit: Pixabay
- Carpentry Chisels
- Masonry Chisels
- Metal Chisels
- Specialty Chisels
- Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Chisels