How to Use a Chisel

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Chisels can be used by being tapped lightly with a mallet, or they can be worked by hand. Follow these guidelines to be sure you've chosen the right chisel for the job.

Things You'll Need

  • Butt Chisels
  • Cold Chisels
  • Deep-mortise Chisels
  • Firmer Chisels
  • Mallets
  • Mortise Chisels
  • Paring Chisels
  • Look over the workpiece for knots and nails.

  • Clamp the workpiece so that it doesn't move.

  • Make sure that the cutting edge of the chisel is sharp. A dull chisel is hard to control and makes the job harder than it needs to be.

  • Stand with both feet on the floor and don't overreach.

  • Use a wood or plastic mallet with a large face. Never use a steel hammer.

  • Position the chisel with its bevel side up for deep cuts, convex curves and in places where the chisel can be nearly level to the work.

  • Position the chisel with its bevel side down for concave curves and fine shaving and in confined spaces.

  • Face the bevel toward the waste side for square-sided cuts.

  • Tap the chisel lightly while holding it at an angle of 45 degrees.

  • Point the chisel away from your body.

  • Chisel across the grain and then with the grain - otherwise, the chisel will split the wood.

  • Make smooth finishing cuts by hand without the mallet.

Tips & Warnings

  • Never use your chisel as a wedge or prying tool, or you will damage the cutting edge.
  • Don't use a wood chisel on metal.

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