Find out how to choose, use, and hone a chisel.


One of a woodworker's simplest tools is a chisel. For general use, a blade that's 3 to 5 inches long is useful. But you'll likely end up with several chisels of different lengths and widths. Buy chisels that have high-carbon steel blades and durable handles (plastic handles absorb shock and resist deformation when hit with a mallet). Use a dead blow hammer or wood mallet to drive a chisel.

Chisels are versatile tools. If you keep them sharp and handle them carefully and properly -- don't use them to pry open paint cans or stuck windows -- they perform many woodworking tasks well.

Choosing a Chisel

A good wood-handled chisel has a steel hoop at the top of the handle to keep it from mushrooming. Plastic handles absorb shock.

Step 1

Clean out a dado or groove cut with a saw by turning the chisel bevel down and paring away the small ridges. Cut, don't pry.

Step 2

Finish cleaning the groove by turning the chisel bevel up and running it through the groove or dado to flatten and smooth the bottom.

How to Hone a Chisel on a Flat Stone: Step 1

To hone a chisel on a flat stone, start with the stone's coarser side up; apply a light coat of oil to the stone. With firm, even pressure, move the chisel's bevel side around the stone in a figure-eight pattern. Make sure both the heel and toe of the bevel remain in contact with stone.

How to Hone a Chisel on a Flat Stone: Step 2

A thin ridge of metal, called a wire edge, will form at the tip. To remove it, turn the chisel over, lay it flat on the stone, and give it a few light sideways strokes. Turn the stone over and repeat the steps on the finer-grain side.

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