If you are a beginner, the following links from our beginner site, Common Woodworking, may be useful to you:
- The Chisel Guide – This is a general guide which covers what the tool is and the names of the parts
- Buying a Chisel – This guide recommends what to look for when buying a plane and the best place to buy from
- Using a Chisel – This guide shows you how to use your plane
- Setting Up and Sharpening a Chisel – This guide will show you the basics of setting up your plane for use and how to maintain and sharpen it
Initialising and Sharpening
Concerning the large flat face of a chisel, the need for absolute flatness it is often over exaggerated. The only time it comes into play is when using a paring cut with the flat face fully registered on the surface of the wood. It is important that there is a flattened section near the cutting edge. However, as soon as the chisel is used after sharpening, a tiny micro bevel is formed caused by edge fracture. This means that you generally have to lift the handle of the chisel a little when paring to get it to cut. Therefore the full surface is no longer registered on the wood.
It depends what you want to go for, bevel edged chisels are more than adequate for the majority of our woodworking.
There are a few options for inexpensive chisels. We made the video below using chisels which were bought from Aldi, but they are only available twice a year here in the UK. We have also bought a similar set of chisels in Lidl which seem to be almost identical. The steel seems to be of a high quality, keeping an edge well.
The other alternative for an accessibly priced chisel is the Faithfull blue handled chisel which we also use in the workshop alongside the Aldi chisels. They are not overly consistent in width, but it does mean that you can a full range of sizes. We would recommend getting a 1/4″, 3/8″, 1/2″, 3/4″ and 1″.
A lot of these are not as fine at the edges as other premium chisels. The Narex chisels seem to perform well, but have been known to periodically snap near the end (although you can exchange them if this does happen). There now produce a model with a finer bevel for cabinet making, so be sure to check the model you are getting. The Ashley Iles chisels perform well if you want to go for a finer higher end British chisel, although not perfect. We have found the Sorby chisels tend to edge fracture more than we’d want, which means you have to compensate with a 35 degree bevel.
Our favourites, though are old chisels such as the (pre Irwin) Marples.
Here is some information on the different types of chisel and where they are useful, focusing on the usefulness of mortice chisels:
How do you repair chisel handles?
How do you fix loose hoops?
With the Aldi chisels, where the hoops are often loose and insubstantial, we remove the hoops as they serve no real purpose. On other chisels, they may help prevent splitting, although I would not expect any in the careful controlled use required for furniture making. They are designed more for abuse when used for larger scale joinery. You can use a sharp punch to indent them to grip the wood. It is hard to know what else to suggest, as it is probably due to the handle being shaped too small for the hoop.
Can you repair bent chisels?
When a chisel bends, the molecular structure of the metal changes. This cannot be easily restored without special treatment.