November 29, 2021

What are carving chisels used for?

Carving chisels are a crucial piece of woodworking equipment, and it’s crucial to know how to use them. If you don’t, you risk wasting an entire day of work, or worse, injuring yourself. So, let’s take a look at the many uses of a carving chisel and a few tips for using them. This will help you choose a good wood carving chisel.

What are the different types of wood chisels?

Firmer Chisel

A firmer chisel refers to how the chisels are made. The name derives from any chisel blade from solid steel construction, and that is opposite to a steel laminate that comes with an iron with a steel coating. They have square edges and hardwood handles for heavy-duty woodworking tasks.

With time, all chisel blades are from solid steel construction. The word firmer matches a flat blade with square edges, and however, it comes without a bevel. It is an older type of modern chisel and excels at creating joints where you need to maintain sharp, 90-degree corners.

Bench Chisel

Bench chisels are all-rounders of the chisel. They are of a medium-length blade with either beveled or straight edges. The one with beveled edges is more popular as they have a wider range of applications and an impact-resistant handle. Bench chisels have a tang- or socket-style fitting, and they also have a cutting edge angled between 25 and 30 degrees.

Butt Chisel

Butt chisels are named after their primary application, which involves installing butts and hinges on doors. They have short blades, and a butt chisel has a bench or firmer chisel, resharpened up to a few inches of its knife blade. A butt chisel is a shorter version of the chisel used with an application. They come in both bevel-edged and straight-edged varieties.

Paring Chisel

Paring chisels are easy to identify with a long, thin blade connected to its handle using a tang. They are meant to be manipulated by hand and pushed across a work surface to remove small amounts of wood when finishing up joints. Never struck the chisel. It comes with a cutting edge at an angle between 20 and 25 degrees and with both beveled and straight edges.

Mortise Chisel

A mortise chisel, unlike a paring chisel, has a thick blade meant to withstand prying. The name derives from how they cut mortise joints, and they are either capped or have a steel hoop on their handle to withstand repeated mallet blows. The cutting edge of a mortise chisel is ground to an angle between 30 and 40 degrees.

Dovetail Chisel

Dovetail chisels are for the finishing of dovetail joints. They have a long thin blade with beveled edges and a honed cutting edge between 20 and 30 degrees. These are useful when cleaning out and sharpening up the edges of the interlocking parts of a dovetail joint.

Corner Chisel

Corner chisels have a medium-length blade with a cross-section shaped like a right-angled V. It cuts grooves and tides up square corners.

Framing Chisel

A framing chisel is a wider, longer, thicker-bladed, and firmer version of a chisel. These are available with beveled and straight edges, and they also come with sockets and sturdy capped handles to withstand repeated strikes from a mallet. They have a cutting edge of between 25 and 30 degrees that works better in boat building and timber framing applications.

Slick Chisel

Slick chisels are oversized paring chisels. They are easy to identify due to their size and distinctive baseball-bat-shaped handle, and it pares off thin slivers of wood from a workpiece. The blade is long, wide, straight-edged with a cutting edge of 20-25 degrees.

Uses of wood chisels

  • Cuts mortises
  • Shaves rough surfaces
  • Chops out corners 
  • Scrapes off the glue and unwanted coatings.
  • Removes wood

What is the difference between chisel and gouge?

Chisels and gouges are two major types of cutting tools. The difference between the chisels have a straight cutting edge, while gouges have a curved cutting edge, and Straight-edge chisels have a bevel on one or both sides. 

Bevels are angles on the face of the chisel, and they help you draw the tool into or out of a piece of wood. What separates the double-beveled chisel from the standard one is that it bevels with either side up, and the edge will not pull in or out. A single bevel chisel pulls the edge into a workpiece if the bevel is up and pushes it out of the wood if the bevel is down.

Gouges are for carving and come in multiple types. They are confusing, and manufacturers are not always consistent. They are defined by the first number that tells you the shape or the sweep. That refers to how shallow or deep the curve is. The second number tells you the size of the cut., That is how far away the two points are.

How to use palm chisels

Palm gouges are for relief carving, caricature carving, and many other wood carving projects. The chisel engages and starts to move when pressed onto the timber, and the hammering movement of the chisel is less than 1mm. 

The chisel’s high frequency of 1mm back and forward movement gives smooth, controllable, and continuous carving flow. The depth and direction of the carving are controlled with perfect visibility.

Palm tools are shorter, thereby offering better control since the cutting edge is closer to the controlling hand. They come in small sizes for carving details proportional to the work, and they can be used by hand or with any number of power carvers. It has three handle options for small details or light mallet work for roughing out.

Types of gouges

Straight-point gouges 

They make straight cuts, have a thin tip of the blade and two bevels sometimes. That makes it easier to sink into the wood. They are for surface polishing or raising layers of wood.

The bowl gouges  

They have a U-profile, and they raise larger layers of wood. They work at the beginning of the work because it allows extracting the larger pieces and approaching more quickly to the center of the wood.

Flat gouges 

They have an arrow shape with a tip end and for projects that require precision and detail.

Triangular or V-shaped gouges 

These have a triangle-shaped tip and come in multiple versions, but the frequent ones. The standard ones range from 45º to 90º.

How to use a skew chisel for carving

  1. Use your right hand to grab the handle and your left hand for balance. Position your rear hand farther to shorten and minimize the edge of the rounded spindle.
  2. Use a 25-degree angle to position your skew chisel. The toe part should be at an angle while the heel of the edge stays on the tool rest. The edge of your chisel and spindle should meet. 
  3. Start smoothing on the right side of the tool rest, and keep the two angles as you cut with one on the rear hand. Tilt your skew chisel at an angle with the heel part touching the tool rest.
  4. Practice how to use and skew chisel for carving to create long bands of wood.

Parts of a Chisel and Gouge

  • Sweep
  • Cutting Edge
  • Bevel
  • Heel
  • Blade
  • Shank
  • Bolster
  • Ferule
  • Handle.
David D. Hughes
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