Carpentry Wood Chisels

  • Different types of woodworking chisels and their uses
  • Tips for using them
  • Looking after them on site
  • Sharpening
  • An essential hand tool for both framing and finish carpentry work on the building site & home workshop. When they are kept clean, dry, sharp and well looked after any decent set will go on to last a lifetime whilst helping achieve a much cleaner, more precise finish too.

    There are several different types available with varying designs depending on the carpentry tasks you might be doing. I absolutely love my set of 6 red and yellow Bevel edged Wood Chisels from Irwin Marples. They have strong, split proof handles (so I can hit them with the side of my hammer if I don't have a mallet handy) that I originally bought during my apprenticeship. Whilst they are not the cheapest set available, they hold their edge really well and are still going strong now, over 20 years later!

    A set of Stanley chisels like those above will do perfectly fine for most site carpenters and is a good quality set for any DIY/hobbyist carpenter as well.

    Different types of Woodworking Chisel and their use

  • Bevel edged: Perhaps the most common type used for site carpentry. Good everyday tools for general carpentry work, including cutting acute angles with because of their bevelled edges.
  • Butt: a stumpy/shorter tool with bevelled sides and a straight edge for creating straight, tight fitting wood joints.
  • Corner: Looks like a punch and has an L-shaped cutting edge. Use to clean out mortises and square holes, or finish off hinges when you’ve used a router and jig.
  • Framing: Much like the butt variety but longer with a more bendable blade. Hit with a mallet, not a hammer.
  • Mortise: Used for mortising square holes in wood to accept tenons, this strong, rigid tool has a thick blade with 90° sides with a small taper.
  • Paring: Comes with a slender blade designed for cutting in small spaces and clearing channels/grooves.
  • Skew: The skewed 60 degree cutting edge of these chisels enables them to slice cleanly through timber making them an ideal tool for precise paring during trim and finish carpentry work. Their sharp point also makes them useful for cleaning into corners. They are sold as pairs - one left- and one right-handed.
  • Dovetail: Purpose made for cutting neat dovetail joints in fine joinery projects. The thickness of the body is different, as is the angle of the edges, allowing much easier access to the joint.
  • Flooring: Used for cutting and lifting flooring materials. Great for tongue-and-groove floors.
  • Looking after them on site

    You've got to look after your Wood Chisels when working on site and keep them away from sparkies and plumbers who will f*$k them up in no time. I try to keep mine razor sharp and avoid hitting anything other than wood, especially metal (like nails) with them. You can guarantee when you do accidentally hit a nail or something hard it will be just after you have sharpened them!

    Leave them bevel side down to keep the sharp edge off the floor/work bench etc. whenever you put them down.

    Also, wherever possible I avoid getting them wet. Sometimes I'm working outside in the rain and it's unavoidable, in that instance take a minute at the end of the day to dry them off so they don't go rusty.

    I have a protective suede roll like the one pictured above to keep them in instead of the box. I bought a second one to keep my auger and flat wood drills bits protected too, both from Tools and drill bits aren't cheap and take a while to sharpen so it's worth spending a few quid if you can afford it to keep them in good condition.


    It's not only important for a good finish but having a razor sharp edge that cuts easily through the timber is also the safest way to work. Accidents are far more likely to occur when using excess force to push a blunt tool through the work-piece than using a sharp tool in a controlled motion. Click here to go to a page with instructions for sharpening chisels and plane irons.

    There are a couple of different methods available for sharpening. The old fashioned way is to use oil and an oil stone. The tool, held at the correct angle is moved backward and forward on an oiled stone and in a circular motion in order to grind a sharp edge onto the tools. This method is both difficult and time consuming and is also very easy to get wrong. Once a mistake is made, the chisels will need to be ground back to the correct bevel angle before honing can be reattempted. Honing guides are available that keep the blade held at the correct angle and theres a Stanley chisel sharpening kit available that includes everything you need to get started.

    The problem with oil stones though is that they eventually wear down unevenly and end up losing their flat shape. If you don't regularly flatten them then eventually your tools will end up with curved cutting edges on them.

    Diamond Sharpening stones solve this problem and also cut much quicker than oilstones. They are available in different grades (fine,medium and coarse)and are used with water to lubricate them as opposed to oil, so are much cleaner. And where as you can run out of oil on occasions, water is generally much easier to come by on site!

    A good quality (medium) diamond stone and a honing guide are fine tools to use if you are on a budget.


    Click here to read about the great new trend sharpening tool I've just bought that makes sharpening ten times quicker and easier!

    Have a comment or question to ask about using or looking after woodworking chisels?

    Have a comment or question to ask about carpentry chisels?