What are Chisels Used For


Chisels are one of our oldest and most commonly used tools. But what is the chisel for? A variety of chisels can serve many different purposes.  

In this article, we will answer the question of what chisels are used for and look at using them correctly. We will also explore the different chisels and a little about how to care for them.

What is a Chisel

Man Carving Wood By Hand

Man Carving Wood By Hand

A chisel is a metal hand tool with a sharp cutting edge on one end with a shaft extending from it. Depending on its intended purpose, The post may be made entirely of metal or partially of wood.

Many wood and metal chisels (etching chisels) fall into this category. Most often operated by striking them with a hammer or mallet, some people push the chisel into the surface. Pneumatic or mechanical hammers work on some industrial chisels.

Most chisels have edges cut at acute angles to promote the curling of chips. Beyond this, a chisel’s actual cutting edge may have different shapes. Corner chisels have an L-shaped cutting edge. Skew chisels have an advantage with an angeled cutting surface.

Common Types of Chisel 

Cold Chisel

Man Carving Granit With a Pneumatic Chisel

Types of Woodworking Chisels

Firmer Chisel

Firmer chisels are easily recognizable by their rectangular shape and beveled edges.

Bevel Edged Chisel

A subcategory of firmer chisel, beveled-edged chisels make precise squared-off cuts.

Mortise Chisel Thick

A thick mortise chisel comes in handiest when working more comprehensive wood sections.

Paring Chisel

A paring chisel is often a cabinet maker’s best friend, with a blade tapers towards the edge.

Skew Chisel

Skew chisels have a cutting edge skewed to one side rather than flat.

Dovetail Chisel

As the name implies, dovetail chisels are designed to cut dovetail joints

Butt Chisel

Used to make broad, deep cuts quickly.

Carving Chisels

Carving chisels come in a wide variety of edge designs.

Corner Chisel

A corner chisel that makes sharp 90-degree cuts with straight edges has an L-shaped cutting edge.

Flooring Chisel

A chisel with a wide blade; uses for removing flooring materials and decking.

Framing Chisel

A large wood chisel with a blade set at an angle to the handle uses to remove large amounts of wood.

Drawer Lock Chisel

A small L-shaped chisel; is usually used to cut precise slots for installing locks.

Types of Metalworking Chisel

Hot chisel

It uses to cut through metals preheated in a forge.

Cold Chisel

Used to cut non-preheated metals and stone.

Types of Stone Chisel

Cold Chisel

Cold Chisel

Large chisels, often with teeth, use with heavy hammers to create a piece of art.

Types of Masonry Chisels or Brick Chisels

Cold Masonry Chisels

Used to remove mortar between bricks and blocks and score bricks for cutting.

Rotary Percussion Chisels

Used to drill holes in concrete or bricks.

How to Use a Chisel

Any time you use any chisel, wear appropriate PPE, including gloves and safety glasses.

Technique 1: Mortise Cuts

  1. Choose your piece of wood.
  2. Mark the area you want to remove.
  3. Choose chisel sizes slightly smaller than the mortise sides you want to cut.
  4. Using an appropriate size chisel, define the edges of the area you will remove.
  5. Moving slightly (2-3 mm) from the edges, drive your chisel into the solid material with a sharp blow. Be sure the chisel flat is to the outside of the cut.
  6. Next, drive your chisel into the center of the mortise and lever out a piece of waste material.
  7.  Continue using steps five and six. Remove pieces of wood until the hole breaks through or mortise is the correct depth.  
  8. Remove small wood slices by moving to a more powerful tool that fits the mortise precisely. Special tools make more aggressive cuts. For best results, use hand pressure.
  9. Square up the edges of your mortise. You can use a regular straight-bladed gouge or a more modern chisel. Some gouges now have a chisel blade with a precise 90-degree angle.
  10. For a mortise and tenon joint, it is best to mark your wood using a mortise gauge for a precise fit. Also, work slowly and avoid using heavy blows.

Technique 2: Paring Cut

  1. Best performed with flat chisels; you perform paring cuts by holding the chisel blade flat against the wood’s outer surface.
  2. Gentle apply pressure and slide the chisel across the face of the material.
  3. As you encounter high spots, pivot the chisel blade to remove them.

The Technique 3: Chopping Cut

  1. Hold your chisel blade perpendicular to your materials to perform a chopping cut. Make sure the angle is facing the area you want to remove.
  2. Drive your blade edge down about a half inch using sharp blows. 
  3. Cut in from the side and lever out the waste wood.

Technique 4: Chop and Pare

  1. Make a saw cut on each side of the area you want to remove.
  2. Starting at on end of the groove, chisel out 1/4 to 1/2 inch sections. Be careful not to go too deep.
  3. Use paring cuts to smooth the dado.

Technique 5: Scraping

  1. Hold your chisel at a 90-degree angle to your material. 
  2. Using gentle pressure, drag the edge along the surface.


Chisels are specialized tools that can perform a wide range of functions. From sculpting to metal work, they can be an invaluable part of any craftsmen’s tool kit. Contact us for more information on what chisels are used for and many other cutting tools.

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