How to Use a Chisel

The chisel is an old-school woodworking tool – like Pilgrims and settlers old. But what do you do with it? And how do you use it?

Chisels rank among the oldest of tools, right up there with stone hammers.

You use a chisel to carve wood. If you need to dig out a door jamb, for example, or inset a hinge, the chisel if your toll.

The secret to the chisel is the angled blade.

When you look at a tip of the blade, you’ll see that it’s angled – and that’s the secret of the chisel. The sharp edge of the blade digs into the wood, which any knife will do, but that angled part shoves the wood away. Ah hah!

So, to dig a rectangular groove in a piece of wood, begin with a chisel that is smaller than the shortest rectangle leg.

Draw an outline of the shape you plan to cut out.

Draw the rectangle on the wood so that we can see what we’re doing.

Put the chisel anywhere on the line, so that the angled part points inside the rectangle. That’s most important: we’re planning to dig away the wood, so that part which does the digging needs to face the hole.

Align the hammer so that the blade is flat against the wood, and is perpendicular to it.

Make the first cut with the chisel perpendicular to the wood.

Use a hammer to smack the back of the chisel. You’ll see that the blade digs down into the wood. Pull the chisel straight out.

Now, choose a spot on the line next to the one we just cut, and do it again. Try to hit the chisel with the same amount of force, so that the cut is the same depth.

Cut straight down all the way around your outline.

Keep doing it until you’ve outlined the entire rectangle. This will make the next step so much easier.

Take a look at the wood piece – see which way the grain goes. We’re going to follow the grain with the chisel.

Drive the chisel at an angle to begin removing wood.

Put the chisel into the groove we cut, but at an angle, not straight down. Now tap it again with the hammer. You’ll see the wood curl away from the blade. Keep going, tapping the chisel, until you reach the line we cut above. See how easy that was?

Now do that again, right next to where you started, and again, until you’ve chiseled away all the wood inside the rectangle.

Keep going until you've carved out the shape.

That’s how you use a chisel. Every task you do with it will be a little different, but the method is always the same: set the depth and dimensions by driving the chisel into the outline, and then angle the chisel to cut away the material.

There is a huge number of different types of chisel out there – do a Google image search on the word chisel and you’ll be amazed!

Please note: do not do this procedure if you are not certain that you can complete it safely, or if it doesn’t seem accurate. Skippity Whistles provides this information as advice, and cannot accept any liability for your usage of it.


©2022 All right reserved


Published by John D Reinhart

Author, technical writer, videographer, actor, and naval historian John D Reinhart is a very busy guy. You can find his novels as

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