The Wood Chisel Safety Guide and Checklist

Wood chisels may be small in size, but its blades are sharp. With one mistake, it can hurt and leave you wounded. It’s the reason everyone should follow safety guides whenever using a chisel – regardless of its size, type, and shape.

Here’s the Wood Chisel Safety Guide and Checklist:

  1. Use the Right Size
  2. Get a Comfortable Handle
  3. Sharp Cutting Edge
  4. Clamp Everything
  5. Distance Yourself
  6. Use the Right Mallet
  7. Wear Safety Gears
  8. Cover Chisel with Protective Caps
  9. Store Properly
  10. Proper Maintenance

Continue reading this article if you’re interested in getting more techniques and some tips on using a wood chisel. As a beginner, it is a fundamental tool that you have to understand when and where to use it correctly.

What is Chisel?

A Chisel is a tool with a sharp cutting edge for carving or cutting purposes. It has various types depending on the components used particularly on its handle. A chisel can cut through wood, stone, and metal. Using it involves forcing the blade into the material to slice or carve a shape. The pushing force applied can be by hand or by using a mallet.

How to Use a Wood Chisel Safely?

Using a wood Chisel is simple and easy. It is not a fancy powered tool that’s super complicated to run. You only need your hand, a hammer, or a mallet to use it. However, chisels still have metal blades that may be dangerous when misused or mishandled. So, follow these guidelines to use the tool safely.

  1. Use the Right Size. Today, chisels come in many sizes for a specific type of job. So, make sure to pick the proportioned knife for your material.
  2. Get a Comfortable Handle. There are moments that you will use your chisel only with your hands. So, make sure that you’re comfortable using it. Generally, smooth rectangular handles are a popular option. 
  3. Sharp Cutting Edge. Always check if the cutting edge of the chisel is sharp. Dull blades are hard to control and require more effort. Plus, it can ruin the quality of the wood. Also, make sure that it’s securely attached to the chisel.
  4. Clamp Everything. Learn to clamp your wood no matter how big or small it is. Never hold it in your hand nor put it over your lap while using the chisel. It may accidentally slip, and the blade will hit you instead of the material, which may lead to serious injury.
  5. Distance Yourself. Know how much space you need against the blade of the chisel. Adjust your stance so that you won’t lose your balance just in case the tool slips. Make sure the sharp edge is pointing away from you, especially your hands.
  6. Use the Right Mallet. Whenever you need to use a mallet or a hammer, pick one that has a large striking face. Take note that only chisels with heavy-duty framing with solid or molded handle are suitable for hitting by a steel hammer.
  7. Wear Safety Gears. Use safety goggles or glasses, and face shield for protection. It’s for the chips of the wood that may get into your face. It’s not advisable to wear gloves as it may get more slippery. However, if you want to use one, make sure that it’s from rubbers.
  8. Cover Chisel with Protective Caps. When the chisel is not in use, cover the cutting edge with a plastic protective cap.
  9. Store Properly. If you have to keep a chisel on your workbench, always place it with the bevel side up. On the other hand, once done using it, store the tool in a “storage roll” with slots for each chisel.
  10. Proper Maintenance. Sharpen cutting edges as often as necessary. If you see even small bent, dents, cracks, chips, or broken handles – replace it immediately. It may not be safe to use it anymore, and it’s more prone to accidents.

What Should I Avoid Doing When Using a Wood Chisel?

Now that you have a comprehensive checklist in using a wood chisel make sure to avoid these things. It helps in promoting a safer working station, and prevent any severe chisel-related injuries.

  1. Avoid using a wood chisel neither as a pry nor a wedge. Remember, the tool is primarily for cutting and carving.
  2. Avoid using a wood chisel on metal – it won’t be “wood” chisel for no reason.
  3. Never hold your workpiece on the one hand, while chiseling with the other side.
  4. Sharpen it with a file or whetstone, don’t use an all-steel chisel with a mushroomed face or a chipped edge because it may be more prone to accidents.
  5. Avoid using dull tools, and a grinder to redress heat-treated tools. 

Techniques in Using a Wood Chisel

A sharp wood chisel can do different cuts, chop out the corners, and carve out rough surfaces. It is a requisite member of your toolset, especially if you are a beginner. So, check out techniques to help you get the most out of it correctly when doing various cuts.

  • Mortise Cuts. Outline the area then cut thin slices by pushing the head of the chisel by your hand or a mallet. The most effective technique is to face the bevel side of the tool down. Control the depth by high or low handles. Generally, when shaving a piece of wood, face the angle down.
  • Pairing Cut. It is to flatten the bottom of an open surface on the wood. The trick is to keep the back of the chisel flat on the wood’s surface to make it easier to slice and pivot. When flattening a cut, face the beveled side of the blade up. Then, hold the back of the chisel tight to the surface.
  • Chopping Cut. To remove chunks of wood, slice off small amounts first. Use a hammer to strike the chisel and chop it to about 1/2 inch.  Then chisel from the end to remove the piece before continuing.
  • Chop and Pair Cut. Cut out small chunks at a time, with a series of shallow cuts. Space the blade cuts about 1/2 inch apart. It is more accurate and practical than driving the chisel too deep. If it’s a rough surface, use a hammer or a mallet for more delicate cuts.

How to Sharpen Wood Chisel?

Sharpening wood chisel is almost like sharpening a knife or any blade. This method applies not only to wood chisel but to other types as well. It is a useful technique in sharpening the edge for each model.

  • Old Wood Chisel Models
  1. If you have those old chisels with nicked or rounded tips, they need some reshaping. Use a belt sander or grinder to shape the tool to a 25-degree angle. 
  2. Dip the blade in water every two to three seconds if you’re using a grinder. It helps in preventing overheating and turning the tip to blue. Otherwise, the chisel won’t hold an edge for long.
  3. Progressively rub the front and back of the chisel over a finer wet/dry sandpaper to polish it. The ideal grit is from 120 to 600 for sharpening blades.
  4. Set the honing guide to hold the chisel at a 30-degree angle. It will create a secondary bevel. Then, run through a 220 grit sandpaper again until it forms the angled shape on its blade. 
  • Modern Wood Chisel Models
  1. If you already have the up-to-date chisel, most of it already has angled blades. So, a whetstone is enough for sharpening. Drop some oil for some lubricant. It makes the process more relaxed and sharper results.
  2. Sharpen the beveled edge by flattening it on the whetstone. Make small circular motions, and do it several times. Remove it from the sharpener and wipe the Oil.
  3. Do the same on the flat face of the chisel. Stop once in a while to check if you have the desired sharpness. A simple trick to do if you have a sharp blade is to put the tip on your thumb’s nail, and slowly slide it. If it glides over, it’s still dull. 

What Are the Types of Chisels?

As the techniques in woodworking evolve, so as the tools used in this field. With the help of advanced technology, there are different types of Chisels for various applications. Regardless of the brand, you should also pick a chisel based on its purpose. So, here are the fundamental chisel types and their specific use.

  • Beveled Edged Chisels

These are the most common and useful chisels that come in various lengths suitable for any project. Some essential features of Beveled Edged Chisels are that they are comfortable to hold, and easy to sharpen. They have a flat or very slightly hollow back, and beveled sides for maximum dovetails access. Usually, you should have at least three Beveled Chisels in different sizes in your toolset. 

  • Paring Chisels

These have long, thin, and light with beveled blades that are suitable for cleaning grooves and accessing tight spaces. Its sidewise bevel edges smoothen any rough surface, and for shaving thin amounts of wood to fit joints. When it comes to cutting, it can offer up to 15 degrees slice, if appropriately sharpened. Also, they are significant for finishing jobs.

  • Butt Chisels

They have shorter blades and shafts for rough surfaces. Butt Chisels feature heavy-duty handles for pounding hammer or mallet since it’s primarily for rugged use. Additionally, you can also use it to work with butts and hinges. The blades are usually from fine-grained and nicely tempered chrome-manganese steel for accuracy and toughness.

  • Mortising Chisels

These are slightly heavy and thick chisels for used to size mortises of various strength and width. One significant advantage is that they are convenient to hold and use. Mortising Chisels have sharp and rigid blades that can cut deep holes, and take heavy blows from a mallet. It also has slightly tapered sides to make mortises and similar joints.

  • Socket or Firmer Chisels

These are for heavy shaping in woodworking because they made up of solid steel and coated with iron. Also,  it has a blade that’s super thick with a rectangular cross-section. This design makes Firmer Chisels tough even for big projects. They are the oldest varieties, but their construction made them extraordinary, unique, and timeless.

How Many Chisels Should I Have?

How Much Does it Cost to Get into Woodworking

There are many types of chisels today, but don’t worry because you don’t have to buy all of them. Most wood chisels range from ¼ inches to 2 inches in size. So, it’s great if you can start with a sharp ¼ -inch knife – it’s the most useful length. Then, invest later on ½ inch, ¾ inch, and 1-inch sizes. It would give you an excellent starter toolset. 

For the type, butt chisels are the most common for all-around use. Each size and type is specifically for a particular task, so pick one that matches your workpiece. As a rule of thumb, use a chisel that will closely match the width of the cut that you want to create. It will ensure clean and accurate slice.

Hard Steel VS Sof Steel – What Type of Steel Should I Get? 

Nowadays, you get to choose various steel alloys, laminated steel types, coated iron, and the list goes on. So, what kind of steel should you use for your blade? Steel has tensile strength and adequate hardness designed for a specific purpose. It’s the reason why wood chisels are strictly for lumber, and never for metal.

Hard Steel can hold its edge longer, but it takes longest to sharpen. Soft steel is easy to sharpen, but it blunts faster. For beginners, it’s best to avoid irons that are hard to sharpen and gain some sharpening experiences and skills as you use soft or mild steel alloys. 

  • Understanding O1 and A2

You can find labels in steels today that looks like the letter A and O, wherein A stands for Air and O means Oil. In a simple explanation, they are indicators of the type of steel. 

O1 (O means Oil) Steel is a pure high carbon tool steel that has little iron or steel alloy mixed with 1.1% manganese and Oil removes heat that happens when orange-hot steel plunges into the water. It reduces thermal shock and minimizes the risk of cracking or distortion in the hardened piece. As a result, O1 Steel is a delicate structure of a sharp blade.

A2 (A means Air) Steel, on the other hand, consists of 5% chromium and 1.1% molybdenum. It allows quenching in still air. It makes the Steel a bit adhesive, which makes it hard to sharpen. However, the modest amount of chromium in A2 Steel provides extra toughness and abrasion resistance. Scientific aside – here’s a simple comparison of the two steel.

It is easy to sharpen and shape in any sharpening tool.It is a lot tougher than O1.
Recommendable for beginners because of its general multi-purpose and easy use.It is more difficult to sharpen. It needs good quality water or oil stones for fast sharpening.
Cheaper to produce, and to buy.More expensive than O1, and ideal for advanced to pro woodworkers.


What Is a Mushroom Head Chisel?

It is a kind of chisel that features a head that looks like a mushroom. However, the purpose of mushroom-shaped head is for hitting the knife hard using a hammer or mallet. So, it provides sturdy support and ensures that the tool won’t break.

What Is the Difference Between a Cold Chisel and a Wood Chisel?

A Cold Chisel is from tempered steel, specially designed for cutting ‘cold’ metals. It means that they are not for conjunction with heating torches and forges. Meanwhile, wood chisels are specifically for woodworking, which may include cutting and carving lumber. Since Cold Chisel is from metal, they have a less-acute angle to the sharp portion of the blade as opposed to the beveled edge of woodworking chisel.

How Do You Maintain a Chisel?

It’s all about proper maintenance, knowing when and where to use a specific kind of chisel. Store it safely in a toolset and use plastic protective caps to cover cutting edges when not in use.

Final Words

Even the most straightforward tool in woodworking also needs safety guides and checklist for proper use. Never underestimate what chisels can do, because they have been in the art of woodworking since the beginning of it. They are a traditional and versatile tool for various purposes and use. So, make sure to follow these guidelines to avoid any devastating injuries while woodworking.

Recent Content

© 2022 Copyright Woodworking Squad