Chiselling problem

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Forum topic by KnickKnack posted 11-07-2010 02:01 PM 942 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View KnickKnack's profile


1089 posts in 3565 days

11-07-2010 02:01 PM

I’ve also had this problem with my chiselling work, and I thought it was about time I turned to the experts in search of a solution.

I often times want to “square off” a slot that I’ve cut with the router into a piece of wood, such as when you’re doing M&T joins…

What almost invariably happens is that, rather than ending up with a vertical edge, I end up with a steeply sloped edge (this picture shown cross section)...

The chisel I use is mid-range. I’ve sharpened it several times and the cut is clean, just not vertical. I’ve checked that I have the chisel vertical, and it seems to be so.

What am I doing wrong?
Do I need to “allow for this” and aim slightly into the wood and hope I’ve compensated correctly?
Have I sharpened my chisel wrongly?
Do I need a higher quality chisel?
Are the gods of woodworking telling me not to try this kind of joint?

Thanks in advance for the pearl(s) of wisdom that will solve my problem.

-- "Do not speak – unless it improves on silence." --- "Following the rules and protecting the regulations is binding oneself without rope."

8 replies so far

View JasonWagner's profile


527 posts in 3178 days

#1 posted 11-07-2010 02:12 PM

I’ve done this several times as well and am curious what the responses will be. One thing that I have done is to use a thick/tall piece of wood as a perpendicular guide that I can rest the back of the chisel against.

-- some day I hope to have enough clamps to need a clamp cart!

View popmandude's profile


109 posts in 3019 days

#2 posted 11-07-2010 02:17 PM

Just a long shot here, but if your chisel has a back bevel on it, that is a mistake. The back of a chisel should be perfectly flat. Might try clamping on a board to use as a guide til you get the feel for it. I should be in the shop practicing my chiselling skills. (Edit) Jason types faster than me
Good luck

View Lumber2Sawdust's profile


139 posts in 2864 days

#3 posted 11-07-2010 06:00 PM

I agree with Randy’s suggestion: make sure the back of your chisel is perfectly flat. Otherwise it will want to “migrate” out of the wood you are paring.

I think it also depends on the wood species and grain where you are chiseling. I have found that the chisel will cut vertically through soft woods but will tend to drift more in something like hard maple.

I am using some low/mid range marples chisels and they do a pretty good job, as long as they are sharp.

I’m by no means an expert. I will be watching to see what other advice shows up here.

View DonH's profile


495 posts in 2816 days

#4 posted 11-07-2010 06:09 PM

I agree that if the chisel is held vertical and cuts forward as you illustrate the back must not be flat. I use Lie Nielsen chisels and I still had to flatten the backs of all of them prior to use. Whaever angle I hold them at that is what they cut.

-- DonH Orleans Ontario

View RalphBarker's profile


80 posts in 2768 days

#5 posted 11-07-2010 06:11 PM

Making sure that the back of the chisel is flat, as others have said, is essential. Making sure the chisel is really, REALLY sharp also contributes a lot. Once you have the top surface cut square, you might also try working from the bottom up, so the chisel is paring less material.

Oh, and don’t forget to hold your mouth just right when doing this. ;-)

View Bob #2's profile

Bob #2

3809 posts in 4020 days

#6 posted 11-07-2010 06:13 PM

I’m partial to using a block for a guide when it’s crutial but agree with the others that you should check the back of your blade for flat before anything else.

-- A mind, like a home, is furnished by its owner

View JJohnston's profile


1622 posts in 3290 days

#7 posted 11-07-2010 06:20 PM

I guess my technique is bad, because I was going to suggest just compensating for it. Consider that as long as your cut is right on the line at the surface, it won’t hurt if it’s undercut.

-- "A man may conduct himself well in both adversity and good fortune, but if you want to test his character, give him power." - Abraham Lincoln

View PurpLev's profile


8535 posts in 3647 days

#8 posted 11-07-2010 06:33 PM

the trick is to hold the chisel in a way to counter it and not let it tilt or move forward.

the way I do this is in 2 ways:

1. I take light cuts – this way the forward force is lesser and is easier to counter
2. I hold the chisel by the blade – not the handle. I hold it right next to the wood. my hand is resting on the board, holding the blade with 2 fingers on the back, and 1 finger in front between the 2 other fingers like a clamp. I then use the back 2 fingers to keep the blade perpendicular to the board, while pressing with the front finger to keep it from sneaking forward. with light cuts, there isn’t much force involved so it becomes second nature and does not require much effort to accomplish.

edit : removed previous info which was not correct. my apologize.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

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