Chisel question ?

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Forum topic by 1yeldud1 posted 05-28-2013 05:26 PM 1357 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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301 posts in 3038 days

05-28-2013 05:26 PM

Ok – I am very new at actually using a wood chisel as a finish tool. I have had a few nice furniture projects the past weeks using Oak as a designated wood. I had to “chop” some areas square and had to do tenons and the mating holes for them. I have a “cheap” wooden handled set of chisels that I have sharpened to a very sharp edge. I have used a 3/4” inch diameter piece of round brass as a hammer to complete this project. My chisels especially the large one have very ugly wooden handles after these projects. I am in the market to upgrade to a better set of chisels – BUT – I am hesitant to spend several hundred dollars if the wooden handles wont hold up. Can someone please give me some insite on what works and what doesnt when using chisels as a finish tool. I have thought about the wooden mallets and the round brass mallets both – but when working with a tough piece of wood such as oak im not shure a wooden mallet would do the trick. PLEASE help this old man out – THANKS !

7 replies so far

View PurpLev's profile


8535 posts in 3645 days

#1 posted 05-28-2013 05:35 PM

a sharp chisel of good quality shouldn’t require harsh hammering to cut with – but just medium to light taps. if you find that you have to hit hard on the chisel – you may want to address that edge.

Also, for a mallet – you want a large head that will transfer the energy to the chisels properly. a 3/4” piece of brass is too narrow, and too hard and not only will it not have enough momentum energy to transfer, it will also transfer whatever it has in a very focused area on the chisel body causing more damage to the chisels instead of transfering that energy throughout the chisel to the cutting edge.

get a good large wooden mallet. resharpen your chisels and see how that works. you can always remake the wooden handles for your current chisels and save $$$ if the blades are good.

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

View JustJoe's profile


1554 posts in 2034 days

#2 posted 05-28-2013 05:36 PM

There’s another tool-nut I know of whose mantra is “wood on wood, leather on leather, metal on metal.” So if you have a wooden handle, whop it with a wooden mallet. If it’s got a leather washer up top, you can use a heavy leather mallet. If you want to hit it with a brass hammer then you need to find a chisel with a metal ferrule up top.

My own experience is that if the handles are made of the same material, socket chisels hold up to pounding better than tanged, and a good wooden mallet on a sharp chisel can do the job.

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View Kreegan's profile


1452 posts in 2143 days

#3 posted 05-28-2013 06:06 PM

I spent a good deal of time this past weekend chiseling out mortises in white oak using my Narex bench chisels, which have a beech handle. I used both a wooden mallet made of hard maple and a mallet with a rubber head.

View waho6o9's profile


8189 posts in 2573 days

#4 posted 05-28-2013 06:27 PM

Enjoy some fine reading my friend.

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404 - Not Found

2544 posts in 2965 days

#5 posted 05-28-2013 10:13 PM

Are you cutting these mortises solely with chisels or taking the waste out with a forstner bit first? Shouldn’t need to beat the crap out of them if you are only cleaning up. I agree with PurpLev, put your brass away and get a mallet.

View 1yeldud1's profile


301 posts in 3038 days

#6 posted 05-29-2013 12:31 AM

Thanks for the help – the chisels that I was using look almost like the narex that Kreegan listed on his answer. I did rough in the holes that I was chiseling on my guess is that I was taking too big of a cut trying to get done too fast. I sharpened the chisel between each hole that I did using a 25 degree angle for my 1 inch chisel. I did have to cut across the grain and I found it to be the toughest that I encountered. LOL my previous experience with a chisel was to grab a medium ball peen hammer and get the “meat” out of the way mostly on home construction/destruction jobs. Looks like I do need to invest in a wooden mallet or possibly a small leather faced (rawhide) hammer. Any suggestions as to what chisels that I should look at – I can find them any where from a few dollars apiece to mega buck for a really nice set. I have always been one to spend a little extra NOW and not regret my decision 6 months down the road – But I really dont want to just waste money – does this make sense ?

View Tim's profile


3805 posts in 1958 days

#7 posted 05-29-2013 01:04 AM

The chisels thread waho linked to is really going to have your answers from many people more experienced than I. I just finished reading Paul Sellers blog on a chisel hammer. He recommends an inexpensive nylon faced hammer with brass on the head for weight.

As to good chisels there are lots, to the point of it practically being religion. I just read lots of good things this morning about the Lie Nielsen chisels but they’re pricey. The gist of the recommendation was to get a couple to start with then fill out your set as you need and can afford them.

I’m cheap so I got a small set of the Narex chisels that kept getting mentioned as a good value.

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