Chisel Use: An easy guide to whether you should be pushing,paring or pounding your chisels, in any given situation.
Back when I started as an apprentice cabinetmaker, a chisel was something to be beaten with a large hammer. That was before I learned how to properly sharpen and use these tools. Since then it’s become apparent there are three distinct chisel operations that every woodworker should
know: paring, light chopping and heavy mortise chopping.
There’s a right way and a wrong way to make these cuts. This article will show you how to use your chisel with the least amount of effort, damage to the chisel and damage to your work.
Before I begin, there are a couple things to mention about safety. One nice thing about chisels is you don’t have to wear hearing protection.But there are safety issues. Wear safety glasses when chopping or mortising, and I mean that. A chisel breaking can send pieces of metal flying, possibly causing an eye injury.
Second, if you have any reservations about using the sharp end of a chisel while paring, consider using a Kevlar protective glove, which is routinely used by carvers. The glove will dull the impact of a slipped chisel and reduce your chance of injury. Finally, never use a chisel that’s pointing toward your body. Always be mindful of the direction a chisel is going and where your hands are. This is the first thing to check before making a cut of any kind. The last thing you want to do on a Sunday afternoon is explain to an emergency room physician how you almost gave yourself a DIY appendectomy while working on Aunt Betty’s blanket chest.
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