The manufacture of wood chisels took off in the United States in the late 1800s, when tool companies such as Buck Brothers, James Swan, Stanley, and Keen Kutter (Simmons) rose to prominence. J.B. Addis & Sons, Henry Taylor, and Robert Sorby are among the renowned U.K. chisel makers from this era.

In general, the chisels produced by these and other manufacturers are divided into two groups. Most long chisels were socket-fitted to their handles while shorter ones were forged with a tang that extended deep into the handle. In the 19th century, it was not uncommon to purchase chisels without handles, or to buy replacement handles for ones that had cracked due to the repeated whacks of a mallet.

When assessing the quality of an antique or vintage socket-fitted chisel that lacks a handle, look carefully at the chisel’s cuff, which is the opening at the bottom of the chisel. If it's banged up, it was probably hammered for a period of time without the protection of its handle.

Beyond their handles, chisels can be further divided into three basic categories: firmer, mortise, and pairing. The firmer chisel, which is probably the most common type found in a novice woodworker’s tool box, has a square end and beveled sides, making it good for getting into corners. For example, a firmer chisel could be used to square up a mortise that has been partially formed by drilling.

A mortise chisel, on the other hand, is used to create a mortise without drilling, although it is often used to shape a mortise that has been predrilled. Its sides are at right-angles to its flat back—only the tip of the chisel is beveled. In theory, one could make a mortise with only a mortise chisel, but many woodworkers use corner chisels to square up the corners and a curved, goose-neck chisel to smooth out the bottom of the mortise hole.

Both mortise and firmer chisels are meant to be struck, but pairing chisels, which are often long and slender and come in numerous sizes, are designed to be used by hand. As such, they are only suitable for fine woodworking. Many are damaged by weekend warriors who don’t know any better. The largest kind of pairing chisel is called a slick—some of these tools are almost three feet long.

One of Stanley’s most popular chisels of the last 100 years has been its Everlasting chisel, which has a shorter blade and a reinforced handle. The handle is a useful touch, but ...

Gouges are often lumped in with chisels, but they are actually a different type of tool. Most have curves, known in the trade as sweeps, that create convex cuts in a piece of wood.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Alloy Artifacts

Alloy Artifacts

A tool collectors’ dream, this site is a deep repository of photos and info on 20th century hand tools and the co… [read review or visit site]

Old Woodworking Machines

Old Woodworking Machines

This collective website, which started as an online discussion forum, now also includes a large database of manufac… [read review or visit site]

Drainspotting

Drainspotting

Josh and Cam Larios have created this site enabling people to upload and 'tag' photos of historic or artistic manho… [read review or visit site]

A Millers Falls Home Page

A Millers Falls Home Page

Randy Roeder has carved out a niche for himself with his fine website devoted to the history of the Millers Falls C… [read review or visit site]



Most watched eBay auctions    

Lie-nielsen 3/8" Mortise ChiselFour Lie Nielsen Toolworks Standard Socket Chisel Handles Rosewood Or BubingaAntique Wood Slick 3" Inch Chisel Framing Tool Timber Very Nice ConditionLie Nielsen Chisel Roll Suede Leather Holds 7 ChiselsHenry Taylor Wood Carving Gouge Chisel Tool Lot Of 3 #8, 10 & 11 ExcellentVintage Buck Brothers Pattern Maker's Bevel Chisels Lot (4) Nice No ReserveDockyard Model Micro Wood Carving Tool Set Chisels Very NiceSet Of 12 Vintage Marples Wood Carving Tools Chisels Gouges Original With BoxSwiss Made ? Deer Logo Carving Chisel #7/50 Large Curved Gouge Wood Carving3 Japanese Mortising Mortise Chisels / Nomi / Wood Working Tools / 1/8" -- 1/2"Vintage Lot Of Addis Wood Carving Gouge Chisels (5 Pcs.)Stanley No. 200 Chisel & Plane Blade Honing Guide - Fine ConditionBeautiful 3 Inch Greenlee Slick, Push Chisel, Ship Wrights ChiselShley Ices Ltd England Wood Working Carving Gouge Tool #14 ChiselVintage Military Tool Roll Set Of (3) Buck Bros Framing Socket Chisels No Res!Vintage 1 1/2" Greenlee Rockford Il Beveled Socket Chisel - Very FineVintage Marples No29 Carving Chisel Spoon Gouge 5/16" WideBlacksmith Hammer Anvil Tool Large Lot Of Chisels 40 Pounds Usa MadeOld Tools Large Vintage 1" Corner Socket Chisel Timber Framing & Wood CarvingOld Tool. 8 Old Stanley Beveled Socket Chisels All Different Sizes. Good HandlesVintage Millers-falls Wood Carving Tool Set Of 6 Excellent ConditionBahco Ergo 8032 Butt Chisel Set, Made In SwedenWoodworking Chisel Set Stanley 750 5pc Tools 1/4 To 1 1/2 Red HandleTwo Pfeil Carving Gouges 9/20 And 8/16 Used Very Little If At All No ReserveVintage Signed Tool Japanese Laminated Forged Iron Nomi Mortise ChiselVintage T. H. Witherby Corner Wood Chisel- 1 Inch UnusedOld Wood Carving Tools 3" Wide Chisel Slick Timber FramingStanley No. 750 Chisel - Stanley No. 750 Made In U.s.a. 3/8 InchStanley No. 200 Cutter & Chisel Grinder Sharpening Jig - One For The UsersE. A. Berg Eskilstuna Sweden #1026 €Stanley 750 Chisel. 1/8 Inch (unnumbered)5 Pcs Swedish Chisels - Ea Berg Jernbolaget Eskilstuna SwedenMarples Set Of 8 Woodturning Chisels With Original Box Stanley No. 750 Chisel - Stanley No. 750 Made In U.s.a. 1/2 InchVintage Lot Herring Bros. Wood Carving Chisels (4 Pcs.)Stanley No. 750 Chisel - Stanley No. 750 Made In U.s.a. 5/8 InchStanley No. 720 Chisel - Stanley No. 720 Made In U.s.a. 1/2 InchVintage Buck Brothers Wood Carving Gouge Chisel Lot - No. 10, 24, UnnumberedStanley No. 750 Chisel - Stanley No. 750 Made In U.s.a. 3/4 InchOld Used Machinist Mechanics Tools Hammers, Punches, Chisels & MoreVintage Shipwright Timber Frame Framer Ps&w Co 3” Slick Chisel No HandleVintage 1900's Miller Falls Carving Chisel Set No. 3 Original BoxStanley No. 750 Chisel - Stanley No. 750 Made In U.s.a. 1/4 InchLot Of 9 Vintage Cold Steel Chisels Mason Mechanic Stone Carving Masonry ~nice~Stanley No. 720 Chisel - Stanley No. 720 Made In U.s.a. 1 InchJapanise Chisel 10pcs Set(radius-metric) Mint Cond.Craftsman All Steel Wood Chisel Lot Of 3 Excellent Condition15 Vtg Stone Mason/sculptor Carving Chisels Vintage J.b. Addis & Son No11 Carving Gouge 1/4" WideVintage Stanley 1/4" 3/8" Socket Chisel W Wood Handles Lot - "d", "made In Usa"Antique Hand Forged Mortise Mortising Axe Timber Framing Tool Different ChiselStanley No. 750 Chisel - Stanley No. 750 Made In U.s.a. 1 1/2 Inch8 Pieces Pfeil Swiss Made Wood Carving Bench ChiselsSnap On Punch And Chisel Tool Lot 24 TotalVintage Lot Stormont Lathe, Woodworking Chisels.rare.. Free Priority ShippingVintage Stanley 5001 Chisels8 Piece Wood Lathe Tools- Highspeed- Delta Tools In Hard Plastic-deltaSj Addis #25 Front Bent Spoon Bit Gouge Wood Carving Chisel 5/16 In Antique ToolVintage Ps&w And Pexto Socket Chisel Lot For Restore, Repair, RepurposeOld Used Vintage Stanley Woodworking Tools Planes & Chisels Group