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    

Nice Set Of 4 Carving Chisels Swiss Made Pfeil Woodworking Tools Chisels 36 H. Taylor, Marples, Tiranti Carving Chisels With Tool RollNice Set Of 6 Carving Chisels By Ashley Iles Woodworking Tools Chisels Stanley No 750 Bevel Edge Wood Chisel Tool Set2x Quality Vintage S J Addis Carving Chisels Straight Gouges 7/8" No4 No6 NrPfeil Woodcarving Tools 75th Anniversary Woodcraft Set 7 Tools.Lot 26 Vtg Chisels Gouges Buck Bros. Woodworking Carving Tools Pattern MakingLie-nielsen 3/4" A2 Socket Chisel, With Standard And Paring Handles. Lot 49 Antique Vtg Wood Working Chisels Blades Etc Herring Bros Adams Powell +++Lie Nielsen Latta Straight Line CutterGroup Of 7 Carving Chisels Woodworking Tools Chisels Henry Taylor Nice Set Of 8 Vintage Carving Chisels By Marples Woodworking Tools Chisels Vintage 8 Pcs. Set Craftsman Chisels Gouges Wood Lathe Turning Tools Superb!Witherby Chisel Set ... 11 Socket Chisels ... Ready For You!!2x Quality Vintage I Sorby Carving Chisels Straight Gouges 5/8" No7 3/8" No7 NrWitherby Pexto Timber Framing Mortise Wood Chisel Tool Set ScarceNice Old Vintage Tools Used English Buck Bros Carving Chisel Gouge SetVintage Pig Sticker I Sorby Jester 1/2" Large Mortise Carving Woodwork Chisel+++Buck Swan Greenlee & Other Huge Gouge Wood Chisel Tool Set NiceLie-nielsen 1/16" A2 Socket Chisel. Vintage Stanley No. 45 Chisel SetE A Berg Ekilstuna Chisel Set Of 5 Woodworking Hand Tools SwedenL2028- Lot Of Vintage Antique Woodworking Tools- Planes, Chisels, Squares, Etc.Lie Nielsen Bevel Edge Socket Wood Chisels, Cabinet, Cocobolo, Carve, Chisel SetTwo Antique 1 1/2" & 2" Hart Hand Chisels, Tool, Farm, Wood, Mortise, FramingOld Tool Six Stanley Beveled Socket Wood Chisels With Good HandlesGood Group Of 5 Carving Chisels Woodworking Tools Chisels Addis, Howarth..Group Of 8 Carving Chisels Woodworking Tools Chisels Addis / Herring E.a. Berg Eskilstuna Shark Brand Set Of 3 ChiselsBuck Brothers Gouges Full SetSwan Witherby & Other Make Bevel Edge Firmer Wood Chisel Tool SetStanley Everlasting Chisels Set Of 6 Lot Of Antique Woodworking Tools - Chisels Plane Parts Lathe Tools Stanley SwanVintage Carving Mallet Woodworking Carving Tool Old Woodworking Rare Dastra Tools Ussr No 18 Curved Gouge 1" Wood Carving Chisel Antique VintageVintage James Swan 1/8" Mortise Chisel - Woodworker ToolStanley No 720 Bevel Edge Firmer Chisel Tool Set NiceQuality Victorian S J Addis Carving Chisel Straight Gouge 7/8" No5 NrLie-nielsen 5/16" A2 Socket ChiselMarples ChiselsStanley 750 Type Bevel Edge Wood Chisel Tool SetVtg Stubai Gunline Wood Working/carving Gouge&chisel Tool Gun Stock CheckeringWitherby Lakeside & Other Make Square Edge Firmer Wood Chisel Tool Set ScarceVintage Woodworking Chisels - Lot Of 14Wood Chisel Handle Lot Vtg Woodworking Tool Wooden Parts ReplacementsGreenlee Chisel Lot 6 PiecesLie-nielsen 1/4" A2 Socket ChiselRare Big Amt No 54 Fish Tail Gouge 2" Wood Carving Chisel #5 Sweep Antique ToolSocket Chisel Wood Handles & Others-lot Of 26-leather Tops On Some-no ReserveVintage Stanley No.25 Chisel SetVintage Slip Stone Old Hone For Carving Chisel Wood Working Tools India Arkansas10 Wood Chisels Stanley Wards Craftsman Old Antique Vintage Rare Tools ChiselVintage E.a. Berg Eskilstuna Sweden 15-32mm Chisels 4 Total No ReserveQuality Victorian J B Addis & Sons Carving Chisel Straight Gouge 1/2" No7 NrVintage T.h. Witherby Timber Framing 3" Chisel/slick 19 In Long Winsted ConnAntique Witherby Union Hardware Samson Wood Working/carving Chisels Tools Nice!!Quality Vintage Marples & Sons Carving Chisel Fishtail Gouge 5/16" No51 NrVintage Large Black Slate Polishing Hone Old Sharpening Stone 4 Chisel Or RazorNice Stanley No 50 Everlasting 1-1/2 Inch Wood Chisel Antique Vintage Old ToolVintage Craftsman Professional Wood Lathe Tools Set No 9-2855