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    

Vintage Lot Wood Carving Tools H Taylor Sheffeild Chisel X-acto Fifler File BoxPfeil 8pc Wood Carving Gouge Chisel Set Or Lot W Roll - Swiss Made - ExcellentVintage Set Stanley 10 Piece Beveled Edge Socket Chisels 3/8"-2"J. B. Addis Wood Carving Chisels - Set Of 12Large Butt Chisel / Oire Nomi / Japanese Carpentry / VintageBuck Brothers Chisel Set. Near Mint Buck Bro's Carving ChiselsLie-nielsen Bevel Edge Chisel 3/8 InchVintage Swiss Wood Carving Chisels,set Of 6 Schnitzler Meissel,never Used/unusedVintage Set Of 5 Full Size Mawhood Sheffield Palm Tree Carving Woodwork Chisels+Vintage Antique Set 20 Two Cherries Germany Woodworking Chisels In Box CaseOld Tools Large 2" T. H. Witherby Timber Framing Socket Chisel T.h. Witherby 1-1/2" Chisel Vintage Wood Working Carving Tool No Reserve WowStanley Everlast Chisel, 40, 1", V.niceVtg Cold Chisel & Punch Lot, Masonry Metalworking, Craftsman Dasco Vlchek OthersJapanese Knives Wood Carving Blades, Not Chisels Gouges Set Of 4Stanley 750 Set Of Five Fiber Ends Usa Made Some Use Most Have Decals All Orig4 Vintage Japanese Strike ChiselsVintage Witherby & Greenlee & Luna Etc. Chisels Lot (9) Nice No ReserveNice Pair Of Sorby Mortising Chisels 1/4 And 3/8 Size Low Start And No ReserveJapanese Knives Wood Carving Blades, Not Chisels Gouges Vintage Lot Wood Carving Tools H Taylor Sheffeild Chisel X-acto Fifler File BoxVintage Keen Kutter Chisel Pouch And Four Keen Kutter ChiselsRare, Antique A.t. Company 2", Oval Back, Framing, Deck Chisel. Nice Condition!!Rare Early Antique Blacksmith Forged Wrought Iron Chisel Slick 1800'sVintage V-long 9mm W Marples Sheffield Mortise Chisel Carving Woodwork+++Vintage 1/2" I&h Sorby Hanging Sheep Logo Sheffield Registered Mortise Chisel+++Vintage Tool Japanese Laminated Forged Iron Nomi Mortise ChiselAntique J.j. Addis #3 Gouge Wood Carving Chisel 1" Wide, Carpenter Tool #019Ward And Payne S. J. Addis Carving GougeVintage Erik Anton Berg 7/8" Chisel.Vintage Woodworking Chisel Lot Of 18 Dexter Buck Bros Two Cherries Etc..T.h. Witherby Beveled Socket Firmer Chisel.1 1/2". Clean, V. Sharp, Tight Hdle.Vintage Lot Of 9 Blacksmith Hammer Heads, Ball Peen, Claw, ChiselVintage 1/2" I. Sorby Jester/mr. Punch Logo Sheffield Registered Mortise Chisel+Vintage Set Of 3 Rare & Very Old Sorby Cast Steel Fine Chisels Detail Carving+++Japanese Knives Wood Carving Blades, Not Chisels Gouges Japanese Knives Wood Carving Blades, Not Chisels Gouges Set Of 4204c562 Old Japanese Big Tsuki Nomi, Long Paring Chisel W48mm L630mm ShigeharuAntique S.j. Addis #17 Gouge Wood Carving Chisel 3/8" Wide Carpenter Tool #022Pfeil No. 8 Spoon Carving GougeSet Of 6 Vtg.greenlee Woodworking Lathe Chisels In BoxEclipse 36 Chisel Plane Honing Guide Carpenters Tool Patent Collectable ToolPfeil Swiss Made 7 Sweep Carving GougeVintage Buck Bros 1/8" Socket ChiselTwo(2) Vintage Stanley Everlasting Socket Bevel Chisels .-. 1/4" & 3/8" - L@@k!James Swan Co. Socket Firmer Chisel 1/8"Vintage Millers Falls No. 106 Six Piece Carving Tool Set With Original BoxVintage V-long 5mm W Marples Thin Registered Mortise Chisel Carving Woodwork+++Ward & Payne S J Addis Carving Goige VeinerVintage Lightly Used Marples Carving Set...6 Pieces...8" Long204c563 Old Japanese Big Tsuki Nomi, Long Paring Chisel W25mm L640mm ShigeharuAntique Timber Framing ChiselVintage Large Collection 30 Small Wood Carving Hand Tools Marquetry & Whittling21 Wood Lathe Gouges ChiselsWard And Payne S J Addis Carving GougeLot Of 3 Vintage Wood Carving Gouges - Buck Bros & Sculpture House Spoon & Bent Vintage Craftsman Wood Working Bench Shop Chisels Set Of 4 Good User Tools3 Antique Chisels,stanley,tenks Clipper,wincoski,vintage Carpenters ToolsJapanese Chisel Carpentry Hammer - Hand MadeVintage Lot Chisels Punches Metalworking Blacksmith Tinsmith Stone Mason Tools