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    

Boxed Set Of 12 Marples Wood Carving Tools (chisels) Catalogue No.60Woodworking Tool Lot - Veritas / Stanley / Hock / Japanese ChiselsNice Set 7 Vintage Stanley No.750 Wood Chisels 1/4" To 1-1/16"Robert Sorby London Pattern Sash Mortise Chisels, Set Of 4 - No ReserveSet Of 5 Carving Gouges, By Sorby & Marples, Boxwood Handles.Vintage Tools, Buck Bros, Woodworking Chisels, Lot Of 7 Beveled Edge4 Nice T.h. Witherby Chisels Carpenter Woodworking Duck Decoy Carving Tools UsaSet Of 5 Registered Pattern Mortice Chisels.Set Of Stanley No. 750 Bevel Edge Chisels In Great Condition As Found 1/4- 1 1/29 Vtg Antique H Henry Taylor Sheffield England Wood Carving Chisels Tool Set LotEnglish Carving Chisels, Mostly Addis6no Vintage Marples Chisels, Boxwood Handles, Etc, Old ToolsJapanese Carving Chisel Set Six PiecesSorby Robi Sorby Wood Turning Gouge Lathe Deep Channel ChiselAntique W. Butcher Mortise Chisel 1/4" (beautiful)Vintage 3" Greenlee Oval Back Socket Slick - MintJapanese Bench Chisel Set Nine PiecesVintage 1" T H Witherby Oval Back Socket Framing ChiselSpoon Bent Carving Gouge By Ashley Iles, Sheffield.Stanley 720 Chisels, Old, Woodworking Tools, Lot Of 4Lie Nielson No.97 1/2 Chisel Plane In Original Box (new)Japanese Morticing Chisel Set Ten-piece High Quality11 Vtg Antique Sj Jb & Sons Addis London Chisel Gouge Wood Carving Tool Lot Nr!Antique L & I.j.white Carpenter's Slick, 3" Blade. Excellent Handle W/knob.Antique Vintage Lot Of S J Addis Chisels London Masonic Mark MasonVintage Tools, Buck Bros Woodworking Chisels, Excellent LotLot Of 6 Addis Curved & Spoon-bit Gouge Wood Carving Tools Vintage AntiqueRare Stanley No 40 Everlasting 5/8 Inch Wood Chisel Antique Vintage Old ToolVintage Stanley Sweetheart No. 40 1" Bevel Edge Everlasting ChiselVintage James Swan Chisels With Original Handles Rare Stanley Everlasting 1-1/4 Inch Wood Chisel Antique Vintage Old ToolLot Of 12 Curved & Spoon-bit Gouge Wood Carving Tools Vintage AntiqueCarving Engraving Chisel Tools Vintage Small Mini Micro Hand Punch 17 Pc. Lot!Stanley No 40 Everlasting 1/4 Inch Wood Chisel Antique Vintage Old ToolVintage Buck Bros. Crank Neck Chisel 1"Narex Chisels Rare Long Stanley No 40 Everlasting 1 Inch Wood Chisel Antique Vintage Old Tool!2 Natural Slip Stones, Hard Arkansas With Box, White Tam O' Shanter With LabelVintage Huge 3" Buck Bros Chisel Timber Frame Slick - 30" Overall - No Reserve2mm Wide Firmer Chisel, By Buck & Ryan, LondonVtg Antique Wood Carving Chisel File Knife Tool Lot Litchfield Camus Greaves Nr!Vintage Bracht Wood Chisel , Made In W.germanyRubin Carving Engraving Chisel Hand Tools 10 Pc Lot Small Mini Micro Vintage!Vintage 1" Hibbard Spencer & Bartlett Beveled Socket Paring Chisel Marples Wood Carving Chisels Set Of 12, No. 60 Sheffield SteelChisel Lot Socket 750 Style Tang Gouge 1/8 Mortise 1/4 Socket 1/2 3/8 7/8 NiceVeritas Plane And Chisel Precision Honing Guide Sharpening SystemRecord 077a Bull Nose Rebate And Chisel Plane10 Stanley Everlasting Chisels No. 50 Plus 2 Boxes & Instruction BookletVintage Stanley 1/8" No.750 Wood Handle Mortise Chisel UnusedVintage Rare #27 Ashley Iles 3/8" English Spoon Gouge Carving Sculpting Mint+++Stanley No.50 Everlasting Chisel Sweetheart Vintage 1922Graduated Set Of 9 Witherby Firmer Socket ChiselsStanley No 50 Everlasting 3/8 Inch Wood Chisel Antique Vintage Old ToolVintage Stormont Gouges (set Of 10 New In Box)Vintage Stanley Wood Chisel Massive 2" Old Carving Tool Long Paring Joinery MorePower Grip Wood ChiselsGreenlee Slick Chisel - 3" Blade Head - Shipbuilder / Carpenter Chisel - UsaMortising Chisels, Set Of 4, Vintage / Antique, Nice Condition!Antique Vintage Woodworking Chisel Tool Lot Carving James Swan Witherby Stanley