What is Chiseling? Applications and Types of Chisels (PDF)

Chiseling is a cutting operation involving a hand tool known as a chisel. This operation is quite common in woodworking (carpentry) to give a proper shape to the wood. However, the chiseling operation is also frequently used in shaping metals (Metalworking) and stones/bricks (Masonry). The cutting tool, Chisel, is a metallic blade with a sharpened edge. In the chiseling process, the blade is forced into the workpiece to cut/shape it. In this article, we will learn more about chisels, their applications, and their types.

What is a Chisel?

The term Chisel is derived from the French word cisel or Latin cesellum which means to cut. Chiesel is a hand tool with two parts; a blade and a handle. The blade is made usually of steel and the handle is generally made of wood. They are available in different sizes and hardness depending on the specific application.

A chisel works by forcing its blade into the workpiece with a certain force exerted by hand, hammer, hydraulic ram, or trip hammer. The exerted force helps the sharpened chisel edge to cut or carve the workpiece. A chisel usually has the following main components:

  • A sharp cutting edge
  • A body
  • A head/tang that is inserted into a handle.

Applications of Chiseling

As already mentioned the chiseling process is prevalent in the woodworking industry. Other industries that use a chisel for carving or cutting are:

  • Metalworking
  • Stone cutting
  • Masonry
  • Leatherwork
  • Lathe work, etc
Typical Chisels
Typical Chisels

Types of Chisels

Broadly, Chisels are categorized based on the industry they are used. Depending on the applicable industry they are classified as:

  • Woodworking Chisels
  • Metalworking Chisels
  • Stone Chisels
  • Masonry Chisels
  • Gouge Chisel

Woodworking Chisels

These types of chisels are used for cutting or shaping wood and hence the name. Woodworking Chisels range from small handy tools to large chisels for removing big wood sections. Chiseling work in woodworking usually starts with larger chisels and continually progresses to smaller chisels for making finer details.

There are various different types of woodworking chisels that are available and used across industries for specific purposes as listed below:

  • Slick Chisel: A very large type of chisel driven by manual pressure, usually found in wooden shipbuilding and timber frame construction industry. Their main feature is they never got struck during working.
  • Firmer Chisel: They have a thick rectangular cross-section blade to make them stronger. Firmer chisels are generally used on tougher and heavier work.
  • Mortise Chisel: This type of chisel consists of a thick, rigid blade with a straight cutting edge. They are widely used for cutting deep holes in wood.
  • Paring Chisel: These chisel types have a long thinner blades with longer handles. Paring chisels are ideal for cleaning grooves and accessing tight spaces. They work using the body power of the user.
  • Bevel Edge Chisels: With their beveled edges, bevel edge chisels are suitable for creating acute angles.
  • Skew Chisels: With their 60-degree cutting angle, skew chisels are extensively used for trimming and finishing across the grain.
  • Dovetail Chisels: These types of chisels are specific for cutting dovetail joints, permitting easier access to the joint.

Some other types of woodworking chisels are

  • Butt chisels for creating joints.
  • Carving chisels for intricate designs and sculpting.
  • Corner chisel for Cleaning square holes, mortises, and corners with 90-degree angles.
  • Flooring chisel
  • Framing chisel
  • Drawer lock chisel
  • Bench chisel
  • Tank chisel, etc

Metalworking Chisels

Metalworking chisels are used for metalworking projects. There are two types of metalworking chisels. They are:

  • Hot chisels and
  • Cold chisels

Hot Chisel

A hot chisel is used to split the heated and soft forge metal. They are widely used in blacksmithing to cut and shape hot steel workpieces. A typical example of a hot chisel is the hot cut hardy chisel which is used in an anvil hardy hole. These types of chisels are not usually tempered or hardened.

Hot chisels feature a 30-degree angle cut blade. A hammer is used to drive the chisel into the workpiece. Often, these types of chisels are used in combination with a “top fuller” type of hot cut when the workpiece is particularly large.

Cold Chisel

When a metal piece cannot be cut with a saw or shears because of limited space, Cold chisels are a good alternative. They are widely used for repair jobs like cutting off rivet heads, removing rusted nuts and bolts, and other heavy work.

Made up of hardened tool steel, cold chisels find extensive application in general engineering works to cut away excess material from casting or other manufacturing processes. Various types of cold chisels are:

  • Diamond point chisel to remove unwanted debris and material from corners.
  • Round nose chisels to cut semi-circular grooves.
  • Cross out chisels for cutting grooves and slots.
  • Flat chisels to cut bars, sheet metals, and rods.

Stone Chisels

Stone chisels are used to cut/carve stones, bricks, or concrete slabs. There are various types of stone chisels that are used. Some of them are

  • Brick bolster chisels with a wide and flat blade.
  • Spoon chisels with bevels on both sides.
  • Point chisels
  • Roundel chisels
  • Flat chisels
  • Claw chisels

Masonry Chisels

Masonry chisels are heavy chisels with dull heads that wedge and break. They are used as demolition tools. Common types of masonry chisels are

  • Flat chisels
  • Point chisels
  • Clay spade
  • Tamper
  • Asphalt cutters
  • Flexible chisels

Gouge

Gouge is similar to a chisel without a flat blade edge. The cross-section of the blade edge is usually curved or angled. A large variation of gouge chisels is found in use.

Sharpening a Chisel

When a chisel tip becomes blunt, it must be sharpened to get optimum results. There are various ways by which these chisels can be sharpened. The common chisel sharpening methods are:

  • By using a whetstone
  • By using a sandpaper
  • By using a grinder

Using a Chisel

For optimum working conditions, the chisel selection must be appropriate for the specific job. Chisel size and blade type must be properly decided. Before the job, the chisel must be inspected to ensure it is in the best working condition with the required sharpness.

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Anup Kumar Dey

A Mechanical Engineer with 19 years of working experience in various renowned MNCs.

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