This is How to Pick the Best Wood Chisels, your guide for picking out a nice set of wood chisels that will work well, and not cost you a fortune. Plus, I’ll show you the one thing you absolutely need to do no matter which set of chisels you buy.
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(Updated July 2023)
Picking the Best Wood Chisels
Woodworking with edged tools like chisels or hand planes is a real pleasure, as long as you have good tools, and a little patience to learn the process. Before all of the modern equipment, edged tools like hand chisels were the only choice for wood carving, and shaping wood.
A long time ago, beautiful surfaces were created with hand tools like chisels alone. They were flawless, and an example of real traditional craftsmanship.
You can do the same thing right now in your shop, you just need to know what to look for when picking out a set of woodworking chisels, and I’ll show you coming up.
The Price of a Chisel Set
It should go without saying that the price you pay for your chisels is going to have a direct reflection on the quality. The really cheap stuff should definitely be avoided, but the high end stuff is no bargain, and you should avoid that too.
The problem with the really high and really low is that there are differences in the tools that are more a reflection of the price range than the properties of the tool.
For example, really cheap tools need to be made differently, with different materials, or in different locations around the world to bring the cost down. This tends to affect the tool negatively as more and more corners are cut in the name of price.
Also, on the high end, many times you are paying a premium because you are getting the best, and though it may be two, three or ten times more expensive than the middle price, it is surely not that many times better.
See Also: 13 Myths About Getting Into Woodworking
The Quality of the Steel in Chisels
Most woodworking chisels or wood carving hisels in the same price range are going to be made from the same steel. This is a high strength, slow wearing steel that holds an edge really well. Assuming you are not in the bargain bin, this is the steel you will get.
While there are cases to be made for the really high end stuff, most of the time it’s only a little better than the middle of the road stuff, or again not as many times as good as the price difference.
As long as you are working with a hardened steel, which most chisels will be, you are going to be fine for the blades.
Sizes and Shapes of Wood Chisels
For woodworking, chisels are going to be flat edged, with a pitch and can vary depending on if they are general woodworking chisels or mortising chisels. If you are making mortises, get mortising chisels. If you are doing general woodworking tasks, get standard chisels.
If you are looking to trim excess wood, trim dowel ends, bevel corners, and change the shape of your wooden projects, a basic set of standard chisels is what you want. These have a shallow bevel, and you can really get into hard to reach places with them.
The next thing to look for is the size. You will typically need a few sizes to get you going, and after that you can add the special ones that you really need. Start with a 1/4” a 1/2” and 3/4” or 1” for a nice beginner set of three.
These will be perfectly sized for your projects, and they will give you enough selection to work on nearly any woodworking project.
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See Also: How to Sharpen a Chisel the Easy Way
Look and Feel of Your Woodworking Chisels
You are going to be spending a lot of time with these wood chisels, so you really want to get this right when you are in the store. Spend a little time holding them, and see what feels good. You may not know a lot now, but you will feel something different with each chisel you hold.
If you cannot go into a store, do your best to read the reviews and see what people are saying about the fit and feel of the chisels and you can typically find some good information in there.
See Also: 10 Cool Wood Projects for Guys
Wood Chisel Reviews
Another thing you can do to find the best wood chisels is look for the reviews, but look carefully. Some people like to leave reviews that are not really helpful, and some have more to do with the difference between one thing and the thing they bought, not necessarily just about the thing they bought.
For example, if you are reading the reviews on a middle of the road wood chisel, and you find someone giving it a low rating compared to their high end set, it’s not a good review. It’s like reviewing a go cart and a race car, they are not the same thing.
Look for clues in the reviews, and you can generally find something good.
Good clues that you are getting the best woodworking chisels are:
- People saying they have owned them for a while, or owned them before.
- Mentions that they hold an edge well, and sharpen easily.
- Quality points about the feel and the weight.
- Longer and more detailed reviews that leave more information.
The One Thing You Must Do
No matter what set of woodworking chisels you buy, you need to do one thing to make them work, and that’s sharpen them. No matter what you buy, even if Rolex made a set of chisels for ten thousand dollars, they would still turn into crap after a while if you don’t sharpen them.
On top of that, I don’t even recommend you buying wood chisels at all if you don’t have sharpening equipment in the shop and know how to use it. You don’t need a thousand dollar slow grinding wheel either, you can just use a nice combination water stone like the one in the picture and you will be fine.
Water stones are about $50 and they are just perfect for sharpening your chisels. Get a nice combination stone, like 800 and 4000 and you will have power in the 800 and grace in the 4000 to leave an edge so razor sharp you can shave hair with it.
See Also: Sharp Tools and My Odd Discovery
Best Wood Chisels Wrap-Up
That was How to Pick the Best Wood Chisels, and by now you should know what you need to do when you decide to get yourself a set. Look for something in the middle of the price range, get a small set, and look for something that feels good and is reviewed well.
Remember, even if you do these few things well, but you are not going to sharpen them when you get home, and keep them sharp, then you might as well not buy them at all.
Make the commitment to sharpening, and you will suddenly fall in love with woodworking chisels and other edged tools. They work like magic when they are kept sharp, and a nice middle of the road set can keep you happy for a very long time.
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