Unfortunately, we live in a time when the art of many handcrafts is slowly being lost. One of these arts is the use of chisels in woodworking. Heavier chisels are also used in working with metals, rock, and masonry, but most of the time we talk about chisels, we are talking about woodworking. In the good old days, the average toolchest contained a range of chisels ranging from gauges that could be used with a lathe for cutting circular stock, to chisels for cutting mortise and tenon joints for furniture or other carpentry projects. Chisels
come in different sizes (widths) and shapes depending on the job they are designed for.
There are corner chisels, butt chisels, and mortise chisels, to name just a few -- but they all do the same thing, which is cutting away wood. The most commonly found chisels are the beveled edge variety -- these have a flat back for making your straight cut, and a beveled front that allows the blade to gently penetrate the wood. The sides are also beveled for dovetailing work. But other times you may need a thicker mortise chisel for prying out your cuts. So befor buying a chisel or chisels, you need to figure out how you will be using them. If you're like most woodworkers, you'll find you are best served by a set of chisels ranging from 1/4" up to 1-2". In the guide below we will take a look at some of the best chisels out there, giving you an idea on prices and where to buy them.
Buying The Best Wood Chisel - Wood Chisels
So what is the best chisel, and how much do chisels cost? Like most tools, many chisels are made for specialized functions, so there is no "best" chisel that will serve every purpose. And basic chisel design really hasn't changed much over the last few centuries, other than adding plastics and other materials to the handles, though most quality chisels have wooden handles -- the blade design and function has remained pretty much the same. So while there are many different makers of chisels, the real difference you'll find among them is how long the blades stay sharp, and some people are willing to pay a premium for this to avoid having to sharpen their chisels very often. Amazon actually has a special chisel section on their website
, listing the best-selling chisels, from names like Sorby, Footprint, Two Cherries, SK Hand Tool, Laguna, Makita, and more. Some specialty woodworking stores like WoodWorker.com
offer some high-end chisels, like the Flexcut Mallet Tools. These are hand crafted, and can cost from $25-$40 for a single chisel or gouge. They also offer some of the Japanese chisels that are popular among wood carvers, known for their laminated steel blades that hold their edge. The Footprint Tools chisels
are also nice - check out the 9 piece set for $156 if you are looking for a top of the line kit (they range from $17 to $30 individually). We suggest you also stop by ToolsForWorkingWood.com
. They have some nice explanatory sections on the different types of chisels -- Japanese chisels, bench chisels, paring chisels, mortise chisels -- with comparison photos and charts, and guides explaining which chisels are best used for which function. But above and beyond all this good information, they also sell top of the line woodworking chisels, like the Iyoroi Blue Steel Cabinetmaker's Chisels (a set of 10 is $550 -- these are for serious professional woodworkers), or the Sorby Boxwood Handled Paring Chisels, which cost about $40-$50 each, or the Two Cherries 4 piece bevel edge set for $90. All incredibly crafted tools.
Chisel Sets - Carving Chisels
If you are not into woodworking specialty stores, you can also pick up chisels at most hardware stores or home stores like Home Depot or Lowes. Lowes carries individual chisels and chisel sets from Stanley, Dasco, and Nicholson. We like the heavy duty Dasco Pro models, like the masons chisel ($12 - works on brick, cinder blocks, removes mortar), concrete chisel ($12 - for breaking up sidewalks, concrete, etc.), and floor chisel ($11 - large chisel for removing tongue and groove flooring, scraping floors, etc). If you're a guy like me who occasionally has a slip with the hammer, you'll really appreciate the rubber hand protector they have, allowing you to work with confidence. Stanley makes the FatMax line of chisels that we really like as well. They are well built with a break resistant handle and steel strike plate, making them solid, durable tools for your workshop. Amazon.com, for those who think they only sell books, also carries a wide range of hardware tools and products, including chisels. Chance are if you have a workshop, you probably have some equipment made by Irwin, whether clamps, saws, wrenches, etc. Amazon carries the Irwin Marples Chisel Sets
, which we really like. $35 will get you a 4 chisel set, 1/4", 1/2", 3/4", and 1". These are designed for woodworking, meaning you'll be using hand pressure or a mallet. They also offer the Stanley FatMax 6 piece set for $55 -- if we were picking up our first chisel set, this just might be it. They have some specialty chisels as well, like the Porter-Cable Corner Chisel (used for hanging doors, squares rounded corners with one blow), less than $20. If you are looking for wood lathe chisels, check out the kit from PSI Woodworking, $50 for a 8 piece toolkit, a good inexpensive set. As long as you are shopping for chisels, we recommend you also get a sharpening kit if you don't already have one. Wood chisels work best when they are sharp - you want to be able to get fine, controlled cuts with a minimum of pressure. The Stanley Sharpening System
goes for about $15 and is designed for sharpening chisels, with an oilstone and honing guide that holds the chisel properly aligned for sharpening.