Every woodworker needs the best chisels for carpentry. These are quintessential carpentry tools that play various roles in a workshop. Just like any carpentry tool, chisels come in different types, sizes, and quality. I can still remember the time I purchase my first chisel set. It’s confusing, and if you don’t have the proper guidance, you’ll likely end up with a dud piece.
For this post, I impart my knowledge about chisels and the basics you need to look for when buying one. If you want to skip the hassle, I’ve reviewed 3 of the best chisel sets out of the hundreds of options in the market.
|CHISEL||BRAND||EXPERT RATING||CHECK PRICE|
| Our Top Pick! |
|IRWIN S500 ProTouch |
Bevel Edge Chisel Set
|Narex 6-Piece |
Where do we use chisels?
Chisels are versatile tools since they can be used in different ways on carpentry projects. The following are the most common uses:
Paring. Chisels let you shave or trim the wood surface in different thickness. With this, chisels let you perform some sculpting on the piece of wood.
Scraping. A chisel is a convenient tool to remove glue or stubborn dirt from the wood surface. Chisels offer better control since you can scrape in small amounts. This function also comes handy for finishing and detailing jobs.
Chopping. With a chisel, you can cut and chop chunks of wood. You can remove a specific wood chunk bit by bit to prevent damage to the piece of timber you’re working on.
Creating joints. One of the major uses of chisels is creating joints in carpentry. It could be dovetail, mortise & tenon, butterfly, housing, and more joint types. No other carpentry tool can produce accurate joinery than a chisel does.
Types of chisels
To find the best chisels for carpentry, you should know first which type you’ll need on your project. The following are the different chisel types together with its unique roles:
🧰Beveled edge chisels
Beveled edge chisels are one of the widely used types of woodworking. These chisels are not too long and not too short either. They are called ‘beveled’ because the blade is beveled on one side and flat on the other. This design gives you convenient access to dovetail joints. If you’re just getting started on DIY work, this is the first set of chisels you should get.
There’s another variety of beveled chisels called heavy-duty beveled edged chisels. This isn’t usually used on furniture-making since it’s reserved for large and complicated joint work. I often see this on boat building but not on typical carpentry workshops.
🧰Japanese bench chisels
Next, we have the Japanese bench chisels. These are used to cut through softwood to prevent crumbling. The blade of this chisel has less beveling but with hollow backs. It’s similar to Western bench chisels, but the blades are thicker and way sharper. Based on my experience, the Japanese and Western bench chisels don’t really make a difference if we’re going to talk about general carpentry work.
Mortise chisels are staples in a cabinetmaker’s toolbox. True to its name, it’s used to create mortise joints. It has a thicker but narrower blade that can take the heavy pounding of a mallet. Moreover, the blade used on mortise chisels is harder, so it will not chip easily.
Mortise chisels have another sub-type called sash mortise chisels. At first glance, the two are interchangeable. The difference is that sash mortise chisels are lighter than full-fledged mortise chisels. It’s used on shallow mortises and sports a slightly thinner blade. To be honest, this chisel type isn’t highly used in workshops.
Aside from these two, there’s also the heavy-duty sash mortise chisel, which is just a thicker version of the other.
Lastly, paring chisels are used on scraping or slicing very thin layers of wood. It has a thin, sharp, and flexible blade. Unlike the chisel types I mentioned above, this one doesn’t need a mallet. You simply pound it with your palm. This is a must-have if you’re working on a lot of joineries.
Additional considerations when buying chisels
Aside from choosing the right chisel type, I consider these three points paramount when buying this tool:
✔️Choose the type of steel
Chisels need to be sturdy so it can endure regular wear and tear. The first thing you should check is the type of steel used on the blades. The last thing you’d want is a chisel blade breaking in the middle of a busy day. The type of steel of the chisel will dictate its longevity and efficiency. Here’s a quick rundown of different chisel blade materials:
Carbon chrome steel. Of all blade materials you can get, carbon chrome steel is the toughest. It’s also light and requires minimal sharpening. However, it comes at a higher price point, which is just fair for its quality.
Tempered steel. The second best option is tempered steel. This is the most basic blade metal, but it can take the beating of any project. The downside to tempered steel is that it doesn’t retain its edge the way carbon chrome steel does. Tempered steel is also heavier.
If you’re a beginner, a tempered steel blade is a good choice. Intermediate carpenters can opt for carbon chrome, but its lighter weight may feel weird at first.
✔️Socket vs. tang handle
Chisel handles can either be in socket or tang type.
Socket chisels have thicker shanks and can endure more beating than tang counterparts. However, the added weight can be annoying when you’re doing precision work. But if you want a chisel that you can use on wood and masonry, socket chisel is unbeatable.
On the other hand, tang chisels have a lighter profile suitable for hobby work. In my opinion, tang chisels can still take a good beating in the hand of an expert chiseler.
✔️Look for a container
If you’re purchasing a chisel set, I always recommend one with a suitable container. A tool roll would do, but for this type of tool, I recommend a box. It prevents you from losing a chisel or tossing your tool on some random box. Besides, if you’re going to invest in DIY tools, you might as well add organization in your list.
3 Best Chisels for Carpentry and Woodwork
MY #1 CHOICE
MY TOP PICK: Kirschen 6-Piece Chisel Set
Product Name: Kirschen 6-Piece Chisel Set
Product Description: If you're looking for the best chisels for carpentry, I highly recommend the Kirschen 6-Piece Chisel Set. It contains 6 pieces of beveled chisels with sizes 6, 10, 12, 16, 20, and 26 mm. My favorite part is that these pieces are tucked inside a chic wooden box. These pieces are manufactured in Germany and are the sizes widely used on most carpentry and woodworking projects.
Offer price: $$$
Value for Money
Each piece is made of carbon steel blades, solid forged for the toughest build. The steel blade is hardened to 61 Rockwell, so it holds its edge for long. To give you an idea, 61 Rockwell is way harder than the steel you’ll usually see on axes, hatchets, and machetes.
In addition, the blade is connected to a hornbeam handle bearing the brand’s logo. Overall, this is one of the best chisel sets I’ve seen in terms of workmanship, blade quality, and value for money.
The only gripe I have for this set is that the balance of Kirschen chisels feels a little off since it’s top-heavy. It’s not much of an issue if this is your first set, but it’s something to get used to.
Premium chisel material
61 Rockwell blade hardness
The top-heavy design can feel off for expert chiselers
IRWIN S500 ProTouch Bevel Edge Chisel Set
If you want to save some bucks from your chisel set, consider the IRWIN ProTouch Bevel Edge Set. Although marketed as a 6-piece, this set actually comes with two additional chisels, making it 8 pieces overall. When it comes to value for money, I’m betting my wallet on this one.
The blade of the ProTouch bevel edge chisels is made of one-piece, forged steel that offers excellent hardness. This is pre-sharpened, so it’s ready for use straight from the package.
As for the handle, this set uses IRWIN’s proprietary ProTouch Grip, which is a rubber and plastic material textured for ergonomic use. Aside from looking less crafty, I don’t see and experience any downside to this design. Some chiselers also prefer rubber handles since it has better ‘stickiness’ than wood.
Don’t worry about the rubber handles because each chisel on this set has a metal cap that can take strong force.
The original 6-piece set consists of 6, 10, 12, 19, 25, and 32 mm chisels. Meanwhile, the two additional pieces are 38 and 50 mm. All of these are construction chisels that work well on almost all wood surfaces. All the 8 pieces fit inside the wooden box included in the package, but one has to go sideways (not a biggie).
Narex 6-Piece Woodworking Chisels
For those on a budget, what I recommend is the Narex 6-Piece Bevel Set. The blade of these chisels is made of tempered chrome and manganese steel that’s hardened to 59 Rockwell. This is pretty tough, even on daily use. Based on my experience, this Narex set can give Kirschen a run for its money if you’re willing to sacrifice a slight difference in workmanship.
Each chisel blade on this set has a well-set steel tang for a lighter feel, which comes handy on precision work. Also, the chisels are made in Narex’s plant in the Czech Republic, which guarantees its quality.
Meanwhile, the chisels’ handles are made of carved and stained European Beech with two ferrules for heavy pounding. Overall, the set consists of 6, 10, 12, 16, 20, and 26 mm sizes. The sizes are neatly stamped on each chisel’s blade, so it’s easier to identify which is which.
All these chisels come in a wooden box. It’s presentation quality, which is a big plus. You can even send this as a gift to someone who does DIY carpentry work.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What kind of hammer do I need to drive a chisel?
A: Any soft-faced hammer can be used on a chisel. A small wooden mallet will also work. Unlike hammers with a metal head, those you should use for chisels shouldn’t damage its handle. You can also find a dedicated chisel hammer in the market.
Q: Why use a mallet instead of a hammer on chisels?
A: Mallets have a flat and wider pounding surface than most hammers. Also, mallets have a rubber head that will not chip or break the chisel’s handle, which is also made of wood. Another advantage of using a mallet is that the weighted head adds more force to every swing.
Q: What is the difference between a gouge and a chisel?
A: The main difference is that chisels sport a flat blade while a gouge has a curved or rounded blade. Also, chisels are used to cut a straight and flat surface on a piece of wood. On the other hand, gouges are used to carve specific features on a piece of wood.
Q: Which type of chisel should I never use with a mallet?
A: While most chisels are struck with a mallet, you should never do the same on a paring chisel. This chisel type has a thin and long blade that can break if you struck it heavily. You only use your palm to drive a paring chisel.
Q: What’s the difference between a cold chisel and a hot chisel?
A: Cold chisels are used on masonry, brick, and concrete while a hot chisel is reserved for blacksmith use only. Take note that both the cold and hot chisels are not used on woodworking and carpentry. This is the reason why there are wood chisels reserved for woodwork.
The best chisels for carpentry will let you finish each woodwork easier and with better precision. Instead of wasting your money on dud pieces, it’s best to invest in a set that will last longer and remain functional as you progress in your DIY work.