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Choosing and Using Wood and Masonry Chisels

Wood and Masonry Chisels

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Most chisels (except masonry chisels) are essentially the same: They have a handle of wood, plastic or a composite attached to a sharp edge intended to cut, carve, gouge, score or shape material, and they are either struck with a mallet or pushed by hand into the material.

That’s where all similarities end. Here, we’ll discuss wood and masonry chisels — the ones homeowners and do-it-yourselfers most commonly need.

Wood Chisels

A basic wood chisel has a rounded handle and a rectangular steel blade that’s ground to a specifically beveled top edge — usually 25 degrees — and a flat bottom. Its primary purpose is to remove material smoothly, allowing you to create space for hinges, clean out grooves and recesses, carve, cut and trim.

Blades come in a range of widths, but a good basic woodworking set will include 1/4-, 3/8-, 1/2-, 5/8-, 3/4-, 1- and 1 1/2-inch chisels. Both the blades and the handles can be long or short, but more length gives you more leverage.

Masonry Chisels

A do-it-yourselfer will want to keep a couple of masonry chisels on hand in addition to his or her wood chisels. These are designed for brick and stone work: scoring, trimming and shaping. The blades are broader and shorter than those found on wood chisels, and the handle and blade are made of a single piece of steel to withstand the force — typically delivered by a sledgehammer or a mallet — needed to work with stone materials. Since they’re used more for splitting, wedging and gouging, you’ll find a markedly duller point on the edge of the blade compared with that of a wood chisel.

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