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Complete Guide on the Different Types of Chisels & Gouges

Chisels and Gouges

Tools with narrow cutting edges were used for making mortices in the late stone, bronze, and early iron ages. Medevil carpenters also used the "former" chisel with a wide, flared blade, for rough shaping. From the sixteenth-century onwards, general-purpose chisels were made which were stouter and had parallel sides. These were called "firmer chisels", as they could also be used with a mallet. Carpenters also had longer, thinner tools called "paring chisels", for hand use only.

Special types such as the "bevelled edge" and "lock-mortice" chisels and the "bolting iron" were developed later by cabinet makers and other craftsmen for particular purposes. For turning work on pole lathes. A wide range of chisels and gouges has been available since the iron age.

Modern chisels are fitted with smoothly curved bulbous handles, usually round in section and domed at the end for a comfortable grip. These are made from boxwood or impact-resistant plastic, although traditional shaped handles such as the "London Pattern" are still available made in ash.

Chisels and Gouges

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Firmer Chisel

Size: blade width- 3mm to 50mm

Material: blade- steel, handle- ash, beech, boxwood

Use: to trim and chop wood

The firmer chisel is a general purpose wood-cutting tool with a blade approximately 100mm long and rectangular in section. The blade has parallel sides and tapers slightly from the bolster to the cutting edge.

Common widths of blade range from 3mm to 18mm increasing in 3mm steps; and 25mm to 37mm increasing in 6 steps. Chisels up to 50mm wide are also available. For most domestic uses, a selection including 6mm, 12mm, 18mm and 50mm widths should be sufficient.

Because the firmer chisel has a stout blade, it can be driven in with a mallet. Use only wooden or soft faced mallets on wooden handles; a hammer may be used on the plastic ones.

Firmer Chisel

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Bevelled Edge Firmer Chisel

Size: blade width- 3mm to 50mm

Material: blade- alloy steel, , handle- ash, beech, boxwood, plastic

Use: light general woodworking

The bevelled edge chisel is identical to the firmer chisel in all respects except that the blade is bevelled on the top face of the two long sides. This reduces the rigidity of the blade, making it suitable for only lighter wood-working. It is not intended for use with a mallet, but light tapping is tolerated. Because of the bevelled edge, the chisel can be used to work undercuts such as in dovetail housing.

Beveled Edge Firmer Chisel

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Paring Chisel

Size: blade width- 6mm to 37mm

Material: blade- alloy steel, , handle- boxwood

Use: to pare long housings

The paring chisel has a comparatively long blade, about 175mm, and can be either of the firmer or the bevelled edge type. It is used to trim long grooves such as those in stair or shelf construction

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Paring Chisel

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All-Steel Wood Chisel

Size: blade width- 12mm, 18mm, 25mm, 31mm

Material: steel

Use: carpentry work

The all-steel chisel has a short, bevelled edge blade and a hexagonal handle. The end of the handle is formed into a slightly domed mushroom shape, so it can be easily driven with a hammer. This is a very strong chisel, suitable for heavy carpentry work.

All-Steel Wood Chisel

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Firmer Gouge

Size: blade width- 6mm, 9mm, 12mm, 15mm

Material: blade- steel, , handle- boxwood, ash

Use: to cut hollow or curved shoulders

The firmer gouge is similar to the firmer chisel, but it has a blade that is curved at the cross section. The blade is usually about 100mm long and has parallel sides like its chisel counter part. The common sizes are 6mm to 25mm, although large sizes are made with standard curves.

There are two types of blade: those with the cutting bevel ground on the outside, known as out-canal, and those ground on the inside, known as in-canal. Both have square cutting edges, though the out-canal is sometimes rounded for deep hollow cutting.

Firmer Gouge

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Paring Gouge

Size: blade width- 6mm to 31mm

Material: blade- steel, , handle- boxwood

Use: to shape work

The paring gouge is a lighter, elongated version of the in cannel firmer gouge. The 175mm blade, which has parallel sides, is usually fitted with a carving pattern handle. The neck may be straight or cranked to raise the handle to let the hand clear the work surface.

The gouge is generally used for hand paring without the aid of a mallet, unlike the in-cannel firmer gouge. Its range of different curved sections for a given width gives it greater flexibility for cutting curved shapes of all kinds.

Paring Gouge

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Mortice Chisel

Size: blade width- 12mm, 15mm, and 18mm

Material: blade- steel, , handle- beech

Use: to cut large mortices

The mortice chisel has a thick, stiff blade for clearing out waste and wide side edges that help to keep the chisel square in the mortice, The bolster is oval as is the handle: a leather shock-absorbing washer is often fitted between them. The handle has a wide curved end specially designed to be hit with a mallet.

Mortice Chisel

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Sash Mortice Chisel

Size: blade width- 6mm, 7.5mm, 9mm and 12mm

Material: blade- steel, , handle- boxwood, ash, beech

Use: light carpentry work in softwood

The sash mortice chisel is similar in use to the mortice chisel but is intended for lighter work. It is usually fitted with a carved turning pattern handle with a single ferrule and a leather shock-absorbing washer between it and the bolster.

Sash Mortice Chisel

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Registered Mortice Chisel

Size: blade width- 18mm to 37mm

Material: blade- steel, , handle- ash

Use: to work hardwood

The registered mortice chisel is distinguished from the firmer type by its handle. This is made of hardwood with a traditional shape but it has two ferrules, one against the bolster, the other at the striking end. It is meant to be used with a mallet, and the end ferrule prevents the wood from splitting. A shock-absorbing leather washer is fitted between the bolster and the handle.

Registered Mortice Chisel

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Lock Mortice Chisel

Size: blade width- 11m to 15mm

Material: blade- steel, , handle- beech

Use: to remove waste from deep mortices

The lock mortice chisel is specially designed for cutting deep blind recesses, such as for door mortice locks. The long square sectioned blade has an upturned cutting edge with a curved thickened knee on the underside, so that it can be used to lever out waste. The chisel is fitted with a socket type handle.

Lock Mortice Chisel

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Drawer Lock Chisel

Size: 150mm

Material: steel

Use: to cut lock recesses

The drawer lock chisel is used for cutting housings or mortices for locks where there is not enough room to use a conventional chisel. It is a square sectioned steel bar, cranked at right angles at both ends. Each end is tapered and ground to a sharp edge. One cutting edge is set parallel with the long axis of the tool, the other is set at right angles to it.

The cutting edge is positioned on the work and its back is struck with a hammer. In a confined space the side of the hammer may have to be used.

Drawer Lock Chisel

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Ripping Chisel

Size: blade width- 37mm to 50mm, , length 450mm

Material: steel

Use: to split boards

The ripping chisel is like a ripping bar, but it has a wider and sharper chisel end. It is made from a hexagonal sectioned steel bar, and is either straight with a single cutting edge or goose necked and notched at one end for nail pulling. It is used for rough work, such as splitting boards along the grain or levering nailed boards apart. To split a board, drive the chisel into the end following the grain.

Ripping Chisel

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Floor Board Chisel

Size: blade width- 62mm to 68mm, , length - 200mm to 300mm

Material: alloy steel

Use: to cut and lift floor boards

The floor board chisel has a wide spade-shaped blade and an integral octagonal handle. The end of the handle is either tapered, or mushroom-shaped so it can be driven efficiently with a hammer.

This chisel is used by professional to cut through the tongues in tongue and groove flooring, and for levering up boards. The wide blade spreads the load to prevent damage to adjacent boards.

Floor Board Chisel

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Glaziers Chisel

Size: blade width- 50mm

Material: blade- alloy steel, , handle- plastic

Use: to remove old putty from window frames

The glaziers chisel is a strong firmer type chisel with a wide blade. Sometimes a steel cap is fitted into the plastic handle so it can be driven with a hammer.

Glaziers Chisel

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Wood Turning Tools

wood turning chisels and gouges are specifically made for lathe work, where the force is applied across the blade rather than along its length. A wood turning tool is extra long, and has a thick blade and long tang without a bolster. It is fitted with a long turned hardwood handle with a bulbous section behind the brass ferrule which tapers and then flares slightly toward the end.

This long handle provides the necessary leverage for delicate control. Tools for heavy work may have extra long handles which can be tucked under the arm to give maximum leverage and control.

Turning tools are held in both hands, with the blade resting on the part of the lathe known as the tool rest. One hand, knuckles uppermost, grips the blade close to the cutting edge and controls the speed and direction of the tool along the rest. The other hand grips the handle and steadies the tool against the turning work.

Wood Turning Tool

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Wood Turning Gouge

Size: blade- 9mm, 12mm, 16mm, 18mm and 25mm, , length- 412mm (standard), 337mm (small)

Material: blade- steel, , handle- ash

Use: to size turned work roughly

The standard wood turning gouge is ground on the outside and has a squared or round cutting edge. Gouges are generally used fo roughing or quickly sizing the work. The square type is normally used for turning down work between lathe centers. The 25mm gauge is recommended for the first cut.

It moves along the tool rest with the bottom part of the cutting edge doing the work. The resulting finish is usually a ribbed cut, which needs to be cleaned up afterward with a turning chisel.

Wood Turning Gouge

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Wood Turning Chisel

Size: 12mm, 18mm, 25mm; length- 412mm (standard), , 337mm (small)

Material: blade- steel, , handle- ash

Use: to smooth work after rough sizing

The wood turning chisel has a flat blade with a square for an angled cutting edge. it is ground on both sides, so it can cut with a slicing action and move in either direction along the work. These chisels are used to make smooth finishing cuts, cutting the shoulders of square sinking and forming beads.

Wood Turning Chisel

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Round Nosed Chisel

Size: 12mm, 18mm, 25mm; length- 412 (standard), , 337mm (small)

Material: blade- steel, handle- ash

Use: to cut coves and shape work

the round nosed chisel has a flat rectangular blade and is ground into a round cutting edge with a single bevel. It cuts with a scraping action and it is one of the simplest tools you can use for cutting concave shapes for decorative work, or a variety of mouldings.

Round Nosed Chisel

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Diamond Point Chisel

Size: blade length- 12mm, 18mm, 25mm, length- 412mm (standard), , 337mm (small)

Material: blade- steel, handle- ash

Use: to cut "V" grooves and square shoulders

Like the round nosed chisel, the diamond point has a flat rectangular blade ground on one side. It cuts with a scraping action, but the cutting edge is "V" shaped. The point is usually grounded to an included angle of 90 degrees, which makes it useful for cleaning up squared shoulders.

Diamond Point Chisel

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Parting Tool

Size: blade width- 4mm, length- 412mm (standard), , 337mm (small)

Material: blade- steel, , handle ash

Use: to cut to length

The parting tool is made in only one blade width. It is usually rectangular in section, but some are faceted on the two side faces. The blade is square ground to make a long point and it is used on edge as a narrow chisel. The parting tool is primarily used for parting or cutting the finished work from the waste, and for squaring off the work end.

Parting Tool

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Carving Gouge

Size: blade width- 3mm to 25mm, , length- 237mm, 200mm, 162mm

Material: blade- steel, , handle- beech, ash, rosewood, plastic

Use: preliminary shaping

The carving gouge is similar to the firmer gouge, but it is lighter and available in a wide range of curved sections. All carving gouges are out-canneled, that is ground on the outside face. The carving gouge has a blade about 100mm long with a slim round or square neck and a neat bolster.

The blade may have parallel sides or taper toward the bolster, which gives greater clearance for working wood carvings. Handles are usually of the carving pattern, turned from hardwood, with a single brass ferrule. Earlier types were often octagonal in section.

Straight Gouge

This type of gouge has a straight blade in line with the handle. Do not use it on concave surfaces.

Straight Gouge

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Curved Gouge (Bent Gouge)

The curved gouge has an upturned curve in the length of the blade. It is used for working wide concave hollows.

Curved Gouge (Bent Gouge)

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Spoon Bit Gouge (Front Bent Gouge)

This is similar to the curved gouge, but it has a very sharply defined curve on the front section of the blade only. It is used to work small, deep recesses.

Spoon Bit Gouge (Front Bent Gouge)

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Veiner

The veiner is an extremely fine straight bladed gouge with a "U" shaped cutting edge and tall parallel sides. It is used for fine detail carving.

Veiner

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Carving Chisels

Size: blade width- 6mm to 12mm, , length- 237mm (large), 200mm (medium), 162mm (small)

Material: blade- steel, handle- beech, ash, rosewood, plastic

Use: to shape and finish


Straight Chisel

A straight carving chisel has a flat, rectangular blade ground on both faces and either a square or skewed cutting edge. The honing and grinding angles are run together to form a curved cutting bevel. The cutting edge rides on the curved bevel, which helps to prevent it digging in too deeply. The skew type is used for undercuts or detail that is inaccessible to the square chisel.

Straight Chisel

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Curved Chisel (Bent Chisel)

The chisel is about the same size as the curved gouge and is used to finish the scalloped surface produced by the gouge. A curved chisel is ground on the underside only.

Curved Chisel (Bent Chisel)

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Spoon Bit Chisel

This is used to finish work after preliminary shaping by the spoon bit gouge.

Spoon Bit Chisel

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Parting Tool

Size: blade width- 6mm to 12mm, , length- 237mm (large), 200mm (medium), 162mm (small)

Material: blade- steel, handle- beech, ash, rosewood, plastic

Use: to make grooves

The parting tool has a "V" shaped cutting edge and is available with different included angles. Like the sharp-cornered gouge, it is ground on the outside faces and is made with straight or curved blades. It is used for grooving and for making square cornered cutouts.

Parting Tool

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Cold Chisel

Size: length- 125mm to 206mm, , long pattern- 300mm to 450mm, , bit width- 6mm to 25mm

Material: steel

Use: to cut steel

The cold chisel is used in various trades for rough cutting cold metal, where other tools such as snips or hacksaws are unsuitable. It can be used in a number of ways; to chip away waste material from solid rock prior to filling; cutting through round stocks such as chain links; cutting sheet metal, and cutting of rivet and bolt heads.

The chisel is made from hexagonal sectioned steel and has a flat, wedge shaped bit that is slightly wider than the shank. The cutting edge is ground on both sides to an included angle of 60 degrees and is slightly curved across its width. The head is chamfered to reduce burning from continuous hammering. Maintain the chamfer to prevent chips of metal flying off as it is struck with a hammer.

The tool is held in the same way for all types of work. The forefingers grip the stock with the thumb either tucked under or covering the index finger.

Cold Chisel

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Cape Chisel

Size: length- 158mm to 206mm, , bit width- 6mm to 12mm

Material: steel

Use: to cut grooves in metal or masonry

The cape chisel is used for making narrow cuts or grooves in metal or masonry. It has a deep wedge shaped bit, which is narrower than the hexagonal sectioned stock. When new, the blade is parallel sided with a slight flair at the tip and is ground on the upper and lower faces to 60 degrees. The extra depth stiffens the narrow cutting edge of the tool.

Cape Chisel

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Round Nosed Chisel

Size: length- 168mm to 206mm, , bit width- 6mm to 12mm

Material: steel

Use: to cut grooves and to reposition a misaligned hole center

The round nosed chisel is similar to the cape chisel but has a semi-circular cutting edge with a single cutting bevel ground on the top face.

Round Nosed Chisel

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Rivet Buster

Size: length- 300mm, , bit width- 15mm

Material: steel

Use: to cut rivets

This is a heavy chisel, similar to the diamond point in overall shape but with a wider, single ground flat cutting edge. It is used specifically for cutting through rivet heads.

Rivet Buster

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Diamond Point Chisel

Size: length- 168mm to 206mm, , bit width- 6mm to 12mm

Material: steel

Use: to cut "V" grooves and clean corners in metal

The hexagonal sectioned stock of the diamond point chisel is formed into a four-sided taper, which is single ground across a diagonal, to make a diamond shaped cutting face.

Diamond Point Chisel

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Brick Bolster

Size: length- 175mm to 187mm, , cutting edge width- 75mm to 100mm

Material: steel

Use: to cut bricks

The brick bolster has a very wide spade shaped bit, an integral hexagonal sectioned handle and a cutting edge ground on both sides. It is held in the same way as the metal cutting cold chisel and is used with a club hammer to cut bricks.

Brick Bolster

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Plugging Chisel

Size: length- 250mm, point width- 6mm

Material: steel

Use: to cut grooves and plug holes in masonry

The plugging chisel is used with a club hammer to cut away the mortar between brickwork to allow for fixing wooden plugs. These are wide, flat wedges set in the brickwork to receive fixings for door frame linings, window frames and so on. It is an all-steel chisel with an octagonal stock and a long flat bit, which is rectangular in section. The bit is skewed and is available plain or fluted.

Plugging Chisel

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Chisels for Masonry Work

Masonry chisels are of an all-steel construction and generally have an hexagonal sectioned stock. The stock may have parallel sided or taper toward the head. Like cold chisels, masons chisels are available with conically ground heads for striking with a hammer or slightly domed, mushroom shaped heads for use with a wooden mallet. Generally, the hammer pattern is used for initial rough cutting and the mallet pattern for lighter finishing work.

Chisels for Masonry Work

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Point

Size: 200mm to 250mm

Material: steel

Use: to rough finish stone

The point and the punch are basically the same tool. The punch is a heavier version of the point. Both are used in the preliminary stages of smoothing rough stone by concentrating the hammering force to shatter the stone locally. The stock of the tool is hexagonal in section and ground to a four sided blunt point.

Point

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Masons Bolster

Size: bit width 50mm to 75mm

Material: steel

Use: to chisel wide surfaces

The masons bolster is a wide chisel with a short bit and a cutting bevel ground on both on both sides. It can be used to smooth wide flat surfaces or to split blocks like a brick chisel.

Masons Bolster

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Tooler

Size: blade width- 75mm or over

Material: steel

Use: to chisel wide surfaces

The tooler is the same as the masons bolster, but has a wider bit and a heavier stock

Tooler

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Masons Carving Chisels and Gouges

Size: bit width- 6mm, 9mm, 12mm

Material: steel

Use: to finely shape and finish stone

Masons carving chisels and gouges are craftsmen's tools for the final dressing and decoration of stone. They have slim hexagonal sectioned stocks, which taper down to the short bit and to the head. This shape makes the tool comfortable to hold, while its slim form allows it to reach into restricted spaces. Both tools are made with the hammer or mallet type head.

Masons Carving Chisels and Gouges

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Masons Scutch Holder

Size: scutch width- 25mm

Material: steel

Use: to finish stone

The masons scutch holder is a special chisel type tool, which looks similar to the masons bolster but is made to hold a replaceable cutting edge called a scutch.

The holder has an hexagonal stock and a mallet pattern head. The double-sided scutch can be plain or toothed. The scutch tool is used to prepare flat surfaces. It follows the point chisel to reduce the uneven surface into a series of shallow furrows for further finishing with a plain chisel. Work diagonally across the surface, away from the edge.

Masons Scutch Holder

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Masons Chisel

Size: bit width- 12mm to 50mm

Material: steel

Use: to shape and smooth stone

This chisel is used to smooth the rippled surface left by the scutching tool prior to rubbing with a carborundum stone. The narrow chisel is sometimes known as an "edging in chisel" It gets the name from the process used to split blocks of stone.

Masons Chisel

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Pitching Tool

Size: bit width- 37mm

Material: steel

Use: to trim soft stone

The pitching tool is like the bolster, but the bit is single ground at a steep angle. It is used to remove excess material from slabs of sandstone.

With the finished cut line established with the edging chisel, the waste is cut away in layers using the pitching tool. A layer 25mm thick can be removed from the limestone and up to 37mm from sandstone.

Pitching Tool

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