11 Types Of Woodworking Chisels – Tools Guide

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Among woodworking hand tools, we could consider the most indispensable as chisels. However, there are so many different types of woodworking chisels, that it’s easy to get thoroughly confused. If you want to be a competent woodworker, you will need to use appropriate chisels for the job at hand.

A chisel consists of a long metallic bar that is sharpened on one end (the cutting end) and has a handle on the other. The handle of a chisel may be wood, plastic, or some other durable material. Each type of chisel takes its name according to the shape of its cutting end.

Wide chisel
Wide chisel. Image Credit: John Loo

Different Types Of Woodworking Chisels

In this article, we take a brief look at the different kinds of chisels that we commonly use for woodworking. You may be familiar with many of the types of chisels that we feature here. However, there may be a few types of which you are not aware. After reading this article, we hope you will gain a better knowledge of woodworking chisels.

Firmer Chisel

Bundle Robert Sorby 285/285EG50 2" Timber Framing Firmer Chisel with Leather Edge Guard 19-1/2 Overall Length
Robert Sorby Firmer Chisel

Once upon a time, chisels had square edges and were made up of a steel laminate. Today, however, almost all chisel blades are solid in construction. Because of the difference in structure in the past, the name “firmer chisel” continues. As you may have guessed, the firmer chisel is one of the oldest chisel types in existence. You can use this type of chisel when you have to create sharp, 90° corners on a workpiece.

Bench Chisel

WoodRiver 6 Piece Bench Chisel Set
WoodRiver Bench Chisel

Here’s another commonly-used chisel type. We use a bench chisel for a variety of jobs, and consider them as general-purpose chisels. A bench chisel consists of a blade of medium length, and it may have beveled or straight edges. The chisel may have a tang or socket style attachment to the handle. The cutting edge typically has an angle of 25° or 30°.

Butt Chisel

WoodRiver 4 Piece Butt Chisel Set
WoodRiver Butt Chisel

A butt chisel has its name because we use it to install butt hinges to doors. These chisels have a characteristically short blade. This chisel is, in fact, a bench chisel or firmer chisel, modified into a butt chisel because of its re-sharpened blade. You can get butt chisels in bevel-edged and straight-edged form.

Mortise Chisel

Narex Czech Steel 3 piece set 6 mm, 10 mm, and 12 mm Mortise Chisels by Narex
Narex Mortise Chisels.

As the name suggests, we use a mortise chisel to cut mortise joints. This chisel has a thick blade, which is useful for prying. These chisels have a cap or steel hoop on their handles to stand up to blows from a mallet. The typical bevel angle of a mortise chisel is between 30° and 40°.

Corner Chisel

Chisel / Corner Chisel 90°
Narex Corner Chisel. n.

A corner chisel helps us to shape or trim corners to make sure that the angle is 90°. Hence, the cross-section of a corner chisel will usually be an angle of 90°, but the angle could vary as well. These chisels have a medium-length blade and may or may not have a beveled angle.

Paring Chisel

1/2" Robert Sorby #241 Paring Chisel
Robert Sorby Paring Chisel.

This chisel has a long, thin blade. It has a tang that connects the tool to the large handle. We manipulate a paring chisel by hand and should never strike it with a mallet or hammer. We use this chisel for finishing a job, by removing small bits of wood and neatening up joints. These chisels have a cutting edge beveled between 20° and 25°. You can get paring chisels with either straight or beveled edges.

Slick Chisel

Arno 467856 Solid Steel French Timber Framing Slick Chisel 40 mm (1-9/16 Inch) Wide x 14 Inches Long RC 58-60 PVC Dipped Handles
Arno Slick Chisel

Slick chisels are nothing but oversized paring chisels. These chisels are larger and have a handle shaped like a baseball bat. Like the paring chisel, we use the slick chisel to trim extra wood from a workpiece. Here again, with this tool, you will observe a cutting edge of 20° to 30°.

Dovetail Chisel

Narex Pair 1/2" and 3/4" Dovetail Japanese Style Chisels
Narex Dovetail Chisel

If you work on dovetail joints, you will need to use a dovetail chisel. This type of tool has a long, thin blade and beveled edges. The cutting edge is honed and beveled between 20° and 30°. You can use a dovetail chisel to clean and sharpen the interlocking edges that form part of a dovetail joint.

Framing Chisel

1-1/2" Robert Sorby #285 Timber Framing Chisel
Robert Sorby Framing Chisel 

This chisel has an oversized blade compared to the handle. The long, wide, and thick blade can be beveled or with a straight edge. This type of chisel usually has a socket and a sturdy cap or steel hoop on the handle to withstand heavy blows. The blade of a framing chisel has a bevel angle of 25° to 30°. We usually use framing chisels for boat building and timber framing jobs.

Chisels With Cranked Handles

Cranked Ripping Chisel - Plastic Handle - Osborne No. 402 by C.S. Osborne
C.S. Osborne Cranked Ripping Chisel 

If a chisel has a cranked handle, it means that the handle is offset to the line of the blade. Due to this offset, you can hold the chisel flat on the surface of a workpiece, with no interference from your fingers. This type is chisel is useful in creating flush surfaces where there you have appendages that you need to trim off. The shape of the tool allows you to slide the chisel parallel to the surface of the wood.

Wood Carving Chisel

BeaverCraft Wood Carving Gouge Chisel 7L/22 Wood Carving Tools Bowl Carving Carbon Steel Blade Wood Handle Radial Gouge Hard and Soft Woods (Long Bent Gouge G7L/22)
BeaverCraft Wood Carving Chisel 

No discussion on woodworking chisels would be complete without touching upon wood carving chisels. There is a whole range of these tools that we use for wood carving. Many wood carving chisels fall under the category of “gouges.” A gouge is typically a chisel with a curved cutting edge, rather than a straight one.

Each carving chisel or gouge gets its name from the shape of the cutting edge. While the entire range of wood carving chisels is beyond the scope of this article, we could conclude by saying that if you are into wood carving, then you will need a whole set of these chisels.


Having gone into the details of each type of woodworking chisel, you should now be confident in your knowledge about them. It is essential to know the purpose of each type and how best to use it. If you want to have a woodworking toolbox with the most useful tools, you need to have a complete set of woodworking chisels. We hope that the information available in this article adds to your woodworking experience and that you can work on some great woodworking projects with your collection of woodworking chisels.

Featured Image: Luke Milburn