Skip to main content


With these next few articles I’m going to take a look at some of the most simple but yet essential tools woodworkers use. Pictured above are the tools we strike chisels with (yes that is a claw hammer) and the variations on the typical chisels in common use.

Bench Chisels
View larger image

Working from left to right the first two chisels are mortice chisels. When hand cutting a mortice these are the chisels you reach for. The thick blades and hefty proportions allow it to resist the bending forces applied to it. Mortices can be briskly and successfully formed using firmer chisels too although more care must be taken when using a firmer chisel for this work.

Mortice Chisels
View larger image

Next in the line are three versions of what are called Firmer chisels. A Firmer chisel is designed for heavy work such as chopping, occasional morticing and just about any other task you can think, truly an essential tool.

Firmer Chisels
View larger image

The old Firmer chisel at the bottom of the image above is what most people think of when they think of a Firmer with its straight registered sides, thick blade and hoop ironed handle. But a bevelled edge chisel makes a great workhorse too and is still classed a Firmer. Look at the modern versions shown above, both have thick blades and thick edges, the handles are made from ultra strong plastic and one of them features a metal strike cap. This makes them ideally suited to chopping and heavy blows. Both a hammer and mallet can be used with a great deal of success on these chisels.

Chisel Lands
View larger image

As you will see from the photo above the three Firmers, even when featuring a token bevel have very heavy lands. This is no problem in many tasks apart from when you need to work on fine and very precise joinery. For that you will want a true Bevelled Edge Chisel. In the photo above you can see the two chisels on the right have very fine edges or lands when compared to the others . This fine edge allows for accurate paring and cleaning up of fine dovetail joints and the like.

Ashley Iles MK2
View larger image

The chisel shown above is ideal for those types of tasks. It’s delicate nature and beautiful design not only yield great results but inspire you to produce the best you can.

The next article in this series will cover steels, sharpening mediums and a comprehensive guide on sharpening.