How to Use a Chisel

Lead Image
What You'll Need
3/4-inch chisel
vise or clamp
wooden mallet
carpenters square

When you need to make a precise groove in a piece of wood, like installing a hinge plate flush with the edge of a door, a chisel is the proper tool. Wood chisels come in a variety of sizes, but ¾-inch is the standard size for most projects. Here are some pointers to help you get the best results with your chisel.

Caution: Because a chisel is very sharp, keep the tip covered when not in use and out of the reach of children.

Step 1 - Prepare to Chisel

Use a ruler and carpenter’s square to carefully measure and mark both the area of the surface and the depth you want to remove. Next, clamp the wood down to your work surface to keep it from moving while you work.

Step 2 - Outline and Score the Area

For a shallow groove, hold the chisel at a 90-degree angle to the wood and use a wooden mallet to tap the blade of the chisel to the desired depth. Repeat this step all the way around the surface line you marked in step one. Inside the marked area, make parallel cuts 1/4 to 1/2 inch apart, to the same depth as the outline, across the grain of the wood.

Step 3 - Chisel the Groove

Hold the chisel with the beveled side toward the wood. Run the chisel in the direction of the wood grain but away from your body. Chip out the scored area until you have removed all the wood inside the outline to the desired depth.

Step 4 - Refine the Groove

Depending on your project requirements, you may need to refine the groove. If you are working right to the edge of the wood on at least one side, hold the chisel so the flat side is flush with the wood. Run the chisel along the area to smooth the surface and finish with sandpaper, if desired.