How to Use a Skew Chisel

What You'll Need
Woodturning equipment/tool
Skew chisel
Square wood (e.g., 2 feet of square wood)

A Skew chisel is considered one of the most dangerous of all woodturning tools which makes it a very intimidating tool to use. The smallest mistake can cause failure in your woodturning project or at the worst, cause a serious injury. It may cause a dig-in which means the tool could be pulled from your hands or from the hands of another while woodturning. It's not uncommon to experience a dig-in at one point or another. That's why you should be following proper techniques and all the safety precautions possible when using a skew chisel. This article will help you learn about skew chisels and how to use them properly.

Skew Chisel Parts

Before you start learning how to use a skew chisel, you'll need to understand a skew chisel and its parts. This tool is a bevel-edged chisel that is long and flat and has an angled tip. That angled tip is what can be dangerous when not handled properly. The long point of a chisel's cutting edge is called the toe. The heel is the shortest point of the cutting edge. When it comes to the toe and heel, it is the toe that gets the novices into trouble. If not properly handled, it's the toe that gets dig-in to the turning and can result in serious injury. So before you try to use a skew chisel, you should first learn and familiarize yourself with the proper ways to handle and use a skew chisel.

Step 1 - Presenting the Tool to the Wood

The first thing you should learn is how to present the tool to the wood safely. Since you have just learned that most of the dig-ins that happen is with the toe part of the skew chisel, you know that you want to avoid the position that brings the toe in contact with the wood. Practice and familiarize yourself with the various positions while the wood is in stationary position before you start using it.

Step 2 – Pre-smoothen Stock of Wood

When you want to create a smooth finish, the best tool to use is the skew chisel. The results with a skew chisel is unmatched when it comes to smoothing wood. If you're working with a square piece of stock, it's best to round it first with a gouge.

Step 3 – Fine-tuning with Skew Chisel

In order to make a smooth finish, use the center of the skew chisel down to the heel part. If you're right-handed, use your right hand on the handle and the other hand against the rest. Place your rear hand farther to the right side than the other hand. This makes a shorter length of the edge being presented to the rounded stock. Now, tilt your skew chisel about 25 degrees counter-clockwise such that the toe is positioned to 2-o'clock when referenced to an analog clock. While doing this, make sure the heel side edge is still on the tool rest. When you have your skew chisel positioned like this, only the center of your chisel's edge will come in contact with the rounded stock. Again, never let the toe come in contact with the wood or spindle. On the other hand, never let the heel get out of contact with the tool rest. Now that you are in the correct position, start smoothing the wood.