Picture of How to Use a Wood Chisel

For every type of builder, there are very few indispensable tools. For the woodworkers, the chisel is the simple, multifaceted tool you just can't live without.

Here are some basic techniques on making the most of the chisel, a tool that can take on everything from cleaning up large chunks of waste wood when constructing a porch glider, to carefully paring away thin shavings for a tight fit when you're, say, building a fence.

A few tips before you get started: Make sure to keep your chisel sharp, have a few chisels of varying sizes (if you're getting only one, make it a 3/4"), and, finally, don't go for the cheapest tools --always buy sturdy, solid chisels with life-time warranties.

Step 1: Two-handed control

Picture of Two-handed control
For careful paring, use a 2-handed grip. One hand guides the cutting edge while the other hand provides driving power.

For extremely precise work, brace your guide hand up against the material and use it as a fulcrum to pivot on throughout the motion. You'll be surprised at how much control and accuracy you gain using this method.
LevyN11 month ago


Broom4 years ago
In step 3, "With the grain", your picture actually depicts cutting into the grain, not with the grain, which (as you note in the text) is BAD, and will lead to gouging.
travw Broom4 years ago

That is with the grain, not against the grain. In other words, he knows what he's talking about.
Broom travw4 years ago
Not sure why you've taken such a smart-assed tone, but nonetheless:

"Grain" isn't a bidirectional line. Grain goes in one direction (as in, North, not North-&-South).

And in his picture, he is cutting into the grain, which is bad.
wobbler Broom4 months ago

You are right, Broom. I assumed when I saw this picture it was showing how not to do it, to illustrate the first sentence. However, as this is a beginners guide, I think it needs clarifying that this picture is how not to do it and it needs another picture showing the correct way going with the grain.

nancyjohns1 year ago


Sharad7 years ago
Can anybody make mistakes after reading such perfect instructions for chiseling. Please teach us more. Sharad
yes, everybody can make mistakes after reading this
I.E… Don't cut like we are in the photo?!

I also notice that your chisel is not sharpened — it looks as if it has just been ground, or brought.

But, good advice. Chisels are widely misunderstood by people trying to work wood, and your advice will make the whole process a lot easier and safer for people.
Tom Ali7 years ago
Thanks a lot for such a good and professional guide. Hope to find more on other topics on using hand tools.
Dinerro947 years ago
its a very good instructable BUT i bet that the person who was chiseling was a professional and not a beginner, it takes years to be good at chiseling... But it is a very good intructable.
dataphool8 years ago
Good Instructable; you have captured the basic principles involved for a carpenter and his chisel. You could, and I think, should have added a section on sharpening chisels; or considering the complexity, throw in an extra instuctable of that step. A section on cold chisels and their use, and you will have the chisel family. Thanks.
theRIAA8 years ago
chisels are used too rarely today whenever I'm working and ask someone for a chisel, they give me that "What the hell would you want a chisel for??" look, and hand me a saw.
crapflinger8 years ago
make sure you keep your chisels sharp too... a dull chisel is about as good as tits on a bull...and pretty dangerous too
Incidentally, sharpening chisels is a cakewalk, assuming you have a grinder and a stone... Simply cut a hollow on the bevel side (be sure not to overheat!) and then lay the hollow flat against the stone with a circular motion to hone to a nice razor edge, occasionally honing the flat side to dispose of burrs...
Azzazal8 years ago
Very nicely done Instruction
singingfish8 years ago
Thanks, I inherited a stack of chisels when my grandfather died, and now I know what to do with them :-)
mikesty8 years ago
Fo' chisel my nizzle :) Good to see PM and posting as well :)