With numerous brands in the market, buying a chisel becomes a challenge for a beginner. Even people who have been woodworking for a while, stick to a good brand. Not many question the quality of a chisel and what makes it good. In this article, we will help you uncover the answer to this question. Let us find out how to judge the quality of a chisel.
The most important aspect of a chisel is its durability. If a chisel is durable it will hold an edge for a longer period of time. After which you have the handle construction, whether it is comfortable to hold or not. Lastly, we have the metal from which the chisel is constructed of. The last aspect ties in with the first one, which is durability.
A quality chisel will provide better results to the user, there is a lot of subjective preference to brand or convenience that comes into choosing a perfect chisel, but in the end, it is important to try to find a good quality chisel by understanding how you can judge one.
Components that Make a Chisel Good
A chisel is a basic tool in the arsenal of a woodcarver. So having quality chisels is important since it will frequently be used. If the chisel is not good or a quality one, then it will make your wood carving experience more challenging and may also affect the final results.
So here are some components that you need to look out for while purchasing a chisel:
A chisel needs to be durable, but that is not just because it bears the brunt of a mallet or hammer’s beating but so that it can hold its edge better.
The edge of a chisel is one of the most vital aspects of how it carves wood. A sharper edge means it can carve, shave, and chop with ease. However, if a chisel is not good, it will not be able to hold that sharp edge properly.
Whenever you are working with tools, sharpness is of utmost importance. Even if your chisel is not sharp enough from the factory, if it is durable, you can work it yourself. By using a grinder stone or whetstone you can renew the edge of the chisel. Being durable, it will hold the edge better once you have sharpened it.
So a chisel needs to be durable so that it does not break and holds its edge better. But what makes a chisel durable? It is the metal that it is constructed from, which is what we will discuss in the next section.
While most people think steel is a strong metal by itself, that is not the case. Steel becomes even stronger when it combines with carbon. Carbon is introduced to steel when it is heat-treated during forging. Once heat-treated carbon bonds strongly to steel making it hard and strong.
Usually, tools are made from carbon steel, which is also referred to as tool steel. The carbon content in the steel makes it harder and stronger. Chisels are also made from carbon steel, but the quantity of carbon present in tool steel is less than 1 percent.
Some chisels, however, are constructed with carbon steel with higher carbon content. This can go up to 1.7 percent and make the steel even harder and durable.
Similarly, there is also a kind of steel called vanadium steel that has vanadium combined with carbon. The little traces of vanadium makes the steel even stronger than carbon steel. But chisels made out of vanadium steel can be a bit more expensive.
Lastly, some manufacturers include manganese in their steel. Manganese makes the steel resistant to high impacts and highly durable. It is called the ultimate work hardening steel by engineers.
So if your chisel is either made out of high carbon steel, vanadium steel, or manganese steel, then you made a good purchase.
Though it does not exactly represent the quality of a chisel, comfort is somewhat important as well. If you are constructing a chisel made from expensive steel, then you ought to put a good handle on it.
If you are going to use a chisel with your hands, but it is not comfortable to hold, then you won’t like it whether it carves well or not. This is subject to preference, but generally, better brands are better at producing comfortable grips for your chisel.
In this regard, a comfortable handle is going to help you carve for longer without getting tired of using the tool as well.
Best Budget Chisel Set
The Hurricane 4 Pieces Wood Chisel Set is a great budget choice since it contains chrome-vanadium alloy in the steel. While the vanadium hardens the steel to a great degree the chisel has been heat-treated to retain the hardness.
It has all the chisels you will need for the basic wood carving needs and also 1/4″,1/2”, 3/4”, 1” inch full-length blades. The handle is made from PVC which is very durable when it comes to bearing the brunt of a mallet.
Best Chisel Set (Our Pick)
Narex 6 Pieces chisel set is made from manganese steel which is harder than both vanadium and high carbon steel. This makes this chisel set extremely quality and durable, helping it keep the edge for longer periods.
The set contains chisels of 1/4″, 3/8″, 1/2″, 5/8″, 13/16″, and 1″ sizes, which is ideal for hobbyists to professional woodworkers. The handle is made of European beech, which makes this set extremely beautiful.
The set comes in its own box for keeping them safe and protected. So if you didn’t have a place to keep the chisel’s edge to hit any other tool, now you have one.
How to Make the Most Out of Your Chisel
While you might buy the best chisel set out there, it will mean nothing if you don’t take care of it. The key is maintenance, with maintenance you can make a durable but cheap tool last much longer and perform better.
When it comes to maintenance of your chisel, it means sharpening it regularly or periodically. To sharpen it, you can either use a grinder or sharpening stones.
Sharpening stones come in various grits, and by using these you can achieve the best sharpness in any tool. Just add some water and sharpen from the lowest grit and gradually take it to a higher grit for the ultimate finish.
But if you don’t want to go through all that trouble, just use a grinder instead. It works just as good and with a little sharpening on the edge using it goes a long way.
Just don’t forget to add a little water to ensure that there isn’t any friction heat while sharpening. Friction heat can cause the loss of temper on the steel of your tool. This will weaken it, though a little bit of water will ensure that the tool is cool enough to not lose its temper.
Also, you need to store these properly, by that we mean to ensure that the edge does not hit anything hard. If it does, you might end up breaking the edge or dulling it. Some chisel sets come with rubber caps for the edge that protect them from hitting anything.
If your chisel set did not come with it, just store it in a way that it does not hit any other chisel or tools. Proper storage is just as important as sharpening your tool.
If you know the details of your chisel, then you can judge the quality better. Knowing what metal it is made from, what is the hardness of it, and if it is comfortable or not will help you determine whether it is good or not. So whenever purchasing your next set of chisels, whether it is the ones we recommended or others, just know these details ahead of time.
Also, don’t forget to keep your chisels maintained, sharpen them daily and store them properly. This way you will always be working with a sharp edge every day.