A good set of chisels is an absolute must for both amateur and professional woodworkers. The DIY enthusiast will also find them invaluable for dozens of jobs around the home and yard.
People looking to buy a set of chisels have a huge choice, from economical models for the home user and contractor to specialist tools for makers of fine furniture. You might not think there is much to consider – after all, a chisel is just a handle and a blade – but there are a number of options that impact tool quality and price.
We have been researching the market so we can offer practical advice, whatever your needs. Our top recommendations cover the most common types of woodworking chisel, offering both high quality and excellent economy. For those interested in more detail about the design and manufacture of chisels and what makes some better than others, we’ve put together the following chisel set buyer’s guide.
Types of Wood Chisels
Here are three of the most common chisels buyers will come across and the purpose each one serves in a woodworking chisel kit.
For peeling away small slivers of wood, look no further than a paring chisel. They’re much thinner than other chisels as heavy-duty chips and carving isn’t needed from them. Paring chisels are great for detail work and finishing touches.
Bench chisels have a variety of different blades and tips and are one of the most common wood chisels found in ships. A beveled edge bench chisel is great for getting into the tight corners and angles of a joint, but not all have fully beveled edges.
Mortise chisels are, unsurprisingly, built for handling mortise joints. They can take the heavy blows of a wooden mallet to help cut out the wood necessary. Because of this needed durability, mortise chisels are thicker than others.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Wood Chisels
Within the three primary categories of wood chisels, there are several factors to consider when choosing the right one for you. It is useful to know what you’ll be using them for, the differences between the handle and blade types, and which accessories you may need.
First and foremost, you need to determine how you’ll primarily be using your chisel. This one step is enough to save you from wasting time and money on chisels you don’t need. For example, if you know your next project will require a lot of mortise and tenon joints, buying a set of bench chisels will likely result in broken handles and damaged blades. However, if you just need a good all-around chisel for whatever unforeseen need your project throws at you, a set of bench chisels with multiple sizes may be perfect.
Socket vs. Tang Handle
Chisels can be broadly divided into either ‘socket’ or ‘tang’ types depending on how the blade’s base (or ‘shank’) is secured to the handle. A socket chisel has a shank with a cupped indentation (or ‘socket’) that fits into a corresponding cone-shaped protrusion from the handle. Conversely, a tang chisel has a pointed shank (or ‘tang’) that fastens to the handle.
Socket chisels are usually more expensive than tang chisels because of their greater durability. Tang-types are less resilient against regular mallet beatings since they can potentially act as a wedge and split a wooden handle with enough force. For that reason, socket chisels are also more popular than tang chisels, and an excellent choice for extracting the greatest lifespan from your chisel. However, tang types can still enjoy a long life when used correctly and with care.
In addition to whether a handle is attached by a tang or socket, the grips themselves can either be made from wood or plastic. Wood-handled chisels are beautiful, well-balanced, and sturdy. As a result, they tend to be the preference among experienced craftsmen who are willing to pay a little extra for the look and feel of a wooden handle. The primary disadvantage is that they’re usually the most expensive and relatively less durable than plastic options.
Plastic handles feature either hard- or soft-grip plastic. Hard plastics are made from PVC, which is cheap and highly impact-resistant. They tend to be stronger than soft-grip handles composed of a rubber and hard plastic mixture, but soft-grips are generally more comfortable to use. Because of their reduced price-point and more forgiving nature, plastic handles are typically preferred by beginner woodworkers who may need a more affordable and resilient option.
Most chisel blades are made from either carbon or vanadium steel. Carbon steel (also called “tool steel”) has carbon added to the iron to make it harder than ordinary steel. The carbon content of most chisels is 0.6 percent to 0.75 percent, but they can also be made out of high-carbon steel with carbon content up to 1.7 percent. As a general rule, the hardness of the blade determines how long it will stay sharp for and how long it takes to resharpen.
Vanadium steel has a small amount of vanadium added to the steel to make it stronger and tougher than carbon steel. This increased hardness helps it hold a sharper edge for longer than ordinary tool steel, which is one reason why vanadium steel is also used in surgical tools that require multiple precision cuts without dulling the edge.
The chisel size you choose largely depends on the type of chisel you use and its purpose. Depending on the type of chisel, they’re available in sizes as small as 1/16 inch all the way up to 3 inches. More detail-oriented work will require a smaller chisel, while larger projects (like framing) would require larger (1½- to 3-inch) chisels.
Along with the blade’s width, the length can also differ considerably. Longer blades give the greatest control and are ideal when working with flat, or otherwise easily accessible surfaces. This is why paring chisels have thin, long blades to provide greater control. Shorter, chisels are good for getting into tight places that a longer blade wouldn’t accommodate. Ideally, you should have chisels of varying lengths and widths to handle everything you expect to encounter.
Our Top Picks
With so many factors and options to consider, it’s easy to be left in a state of analysis paralysis when shopping for the best wood chisels. That’s why we’ve included our top picks in several key categories to help take the guesswork out of your decision. We’ve incorporated our key considerations in making these selections, and found those with the most outstanding value for the money.
VonHaus’ 10-piece set is a great foundational collection for woodworkers of all experience levels. It includes an expanded range of chisel sizes, from ¼ inch all the way up to 2 inches, all housed in a beautiful wood carrying case that is as sturdy as it is attractive. The ergonomically shaped rubberized plastic handles bring comfort and control to prolonged malleting operations, and the metal striking caps keep the handles protected. The hardness of the handles is complemented by the heat-treated vanadium steel made to stand up against the most rigid material. When they’re ready to be sharpened, the 120 and 200 grit aluminum oxide sharpening stone will quickly put an edge back on the blades.
If you think the 10-piece set is more than you need, VonHaus offers a six-piece and eight-piece version for optimal flexibility. Unfortunately, these smaller kits don’t include the metal striking caps and wooden carrying case, making us choose the 10-piece version as our upgrade pick. Whichever kit you choose, these premium chisels make a great starter or upgrade set.
The GREBSTK Professional Wood Chisel Toolset features four chisel sizes including, a quarter, half, three-quarters, and one-inch sizes. This set is highly efficient for wood trimming and will help you to create impressive woodcarving artifacts. The chisel set is perfect for newbies and professional woodworkers alike.
They are made from vanadium steel to promote durability and rust-resistance ability. The chisels feature a sharp and functional blade in addition to a comfortable wooden handle. The manufacturer packages it with high-quality kraft paper and a convenient zipper bag for easier portability. For additional security and convenience, each GREBSTK Professional Wood Chisel blade features a storage cup to prevent it from getting damaged after use.
The Rexbeti 10pc Premium Wood Chisel Set is a perfect selection for newbie carpenters looking for a toolset with all the essential items for learning and gaining experience along the way. You will also find some pro woodworkers and other craftsmen preferring this blade set among all others. To understand the complexity of this toolset, you need to familiarize yourself with the specific use of each device in the tool kit.
The box contains six chisel blades, each uniquely designed to fit a specific purpose. The blades are made of chrome vanadium steel alloy to promote sturdiness, resiliency, and rust resistance. This way, the tools can withstand regular use and even trim thicker wooden material. Their strength and sturdiness make them highly efficient in creating impressive artifacts and complex designs.
Their bevel-edged blade design makes them ideal for creating tenon and dovetail joints. You can effortlessly maneuver corners and create more polished pieces. The Rexbeti 10pc Premium Wood Chisel Set also features rubberized handles, which prevent your hands from slipping, allowing you to grip the handle tightly and comfortably for maximum control.
Narex is a premium chisel maker, well-loved by woodworkers around the world. They are manufactured at a company-owned unit in the Czech Republic, making their quality consistently reliable. They compare well to the Stanleys chisels and many users would also recommend them over the Irwin Marples, which are another all-time favorite in the woodworking world. This set comes in a handy wooden box.
Overall, Narex have built a reputation for being moderately priced and yet making consistently good chisels year after year. They tend to last a lifetime and hold up well to all the required resharpening.
The steel is of good quality and provides all the performance that has become the hallmark of this brand. This set being in the lower end of their products just goes to show that they are serious when it comes to chisels.
Stanley is a well-known and respected name in the woodworkers’ world, known for its good quality chisels. Each set comes with common sizes that will suit almost every need. Each set also comes with a leather carry pouch, which makes it an attractive choice for those who are just starting out.
Overall, these are good mid-level chisels that will need some tuning and working before one can use them for fine work. They will cut softwood out of the box but that’s about it. However, they can be sharpened and flattened easily and retain their edge well enough.
This chisel set is ideal for working with pens, pepper mills, spindles, plates, and other all-size woodturning designs.
This eight-piece chisel collection can make a range of shapes simpler for you to finish.
High-speed steel M2 Molybdenum has been strengthened and heat-treated to maintain long-term sharpness and improved longevity. Each of them works to eliminate the smallest or largest materials that render beads and slopes for a complex framework. The handles are 10-3/4 inches for a longer period of secure grip.
The Marples Woodworking Chisel Collection of Irwin Equipment includes six of them to develop wood carving skills.
This best woodworking chisels package has solid design for resisting the striking force of wooden mallet or other hammers. The handle doesn’t get deformed easily. The use of inexpensive carbon allows the steel harder and more robust, which is crucial to the tools’ durability. The polypropylene handle is shockproof, and the hands do not fall off the tools. Specially treated high-carbon steel tips make the 25-degree beveled tip chip-resistant and preserve the toughness of the edges.
This high-end product is equipped with a dedicated motor, offering free hand experiences with lots of advantages. The powerful engine can drive the device into the wood sample with little force and accurate movement.
This accuracy also makes this gadget the best choice for detailed carving and lettering for professional carpenters.
Ultimately, Arbortech Woodworking Power Chisel can handle most kinds of wood no matter how hard it can be. It allows two-hand control at the same time for better management. Such a smart design of productivity! Highly recommended!
This Stanley 16-150 set only includes three pieces in total – the bare minimum for it to qualify as a set – but each chisel is truly excellent. For starters, the blades are made with heat-tempered carbon steel, which is lightweight and durable. This ensures excellent longevity and sharpness. Even better, the steel blades are all coated with a special protective material that can prevent rust. Thus, the chisels should last for a long time to come even if your maintenance routines could be more frequent.
The chisels also all come with black polypropylene handles. This is a special type of plastic that may not be as aesthetically pleasing as wood, but it’s phenomenal when it comes to durability. Plus, the handles can absorb a little bit of shock – this will help keep your hands from taking during long woodworking tasks.
The chisels are each sized differently, of course, with beveled edges. Sizes included are ½ inch, ¾ inch, and 1 inch. To make things even better, the set can be purchased for an excellent asking price.
All in all, it’s a phenomenal starter or basic chisel kit that has the few core pieces you need to start woodworking before you start expanding your collection.
These chisels from WORKPRO are also a great choice, featuring added value because of the type of steel the blades are made of. They’re chrome vanadium steel blades with special heat treatments, which means that these chisels should retain their edges for years to come, even with heavy use. The blades all feature beveled edges so they can be used for multiple purposes and are ideal for a variety of wood types and hardness levels.
We also like that these chisels come with steel butts on the handles. This will allow you to use a hammer or mallet without damaging the handle at all. Blade guards at the end of the handle will make it more difficult for your hand to slip down to the blade and get cut when using a mallet.
It’s easy to see from the design that these are intended to be used for more hard-core chiseling compared to the first set. Their ergonomic handles and affordable price will make them a favorite for professional woodworkers or serious hobbyists who use hammers in conjunction with their chisels more often than not. All in all, this is one of the best wood chisel sets for the money, bar none.
How Many Chisels Do You Need?
As many as you like!
For a more serious answer, it’s always a good idea to have one or two extra chisels just in case your primary tools break or become lost and you still need to finish a workpiece. Nothing can ruin a day more than needing to pare down a workpiece, only for your only paring chisel to be left at a worksite 45 minutes away. Having an extra chisel on hand can be a lifesaver in this case.
At the same time, there’s no need to pay for so many chisels that you’ll never use unless you’re buying a set to be shared between a few woodworkers.
If you’re looking for a good beginner’s set, it’s never a bad idea to pick up a set of 3-10 wood chisels. The set should have a few different types of chisels with varying sizes of blades. In short, this will offer you enough versatility that you can complete most workpieces for your job or hobby without needing to buy another specialty chisel, or at least not right away.
A good, basic chisel set should have tools measured for 1/4 inch, 1/2 inch or 5/8 inch, 3/4 inch, and 1 inch or 1 and 1/4 inch. This will give you blades of variable sizes you can use for tons of chiseling tasks.
It’s often a good idea to look at a wood chisel set that has a few staple sizes that you can then add to as necessary. For instance, once you have a set of all the basic sizes, you can purchase individual chisels with more exact sizes (say, 7/8 inch). The value of having a chisel set in the first place is having all the more basic tools you need to accomplish typical chiseling tasks.
- Always work away from your body. Think about where you’re putting your hands. Never hold a piece of wood in front of the chisel or rest your free hand there. If you slip – and it’s easy to do – you’ll give yourself a nasty injury.
- Always wear safety glasses. Wood chips and splinters are hazards that shouldn’t be ignored.
- Keep your chisels sharp. A blunt chisel is not only inefficient, it’s hard to control and so more likely to cause an accident. Even a blunt chisel is still perfectly capable of slicing through your skin.
- Don’t use a chisel to open cans of paint! You’ll ruin the edge.
How to sharpen a wood chisel?
A wood chisel can be sharpened with a sharpening stone, usually made of aluminum oxide. For better sharpness, you must sharpen the blade at a 25 to 30-degree angle.
What is a wood chisel used for?
Wood chisels are used for trimming down and honing wood. You can craft precise and detailed designs on the wood surface using a good wood chisel.
What are the qualities of the best wood chisel?
A good chisel blade is sharp, long-lasting, and rust-resistant. It allows you to perform wood crafting with a smooth and effective experience.
How to store wood chisels safely?
For safe and better organization of tools, you must store them in an easy-to-carry bag. You can also use full-length blade guards for better safety.