Wood Chisel

Guidelines shown below are for Primary Bevel Angles & Secondary bevel angles (also known as micro bevel angles).

Notes are also available on a different web page for Micro / Secondary Bevels.

If this chisel is to have a skewed end (as shown to the right), it is recommended that β not be greater than 20°. A more acute angle will cause the chisel to drift to the side when using it. 15° is a better target for the maximum.

This link is a calculator for the projection when using an SE-77 jig. This calculator is web-based and does not require Excel.

Chisel edge nomenclature
Chisel edge nomenclature Chisel edge nomenclature
Primary & Secondary Bevels both ground on a wheel. Primary Bevel ground on a wheel
Secondary Bevels ground on a flat stone

General Guidelines
Type α β Notes
Primary Bevel Secondary (Micro) Bevel Skew
Bench Chisels 20°
2° - 5°
0° - 15°
Corner Chisels 35°
n/a n/a A mill file (or some other form of safe edge file) is used to sharpen the inside corner of the chisel.
Firmer Chisels The secondary bevel needs to be wider :

1/16" (0.0625" / 1.5 mm)     to
1/8" (0.1250" / 3 mm)

    - Soft Woods 25° 2° - 5° n/a
    - Hard Woods 30°
2° - 5°
Mortise Chisels The secondary bevel needs to be wider :

1/16" (0.0625" / 1.5 mm)     to
1/8" (0.1250" / 3 mm)

In The Complete Guide to Sharpening, Leonard Lee recommends rounding off the corner where the sharpened edge meets the top of the chisel. This allows for easier levering of the waste out of the hole.
    - Soft Woods 30°
2° - 5° 2° - 5°
    - Hard Woods 35°
2° - 5° 2° - 5°
Paring Chisels These are typically used without a mallet (i.e., using only hand pressure).
    - General Use 20° 0° - 15°
    - Fine work 15° 0° - 15°
Scraping Chisels 70° - 75° n/a n/a Could be as high as 90°.
Slick Chisels
(large paring chisels)

n/a When used for dovetail work, they are sharpened flat across. Otherwise, they are sharpened with a slight crown.

Do not flatten the slight belly in the back of the tool. This aids in its use.
Utility Chisels The projection jig shown to the right is a great, quick-and-dirty tool that can help to quickly re-sharpen utility chisels.
Projection Jig for using the
TTS-100 with the SE-77
    - Narrow 30° 2° - 5°
0° - 15° < 3/8" (8 mm) wide
    - Standard 25° 2° - 5°
0° - 15° 3/8 - 1" (8 - 25 mm) wide
    - Wide 20° 2° - 5°
0° - 15° > 1" (25 mm) wide

Notes & Comments

Tormek Jig Comments
Square Edge Jig
This is a great jig to use for sharpening chisels, including skewed edges. However shorter chisels won't always work in this jig. If you have some of your grandfather's old chisels around which you want to use (other to open paint cans), consider using the SVH-60.
Square Edge Jig
Some have mentioned that it is a bit tricky to get the alignment correct for chisels using this jig. If that is the case for you, consider getting the SE-76. That said, this jig is very useful for cambering plane blades, so it is useful to have if you sharpen those also.

As with the SE-76, shorter chisels won't always work in this jig. If you have some shorties around which you want to use (other to open paint cans), consider using the SVH-60.

Straight Edge Jig
This is the original jig for sharpening chisels and plane blades. It is no longer being made which is unfortunate as it is really great for holding shorter chisels. If you have shorter chisels, consider getting one from the used tools market.
  • Flattening the back is really critical for the overall sharpness. There is a good video about that below.

  • Hollow grinding on the back of the chisels (traditional, not Japanese chisels) is recommended by some, including by Garret Hack. Two videos below show that process.

  • A great general reference is the U.S. War Department's TM 9-867 Maintenance and Care of Hand Tools.

Tormek Live Sharpening Class - Part 3 - Chisels, plane irons & Tormek grinding wheels

Sebastien and Wolfgang offer some great tips on the sharpening of chisels & plane irons using the various Tormek grinding wheels, including the use of the diamond wheels.

  • At 00:46, there is a great explanation of sharpening a tool with a radiused end using the SE-77 Square Edge Jig.

  • At 00:52, there is a great explanation of how to use the MB-100 Multi Base.
Chisel Sharpening. Vincent Chicone owns a cabinet making shop and uses an old Tormek 2000 to sharpen his tools. This video is really good at showing how he flattens the back on the side of the SG grindstone.
The biggest sharpening mistake woodworkers make (And why...) ... a video about flattening the back.
Sharpening with Garrett Hack - Hollow Grinding on Chisels and Plane Blades
Hollow-grinding a chisel with a Dremel tool
Tormek SE-76 Square Edge Jig
Using the SE-77 Jig to Camber a Plane Blade on the Tormek Sharpener
Tormek SVH-60 Straight Edge Jig
(this jig is no longer sold, but is quite useful for short tools)
Tormek AngleMaster WM-200

Tormek is a copyrighted logo of Tormek AB. Its presentation on this site is used to help the user quickly understand when specific Tormek tools, jigs, or setting are being used. For specific information regarding Tormek AB, or its products, please refer to the www.Tormek.com.

About this site
Remember : The goal of sharpening is to produce sharp tools, and these tools can injure you if mishandled. Safety measures should be followed to protect yourself and those in your shop. Be sure to read and follow all instructions from the manufacturer, and and utilize proper safety equipment. Never consume alcohol or anything that could impair your judgement before sharpening tools, or using sharp tools. Comments can be sent via eMail to me at SharpeningHandbook@Gmail.com.