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.

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
    - Soft Woods
    - Hard Woods

25°
30°

2° - 5°
2° - 5°

n/a
n/a
The secondary bevel needs to be wider :

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

Mortise Chisels
    - Soft Woods
    - Hard Woods

30°
35°

2° - 5°
2° - 5°

2° - 5°
2° - 5°
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.
Paring Chisels
    - General Use
    - Fine work

20°
15°




0° - 15°
0° - 15°
These are typically used without a mallet (i.e., using only hand pressure).
Scraping Chisels 70° - 75° n/a n/a Could be as high as 90°.
Slick Chisels
(large paring chisels)
20°

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
    - Narrow
    - Standard
    - Wide

30°
25°
20°

2° - 5°
2° - 5°
2° - 5°

0° - 15°
0° - 15°
0° - 15°

< 3/8" (8 mm) wide
3/8 - 1" (8 - 25 mm) wide
> 1" (25 mm) wide


Notes & Comments
  • 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.