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- Wood Chisels
Learn how wood chisels help to carve and shape wood.
- Photo: Flickr
Suppose you borrowed H. G. Well's time machine and traveled back into history a few centuries or even a millennium. Suppose, too, that you got stuck there.
The chances are that you wouldn't be able to find work as a handyman. The tools you knew back home in the twentieth century evolved over the centuries, assuming forms almost unrecognizable from those you would observe in the toolboxes of the distant past. But the chisel—well, there you might find a familiar shape and feel.
Stone chisels were used by Neolithic man; bronze chisels were cast in stone by his descendants. From the time of the Romans of classical antiquity up through the nineteenth century, chisels were made of iron, eventually with a thick layer of steel heat-welded onto the working surface. But whenever and wherever your time machine delivers you, you'll probably find chisels of recognizable form that were intended to be used for shaping much as we use chisels today.
Despite the chisel's continuity through time, not all wood chisels are the same. They come in various sizes, and their blades and handles are made differently, depending upon the purposes for which they are intended. In general, chisels are used to trim off unwanted wood while shaping or, in joinery, to give the elements of a joint their final form by shaving off waste.
Most chisels are divisible into two classes: Tang chisels, in which a portion of the blade, called the tang, fits into the handle; and socket chisels, in which a portion of the handle fits into the blade. In theory, socket chisels are to be used with a mallet; tang chisels are not struck, but pushed and guided by muscle power. But in practice these lines are blurred.
There are subdivisions within these two classes, too, most of them named for the uses to which the various tools are put. These names are often omitted or used incorrectly, however, and the confusion is made worse by the variety of trades that use chisels, many of which have their own tool terminology. To a shipwright, for example, the preferred firmer chisel was called a registered chisel; the violin maker uses a purfling chisel. If you were making a gun, you'd probably be glad to have a gunstocker's chisel. You see, a chisel is not a chisel, despite the natural tendency of the uninitiated to think so.
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