Bob Vila Radio: Types of Chisels

Chisels date back all the way back to the Ancient World. Today, there are hundreds of different types of this tool for cutting stone, wood, or metal.

Chisels are sharp-edged metal tools used to cut stone, wood, or metal, and they have a spectacularly long lineage. In fact, today’s chisel would probably be quite recognizable to an ancient Egyptian or Roman.


Listen to BOB VILA ON TYPES OF CHISELS or read the text below:

Types of Chisels


Today, there are hundreds of types of chisels, each designed for a specific use. Very generally, chisels can be divided into two categories according to their handle style. In a tang chisel, the tang, or shank, of the blade runs completely through the handle; in a socket chisel, the handle fits into a socket in the metal blade. But handle style is just one of many variables, the most important being whether the chisel is intended for use on stone, metal, or wood. Chisels also come in different lengths, width, thickness, shape, and edge design, which makes for a confusing array of choices. It’s tough to know what to buy.

If I had to pick just one, I’d opt for a set of what’s called firmer chisels, which are all-purpose tools with flat blades, designed to be tapped by a mallet. They’re available in a range of widths and lengths.

Whatever type you choose, spring for good-quality chisels. They’ll maintain their edges longer, and a sharp chisel is not only more effective, but it’s much safer, too.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.