tomy josif

chisel sizes

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I am a beginning woodworker and can only afford to buy 4 chisels at a time. what are the 4 most common sizes that would be best to start out with?

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I suppose it depends to some extent on what you'll be working on.  Most of my projects are small/medium sized furniture and some boxes.  The chisels that see the most use are 1/4", 1/2", 3/4" and 1".

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I will agree buying the best you can as the need arises, but the biggest thing is sharpening them and keeping them sharp.  I bought a cheap set at HF, learned to sharpen them, and after buying better chisels they are now a beater set, but they are good for trying different methods of sharpening.  Speaking of which, what is your plan for sharpening. 

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17 minutes ago, tomy josif said:

sharpening: i was thinking of starting out with sandpaper then moving up to water stones.

Find a glass shop and see if the have a 8"x4"x3/8" piece of plate glass.

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Or borrow a sample piece of granite from HD about the same size. 

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Counter top shops will give away pieces of granite or quartz as well and those are also flat.

For chisel sizes I like a 6mm 1/2" and 1.5". I find i really only need 3. If i have 4 a 3/4" or 1" will find it way into my hand but it's not necessary. You don't need the perfect size a narrower chisel will work just as well but leave you some freedom away from marring edges. The reason i say 6mm instead of 1/4" is because a 6mm chisel is loose in a 1/4" mortise and makes the work far far easier. A really wide chisel like 1.5" is nice for reinforcing baselines that span long distances.

Instead of buying 16 difference sizes buy the same 3 or 4 sizes in a couple quality levels. I'd start out cheap to get over the fear of ruining a good chisel while learning to sharpen. Once you get sharpening figured out buy a nice set like the vertias PMV-11 ones. I have found loads of uses for a beater chisel like if metal is near or for house carpentry work.

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I agree with  @Chestnut  Metric sizes are nice when you have an imperial measurement as your target. I currently tend to use 1/4", 10mm, and 1", with 10mm being used the most. Next chisel I buy will be either a 6mm to replace the 1/4" or a 1.5-2" for baselines and bulk removal.

 

 

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Interesting how we differ.  I swear we are not trying to give you conflicting answers, it just turns out that way ;-)  I am like JohnG in that my 3/8" chisels get more use than any other.  They are narrow enough for most things and wide enough to supply a good reference surface.

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Like most woodworking tools that come in different sizes, this can easily become an obsession!

I like Buck chisels for cost/performance, but Narex makes a decent chisel for the price as well. I also have a few Stanley chisels. There are many different manufacturers though and what's available in your area may drive your choice.

The metric vs. Imperial thing is a matter of taste, I think, although some good rationale has been posted for them and I don't disagree with those. However, I only have one metric chisel (10mm) and prefer my 3/8" over that. The 1/4", 3/8", 1/2" and 1" sizes would be what I would go with to start. Then fill in wherever you find the need. The 3/4" recommendation is good as a lot of the wood you work with will be that dimension. I have one 1 1/2" chisel that, as was mentioned, helps define a scoring line while keeping it square (easier to reference off a wide chisel than several bites with a narrower chisel). It doesn't get much use beyond that, thus it stays sharp.  :)

I also have a 1/8" chisel that comes in handy for tiny cleanup areas and small mortises (it is a mortise chisel but has other uses). You may want to look into paring chisels as well, although I don't think anyone needs a full set of those. I've been getting by for a long time with just one 1/4" paring chisel. YMMV.

Kinda depends on what you're doing as well. If you are cutting mortises and tenons, you should look at mortise chisels but that's a whole 'nother topic. If you want to do dovetails some folks think that demands a fishtail chisel for cleaning out blind sockets. With all the options out there it's hard to figure what's first, but I recommend you start with one of the recommended size groups on this thread. I also recommend that you buy double bevel chisels as they are the most versatile for general work.

Get the best sharpening system you can afford. It will deliver for a long time and deliver satisfaction when your tools are sharp. I love the "angels sing" reference 'cause that's kinda what it's like to work with very sharp tools. Everything is easier (including accidentally cutting yourself!).

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