A chisel is a tool with a characteristically shaped cutting edge (such that wood chisels have lent part of their name to a particular grind) of blade on its end, for carving or cutting a hard material such as wood, stone, or metal. The handle and blade of some types of chisel are made of metal or wood with a sharp edge in it.
In use, the chisel is forced into the material to cut the material. The driving force may be manually applied or applied using a mallet or hammer. In industrial use, a hydraulic ram or falling weight ('trip hammer') drives the chisel into the material to be cut.
A gouge, one type of chisel, is used, particularly in woodworking, woodturning and sculpture, to carve small pieces from the material. Gouges are most often used in creating concave surfaces. A gouge typically has a 'U'-shaped cross-section.
Chisels have a wide variety of uses. Many types of chisels have been devised, each specially suited to its intended use. Different types of chisels may be constructed quite differently, in terms of blade width or length, as well as shape and hardness of blade. They may have wooden handles attached or may be made entirely of one piece of metal.
Woodworking chisels range from small hand tools for tiny details, to large chisels used to remove big sections of wood, in 'roughing out' the shape of a pattern or design. Typically, in woodcarving, one starts with a larger tool, and gradually progresses to smaller tools to finish the detail. One of the largest types of chisel is the slick, used in timber frame construction and wooden shipbuilding. There are many types of woodworking chisels used for specific purposes, such as:
- butt chisel: short chisel with beveled sides and straight edge for creating joints.
- carving chisels: used for intricate designs and sculpting; cutting edges are many; such as gouge, skew, parting, straight, paring, and V-groove.
- corner chisel: resembles a punch and has an L-shaped cutting edge. Cleans out square holes, mortises and corners with 90 degree angles.
- bevel edge chisel: can get in acute angles with its bevel edges.
- flooring chisel: cuts and lifts flooring materials for removal and repair; ideal for tongue-and-groove flooring.
- framing chisel: usually used with mallet; similar to a butt chisel, except it has a longer, slightly flexible blade.
- slick: a large chisel driven by manual pressure, never struck.
- mortise chisel: thick, rigid blade with straight cutting edge and deep, slightly tapered sides to make mortises and similar joints.
- paring chisel: has a long blade which is ideal for cleaning grooves and accessing tight spaces.
- skew chisel: has a 60 degree cutting angle and is used for trimming and finishing.
- dovetail chisel: Made specifically for cutting dovetail joints. The difference being the thickness of the body of the chisel, as well as the angle of the edges, permitting easier access to the joint.
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