Man standing in front of workshop bench with two chisels laying in front of him

A chisel looks deceiving. On the surface, it appears to be a simple tool that has a few purposes. But when properly honed this simple tool can do a lot of things and it's one of the first tools you'll likely acquire as woodworker and furniture maker. For your chisel to perform well, it's important for it to be sharp.

This video was produced for its free video library by The Center for Furniture Craftsmanship in Rockport, Maine. The Center is a nonprofit, international woodworking school dedicated to providing the best possible education in wood craftsmanship and design.

How To Sharpen A Wood Chisel with Tim Rousseau

There are several different ways to sharpen chisels. Some woodworkers prefer to sharpen their chisels by hand while others prefer using a belt grinder or whetstone. In this video, Tim Rousseau, an instructor at the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship, demonstrates how to sharpen a Two Cherries chisel starting with sticky back 220 grit sandpaper on float glass to flatten the back.

#1 How to Sharpen a Chisel from CFC on Vimeo.

Chisel Basics

A chisel has a back, a bevel and a blade. The steel has been hardened so it can hold an edge. That hardening range is a Rockwell scale between 58-62c. The harder the steel, (higher the number) the more brittle it is. The softer the steel is (lower the number) the more malleable and easier to sharpen the blade will be.

The bevel, angle effects how a chisel performs and how it holds an edge. A bevel angle that’s too low will have an edge that tends to serrate. The advantage to a low angle is that there's not much resistant when you pair, it pushes through wood fairly easily. A high angle is much less likely to break off and serrate but, it is much harder to push through wood. A balance between a low and high bevel is what you’re looking for. Somewhere between 27-35 degrees for modern western chisels is the range you want to end up in.

The goal is to flatten and polish the back of the chisel and grind and polish the bevel of the chisel so they meet in one crisp sharp line.

The video above, will show you how to sharpen a chisel step by step.

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