In an encyclopedic reference a chisel is defined as "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 handles of some types of chisels are made of metal or wood..."
Making a chisel is relatively easy once you have decided what type of chisel you need. It is really just a two-step process - selecting your blade and handle, and fitting the blade securely onto the handle.
There are more than 150 types of chisels available today for a bewildering assortment of industrial and craft purposes, but this article will focus on the three main types--wood, stone and metal chisels.
There are several major types of wood (or woodworking) chisels:
Stone (or masonry) chisels
Stone or masonry chisels are usually heavier chisels, with a relatively dull blade that breaks more than cuts. There are several specialised chisels used in brick-making and brick-laying. another common type of stone chisel is the plugging chisel, a hand-held chisel used with a hammer to remove mortar.
Metalworking chisels are either cold chisels or hot chisels depending on their use. A cold chisel is used to cut cooled metal and a hot chisel is used to cut hot metal just removed from a forge.
A flat chisel is a typical cold chisel used commonly in various metalworking. A hardy chisel is a broader blade hot chisel designed to be used with an anvil.
Making your own chisel
Almost all of the chisels in use today are industrially manufactured, but there are a few folks who still practice the old craft of blacksmithing, and some of them actually still forge and grind their own blades and attach them to the handle by hand. See the attached reference Modern Blacksmithing for details.
The handle is the part of the chisel that is going to be held in the hand or struck to force the blade into the material being chiselled. Chisel handles are usually made of wood, plastic or metal.
Handles are sometimes weighted to balance the weight of the chisel and make it easier to use.
The blade is the working part of the chisel, and there are literally hundreds of types of blades for the numerous applications of chisels. Many chisel blades are manufactured from special steels and other alloys so that they are hard enough to be used for specialised industrial purposes.
The working end of the blade is of course provided with whatever edge or bevel is appropriate for the intended use, and in many cases a stub for insertion in to the handle is also provided on the opposite end.
Assembling the blade and head of a chisel
The final step in making a chisel is assembling the handle and blade. This process is performed in various ways depending on the materials involved and the purpose of the chisel, but most often involves gluing or welding.