Types of Mortise Chisels

Written by g.d. palmer
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Types of Mortise Chisels
Mortise chisels help woodworkers remove waste wood to create mortise and tenon joints. (Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images)

Mortise chisels are a special type of chisel used to chisel waste wood away from joints. These chisels features strong wood handles bound with steel hoops to allow them to withstand heavy blows from a woodworking mallet. As their name implies, woodworkers most commonly use these chisels to cut mortise joints. Different jobs require slightly different types of mortise chisels.

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Standard Mortise Chisel

These chisels have a thick cross section and are made from tool steel -- tough steel alloy capable of holding a cutting edge. According to the World Association of Technology Teachers, mortise chisel bevels are ground to a 30-degree angle. Oval handles allow a comfortable grip without the chance that the chisel will twist in the hand when struck. Some woodworkers sharpen their mortise chisels with a rounded bevel to make it easier to remove waste wood chips.

Pigsticker Mortise Chisel

Pigsticker chisels are an old-fashioned style with a short tang handle and no steel hoop. Their blades tend to be short and knifelike, instead of the thick, broad blade commonly seen in standard mortise chisels. New pigsticker mortise chisels are rare. According to In the Woodshop, most woodworkers purchase older chisels via auction or flea market.

Sash Mortise Chisels

Sash mortise chisels are similar in shape to standard mortise chisels, but much lighter. These chisels work well for delicate mortising on smaller projects. They work well for relatively shallow mortises, such as those found in wooden windows. Woodworkers who wish to use sash mortise chisels for deep mortises must drill out the waste wood, since these lighter chisels do not reliably remove it.

Millwright Mortise Chisels

Also called factory mortise chisels, these tools are much larger than standard chisels. This type of chisel predates routers and other power mortising tools, and was originally used by workers in millwork, door and window factories to cut mortises quickly and efficiently. Millwright mortise chisels can be well over a foot long and exhibit hooped handles for greater stability.

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