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Different Types of Wood Turning Chisels

Wood turning is a specific form of woodworking that involves turning the wood you’re working on via a lathe. A lathe can be easiest understood as a rotisserie for wood. By using a lathe, woodworkers can easily create shapes like table legs, lamps and bowls. Woodworkers need more than the lathe, however. They also need chisels that are made specifically for wood turning. Continue reading for more information regarding the different types of wood turning chisels.

Wood chisels

Flat Sided Skew Chisel

Everyone who does wood turning works with a flat sided skew chisel. After a certain amount of time, they all have at least one story about this particular kind of chisel ruining their project. The flat sided skew chisel is long and flat with a beveled edge. One side extends slightly longer than the other; this side is called the toe and the other is known as the heel. It’s the toe that causes so many problems for woodworkers. If placed against the spinning wood incorrectly, this chisel will dig in and can easily bring a project to a halt. Some people have even told stories of the chisel digging in so sharply that it’s ripped out of their hands.

Oval Skew Chisel

One answer to the difficulties of using the flat sided skew chisel is the oval skew chisel. This chisel has a rounded profile designed to make it easier to manipulate over the wood. A major benefit is less digging in, so this might be a good chisel for those just beginning with wood turning.

Rounded Skew Chisel

A rounded skew chisel takes the idea of the oval skew chisel one step further. The rounded skew chisel has an edge that’s actually rounded. This, too, is aimed at being able to roll the chisel easily over the spinning wood for better handling. Without sharpened edges, there is also less digging in.

Others

There are a number of other skew chisels that can be used for wood turning. Many of them are simply flat sided skew chisels with different angels and different names given by the manufacturer. If you’re just starting out, the three above tools will be more than enough to get the finished product you want.

Differences from Normal Chisels

Wood turning chisels differ from traditional woodworking chisels in a number of important ways. The most obvious one is that a woodturning chisels handle is always much longer. This is meant to provide the user with much greater leverage, which is necessary when the piece of wood you’re carving is spinning at several hundred RPM or more.

Another obvious difference is where these tools get their names from. The blade is “skewed”, after all, so that it finishes at a slant. This is unlike normal wood working chisels that simply have a flat end. The angle is generally around 70 degrees, but many wood turners will use chisels of different angles. This skewed edge further highlights how the chisels used in wood turning are not pounded, but rather rely on their contact with the spinning wood to handle the job of getting the intended shape.

This brings us to the last major difference. Chisels used in wood turning aren’t hammered like they are by a mallet in woodworking. Instead, they are laid against the work piece, generally so that the edge of the chisel meets the wood at a 45 degrees angle. Then the user can simply glide the blade up and down the work piece in order to remove wood from the piece.
If you’re a fan of wood turning or are looking forward to beginning, you’ll need to purchase a reliable lathe. However, you will also need at least a flat sided skew chisel to get started. It will take some practice, but like with all things in wood working, your patience and dedication will pay off.

Sources:
http://www.traditionalwoodworker.com/1-Oval-Skew-Chisel-by-Henry-Taylor-HSS/productinfo/227-HS62/
http://www.edswoodturning.com/2010/09/30/skews-oval-flat/
http://www.pennstateind.com/store/LX040AS.html
http://www.woodworking.co.uk/Technical/Beginners/beginners.html#SkewChisel

photo credit: Rob Shenk via photopin cc

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