Get the Most From a Chisel — Use it Backwards

Hold a chisel upright and use it to scrape away all manner of troublemakers.

I don’t mean to imply that you should pick up a chisel by the pointy side, I want to share a method of using a chisel that solves a bunch of workshop problems that many people think require expensive and/or specialized tools. Hold the tool so it is vertical and with the sharp edge in contact with the work. Maintain downward pressure and the vertical position, and draw the chisel along, in the direction of the flat face and you have an incredibly versatile scraping tool.

In the photo to the left, my machine work left a little bit of stuff in the corner of the rabbet. I’m pulling the tool toward the camera and the little curl is the offending extra material getting out of the way. I cut the rabbet on the table saw with two cuts at 90 degrees to each other. When you set up the saw the choices are to fiddle around forever to get the blade height perfect, overcut a little, or cut a bit short and then get rid of the bump in the corner later on. It only takes seconds to clean out the junk with the back of a chisel.

I also use a chisel as a scraper to get rid of excess glue right after assembly. I aim to minimize squeeze out, but when beads appear as the clamps tighten up I grab the nearest chisel and scrape it off. If there is enough glue, I wipe off the chisel with a damp rag and keep scraping. That gets rid of all the glue, and I’m not spreading a thin film of glue across the work. Then I wipe the chisel to dry it, usually on my apron or pants. People who treat their tools as religious icons think I’m nuts, but it works for me.

— Bob Lang

In this episode of our podcast, I explain why you don’t need to have glue oozing out all over the place to get a good joint. What? You didn’t know about the podcast? New episodes appear every Tuesday and Thursday and you can find all of our podcasts here.

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