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What Is a Japanese Chisel?

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  • Written By: Jennifer O.
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 16 October 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2018
    Conjecture Corporation
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A Japanese chisel is a woodworking tool used to chip or scrape away small pieces of wood from a larger piece. This handheld tool has a tapered or sharpened metal tip that cuts the wood and an opposite end that is struck repeatedly by some type of hammer. One hand is used to hold the tool against the wood, and the other is used to strike the tool with the hammer, causing a cut or scrape with each blow. A set will contain chisels in various shapes and sizes, with different bevel angles, or tapering. Usually made in Japan, Japanese chisels tend to weigh less than other types of chisels and often have decorative etchings or other markings.

Japanese chisels typically have wooden handles, and the stricken end of the wood is often fitted with a metal ring, or ferrule. The hoop at the end allows it to withstand hard blows from a steel hammer or wooden mallet without splitting apart. The hoop might come already set on the handle, or the user might have to set the hoop. In the latter case, it should be carefully assembled in order to avoid discomfort or injury, and to ensure that the chisel works correctly.

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These chisels are also known for their decorative aspects, such as intricate etchings on the metal blade or other markings and decorations on the wooden handles. The handles can be made of rare or expensive woods. Like any other chisel, a Japanese chisel can be made from several types of steel or iron. It might be hand-forged or hand-carved, or both. The chemical composition of the metal and the skill of the blacksmith who created the tool greatly affect its quality.

A Japanese chisel differs from other chisels in ways that can make a notable difference to an experienced woodworker. Using a Japanese chisel will have a different feel in the hand than other types of chisels. A Japanese chisel or set can sometimes be purchased without having already been sharpened or beveled. This allows the craftsperson to create a bevel angle that suits a project’s unique needs. A Japanese chisel can be found in any price range, and the quality can vary greatly.

This type of chisel is often considered to be a high-quality chisel. There has been much debate about whether it is superior to a Western chisel. Being well informed about the process and materials used in the tool's creation are important when choosing a chisel.

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