A chisel ground blade is a blade which is only sharpened on one side, creating a classical chisel-like shape in cross section. A number of edged tools are produced with a chisel grind, since it is easy to accomplish and relatively simple to care for. As is the case with any type of grind, there are advantages and disadvantages to a chisel ground blade which should be considered before purchasing one, whether in the form of an axe, kitchen knife, or bladed weapon.
In any discussion of edged or bladed tools, the “grind” refers to an initial series of cuts made after the tool has been forged. These cuts determine the shape of the blade, and further refinement sharpens the blade to make it useful. A knife is usually only ground once, although it may be sharpened many times over the course of its lifetime. Caring for a blade well ensures that it stays sharp and useful.
When a chisel ground blade is produced, one side of the blade is left totally flat, while the other is ground down to make a sharp wedge. As the knife is sharpened, the burr or excess metal is simply shaved off from the other side. The simplistic design makes a chisel ground blade extremely easy to produce, and many mass produced knives utilize this grind for efficiency. Japan in particular produces a variety of chisel ground blades, including classical weapons and chef's knives.
One of the primary advantages of a chisel ground blade is that it tends to be extremely sharp, since the cutting edge of the blade has one angle, instead of two. However, the thinner blade also makes the edge more brittle and susceptible to chipping and damage, especially if it is handled poorly. In addition, the knife tends to pull in one direction or the other, depending on the side it is ground on. This can be irritating when people try to make even, clean cuts.
Ultimately, only working with a blade will determine whether or not it is right for you. Some chefs, for example, prefer chisel ground knives, while others cannot stand them. Especially in the case of a set of good kitchen knives, it is best to purchase knives one at a time to ensure that you get the perfect knife for your needs. If you aren't sure about chisel ground blades, see if you can borrow one, or purchase an inexpensive model so that you can test the style out before you commit to a high quality version.