Bench Chisel Exercises Part 1: Chop Cuts

Chop cuts sever the long fibers of the wood and make waste removal easy.Every now and then we all enjoy wailing away at a piece of wood with a sharp chisel and mallet. Chop cuts are one of the most important, and fun, cuts you can make with a bench chisel. Like all things woodworking, it takes time and practice to master the various cuts you can make with a chisel. And it is important to master them.

As a first-year student in vocational school, Werner Duerr (learn a little more here) tasked the class with making a small block using nothing but hand tools. The block included a variety of exercises to help us develop our plane and chisel skills. The block I present concentrates solely on chisel work.

Chop Cuts

Controlling the chop cuts precisely is important. Be sure the mortise walls are perfectly square.The exercises begin with the most basic of all cuts, the chop cut. In order to make things a certain size and to accurately join boards together (and a multitude of other things) you need the ability to sever the long fibers that constitutes wood. The more accurately you can sever the long fibers, the more accurately you can work.

In the first of this new video series, I introduce a simple exercise block that will let you practice the basic cuts you can make with your bench chisels. The initial exercise is to accurately cut a flat-bottomed mortise of a specific dimension. Pay close attention to how I hold the chisel and orient the bevel for the various portions of this exercise. As Werner would say, deduct 10 points if the mortise isn’t the correct size and another 5 points if the mortise walls are not square or the bottom flat.

— Chuck

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