Fundamentals: Understanding Wood Grain and Using a Chisel

This Thursday, I am teaching a seminar called Understanding Wood Grain. In this seminar, I discuss various methods of reading the grain and demonstrate how to use this knowledge to work wood efficiently. For the hands-on component, I guide students through a variety of situations and explore a multitude of practical techniques using a bench chisel including paring, chopping, sculpting, and opening cans of finish. Okay, maybe not that last technique.

Chisels are one of the simplest and most useful woodworking tools. I use them every day in the shop for a variety of tasks including fitting joints, splitting out shims, rough sculpting and fine shaping, trimming and more. To use a chisel effectively, I need to be acutely aware of the properties of the wood I am working and, most importantly, the direction of the grain.

Skills are transferable

This knowledge isn’t relevant to chisels alone. Drawknives are essentially really wide chisels with handles on the sides and planes are just jigs to hold a chisel at a fixed angle with a limited amount of blade exposed to the wood. Carving gouges are chisels that are shaped in curves or other profiles. If you can effectively use a bench chisel, you have the ability to control nearly any hand-held sharp-edged tool.

Chisels etc

Of course, sharp tools are a must for quality work so I demonstrate my favourite sharpening techniques as well.


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