What is a Paring Chisel and How Do You Choose One?
If you have a basic set of chisels, you may wonder if you need a paring chisel. If you’re like me, you may be looking for an excuse to get a fancy new tool. I’m here to give you that reason: a paring chisel can elevate your woodworking craft.
If you’re ready, let’s get into it. Remember that this is just my opinion. Ultimately, you have to trust your gut and decide on these things for yourself. However, I hope this can shed some light on the subject.
Paring Chisel Reviews
Now that you understand the difference between paring chisels, let’s look at five of the most popular paring chisels from different brands.
Matsumura 3/8” Paring Chisel
Matsumura makes incredible woodworking tools, and this paring chisel is no exception. The family has made woodworking chisels for over two centuries, and the current Mr. Matsumura has been working on these tools for over 60 years.
This particular model is 1/5” wide. However, Matsumura does offer other widths as well. No matter which you choose, you will get a white steel blade laminated to wrought iron. This style of forging the blade adds extra strength.
Like many Matsumura chisels, this one offers a Japanese Red Oak handle. The wood is beautiful and feels great to use. The blade is 3-1/2” long, and the overall length of the chisel is 14”.
Blue Spruce Paring Chisels
If you’re picky about handles, Blue Spruce may be the brand for you. They offer paring chisels with a variety of different handles styles with varying woods. Choose between round, compact, standard, and long handle types. Once you have chosen your handle, pick the width of the blade you would like.
This brand carries chisel in the following sizes: 1/8”, 1/4”, 3/8”, 1/2”, 5/8”, 3/4”, 1”, and 1-1/2”. Finally, pick the wood style you prefer. Blue Spruce offers paring chisels with African Blackwood, Cocobolo, and Curly Maple wood handles.
The result of all the choices is that you get exactly the paring chisel you want. Each blade is made from machined A2 steel alloy and has a hardness of 60 degrees.
1" Robert Sorby #241 Paring Chisel
Robert Sorby is a well-known name in the woodworking world for a reason. The company’s chisels are well-made and come in for a decent price. Many newcomers enjoy this brand because it is reliable and not finicky.
The #241 Sorby holds up to the brand’s reputation. This particular model is 3/4” wide. However, you can get a similar chisel in different sizes.
The factory bevel on this is 20 degrees, which is perfect for fine-tuning. Many similar chisels come in around 25 degrees, which is fine but can be slightly less precise. This chisel comes already sharpened, which is great if you want to get to working ASAP.
Narex Premium Paring Chisel
For amateur and semi-professional woodworkers, there may be no better-known name than Narex. It seems like everyone has worked with these tools before. Perhaps the most popular paring chisels from this brand is this premium cabinetmaker’s chisel.
The blade on these tools is made of tempered chrome-magnesium steel and boast a hardness rating of 59 degrees. The bevel is a nice 25 degrees, wich is standard for paring chisels.
Buck Paring Chisel Set
Our last paring chisels come from Buck. This specific set comes in three different blade lengths: 3/8”, 3/4”, and 1”. These blades consist of high-carbon steel, which gives them a hardness around 58 degrees. While that may be low for some chisels, it’s excellent for paring.
Some of you will love the fact that these blades are made in the United States. I know I do! Overall, these are standard paring chisels that are perfect for people who want to try paring for the first time.
What are Paring Chisels?
The first thing you will notice about a paring chisel is that it is much longer than bench chisels. Most chisels come in between nine and 11 inches long. Paring chisels, however, tend to clock in at 14 to 15 inches.
Pushing, Not Hitting
On the playground, we tell kids not to push or hit. However, in the wood shop, you can do either. While bench chisels and others are great for hitting with a mallet, your paring chisel is a “pushing” tool. That’s where the extra length comes in hand.
The point of the extra length is to give you additional control over the tool. That’s because woodworkers use paring chisels for detail work. You should never hit your paring chisel with a mallet. Doing so could break it and even mess up your work. This guide is helpful for learning how to use a paring chisel correctly.
The blade of the paring chisel is typically softer than other chisels. In fact, some craftspeople call it “flexible” because it seems to have more give when you’re working with it. If you’re never worked with this kind of chisel, you may want to practice on scrap wood before you apply it to a beloved project.
Who Needs One?
Any woodworker who struggles with the more delicate parts of carving may benefit from a paring chisel. Many people do this work with a basic bench chisel. However, if that’s not working for you, gives a paring tool a shot. It may help you get more finesse than before.
Remember that woodworking is a hobby; it is for you to enjoy. So, if you believe that a paring chisel would make your time in your shop more enjoyable, get one.
What Features Should You Consider?
Before you run off to get your newest chisel, think about the features you want it to have. There’s no wrong chisel, but there is a right one for you. Think about the following things before you make your investment.
Size matters when it comes to any woodworking chisel. This rule is especially true for paring tools since you will use it to fine-tune your creations. Think about the kind of work you want to do with your new chisel. If you’re not sure or you may need different sizes, consider getting a set of chisels that meet your other needs.
Alternatively, you could try just one size before you order the others. This strategy lets you make a smaller investment until you decide if you enjoy using a paring chisel.
The handles on paring chisels tend to be longer than others. However, they still come in different widths and styles. If you have a style of handle you prefer in your other chisels, try to find a paring tool that is similar.
You can choose from rounded handles, thin ones, shorter ones, and more. Most of the popular paring chisels on the market have wooden handles. However, if you prefer plastic, you can find these.
Don’t skimp on your paring chisel and get a knock-off. Consider buying from brands that woodworkers around the world know and love. This can help you ensure that you get a high-quality product that does the job correctly.
You can also read reviews, like the one I’m writing here. It’s helpful to learn from fellow woodworkers.
Western Vs. Japanese Style
Perhaps one of the biggest debates in the woodworking world is whether the Japanese or Western style of chisel is better. Most people fervently defend the type of chisel they learned to use when they first started working with wood.
The biggest difference tends to be in the hardness of the steel in the blade. In paring chisels, this is less of a difference because they are all softer and you shouldn’t use any of them with a mallet anyway.
One difference you may consider is the fact that many Japanese chisels are still made by hand in a one-man shop. That means that someone has taken great care to craft the best possible tool. For some woodworkers, that really matters. Better yet, these handcrafted pieces make great gifts.
Can I hit my paring chisel with a hammer?
Of course, you can, but in most cases when you feel the need to hit your paring chisel you either have too much material to remove (there are better chisels for the job) or it’s not sharp enough.
Do I need to have a pering chisel to start wood working?
No, a paring chisel is more of a speciality tool or a luxury. Other, more allround chisels will do the job, just not as enjoyable.
My Bottom Line
The Blue Spruce options are most appealing because you can pick every detail about the chisel. The variety and customization options are unique and something you don’t see with many other brands. Unfortunately, if you are outside the United States, you may not be able to get the handle you want due to shipping restrictions on wood.
If you can’t get your hands on a Blue Spruce chisel of your choosing, I would suggest the Narex 5-piece set. This a much more standard set, but if most of your jobs are basic, you’ll have everything you need here. I’ve owned and used quite a few Narex sets over the years, and have always found the brand to be trustworthy and reliable. There’s something to be said for the dependability factor.