I chopped 8 mortises for a workbench and it was quite frustrating. I was using a Neiko 9 piece chisel set I purchased from Amazon. There were numerous times when the chisel started twisting on me as I chopped the mortise. At one point, I stopped and switched to my beater chisels from Harbor Freight and it worked better, but I still had a hard time fighting the “twists.”
What makes it even more frustrating is that there isn’t an established reason for why the phenomenon happens. When I tried to research it by conducting internet searches, reading magazine articles, etc., there were tons of differing opinions and many contradicted each other. Consensus among the traditionalists claim that bevel chisels are just not up to task and appear to disagree with squarely with Paul. Here’s some examples:
“A non-square chisel will twist as you drive it. You cannot stop the twist! Levering out waste with a twisted chisel will make a mortise wider than the chisel.”
“When driving a bench chisel with a mallet to square the end of the mortise, the chisel tends to twist. That’s because the blade is relatively thin and the edges are beveled, so there is little side support.”
Moreover, in one of Paul’s Workbench build video’s he said to “take control” of your chisel to keep it from twisting. I tried to fight the chisel and it always won. Interestingly, his chisels had squarer sides than mine and he wasn’t using a joiner’s mallet. In a past blog, he says that a joiner’s mallet isn’t up for the task because of the COP. Could this be the culprit?
Perhaps it may be the reason, but as I was writing this, I discovered
I am confused about the whole matter. Sadly, I think hand mortising is certainly more fun and less noisy than the power tool route, but there are times when you just want to pull out the Bosch 1617 and be done with it.
FYI: Before you blame it on a cheap chisel set, let me tell you that I can’t tell the difference between these chisels and the far more expensive Irwin/Marples set. They look nearly identical minus the color. I am almost certain it came out of the same factory. They are also very highly rated on Amazon. You’ll be hard pressed to find a level-headed bad rating on it.
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