An assortment of chisels should be part of every workbench. Chisels are not just for woodcarvers. Any woodworker will need chisels to clean out joints and saw cuts. Look for chisels made of high-alloy carbon steel or chromium-vanadium alloyed steel. Hardwood grips are best, especially if they have metal caps on them. This will keep the end of the handle from becoming malformed when you hammer on it.
You’ll need a variety of sizes in ¼” increments from ¼” to at least 1½”. The smallest chisels are best for mortise work. The ¾” and 1” will be best for door hinges, and the 1½” works well for chipping out. You can even get a corner chisel that cuts a notch out of the wood with the blow of a hammer, much like a hole punch.
Most chisels are beveled on the 2 sides and on the cutting edge, but specialty chisels may only be beveled at the cutting edge. This bevel will be at 20 to 25 degrees down the length of the blade on one side, and flat on the backside. The blade will be between 4” and 7” long. Make sure you get chisels with a grip that fits your hand. If the grip is too small, you won’t be able to hold the chisel steady as you work. Be sure to use a mallet or wood hammer when you work, so that you don’t destroy the head on your chisel. Keep track of the edge caps, keep them sharp, and oil the metal now and then after you’ve used them, and they should be good for years. If you don’t have the edge caps, get a roll to keep them in. This will prevent them from bouncing around in your toolbox drawers and getting damaged.
Using your chisels involves both hands. This allows for power and control of the chisel as it pares away the wood. If you need a little “oomph” behind the chisel, bump it with the heel of the off-hand, or strike it with a mallet. A claw hammer will damage the butt end of your chisel, eventually splitting it if you abuse it too often.
When you sharpen your chisel, you may want to use stones rather than a grinder. You need a set of stones of increasingly fine grit to hone the blades properly. Start with the coarser grade, and end with the finest grade. You may have to moisten the stone with oil for the best results. Also, remember to hone the blades away from your body.