A Chisel Trick to Avoid Tear Out

Last Updated:  February 25, 2023

It’s quick tip…er….who cares what day it is because you aren’t reading this today! Wait…


Bench chisels are one of my favorite tools. There’s just something about cutting a mortise or cleaning up a joint with a sharp chisel and a mallet.

But, it’s pretty easy to make your project look like crap if you aren’t careful, especially if you’re pushing the chisel toward an edge. Let me explain.

Let’s say we’re cleaning up a dado (housing, slot, trench). As I push the chisel across one edge I’m pushing those fibers against the workpiece.

But, as I exit the cut on the other edge I’m pushing those fibers AWAY from the workpiece. That’s what causes tear out.

This can happen even if you’re trying your best to avoid it. You could be really digging into the cut and pushing hard and then it releases and the chisel shoots forward, suddenly. This is the same reason you never have your hands in the path of the chisel, no matter what.

A simple trick to avoid this is to place your hand in a manner that “shortens” the chisel. Hold the chisel more towards the end so that it is shorter than the width of the workpiece. If you hold it firmly, the chisel will never extend beyond the other edge.

Et voilĂ ! No tear out and no crappy project!

We’re going to be diving into more advanced tips, in the future, so be ready for those!

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