Types of Japanese Chisels

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Types of Japanese Chisels


Japanese Chisels (Nomi)
Japanese Chisels come in a variety of styles, usually based on their intended use. This guide focuses more on what Japan Woodworker carries than what is available in general. Our Chisels have laminated blades comprised of a thin bottom layer of very hard steel (either white or blue) and a top layer of soft steel, typically wrought iron. This hard steel/soft steel composition gives the tool a hard and durable cutting edge with shock resistance and the added strength of wrought iron. Most of our chisels are tanged and have a tapered ferrule where the tang enters the handle. If a chisel has a hoop, ring or ferrule (sagariwa) on top of the handle, it can be struck with a mallet. If no top hoop is present, the chisel is intended to be pushed by hand (not struck) and may have a longer handle to facilitate this hand use.

Oire (Butt) Chisels
Butt Chisels, used for most shop tasks, are available in the widest variety of widths and typically have blade lengths between 2" and 3". Generally, they have thin blades and come with a top hoop so they can be struck. Oire Chisels include Bench Chisels and Butterfly Chisels (considered by many to be the original shape of the Oire Chisels).

Atsu (Thick) Chisels
Resembling a butt chisel, but thicker and stronger, Atsu Chisels are used by carpenters and cabinetry makers to make large joints. Blades are usually 1/2" to 2", but may be as narrow as 1/8" and as wide as 3-1/2". Firmer Chisels and Post and Beam Chisels are in this category.

Mukomachi (Mortise) Chisels
These are striking chisels intended to make small mortises or grooves. The narrow blade has a neck the same thickness as the cutting edge, which gives the blade the extra strength necessary to cut deep. The blade’s cross section is rectangular in shape with a hollow back and slightly concave top and edges. This concavity reduces friction when withdrawing chips in a narrow mortise.

Tsuki (Paring) Chisels and Slicks
Tsuki Chisels are push chisels used with two hands for cleaning mortises and smoothing joints. The blades are sharpened at a low angle for easier paring. Saya or Scabbard Chisels are a specialized form of Tsuki Chisels.

Kote (Crank Necked Paring) Chisels
Kote Chisels are push chisels, like Paring Chisels but with an offset blade. They are used for cleaning out long joints, such as housing joints or sliding dovetail joints. The offset blade makes it easier to clean the joint without interference from either the handle or the user’s hand. 

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