Types of Skew Chisel
Skew Chisels are a bit like marmite, you either love them, or hate them and are the hand plane of woodturning. The skew chisel is probably one of the hardest to master woodturning tools and possibly the most dangerous for woodturners learning their craft. Reknowned for causing concern after digging into the workpiece if used incorrectly, the worst dig-ins causing the tool to be pulled from the woodturners hands.
All Woodturners suffer dig-ins during their turning learning curve. With appropriate techniques, and a certain amount of care dig-ins can be minimised.
Try and keep your skew chisel sharp, you will cut the wood cleaner which requires less pressure. If your chisel is blunt, to make it work you will have to press harder, causing the dig-in to be deeper.
What is a Skew Chisel?
The skew chisel is a long, flat, bevel-edged chisel with an angled tip. The long point of the chisel's cutting edge is called the toe, whereas the the shortest point of the cutting edge is called the heel. True Skew chisels have a cutting edge which lies at an angle of around 60 degrees from the axis of the tool. Traditional Square Skew chisels where the edge is set perpendicular to the axis of the tool. In most cases its the toe of the tool which digs-in and causes the turner stress. Try and keep your skew chisel sharp, you will cut the wood cleaner which requires less pressure. If your chisel is blunt, to make it work you will have to press harder, causing the dig-in to be deeper. The skew chisel has been developed over the years in attempts to make the tool more forgiving, easier and safer to use. This has resulted in different types of skew chisel.
Master the skew chisel and you will want to turn more and more.
Variations of Skew Chisel
Oval Skew Chisels
Some turners took their rectangular skew chisels and removed the corners to ease movement on the tool rest.Oval skew chisels have been designed with a round surface to minimise the contact area with the tool rest allowing easier rolling on the rest. This form of skew chisel is lighter and more manoeuvrable than a rectangular skew chisel however the oval skew chisel is less rigid when compared to the same size rectangular skew. Due to the tools oval shape it also causes less scoring of the tool rest when in use.
Rectangular Skew Chisels
The traditional shaped skew chisel which are generally manufactured from a square section of high speed steel. These rectangular skew chisels are stronger than the newer designed oval skews giving the woodturner more stability when turning larger pieces. Generally the choice of the experienced woodturner comfortable using the rectangular form of the chisel.
Square Skew Chisels
The original type of tool used predominanently by pole turners is the square skew chisel. This chisel actually has no skew but can be more comfortable in use than a traditional skew.
The skew chisel has been developed over the years in attempts to make the tool more forgiving, easier and safer to use.
Uses of a Skew Chisel
There are three different ways to cut wood with the skew chisel:
Cutting with the longest point of the skew chisel.
The longest point of the chisel is normally used for making V cuts and cutting across the end grain when facing off.
Cutting with the cutting edge of the skew chisel.
Generally the cutting edge of the skew chisel is used for making planing cuts and beads.
Cuting with the short point of the skew chisel.
The short point of the chisel is normally used for making a chamfer. However the short pointcan be used as an alternative method of cutting beads.
For the best results in obtaining a smooth surface finish 'Dave The Lathe' recommends using a skew chisel for smoothing cyclinders. Place the skew high up on the wood and draw the chisel downward, gradually lifting on the handle until the bevel clears the wood. This allows the tool to cut. Always keep the toe above the wood cutting with the center and lower part of the cutting edge. Using a sharp skew chisel and the recommended smoothing action should result in long ribbons of wood, its these ribbons which identify that you have master the action and the chisel is cutting efficiently.
In cutting a long straight taper the skew chisel is used, much in the same manner as in ordinary cylinder work, except that at the start of each cut the heel must be the cutting point. This will avoid any chance of the chisel catching and drawing back and thus gouging the wood beyond the starting point. As soon as the cut is well under way the chisel may be pushed up on the cylinder so that the cutting point is a little above the heel. All cuts should be made from the highest point on the cylinder to the lowest and thus cut across the grain of the wood.
V-Cuts and Beads
Smooth wrist action is required to roll the skew chisel through the 90 degrees required. One of the biggest factors in cutting a bead is positioning. If the woodturner is positioned correctly and comfortably the actions required to cut. In experienced woodturners often find that they are comfortable with their position at the start of the bead however due to the fact that they are moving 90 degrees they are uncomfortable by the end of the cut. My advice would be to take a couple of practice cuts first, this will hilight incorrect position. Novice turners should maybe practice with some soft woods first as these woods