If you like the woodworking and want to expand your toolbox, you will have noticed that there are Japanese and Western chisels. Beyond its origin, they are chisels very different with different applications. Today we present the main advantages and disadvantages.
Japanese and Western chisels: same tool, two styles
As we saw in the previous article, Japanese chisels are characterized by the quality and treatment of their steel. It is obtained thanks to a technique perfected for centuries that, in many cases, has passed from generation to generation. Thus, we can find blades with blue or white steel, hardened to levels far above the western chisels. They are also different from the rest by the blade shape itself. The blade of the Japanese chisels is shorter and square, an excellent design to use with a mallet.
In addition to its blade, the construction of Japanese chisels is characterized by the joining system between blade and handle. The Tang method, also called oriental, is used here, where the blade is encased inside the handle by a spike. It is difficult to ensure that it is better than the West when transmitting forces, but a stable and more lasting union is achieved. The western chisels, on the other hand, are the handle that is embedded in the blade through a conical base. Thus, if we work in a humid or cold environment, the wood of the handle contracts, being able to separate.
Recommended applications for Japanese and Western chisels
Now that we know their main differences, where and when is it advisable to use Japanese and Western chisels? In the day to day of the carpentry, the chisels are basic tools. Therefore, it is advisable to have a varied assortment of quality chisels. There is some controversy about which is better. After all, these are two different cultural styles and it may seem strange to go from one tool to another a priori. On this basis, we advise you to try the Japanese and Western chisels on all kinds of tasks, for at least two weeks, and then decide.
In general, the conclusion is that Japanese and Western chisels are complementary tools. If the work that we are going to do requires the help of a club, the Japanese are a good option. In the case of Westerners, with a longer, rectangular sheet, we can perform more manual tasks, similar to those of a carving tool, or laces such as the dovetail. In any case, the important thing here is that we can carry out our work in a comfortable and efficient way.
Even so, the main difference is sharpening. Japanese chisels are made from very hard steel. The sharpening process should be carried out whenever necessary. Western chisels, on the other hand, are easier to sharpen. Its steel, despite being of high quality, is not usually so hard, allowing a faster sharpening. For this reason, Western chisels are useful for gross tasks or requiring combined techniques.
The third option: the mixed chisels
There are currently brands in the market that have managed to find a mix between the Japanese and Western chisels. An example of this is the Veritas brand. Its blade, of great hardness (63RC), is attached to the handle through a spike and a steel bush. This system allows that with each blow on the handle the union between the two pieces is more stable and durable.
In addition to Veritas, Blue Spruce is another brand that has come to develop in an excellent way the mixed chisel. The handle and blade are joined by a spike and plug. The design of the blade, similar to western chisels, ensures a long tool life, as well as greater firmness in each stroke.
Although mixed chisels tend to be more expensive, they are an effective and modern alternative. They are the synthesis of two millennial traditions to offer a product of high benefits intended for professionals.
And you, what kind of style do you prefer? Do you use Japanese and Western chisels?