I've been practicing chiseling lately. I had to cut a corner out of a 3/4" thick piece of pine and I was feeling good so I gave it a shot. The position of the corner meant I had to cut against the grain direction:

enter image description here

I made knife lines and sawed most of the waste out down to about 1/16". I tried paring out the long side with a 1/2" chisel starting at the edge of the board and working in (that's the only way I could get at it). Immediately the wood splintered along the grain below the cut line and I ripped it out:

enter image description here

If I seemingly have no choice but to chisel against the grain, how can I create a smooth cut without splintering/splitting the wood? Or, was there another way I could have approached this cut?


1 Answer 1


You never would normally chisel something like that. It would be cut using a mortising saw.

If you did need to chisel it, like you were doing a Joseph the Carpenter, father of Jesus, re-enactment or something, you would use a soft-wood paring chisel and first make a vertical cut straight down across the grain, then you would set your chisel in that nick and chip towards the end. When you get to the bottom it becomes tricky. You use a diagonal shave, so the chisel goes diagonally across the bottom flat using only hand pressure. The chisel needs to be super sharp for this last step to come out clean.

The key thing of course is that you always chisel away from the grain, never into it. In your photo can be seen the result of chiseling into the grain: splitting.

  • 1
    The species of wood plays into this as well. Some will splinter easier than others.
    – Matt
    Nov 21, 2015 at 5:39
  • With regard to the edits of this answer, perhaps a tenon saw or any back saw would be best, but just about any sharp saw would do the job. I can't quite imagine where a saw would be used in making a mortise.
    – Ast Pace
    Nov 25, 2015 at 18:41
  • Is there a reason to prefer that over chiselling across the grain (like across the 3/4" thickness, so into the faces)? Somebody in real life mentioned that I could go across instead of into.
    – Jason C
    Nov 26, 2015 at 2:06

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