Dovetail and Skew Chisels...useful products or a waste of money?

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Forum topic by ShaneA posted 07-27-2012 01:01 AM 6726 views 0 times favorited 19 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View ShaneA's profile


7084 posts in 3142 days

07-27-2012 01:01 AM

Topic tags/keywords: skew chisel dovetail chisel chisel hand cut dovetail

As I begin to take a larger and larger interest in hand tools, there are many things to catch my eye. I am kind of like a monkey drawn to shiny things in that way. Are skew and or dovetail chisels needed tools that can make the journey to hand cut dovetails easier, or are they just an overpriced non essential marketing gimmick? I know it can be done without either, but I was wondering if some people out there find these chisels “must have” items, and if so, why.

19 replies so far

View Dave's profile


11434 posts in 3384 days

#1 posted 07-27-2012 01:17 AM

Shane they are nice if you cut a bunch of half blind dovetails. Also if you choose to make your pins very thin they are a plus. A lot of guys will get a cheaper set and grind them back. I use a 1/8 regular bench and get into the tight areas.
I am 50/50 on this one. Personally I would like to own a set but I don’t have to have one.
My 2 cents.

-- Superdav "No matter where you go - there you are."

View ShaneA's profile


7084 posts in 3142 days

#2 posted 07-27-2012 01:28 AM

Thanks Dave, I am in the beginning phases, so I not cutting a lot of them. However, I do have some woodworking hoarding tendancies when it comes to tools and wood, so I am always looking at new things, if I “need” them or not. If you know what I mean? But since I know next to nothing about the overall usefullness of these tools, I thought I would just throw it out there, and see if there were any supporters or detractors.

Edit: Dave I am still getting used to your new name : ) Kinda liked superdav

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 4192 days

#3 posted 07-27-2012 01:34 AM

Skews are really useful for joinery. I use them a lot.

Dovetail chisels could be useful to you if you’re chopping dovetails
with a geometry that requires the extra clearance. I don’t
have any. It is possible to cut out the waste with a fret saw
and pare to the scribed shoulder line with through dovetails,
skipping the chopping.

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


16244 posts in 3162 days

#4 posted 07-27-2012 02:04 AM

I’ve considered grinding my own skew pair for dovetailing half blinds, less convinced that having skews would still leave me pining for fishtails…

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

View Dave's profile


11434 posts in 3384 days

#5 posted 07-27-2012 02:43 AM

Ahh fishtails.
OK Shane, now you have a third to pick from.
Super Dav ;)
There Shane I fixed my signature.

-- Superdav "No matter where you go - there you are."

View nwbusa's profile


1021 posts in 2830 days

#6 posted 07-27-2012 02:57 AM

I bought an inexpensive pair of skew chisels from LV. Don’t use them all the time but are nice to have.,41504

-- John, BC, Canada

View Joshuah's profile


152 posts in 3237 days

#7 posted 07-27-2012 02:59 AM

I second David and Smitty. My vote is for fishtails. Very very nice, though someone is always bound to complain that every time you sharpen the width drops off. Ignore them all!!!!! Lie Nielsen makes a great set of them.

-- -Joshuah

View jusfine's profile


2422 posts in 3470 days

#8 posted 07-27-2012 03:01 AM

I watched Rob Cosman use his dovetail chisels a few months ago on a demo, they are nice and would certaily make the job easier.

-- Randy "You are judged as much by the questions you ask as the answers you give..."

View ShaneA's profile


7084 posts in 3142 days

#9 posted 07-27-2012 03:11 AM

Randy, I think Rob Cosman makes everything look easier….he has skillz!

Fishtails? Another item to covet…gonna have to check them put to. Is there one size/width that everyone would start/experiment with?

One my last chisel quest, I couldnt decide between new, vintage or japanese. So I got some of each. Like em all so far…go figure.

View bhog's profile


2238 posts in 3234 days

#10 posted 07-27-2012 10:31 AM

I have a pair of skews and don’t always grab them.I sometimes find them akward to use.They are pretty handy for halfblinds but you could always use a much smaller chisel like Dave said.For through dt’s I find an exacto type knife my go to for paring in corners.

-- I don't drive a Prius.

View David Kirtley's profile

David Kirtley

1286 posts in 3542 days

#11 posted 07-27-2012 02:40 PM

I would say get some cheap used hardware store quality of chisels, regrind them the way you want and see if you like them. What’s to lose except a little time at the grinder experimenting?

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

View tirebob's profile


134 posts in 3398 days

#12 posted 07-27-2012 05:51 PM

I have both skews and a fishtail and the both get used a lot when doing half blinds DT’s. If I lost them or broke them, I would replace them instantly. That said, if you don’t do half blinds, you don’t need them yet, but they are handy…

View Bertha's profile


13567 posts in 3237 days

#13 posted 07-27-2012 05:52 PM

I need all chisels.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 4192 days

#14 posted 07-27-2012 06:15 PM

One issue with skew chisels is the ones like I have, which are
1/2” wide, won’t really fit into small joints. Where they excel
is in paring cuts because the skew angle makes a shearing cut
which can help make delicate paring cuts where you want a lot
of control.

I will flip the skew over sometimes and use it bevel-down. It’s
quicker than grabbing the other one and the clearance
angle of using the skew this way makes certain cuts possible
or at least easier.

View Richforever's profile


757 posts in 4264 days

#15 posted 07-27-2012 06:18 PM

Fishtail chisels would certainly help in cleaning the corners of sockets in half-blind dovetails. You might want to start with the smallest size and work up.

-- Rich, Seattle, WA

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