What's the best bevel angle for my chisel?
With so many books, magazines, videos, and websites describing different ways to sharpen tools—and each proclaiming theirs as the best way—I'm more confused than ever. I just want to know what bevel angle makes the most sense for my wood chisels. Can you cut through the murk and provide some clarity?
—Hank Stephenson, Layton, Utah
Most woodworkers have one or two types of chisels, Hank: bench and paring. Bench chisels, the most common, have blades about 4–6" long, and can be struck with a mallet. They come with blades of either O1 steel, a soft grade that's easier to sharpen, or A2, a harder alloy that holds an edge longer. Sharpen bench chisels with a 25° bevel angle for best results. If you want to add a microbevel (a thin, secondary edge right at the tip that makes touch-up honing easier), then go with 30° for O1 and 35° for A2.
Paring chisels should be used only for hand-guided work, never struck with a mallet. These chisels have 6–10"-long blades and excel at trimming and shaping wood rather than chopping. To make these types of cuts easier, sharpen a 20° bevel on these chisels, adding a 25° microbevel if you want one.