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Skew Chisels

On many brows, the sweat will already be beading, simply from reading the title "Skew Chisel".  Many turners have a love/hate relationship with these tools and few have never experienced the dreaded 'catch' - or two.  Although we have listed them all together here, there are in fact two different but closely related tools in this section:  the true Skew chisels where the cutting edge lies at an angle of around 60 degrees from the axis of the tool; and the traditional Square chisels where the edge is set perpendicular to the axis
Skew Chisels such as HS60

A selection of skew chisels: from the left, 1/2"; 3/4" and 1" plain skews and a 1" oval skew.

of the tool.

Once mastered, the skew chisel is a very versatile tool used both in planing a true and smooth surface on the outside of spindles as well as cutting vee-grooves and forming beads.  It is great for facing off the end of cylindrical workpieces and properly handled, the skew can even be used for shaping gentle concave curves in spindle work.  The Spindlemaster, a revolutionary alternative is also included in this section.

If you are having difficulty with the skew, then a tip which may be worth following is to invest in a 1/2" rectangular-section skew and to sharpen this using a bevel angle of around forty degrees (included angle).  Many will consider this to be a very obtuse angle for a skew but it does make the handling very much easier and aids learning.

The next tip would be to keep the toolrest relatively high so that you are planing across the top of the workpiece.  When rolling the skew to form beads, the handle of the tool should be raised significantly as the tool is rolled.  A further piece of advice is to use a curved skew such as those listed below, although it is always possible to re-grind a standard skew to this shape.  Alternatively, get a Sorby Spindlemaster or Hamlet Spindlemaker!!

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Oval Skews: HS60, 809H12, HS61, 809H34, HS62, 809H1, HS63, 809H114

Oval Skew Chisel

Oval Skews:  The oval skew is another relatively recent innovation in tool design.  This form of skew is lighter and more manoeuvrable than a rectangular section skew, though less rigid on a size-for-size basis.

Because of its oval cross-section, this skew is easy to roll on the toolrest and does not cause toolrest scoring as the corners of a rectangular skew may.  These skews are available in a choice of widths from 1/2" to 1-1/2", but a good rule of thumb would be to use a 1" version unless you do a lot of miniature work.  The bevel angle of these tools is usually very small, around thirty to forty degrees included angle.


Rectangular skew chisels: HS8, 810H12, HS21, 810H34, HS22, 810H1, HS9, 810H114, HS159Rectangular (plain) Skew Chisels: These are the traditional shape of skew chisel made from square section high speed steel.  A little more 'hefty' than the oval skews, but possibly more stable because of that and very much at home with large-scale work such as newel posts.  Running a file along the lower corners will help to prevent toolrest scoring and make these tools smoother in the roll action.  Maybe use a rather more obtuse bevel angle than on the slimmer oval skews, my own preference being for around 40 degrees (80 degrees included angle).  In this form, the skew is a much more easily managed tool.


*NB: Prices quoted in pounds sterling.
Value Added Tax will be added to invoices to EU residents unless
a valid VAT registration number is quoted when ordering.

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Square chisels (not skewed): HS23, HS24, HS25, HS10Square/Straight Chisels: Click for photo Maybe best described as the Unskewed Skew.  This is the original pattern of tool used for planing cylindrical and tapering workpieces.  For those involved in pole lathe turning, this is still the preferred form of chisel and for many, the tool is more comfortable to present at the correct planing angle than the skew.


Round Edge Skew Chisels:  Round Edge/Rolled Edge Skew Chisels: HS147, HS148, HS149 It has long been the practice of knowledgeable turners to file or grind the corners off their tools in order that they slide more easily along the toolrest.  Now, Henry Taylor have taken the risk out of doing that by supplying skew chisels which although of basically rectangular cross-section giving them more stability than an oval skew, have smoothly rounded corners to the blade - for easier s-l-i-d-e!  Further examples of this genre are available on the Hamlet Tools page.


*NB: Prices quoted in pounds sterling.
Value Added Tax will be added to invoices to EU residents unless
a valid VAT registration number is quoted when ordering.

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Raffan design curved skew chisels:  HS147, HS148, HS149

Raffan-Design Curved Skews: The name Richard Raffan should need no introduction to any knowledgeable turner.  This English-born, Australian-dwelling turning virtuoso is very innovative in his approaches to the craft and this has led him to develop many novel methods of working and tools to suit.  One tool which he was responsible for formalising in use was the curved skew and Henry Taylor now produce three versions of this versatile form of the skew to Richard's specification.  These tools are of heavy section yet the curved cutting edge makes them very easy to handle.  Richard even has a unique method of turning long, thin spindles holding the skew upside-down (see his book "Woodturning with Richard Raffan).  Now becoming a firm favourite with many pro turners, the curved skew could be just the thing to help you get to grips with skew use.


Since skew chisels are used most frequently in spindle turning, have you checked out the other spindle-turning-related pages covering spindle gouges and roughing gouges?

Pyramid Tools, a.k.a. Tri-Point tools: HS68, HS69, HS82Pyramid/Tri-Point Tool: Click for photo A new approach to the principles of the skew chisel, designed to be more forgiving than "the real thing".  Can be used on both spindle and faceplate work and will both plane and roll beads, yet has a much-reduced tendency to dig-in..  (Versions of this tool are also available on the Crown and Hamlet pages)


*NB: Prices quoted in pounds sterling.
Value Added Tax will be added to invoices to EU residents unless
a valid VAT registration number is quoted when ordering.

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Round Skews: Click for photo Round skew HS166, HS129, HS130, HS131, 813H14, 813H38, 813H12Another recent introduction to simplify learning how to use the skew chisel. The round section of these chisels also means that they slide easily along the toolrest when making planing cuts.     However, it is when making beading cuts that the real difference from a standard skew is noticed.  The axial rotation of the skew to roll the bead simply causes a rotation of these tools around their logitudinal centreline whereas a conventional skew is raised onto its lower corner and moves a significant distance along the toolrest, requiring co-ordinated movements to keep the tool following the correct trajectory into the groove.


Robert Sorby Spindle master, alternative to the skew chisel: 812H12, 812H34, 812H1Spindlemaster: Click for photo A newer development  for the spindle turner, from Robert Sorby, combining all the benefits of a skew with none of the drawbacks: this tool is versatile, capable of planing, beading , coving and trimming end grain.  Easy to use and to sharpen (simply hone the flat, top surface), a combination of shear cutting angle and polished bevel (not touched during sharpening) produce a superb finish over a wide range of timbers, and results on soft timbers - normally quite tricky to turn cleanly - have to be seen to be believed.


*NB: Prices quoted in pounds sterling.
Value Added Tax will be added to invoices to EU residents unless
a valid VAT registration number is quoted when ordering.

Review Current Basket Contents 

1997-2009 P. Hemsley.  The information on this website is the copyright property of Peter Hemsley.  Coeur du Bois and The ToolPost are trading styles of Peter Hemsley.  Whilst reasonable efforts are made to ensure the accuracy of information presented, no liability can be accepted for errors in this information nor for contingencies arising therefrom.  If you are inexperienced in any aspect of woodworking, we would strongly counsel that you take a course of formal instruction before commencing to practice