Articles about DIY


How to remove cigarette smoke odors

White vinegar is a great way to remove cigarette smoke odors from your house. And it's easy to do. If you only have one room that you want to clear of the cigarette smoke odors, then place a large plastic container into the room and pour some white vinegar into it. Leave the bowl sit in the room for hours or days – depending on how bad the cigarette smoke odors are, and how long they've been in the room. If the odors are all through the house, liberally spray white vinegar onto your air conditioner/furnace filters, and into the ductwork and turn on the fan only – or the system. Leave it on for at least twenty minutes – repeat as necessary. When the white vinegar smell dissipates, the cigarette smoke odors should also be gone.




How to Use Wood Chisels

by Damien Andrews

In the humble opinion of this tradesman, wood chisels are among the most underrated, underused shop tools. Years of observation, coupled with hundreds of calls for help from my do-it-yourselfer buddies has led me to believe that the underuse of wood chisels stems from people not knowing how to use wood chisels to get the desired effect. I guess the second reason would have to be that folks usually get a set of wood chisels that is really rather limiting in terms of reasonable applications. In the world of wood chisels, bigger is not at all always better…

I think the biggest mistake I see when folks use wood chisels is that they also use a hammer. I am not saying that the use of a hammer is never called for when using your wood chisels, but I am saying that most of the time, once you learn to use wood chisels, a hammer is more destructive than it is useful. If you have such a large area of wood to remove that you grab a wood chisel and a hammer, you might consider using a router, or maybe a small rotary saw. The best results with a wood chisel are almost invariably achieved when using the tools by hand. Learning to use wood chisels with hand power only will also introduce all sorts of new uses for these helpful shop workhorses. When you skip the hammer and use your hands, wood chisels can be used to achieve spectacularly precise results in no time at all.

The second problem I see most often regarding the use of wood chisels is they are dull. Actually, I think this goes sort of hand-in-hand with the use of a hammer: if I hit it harder with my hammer, it will scrape the wood off. Dull wood chisels are common not only in the do-it-yourselfer's workshop, I see them all the time in professionals' tool bags and boxes. I take great care in sharpening my wood chisels, and then I store them so they retain their edge for when I need them. Surprisingly, even well used wood chisels don't require sharpening too often, but they do need to be stored so that the blades are not being pounded into other tools – especially metal tools. If a wood chisel blade hits a hard piece of metal, it needs some sharpening work before it's used again. It's that simple. In my tool bag, I carry the wood chisel I'm using most in the pencil holder – blade in first. In my toolbox, I have a small plastic case and lid into which I've placed 1" thick foam rubber with slots cut for each wood chisel in my jobsite stable. I don't take all my wood chisels to every job, but I have one set of four that I take everywhere – and that's the bunch that lives in my toolbox. The slots in the foam are cut too narrow by intent – so that the foam rubber 'grabs' the wood chisels and holds them securely.

The two most common/frequent uses for wood chisels would have to be: mortising door hardware and mortising studs for post-construction installations. I have one of those pricey door hardware installation tool kits – and I do enjoy it, but I've never used it and not had to tidy up the work a bit with my trusty little hand wood chisel. When you use a properly sharpened set of wood chisels without using a hammer, you can be incredibly precise about what wood you remove from your project. You can easily trim away a thin sliver, or a large curl. And your project won't have the 'chatter marks' caused by using a hammer with a wood chisel.

Hold your wood chisel firmly while using it. Be sure that you are in charge of the tool – guiding it to precisely where it should be, and at the correct depth. Also make sure the project is stable and secure while you work on it with your wood chisels. You want to make sure that you don't have to worry about the project while you work on it. You want to focus all of your attention and effort on using the wood chisels properly – cutting where you want. If your wood chisels are sharp, and your work is stable, even a first-timer can get superb results from their chiseling efforts.

Keep the blade of any wood chisel facing away from you while you work - unless you absolutely no have choice. You would have no choice, for example, if the work was recessed in some spot that didn't allow you to push the wood chisel, but did allow you to pull it. If you pull the wood chisel, you will have difficulty stabilizing it and getting precise results.

On wood chisels, one side of the blade is flat and the other is beveled to form the sharp edge. If you have the beveled side pointing up and away from the work, you will tend to cut more deeply than if the flat side of the wood chisel is facing up away from the work. So make sure the wood chisel is properly oriented for the project you are working on. Rarely do I have the beveled side facing up. When using a wood chisel, I know that I will get a better final job if I work down through the wood slowly – so I cut shallow and make more passes.

Unless you are very highly skilled at it, do not attempt to sharpen wood chisels on a grinding wheel! The blade will get too hot and not hold the edge properly. If you badly ding your wood chisel blade and need to take the blade down a considerable amount, a grinding wheel is okay – but work slowly and keep the metal cool! I use a fine metal file followed by Japanese soap stones to sharpen my wood chisels and get excellent results. It's a great job to do while watching TV.

Always use the smallest wood chisel possible for the job. The smaller the wood chisel blade, the more precise you can be while using it on your project. Large, wide chisel blades require a lot more pressure to cut, and to maintain. Better that you cut your project in small increments.

When you are working with your wood chisels, you will quite often have to work in one direction, and then turn and work in the other direction. This is so that you get the blade of the chisel down to the correct/desired depth without gouging the wood. In the photograph of the Iyoroi Japanese wood chisels, you can see some excellent curls removed with the chisels. They are thin and short – just as they should be.

Iyoroi Japanese wood chisels
Iyoroi Japanese wood chisels

Wood chisels with angled blades are excellent for trimming the edges of mortises. Use them like a power knife – dragging them on the cut line. Be careful not to push down too hard so that you don't exceed the desired depth. Wood chisels that are designed only for hand use, such as the excellent palm handled carving set shown here, have some specially designed blades that make quick work of many wood trimming projects. Never use a hammer with a set of wood chisels like this one. (The Iyoroi Japanese wood chisels are designed to allow for the use of a hammer, though I would recommend a wooden or plastic mallet whenever you have to hammer your high quality wood chisels.)

palm handled carving set

Palm handled carving set

Take good care of your wood chisels and they'll give you many, many years of time saving, work saving service. Sharpen the blades, oil wooden handles, and store them properly. Considering all that they'll do for you over the years, it's a small price to pay.

In closing, if you click on one of the banner ads in this article, it will take you to Garrett Wade - a place which sells the two types of wood chisels shown in the pictures in this article. These are both excellent wood chisel sets, and I can highly recommend both of them. However, if you want wood chisels that you will be hammering on frequently, I would suggest picking up a set of lesser grade chisels at your local hardware store. Stanley makes some good sets with polypropylene handles that will stand up nicely against repeated hammer blows – they also have good blades that will hold an edge nicely. I use a very old set of Stanley wood chisels whenever I work on railroad ties. It keeps my hand chisels clean and sharp for more precise projects.


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