Convert a Straight Chisel to Bull Nose Chisel

Creating a Bull Nose Chisel

Relief Wood Carving

By L. S. Irish

The bull nose chisel is an asset to any relief carving tools set. The rounded edges of it’s flat softly curved profile eliminates the fine scratches that the sharp edges of a straight chisel can leave on your background work.

Here are simple hand sharpening instructions on how to convert a straight chisel into a bull nose.

Left to Right
bull nose chisel, straight chisel, and our converted bull nose chisel

Step 1:
Any wood carver’s tool kit should include basic sharpening tools. This set includes a 800 grit brown stone, 8000 grit white stone, emery cloth, two strops, red oxide rouge, and aluminum oxide rouge

Step 2:
The tool that I will be converting is a 3/8″ Ramelson Straight Chisel.
Note how square the sides and cutting profile is for this tool.

Step 3:
I started with my 600 grit coarse brown ceramic sharpening stone. This stone is used dry – without oil or water.

Step 4:
I have placed the cutting face down against the stone surface with a slight angle so that the edge will be worked on the stone surface.

Step 5:
I am working the right side point by pushing that edge with a curved stroke across the stone. I am working just the point of the edge at this time.

Step 6:
In the last four photos you can see the curve of the push. Once I have completed the push stroke I reserve the sharpening by pulling the edge back to the original starting point.

Step 7:
That push-pull movement will begin to reduce the point while blending that area into the un-worked profile area. I have worked the tool on the stone for about five minutes.

Step 8:
You can see that the points on both sides are being worked away and that the tool profile is beginning to take on a gentle curve on each corner.

Step 9:
Once I could clearly see that the points had been removed I flipped the tool to the back and pulled it down from the edge to remove the rough tin edge that had developed.

Step 10:
I wanted to blend the worked points into a gentle curve with the center area of my chisel so I repeated the sharpening pulling deeper towards the center of the tool with each stroke.

Step 11:
Being left handed I noted that one point, the left, of my chisel was more defined than the right so I hit the right side a few more licks.

Step 12:
The coarse stone had ground the points away and created a gentle blended curve into the center cutting area. So I was ready to move onto my fine 8000 grit white stone.

Step 13:
I repeated the all of the previous steps done with the brown stone on my white stone. I have worked on this tool for about ten minutes by now.

Step 14:
Again, once I had worked the points I wanted to remove the tin edge that was developing. To do that I pulled the tool, cutting face against the stone, in a downward direction.

Step 15:
I have flipped the tool over to work the back. I usually will do these last two steps about five times before I move onto my emery cloth.

Step 16:
My chisel now has nicely rounded corners instead of sharp points. You can see the gently curve that the entire cutting profile has now.

Step 17:
Emery cloth is extremely fine cloth (sandpaper) made for working metal. It is available in much finer grits then regular sandpaper. Once again I am repeating all of my sharpening steps on the emery cloth.

Step 18:
I have two strops that I use consistently. The first strop that I use is a leather strop with red oxide rouge. I work first the rough side then roll the strop over to use the smooth. The second strop I use aluminum oxide. This is my finishing strop.

OK … It’s about fifteen minutes after I began working and my straight chisel is now a bull nose! It’s ready for my next relief carving. Each time that I sharpen this tool the smoother the curved edges and gentle round to the cutting face will become … 🙂

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