In the skew chisel market, the radius skew is a relative newcomer. Seasoned woodturners and hobby woodcarvers have questions about this “new” skew chisel. Let’s answer some of the commonly-asked questions.
What’s unique about a radius skew?
The unique feature of the radius skew is that much of its cutting edge and both of its sides are rounded into convex curves. In other ways, it looks like a rectangular skew. Like other skews, the radius skew has an angled cutting edge of approximately 70 degrees and two beveled edges with a length about 1 ½ times the thickness of the tool.
A radius skew is held like other skews, cuts in basically the same way, is used on the same types of projects, and makes the same cuts.
What are the advantages of a radius skew?
Detractors of the skew chisel complain that it is likely to catch or dig into the edge of the workpiece. And, that’s true with a rectangular skew. However, the rounded edges of the radius skew make it less apt to dig in, catch or gouge, so it’s easier to use.
A radius skew is also more versatile than a rectangular skew. Its cutting edge has both a straight section and a curved section. The curved section works very well for rolling and planing cuts and is particularly useful with red oak, maple, or other hardwoods that are prone to chip. The curved edge also forms spindles well because it makes convex and concave curves easier to turn.
The straight section of the cutting edge is essentially a narrow rectangular skew. It fits into tight areas since the curved section of the cutting edge provides clearance. Like a parting tool, the pointed edge peels away large quantities of wood quickly and efficiently. It’s also excellent for scraping difficult areas like knots and rough end grain. Point the long point of the radius skew toward the floor, and you have an excellent tool for making pommels.
Is a radius skew more expensive than a rectangular skew?
Not necessarily. Some manufacturers make both types. As with any skew chisel, the quality of the steel, the type of wood in the handle, the size of the tool, and whether or not the skew chisel comes professionally sharpened are factors that affect its price.
Can you reshape a rectangular skew into a radius skew?
If you’d like to reshape an existing rectangular skew into a radius skew, you can. Over a decade ago, master woodturner Alan Lacer posted an article explaining how to reshape a rectangular skew into a radius skew. The article (originally published in American Woodworker) details each necessary step and includes pictures of the whole process.
The multi-step process is exacting, but an experienced turner with the proper tools can complete the process in an hour or two. The result will be a skew chisel that’s less apt to dig into the workpiece and is extremely versatile.
That’s our take on the radius skew chisel. If you have questions we didn’t answer, feel free to leave them in the comments below.