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The Hooked Skew Chisel: A Specialty Carving Tool That’s Also Versatile

In recent posts, we’ve talked about several different kinds of skew chisels, including the Lacer skew and the oval skew. This article continues our skew series and focuses on the hooked skew chisel.

A quick glance at this tool will show you that it is significantly different from other skews we’ve highlighted. All the others were designed for use with a lathe. The hooked skew chisel is not. Instead, it is the perfect tool for relief carvers and other woodworkers who want to carve intricate details into their pieces. Here’s what you need to know about this unique and versatile tool.

How the hooked skew differs from other skew chisels

Its size

Because they are used predominantly in combination with a lathe, most skew chisels--including the Crown skew--have substantial handles and long shafts so that you don’t injure your hands on the lathe. Conversely, the hooked skew features a short shaft, a 2-pointed blade, and a stubby handle. Some models have handles short enough to be cupped in your palm; you hold others like a pencil or a regular knife. Because it has this design, the hooked skew is sometimes called a knife rather than a chisel.

Its shape

The hooked skew is a specialty carving tool with two blade points--one at the front and one at the heel. The shape, length, and width of the blade vary between manufacturers. Some companies offer skew chisels with a rounded edge; others are straight. Some produce “regular” and “mini” versions of the hooked skew; the mini variety reaches into the tiniest corners. Blade widths of hooked skews range from about ⅜ inch to 1 inch.

The double-pointed blade of the hooked skew chisel or knife means that you can easily cut yourself. Carvers who use the knife regularly admonish you to exercise extra caution and ensure that the hooked skew resides in a protective cover when you’re not using it.

Its Uses

A hooked skew chisel is a detailing tool. It lets you reach tight corners and carve intricate designs. Carvers who craft duck decoys or other types of waterfowl carvings often rely on the hooked skew to help them add realism to the lay and look of the bird’s feathers and to chisel the point of the bird’s beak. Relief carvers use hooked skew chisels to add depth to their pieces, especially in hard-to-reach areas.

The narrow shaft and double-pointed blade of the hooked skew make it a versatile tool capable of also carving V cuts, planing out flat areas, and doing chip carving. Once you’re adept at using a hooked skew, you may reach for it often. When you do so, be careful.

How to carve with a hooked skew chisel

The technique you use to carve with a skew chisel depends upon whether you choose a palm-held variety or a pencil-version.

Carving with a palm-held hooked skew chisel

When you use a palm-held hooked skew chisel, you line the tool up with your forearm so that your arm provides the power behind the tool. Your fingers control the direction of the blade. The heel of the blade cuts into the wood. By laying the blade on its side and using the front point, you can remove excess wood from the cut you made with the heel.

Carving with a traditional-grip skew chisel

If you choose a hooked skew chisel with a conventional handle, you can grip the knife like you hold your other carving tools. Several companies produce a hooked skew that works well when you use a pencil grip. Regardless of the grip you choose, you’ll use your forearm to provide the power for the cut. 


The hooked skew chisel is a specialty carving knife often used to add depth and realism to chip carvings, relief carvings, or waterfowl sculptures like duck decoys.The shape of the tool’s handle gives you the option of holding it like a regular carving knife, like a pencil, or in the palm of your hand. The 2-pointed blade makes the hooked skew a good option for carving V cuts or planing out areas and increases the tool’s utility.


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