Using an Air Ripping Chisel


Additional Comments

Since I originally wrote this article I have since aquire a Bantam Upholstery Remover, decribed at the bottom of this article. I am impressed with it and use it for many jobs. I also use my regular hammer and chisel (when I want peace and quiet), and I still use the Harbor Freight Air Chisel below. The Bantam is gentler and quieter, which works good in lots of situations. The Harbor Freight Air Chisel is rougher and uses more force, which is needed in some places. However, you have to be more careful with it and watch where you use it. It is a little more difficult to control than the Bantam. For more information about Tear Down Methods, click here.

Trying it out

Nowadays I often use air ripping chisel. Many years ago we tried one and didn't like it. Recently, this last year, I purchased one at harbor freight for about $7. When the conditions are right, it can save me anywhere's from 50% to 100% of time (tearing something apart up to twice as fast. 

Note: since I first wrote this article I have since purchased the Bantam Ripping chisel (see bottom of this page). I use it more often than the inexpensive air chisel shown immediately below. However, the inexpensive air chisel is still useful at times. It has more power than the bantam and can detach some of the tough areas that the Bantam can't.

How To Use The Air Chisel

Chisel Using Air ChiselAs I mentioned above, using the air chisel, some times I can tear down a chair or other piece twice as fast. But it doesn't work in all applications. Here are some general guidelines:

  • You have to hold the angle so that the blade is almost level with the wood, going along the grain of the wood, or aiming it a little towards the middle of the piece. If you aim it from the inside outward you can very easily chew up the edge of the wood frame, causing extra time in repair.
  • Don't use the air chisel next to finished woodwork, it can very easily damage it, cause much addition repair time and expense. When using the air chisel hold it firmly with both hands (in some applications, such as on the bottom of a dining chair seat you can use only one hand while guiding the frame with the other hand.)
  • The air chisel seems to work best for me when I keep a tight grip on it, guiding it precisely (as mentioned above) and pressing the blade tight against the wood frame. Having the right angle is important.
  • And, Oh Yes, watch those springs around the bottom of the chisel(see B in top picture), they can sure hurt :o when they pinch your fingers ,so keep your fingers away from the springs, or wear leather gloves.

When To Use The Air Chisel

 I find that when applicable, the air chisel really speeds me up. But, there are also times when I just don't want the extra noise. And there are many times when the conditions are not right, I don't use the air chisel when:

  • too thin of fabric
  • too many staples
  • delicate wood
  • finished wood pieces.
  • I'm listening to a special program on the radio
  • my family is in the workshop with me

I am more prone to use the air chisel when:

  • the frame is very solid and has a heavy fabric.
  • on dining chair bottoms
  • I'm not listening to anything interesting on the radio
  • my family is not in the room with me

Remember: Safety FirstAir Chisel Head Protection



Wear Protective Head Gear

 I'm very safety conscious nowadays. Whenever I use the air chisel, I wear ear protectors (that look like large headphones that go over the top of my head). That makes that noise more bearable, and saves my hearing. I also wear eye protectors.

There's A Reason For Wearing It

 Years ago, when I was first starting into upholstery (and not as careful), I had a nail go into my eye. I was hammering a nail into a hard furniture frame. It bounced off the frame and the point of it went right into the pupil of my eye. I pulled the nail out and wore a patch over my eye for months. This carelessness has caused me countless ongoing visits to the optometrist. I have had eye surgery to repair a detached retina. I have to use eye drops for the rest of my life. Yes, Safety, Safety, Safety.



Air Ripping Chisels2 air chisels

Low Cost Air Chisel

 As an experiment I purchased a cheap Taiwan version from Harbor Freight Tools when it was on sale for something like $6. I wanted to try it out without spending a lot of money, and the one I bought seems to work OK. Someday I might try the blade from Burch fabrics though, or I might try the Bantam (below).


 Parts  Of An Air Chisel
 A  Blade
 B  Spring
 C  Trigger
 D   Barrel
 E  Handle
 F  Air Fittings 
 Cost  About $10 


Burch Air ChiselThe Pnuematic Hammer Air Ripping Tool

From Burch Fabrics

Burch fabrics has a ripping blade (see picture) made especially for the air hammer.  

Stock No.  Description   Cost*
 A1075 Air Ripper (no Chisel)   $86.30 
 A1030 Chisel Only   $12.00
   Replacement Parts  
 A1070  Retainer Spring  $17.50 

Available from Burch Fabrics   Phone 1-800-841-8111 

*Actual cost may vary, check current prices

Bantam Upholstery RemoverBantam Air Chisel

From Van Dykes "The Bantam is half the size of the Harbor Freight mentioned above. The Bantam has less noise as well. There are two attachments with this chisel. One is for staples and the other is for tacks. Changing the tips is easy with a quick connect as with any air coupler system. There is also a hexagon connection , so you can adjust the position of the tips for about any angle. The tips are smaller so getting into areas that have show wood can be stripped of tacks or staples and no damage done with show wood. There are no springs as with the Auto body air chisel. "(Stacey) (See Stacey's Message Here) (For more about the Bantam Upholstery Remover, click here. Cost: About $178* for the body, plus about $25 for each blade)

Using The Bantam

     "I think you would enjoy working with this Chisel a lot more. I would say I use it every day and on every tear down job. Being that this chisel is only 1 pound. It is easy to hang onto. One hand operation is all that is needed. Unlike the larger chisel that you have. The bouncing around is not present with the Bantam. There is no knob for controlling speed. It's not needed. I hook mine up direct to an air line with 80 or 90 pounds pressure. It can be hooked up with a adjustable pressure and would run on 40 to 60 pounds air as well. The regulated air pressure would be a personal choice. I never have considered it as it works just fine for me at 90 pounds. There is less vibration with this smaller chisel ,than with the larger chisels out on the market. As for the cost, I purchased mine some 5 or 6 years ago from Redrum Fabrics at a cost of 175.00. Found that the use everyday justified the price. My hands thank me for that. Time saved with tear down is half compared to hammer and staple or tack removers. Figuring a time log on doing any item will show a high accumulation of minutes just with the tear down. Any time saved at this will produce enough profit in minutes to spend in time fabricating the end product." (Stacey) (See Stacey's 2nd message here

 "It took me about one day of practise to become proficient with the air chisel. Honestly though, I had used the larger chisel like what Stephen has now and talked about using it. Dropping down from that larger size to the Bantam (that is half the size and weight )made for quick proficiency with it's use. Karol, on your second question with compressor running all the time. I have a large up right 5 horse stationary compressor with maximum air storage of some 40 to 50 gallon capacity. On a sofa tear down, my compressor will run once to refill to a cut off at 90 psi. Your third question on how long to tear down a Wing back chair. I spend 2 hours if I were to tear down with a hammer and tack or staple remover. With the Bantam air chisel I cut the time down to 40 minutes. Less hand damage, cuts ,scrapes, band-aids. I 'm working on a sofa at the moment and that was tore down in 1 hour with the chisel and some minor hammer and staple remover work as well. With the smaller Bantam chisel Karol, damage inflected is less and the design of it and it's multi position options of the blades cuts down wood or frame damage. Unlike the larger one position bladed chisels." (Stacey) (See Stacey's 3rd message here)

    (This article originally started in the Carrscorner message Webboard with this message  about  Air Ripping Chisels.)

"*Prices are aproximate and for comparison purposes only. Check current prices from your suppliers.''