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  1. #1
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    Default Carving Tools: Couple of Questions

    I'm in the process of gearing up to learn to carve. It's one of my 2018 New Year's Resolutions. I'm not particularly interested in "dedicated" wood carving, so to speak. I'm interested in the application of carving to period furniture styles. I've told myself that if I can successfully carve a Newport Shell and a Ball and Claw foot by the end of the year, then I will have succeeded.

    Goals are important, people...

    I've decided to use Mary May's online resources and likely her new book to learn this skill. One of the tools she suggests is a #10 5mm chisel.

    Question 1: I can't really find this chisel. From what I can tell, Pfeil doesn't even offer a #10 sweep gouge. For those who are serious wood carvers, if you don't have the EXACT right chisel, and you have to choose a different sweep, which direction is more appropriate to go? In this case, would you choose a more broad No. 9 or a more narrow "veiner" No. 11 sweep? And just in general, what is the philosophical approach you take to sizing chisels when the "perfect" one isn't available?

    Question 2: Among the tools she suggests for the projects in which I'm interested are three flat, No 1 sweep chisels. This is a corner I would prefer to cut, to put it quite frankly. I'd like to save $100 for practice wood material (or anything else) and just use single bevel bench chisels. I have a set of seven long paring chisels (from Blue Spruce) which are longer and thinner than a typical bench chisel. What disadvantages, if any, would I be inflicting upon myself? Would I regret cutting this corner?

    Thanks a lot in advance. If anyone has any other feedback to offer I'd totally be willing to hear it.

    Cheers,
    Luke

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
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    SC, USA
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    Double bevel flat carving chisels are magic. Once you use them - you will see that it is a different animal from a standard bench chisel - which is not really designed for carving...

  4. #3
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    You can make a flat chisel. It's probably not something you'll be malleting much (if cost is an issue for them). The balance and heft of a carving chisel is just different than a bench chisel, and parers would be bulky.

    Buy a 9 sweep instead of 10 and lay your work out for the sweep of chisel you have. There's probably not much in terms of situations where it will matter if you have an exact sweep, especially if you're working from your own drawings or patterns that haven't been cut yet.

  5. #4
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    Most rounded shapes can be approximated with gouges of flatter sweep, then sanded to finish.
    I've always admired carved furniture but have never had the opportunity to try some.

    Using the Pfeil numbers, I have mostly the odd sweep# = 1, 3, 5, 7, 9 & 11.
    The #1 is excellent with a mallet as a stop cutting chisel.
    I have 2 pairs of 12mm skews. In Pfeil speak, those are 1S/12. Best with a knife to make V-grooves of any depth and width.

    50% of the work is maintaining a "carving sharp" edge.
    There are several 'systems' to do this, they all produce the same result.
    I have some water stones and a run of sand paper grits to 1,500 for freehand sharpening then honing with CrOx/AlOx.

  6. #5
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    used to live in Sydney, now it's Canada
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    Quote Originally Posted by Luke Maddux View Post
    I'm in the process of gearing up to learn to carve. It's one of my 2018 New Year's Resolutions. I'm not particularly interested in "dedicated" wood carving, so to speak. I'm interested in the application of carving to period furniture styles. I've told myself that if I can successfully carve a Newport Shell and a Ball and Claw foot by the end of the year, then I will have succeeded.

    Goals are important, people...

    I've decided to use Mary May's online resources and likely her new book to learn this skill. One of the tools she suggests is a #10 5mm chisel.

    Question 1: I can't really find this chisel. From what I can tell, Pfeil doesn't even offer a #10 sweep gouge. For those who are serious wood carvers, if you don't have the EXACT right chisel, and you have to choose a different sweep, which direction is more appropriate to go? In this case, would you choose a more broad No. 9 or a more narrow "veiner" No. 11 sweep? And just in general, what is the philosophical approach you take to sizing chisels when the "perfect" one isn't available?
    Stubai make a #10 sweep in 3mm and 10 mm size Woodcaring tools series 55 K : SWEEP 10 - statues, definition work
    I think Stubai may do on-line sales, alternatively you could order through a retailer like Dieter Schmid in Berlin.
    In general I've found that a smaller number (less severe) sweep and a narrower width is the best substitute for a missing size. #11 sweeps are pretty tight.

    Depending on what you are carving, the "right chisel" sweep and width can make life a whole lot easier and more enjoyable.

    Quote Originally Posted by Luke Maddux View Post
    Question 2: Among the tools she suggests for the projects in which I'm interested are three flat, No 1 sweep chisels. This is a corner I would prefer to cut, to put it quite frankly. I'd like to save $100 for practice wood material (or anything else) and just use single bevel bench chisels. I have a set of seven long paring chisels (from Blue Spruce) which are longer and thinner than a typical bench chisel. What disadvantages, if any, would I be inflicting upon myself? Would I regret cutting this corner?
    yes you will regret cutting this corner.

    I've taken a few classes on carving. Whilst a hook knife and European carving sweep might be interchangeable, I've haven't found the same to be true for straight (#1) or skewed (#1S) carving chisels and bench chisels. What you may be able to do is get away with purchasing only 2 of Mary's recommended 3 #1 sweeps. However, it's probable that at least one of the #1 straight sweeps is sized to get into a particular space on the carving.

    sharpening
    green honing compound on a felt wheel is pretty good, and Robson Valley swears by honing compound on cereal box cardboard.
    I also have a fine ceramic stone from Lee Valley Ceramic Sharpening Stones - Lee Valley Tools which I think are made by Spyderco
    and last time I was in Munich I purchased a set of oil stone slips https://www.dictum.com/en/arkansas-e...8.11_1_48_12__

    I prefer oil stones for carving chisels as I doubt my ability to keep a water stone in the proper shape
    regards from Canada

    ian

  7. #6
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    Jan 2015
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    You can usually substitute another gouge with little trouble. Here is a chart that may help you. It shows the radius of curvature of gouges. For example, a #9 12mm has a radius of 6mm; a #5 6mm has the same radius. Several others are in the chart that are not exact, are close enough to probably work.


    Gouge Radii.jpg
    Since you are interested in architectural carving, here's a web site that may help you. Tools I Can’t Live Without ę Fiebig and Yundt Woodcarving Mark Yundt makes his living doing this type of carving and has a great series of blog entries.

    Claude

  8. #7
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    Luke, I'm no carver, but have had to acquire a few tools & some very rudimentary skills to add the relief-carved details on architectural pieces, chair-backs, corbels, etc. A set of lino-cutting tools or similar is an economical start point for that sort of thing - that's about all I use for things like this chair-back: Back detail.jpg

    I guess more substantial tools that can take a mallet tap or two are needed for things like ball & claw feet. What about the used-tool market? I guess carving tools aren't as plentiful as 'ordinary' cabinetmaking chisels, but I've seen quite a few at flea-markets etc., occasionally. Your mileage may vary, but as others have already said, single-bevel bench chisels are not really suited to the way carving skews & flats are used - double bevels are the go. I also find short chisels are better when carving - long paring chisels usually don't suit the sorts of moves you need to make. But it's very easy to re-purpose old flat chisels picked up at flea-markets - they don't even have to be in good condition, since you'll be grinding both sides to get your edges.

    Keep us in the loop as you do your first couple of B&Cs - I've got a set somewhere on my list, too, (still well down & over the page :roll:). I think it will take me many more expletives and a lot more time to do couple of B&C chair than it took to turn my first-ever set of matching table legs. :U

    Cheers,
    IW

  9. #8
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    Dec 2011
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    SC, USA
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    Luke,

    Have you contacted Mary May to see what they recommend? They did the video, so most likely they will sell tools to accompany it.. And if not - likely they will know what the tool you need is...

    Perhaps the video was originally done with a non-pfeil tool here and there...

    Many manufacturers or countries used their own designations.. And so while Pfeil, Lamp, Two Cherries, Henry Taylor, Ashley Iles , etc all make carving tools with very similar patterns - they have completely different names...

    For example - here is an Ashley Iles #10 sweep... Which is completely different from a Pfeil..
    Straight Gouge (Sweep 10) [SWEEP 10] : Ashley Iles Tool Store

    Thanks

  10. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Luke Maddux View Post
    Question 1: I can't really find this [#10 sweep, 5mm] chisel. From what I can tell, Pfeil doesn't even offer a #10 sweep gouge.
    Found one https://www.dictum.com/en/carving-sc...2_98_1_48_12__
    I don't know who makes Dictum's house branded gouges, but they do carry a #10 sweep in 5 mm width
    regards from Canada

    ian

  11. #10
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    I'm laughing ...

    On Mary's website https://www.marymaycarving.com/carvi...ool-selection/

    I cannot find a #10, 5mm. What should I use as a substitution?

    I would recommend replacing this with a #11, 4mm or #11, 5mm. It would be better to use a more curved gouge, and make several cuts to get to the #10, 5mm size than use a larger curve (like a #9) that may not fit into the area needed.

    regards from Canada

    ian

  12. #11
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    May 2003
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    Quote Originally Posted by ian View Post
    Found one https://www.dictum.com/en/carving-sc...2_98_1_48_12__
    I don't know who makes Dictum's house branded gouges, but they do carry a #10 sweep in 5 mm width

    Dictums are made by Henry Taylor.

    As Henry Taylor tools are English, they would use the Sheffield List, not the Swiss list which is used by the tools Mary May uses.

    Basically, thereís two standards for sweep in carving tools. Sheffield and Swiss. You can google charts and compare. I got an excellent free wallchart from somewhere, I think it was Carbatec.

    Mostly they are only different by a single number. There are traps though. A 2 in the Sheffield list is a flat skew, while in the Swiss list itís a very shallow gouge. An 11 in the Swiss list is a parallel sided gouge, while in the Sheffield list itís a regular semicircle.

    Generally, though, you are overthinking it. Start with some basic tools, and then pursue a single tool only once you are sure you really need it. Always, you can substitute - up or down makes little difference.

    Think of it this way, the higher number gouges are called Ďquicksí because their role is to get material off as fast as possilble. Itís the Ďroughingí stage. If you have to use a gouge one number lower, it just wonít be so quick - hardly an issue for a beginner. The lower number gouges are for Ďflattingí. If you donít have exactly the right one then it just takes more strokes and perhaps a bit more sanding - again I doubt that will bother you.

    In ornamental carving, intricate work is more likely achieved with a relatively flat tool held tilted, cutting each side of a groove separately, rather then with a deep gouge held horizontal.

    Like most carvers Iíve amassed dozens of quality tools, I think about 120, but I only use one set of Pfeils, and only about a dozen of them. I donít look at the numbers or care.

    Incidently, Mary May says her number one tool is a 3/6 and she uses it on every job. Thatís a 6mm, no 3 sweep on the Swiss list. My number one is a 7/12

    The tools I wouldnít be without are these (Swiss list). This is in no particular order, I just have my tools unrolled in front of me so Iíll note them as they lie.

    7/12
    2/14
    12/10
    12/6
    8/7
    3/6
    5/3
    9/14
    3f/14
    Plus a couple of carving knives, which are useful, especially for cleaning up.

    This is for ornamental carving, which is what you are interested in. Figurative carving or sculpture will need different tools.

    Note no flats, a 2 is as near as you need to flat for ornamental.
    Apologies for unnoticed autocomplete errors.

  13. #12
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    Forgot to mention. Second hand is the best way to buy.

    Basically, Iíll buy any well priced Pfeils, Henry Taylorís, Wards or Addis I come across, even if the are duplicates of what I have already. I tell myself Iím buying duplicates because I can trade them, but the truth is I never let them go.

    As long as the steel is good I donít care if theyíre battered. I love to rejuvenate and rehandle the old Wards and Addiss tools.

    Ashley Isles is another good old brand. Ditto Dastra. Marples are common but not much good.

    I have bought some amazingly cheap sets of quality tools on EBay, but they donít often come up at the price I will pay.

    Second hand sets are easy to find because way more people are getting out of carving then getting into it. Itís not something that appeals to millennials (no instant gratification) and most of us who do it are dropping off the perch.
    Apologies for unnoticed autocomplete errors.

  14. #13
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    And while Iím on a roll - hereís another thing that might add some perspective.

    In countries like Australia where sales are low the importers usually only bring in the odd number gouges.

    Cheers
    Arron
    Apologies for unnoticed autocomplete errors.

  15. #14
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    I looked at my tool inventory to see that most of it is odd numbers.

    Then again, when you see totem poles, story poles and mortuary poles from the Pacific Northwest native communities in Canada,
    they are not carved with conventional gouges. Instead there's a very effective tool set of adzes and crooked knives.
    Used farrier knives have a lifetime of carving steel left in them for a start. Change the bevel angle from 25 degrees to 12 degrees and
    you get a scorp in the bargain. You can cut that to a point, as you wish. I have built up maybe 2 dozen of these.

    Here's a very good source. I buy blades only and make up all the handles to fit my hands.
    I used a Baby Sitka and a D adze, the big Sitka gutter blade is now in the Post.

    Kestrel Tool

  16. #15
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    Thanks for the advice everyone. It's greatly appreciated and very valuable.

    I'm a bit hesitant to buy second hand carving tools. I'm a huge advocate of the second hand and vintage market, but I've had mixed experiences with curved tools. I also worry about ending up with a bunch of tools that I don't really know the numbers on, and ending up buying more new ones anyway.

    I think that, with time, I'll have a better understanding of the craft and be willing to make this leap to save money on expanding my collection, but, at least from the start, I think I'm going to buy new ones or, at least, buy used ones from brands which still produce tools.

    I've ordered Mary May's book, "Carving the Acanthus Leaf". This isn't a motif in which I have a tremendous amount of interest, but the book is well reviewed, and I think that it offers a lot of learning opportunity. I'll probably start by buying the tools for the respective projects in the book and eventually get more as I progress through the projects. When I feel like I've reached a point in the book where I'm ready to step outside it, I'll buy the tools appropriate for the Newport shell, the Ball and Claw, etc.

    This will be the closest thing I've ever done to taking a class, but I think that I need it for this skill. I've mentioned this in posts before, but I'm not even really sure that I can do this... like EVER. I've never been great at drawing things, and that's half the battle with carving.

    But we shall see...

    I'll post a progress report some day. In the meantime thanks for the help and if anyone thinks of anything more to offer let me know!

    Cheers,
    Luke

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