Wood carving set advice
0

8 posts in this topic

Recommended Posts

Kathe

Hi,

I want to purchase a wood carving set. I see micro sets with blades of 1.5 mm and mini sets with 3 mm blades. Which is best for carving intricate details? Any brand better than another? Thanks so much! 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
WeekendMiniaturist

Hi Kathe, Welcome to the forum.... 

My first set of micro carving tools was a set of dockyard carving tools... knowing myself, they are probably the middle size.  I got a couple of tools from Elizabeth G, at a GS Seminar (Carving a ball & claw foot), and then added a small starter set of the flexcut tools.  I can also borrow tools from husband's collection...as long as I pay attention to the rules... like put them back after finished and do not let them bang around.  

I go back and forth, always buy the smallest? or buy the medium size... or buy ALL of them... I still only have my original set.  

If you are planning to carve the piece that was the recent subject posted for the bending wood? then I think I would want the smallest size tools.  Two Cherry tools are very nice, (aka Expensive) but if you love the best quality in your tools, I would consider this brand too... oh and these are available at my local woodwoking store, so I can see them in person before buying.  Some people carve with a dremel or foredom flex shaft, but I prefer to carve by hand, as I need all the control possible.

If you do purchase the dockyards, they could fit perfectly in a magnetically closing eyeglasses case, and you can go to Lowe's or Home Depot and purchase clear plastic tubing to slip over the blades to protect them from damage.  Another option is to repurpose leather from a large purse or tote, and sew a leather roll for them as you do want to prevent damage.

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
karincorbin

I started with the dockyard tools. I don't like them, they don't hold an edge and they all have the same sweep, a true half circle as it relates to the width. I quickly found out that the deep sweep was never going to let me carve like a professional wood carver does.

It is not just all about the width, having a variety of sweeps (meaning what portion of a segment of a circle's diameter the gouge is made from)  is extremely important for ease of carving. You need those shallow sweeps as well as some of the deeper ones too. Plus of course a V shaped gouge and a flat chisel gouge . Why you need those shallow sweeps is that when you are doing a wood carving say of flowers then the curve of the flower is outlined by choosing a matching curve from your gouge set. Petals are not usually half circles and neither are designs such as an acanthus leaf. When you want to dish out a petal's upper surface you need a shallow sweep so that you get the depth of the dishing just right all across the petal.  If you try to do that task with a narrow, deep gouge you will be carving lots of furrows rather than an even gentle curve.  When you want to remove background area and have it nice and level you also need a shallow sweep so you don't have it looking like a freshly plowed field of narrow, deep grooves that you have to keep cutting the tops off of to get them level. Having just the right shaped of gouge really speeds up the carving tasks.

Then there is the comfort factor in the shape of the handle. The dockyard handles are pencil sized and that does not give the best control. What works much better for small scale fine detail carving are the "block cutters" sometimes called palm gouges. They are specifically designed for making small intricate cuts for wood block engraving.

The best ones available in the USA are being imported from Ashley Iles by a company located in Brooklyn New York, Toolsforwoodworking.com.  Here is a great advantage for you, they have a 6 month return policy if you are not happy with the tool. It can be lightly used as long as it is not damaged  so you don't want to mess them up with a bad sharpening job and then try to return them.  So start with a variety of the smallest widths in several different sweeps. They are a good investment, I just ask for them as a gift or sometimes gave myself one or two now and again. After using them for a while I quickly understood which additional gouges I wanted/needed to have in my collection. I did not try to get every gouge they make all at once.

Here is a link to those box cutters from Ashley Iles:  https://www.toolsforworkingwood.com/store/item/IL-ALLBLOCK.XX

If heading to New York to attend IGMA events the store is a fun place to visit.

anyway, I hope this advice helps you better understand the shapes of the gouges you need and why you need to have a variety of sweeps and not just a variety of widths. Both of those factor of gouge design as well as the shape of the handle are very important to have in your carving kit for making miniatures.

 

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
WeekendMiniaturist

Karin, thanks for sharing with us your experience about the Ashley Iles, I remember that you posted about them in the past, too... I'm glad that you brought it to our attention again.

I will have to check if the Ashley Iles available without handles?  I love the suggestion; and will tuck this away when I'm all in on my carving projects. 

Just a side note,  the Guild Show moved to Hartford, CT from the former Teaneck, NJ Location in 2017.  

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
karincorbin
On 2/20/2018 at 6:34 PM, WeekendMiniaturist said:

Karin, thanks for sharing with us your experience about the Ashley Iles, I remember that you posted about them in the past, too... I'm glad that you brought it to our attention again.

I will have to check if the Ashley Iles available without handles?  I love the suggestion; and will tuck this away when I'm all in on my carving projects. 

Just a side note,  the Guild Show moved to Hartford, CT from the former Teaneck, NJ Location in 2017.  

 

 

Why would you want them without handles?  The handles are fantastic to hold.   You don't use mallets with miniature sized gouges, you just push on them with palm pressure. Even when cutting hardwoods. The larger rounded end of the palm gouges gives a great mechanical advantage when pushing as it distributes the pressure over a wider area of your palm and that prevents too much pressure on the nerves in your hands.

The professional who carve many hours of the day doing fine detail work such as engraving into small block of wood (or metal) figured out the design of the handles centuries ago. But someone new to carving would not have a clue as to why these small gouges don't have the same shape of handles as the larger wood carving gouges that are used with a mallet.

You will never have as much control making miniature sized cuts with a narrow handle hit by a mallet as you will when using the palm fitting block cutters. Not only will you rub a blister into your palm and on your finger you can get nerve damage to your hands if you spend very many hours pushing the narrow end of a small diameter gouge handle into your palm. So don't do that.

People feel comfortable using pencil sized and shaped handles because of the many years of using pens and pencils. But the forces you are putting on the carving tools are very different than what you do with a pencil. When doing this type of miniature carving your fingers are controlling the side to side movement and your palm is applying the force. Ergonomics are important in getting good results and in protecting your body from damage.  Remember new shapes of tools will often feel totally wrong to someone when they first try them. But you need to push through that phase of the learning curve of using a tool by putting in the practice hours and before long it will feel natural to you.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
WeekendMiniaturist

I apologize for not explaining this well;   I have known forever, that tools made generally to be sold to men are just going to be too big for my hands; so I have a tried and true shape handle for my hand tools.  The gentlemen in my Unimat Forum, tipped me off to this and sent me the corresponding info for my study, so I've developed the perfect handle for my small hands based upon some research and measurements.  I don't know where that article is right now... but someone wrote about it before, and I bought the magazine for permanent reference.  I also know from my experience that I get my best results with hand work when a tool becomes an extension, and a tool that fits well in my palms;  not a man's palms that are 30% larger.  Subsequently the reason that turning my own handles for my gravers was part of my first 100 hours on a lathe.  :-)  I have a lifetime experience of being small, I didn't need any experience in carving to know immediately that the tools would not fit my hands.  Therefore,  it is simply easier for me to buy tools with no handles... have no fear I won't use them without setting them in a handle...  and at present time I don't own a carving mallet, but something that can be turned on my jet mini lathe.  

I wonder for the people who are experienced carvers, do you gravitate to the same carving tools?  Do you need more then 10 carving tools for all your hand carved projects?  I know I have lots of pairs of tweezer, I have had those weak moments where I have purchased some that I thought would work, and the tips are not strong enough.  I have several pair but I gravitate to that one pair.  When I lost them in my car, let's say no one was allowed to remove anything or clean the car until I found my tweezers.  Do experienced carvers have the same experience where you gravitate to certain carving tools?  If yes, how many do you really find you need?  Ok, I'm going with the necessary tool will vary based upon the objects you are carving.

I haven't carved anything worth sharing, so hope to see some pictures someday of contemplated projects... linenfold keeps coming to my mind, after QA ball and claw feet.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
karincorbin

I have turned my own palm held handles. It is quite easy to make them. I do have more than 10 tools for hand carving.

3 widths in 3 different sweeps for the U gouges is what I would consider to be a minimal selection

more than one width of flat chisels

a left and a right angled flat chisel

two widths of V gouges

of course some knives and scalpels as well

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
karincorbin

This video on instagram from Peter Follansbee is of full scale wood carving techniques in a historic style, watch him selecting different sweeps and widths to outline the various areas of details. The reason I am showing something being done in full scale it is that these old carvings used the varying sweeps and widths of the chisels to create the outlining of the features in the carving.  In fact the shape of the tools drives much of the details of the old historic design patterns such as the one being carved in that video. If you don't have the understanding that specific sweeps and widths of carving tools were used for these old patterns when you go to carve a miniature you make it much harder to reproduce the work when trying to do it with tools that don't match the shapes you are carving. When I look at carving advice in the various books specifically on making dollhouse furniture you never see it done this way. Most likely because it used to be impossible to find high quality miniature woodcarving tools. But that has changed now with the line of block carving tools being produced at Ashley Iles in the UK. Some other companies are now also beginning to produce a range of high quality miniature sized carving tools. But just remember when watching the video we do not have to use a mallet because the cuts we are making are relatively shallow and also very short in length. This is why the palm tools work best  as sufficient pressure can be produced with your hand rather than a mallet strike.

I think everyone can understand that creating a repeatably accurate small radius is going to be much easier to outline by pushing the shape in with a tool rather than trying to follow a tiny curve with a knife. This is why you need those varying sweeps rather than buying dockard tools that have only one type of sweep, a full half circle which in some of the gouge size standards such as the USA is a #9 sweep. Unfortunately this understanding of the sweeps has not yet made it into the published techniques, in text or video, that is being taught for carving miniatures.

 

By the way, I am a woman and the handles of the Asley Iles tools fit just right into my hands. For me they feel slightly undersized.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
0