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Tom Overthere
02-17-2009, 4:11 PM
My first attempts will be relief carving in whatever hardwood is at hand.

I'm really not knowledgeable - not even sure whether such work is done using chisels/gouges and a mallet or knives and hand pressure as in chip carving.

I need advice on where to find a good deal on a set that will get me started. My budget is small, but I know the value of having good tools (in terms of work product and safety), so please make recommedations with that in mind - er, emphasis on the budget aspect. :D

I'm putting together a Grizzly order and can add a carving set to that if you guys think any of the Griz sets are suitable. Here are links to the two pages of carving products on the Grizzly site.

a) Grizzly Carving Tools page 1 (http://www.grizzly.com/products/searchresults.aspx?q=carving%20chisels)
b) Grizzly Carving Tools page 2 (http://www.grizzly.com/products/searchresults.aspx?q=carving+chisels&start=25&num=25)

And if there are any must-have accessories that should be purchased now (specific sharpening stones, etc), please let me know :confused:

:confused:Thanks:confused:

Terry Beadle
02-18-2009, 11:00 AM
I recommend you look into flexcut. These are high quality tools and you can get a nice set for well under $200.

Also, there are sets of just blades which lowers the price per chisel. The handles can be bought at places like Harbor Freight and Northern Tool for about $2 a pop.

What ever you buy, do not buy cheap tools. You will get more use out of one good quality chisel than a dozen cheapies.

Good luck and keep us posted!

Mike Henderson
02-18-2009, 11:39 AM
If at all possible, take a course on carving before you invest a lot of money in tools. Carving is one of those skills best learned one-on-one.

The tools you'll need will depend upon what you're going to carve.

This is just personal preference, but I'm not a big fan of Flexcut tools. If you want to try them out, get a couple and see if you like them before committing to a big lot of them. And compare them to regular carving tools (like Pfeil, Ashely Iles, etc.) - that is, use both before you decide which to buy a lot of.

Mike

Tom Overthere
02-18-2009, 1:41 PM
Thanks for the (diameterically opposed :D) advice, guys.

I have little chance of taking a course locally, and will more likely learn online or via books (probably similar to reading a book on how to play the violin!)

Since nobody commented on the Grizzly product line in general. I'll ask a specific question. What do you think of this, as a decent starter set? http://www.grizzly.com/products/12-pc-Carving-Chisel-Set/H2930

Is such a set designed for use with a mallet, or are they intended for hand pressure guiding the tool through the work surface?

FYI - I found several user comments on Amazon.com regarding this set. Four stars out of five, seven reviews. Negative comments involved cheap plastic handles and too steep a sharpened angle. What say you guys? Are they good enough for a starter set, or is "middling quality" likely to just get in my way?

Mike Henderson
02-18-2009, 1:56 PM
Let me first comment that you should select the wood to carve because it will make a big difference in your carving (don't try to carve any wood in the beginning). I would suggest basswood (good basswood) or Honduras mahogany because they both are straight grain, cut well, and hold detail.

With the Grizzly set, I think you'll get some tools that you'll never, or rarely, use.

My recommendations would be (given in the Pfeil system): These are all standard, straight tools - no fishtails, forward or back bent, or anything else. Any of those can come later.

12/6 V-tool (this is the most important tool)

2/5
2/12 (or a 2/8)
2/19

3/5
3/20 (you could go narrower here, if you want, maybe a 3/12 or 3/16)

5/5
5/10

7/14

9/10

But a lot depends on what you're going to carve. That's ten tools and will set you back about $250 - $300. And that's only the beginning.

Mike

[Oh, I have some carving tutorials on my web site (http://www.mikes-woodwork.com/Tutorials.htm) and have posted some on the forum here. See the sticky at the top of the this forum.]

Tom Overthere
02-18-2009, 2:06 PM
Thanks for the details, Mike. FWIW, I went back and edited my previous post, apparently while you were typing yours. Despite that, your comments DO answer my revised questions. Thanks.

Complications: I don't intend to carve for the sake of carving. I want to do relief carving (typical/traditional) to embellish furniture and architectural installations, such as a mantle piece. While I surely will attempt to find the basswood or Honduran mahogany you suggest for practice, ultimately I'll have to learn to carve in any hardwood used for a project.

Now that I've added those qualifiers, does your advice as posted above change in any way?

Thanks

P.S. I went through one of your tutorials here, about a week ago. It was very helpful, and is a real service to "the SMC community". Thanks, and I'll go bookmark your website next.

Tom Overthere
02-18-2009, 2:20 PM
I recommend you look into flexcut. These are high quality tools and you can get a nice set for well under $200.

The handles can be bought at places like Harbor Freight and Northern Tool for about $2 a pop.

Do not buy cheap tools. Thanks, Terry. I visited the Flexcut website per your suggestion. 'Looks like a viable approach, and I DO have a Harbor Freight tool outlet nearby...

Can you tell me specifically what YOU like about the Flexcut tools? Mike says he's not a fan of them, so I'd like to hear the specifics of Mike's dissatisfaction as well.

I don't want to start an argument :D. I'd just like to hear the pros and cons, if possible. Thanks.

Tom Overthere
02-18-2009, 2:34 PM
Terry and Mike ==

I'm looking at the Flexcut SK108 Set for $179 which claims to cover all bases - mallet, palm and knife techniques.

http://www.flexcut.com/products/cart.php?target=product&product_id=1067&category_id=227

It appears from the little I've read so far, that the Flexcut tools may involve different techniques than those employed in "traditional" carving. Is that right?

I love tradition, but am always looking for "a better way".

Please give me the benefit of your (perhaps opposing) insights.

Thanks

Mike Henderson
02-18-2009, 2:45 PM
There's nothing wrong with Flexcut - I just prefer the traditional carving tools. Mostly I use Pfeil but have Ashley Iles, Henry Taylor, Stubi, and maybe a few others.

If you like Flexcut and they work well for you, you should buy them. Check the resale value on eBay. If it's good, you can buy and if you decide you don't like them, you can resell and not lose much money.

Most traditional carving tools bring good prices on eBay, almost retail price.

Mike

mike holden
02-18-2009, 3:01 PM
Tom,
If you dont mind my jumping in here.
I have about 6 flexcut gouges and over 30 of the regular gouges (Pfeil and Ashley Isles).
My take on the flexcuts is that they are mostly for those that carve "in-the-round".
I dont care for the flex in the shaft, and fail to see how it can help - it certainly makes hitting them with a mallet, or even just pushing with a forearm a dicey proposition. According to their brochures, the flex is supposed to help them act like a bent gouge when needed. I think I need a flexcut expert to show me how thats done, because I cant figure out how its done. On the other hand they come sharp, and I like the flexcut sharpening kit for all my gouges.
As far as traditional goes, my favorites are Pfeils. They come sharp and with a well shaped bevel so they only need honing for a long time. The Ashley Isles are a close second, close enough that I will buy by price and availability.

Not sure where you are geographically, but it sounds like you are interested in period furniture. If so, check out SAPFM dot org. There may be a member close to you that can help you get started.

And I would second or third the suggestion NOT to get a set of tools. They almost never include all the ones you need for YOUR carving and a lot thay you will NEVER use. Not the most economical way to go.

As to why I have the flexcuts - I bought a set to get started.

Mike

110582 my ball & claw is the unfinished one, the other is Phil Lowe's

110583 trifid foot in mahogany

110584 trifid foot in maple

Tom Overthere
02-18-2009, 3:19 PM
Tom,
If you dont mind my jumping in here. Glad to have your input, every input.



I dont care for the flex in the shaft, and fail to see how it can help - it certainly makes hitting them with a mallet, or even just pushing with a forearm a dicey proposition. Point taken, though I have no experience of my own.



As far as traditional goes, my favorites are Pfeils....Ashley Isles are a close second, close enough that I will buy by price and availability. Thanks for the recommendation.




...check out SAPFM dot org. There may be a member close to you that can help you get started. Checked it out. Nobody in my area.



And I would second or third the suggestion NOT to get a set of tools...Not the most economical way to go. Point taken, but, despite Mike Henderson's helpful advice (see above) I won't really know which tools I need until I do some carving. Catch 22.



As to why I have the flexcuts - I bought a set to get started. HAHAHA! :D I hear you, loud and clear.


WOW! :eek: on the photo examples. Thanks, Mike.

Carlos Alden
02-18-2009, 5:22 PM
Tom:

I started carving for fun about 15 years ago. Got a cheapie set and they couldn't stay sharp. Got a better set but with palm handles and did better, and finally got a Pfeil set from Woodcraft. The difference in what I was able to do was night and day. I also found that the better, larger tools were easier to sharpen well and held an edge better. I tried the Flexcut tools a few times and found that I had ZERO control. I MUCH prefer the size and feel of traditional tools.

I almost never use a mallet for my relief carving. I learned initial technique from a workshop with Nora Hall (http://www.norahall.com/) and she avoided using a mallet. By the way, her instructional DVDs are very good. She also has some good advice about starter sets and "essential" tools (as does Mike Henderson in his post.)

So before I blather on even more than I have: don't waste time and money on cheap tools. If you're sure your going to do this and not "I'm trying a piece to see if I like it" then I'd just go for 6-8 essential tools by Pfeil, Ashley Iles, Henry Taylor, and get a book and DVD by Nora Hall and/or Chris Pye. Better yet, get a book first and read their advice about a starter set.

Good luck. Photos of your first projects are mandatory in repayment for advice given:).

Tom Overthere
02-18-2009, 7:30 PM
...finally got a Pfeil set from Woodcraft. The difference in what I was able to do was night and day. ...I tried the Flexcut tools a few times and found that I had ZERO control. I MUCH prefer the size and feel of traditional tools. I found the Flexcut SK 108 Set locally, at a discount ($10 rebate), but it looks like I'll probably pass...


I almost never use a mallet for my relief carving. I learned initial technique from a workshop with Nora Hall (http://www.norahall.com/)...her instructional DVDs are very good. She also has some good advice about starter sets and "essential" tools AHA! A starting place for good DVD instruction - to supplement/augment Mike Henderson's excellent tutorials. I find I learn really quickly when I can see (and hear) processes occur in motion - as in watching video instead of viewing a series of static pictures. Something about motion-based media helps (me) to "de-mystify" processes. Thank you for the names, Nora Hall and Chris Pye. I'll investigate.


...don't waste time and money on cheap tools. #1 If you're sure your going to do this and not "I'm trying a piece to see if I like it" then I'd just go for 6-8 essential tools...and get a book and DVD by Nora Hall and/or Chris Pye. #2 Better yet, get a book first and read their advice about a starter set. Looks like I'll have to opt for #2 and purchase accordingly. CATCH 22 STATES: There's no way of knowing the answer #1 until I get some tools and dive in :confused::D:confused:


Photos of your first projects are mandatory in repayment for advice given:). Oh, no! The cost of a digital camera is really gonna increase my carving tool budget. :D

Carlos Alden
02-19-2009, 1:04 AM
Tom:

I've just spent some time further investigating Chris Pye's website (http://www.chrispye-woodcarving.com/index.html) and highly recommend you look at it for advice. He has a TON of downloadable PDF files including information on how to buy tools, which ones are good, and even a bit about what tools to start with:
--------------------------------------
If someone could begin carving with only 3 carving tools, what
ones would you recommend?Say they have a good detail knife and they dont want to buy a set
until they know for sure that they will continue carving.

Mmm, a tricky pop question!
Ask me another day and Ill give you a different 3 but, today, Id go for:
1. 3/8 x #39 (60) V tool
2. 1/2 x #3 straight gouge
(You can do a fantastic amount of decorative work and relief carving with
these two).
3. 1/2 x #7 straight gouge
(A little over a medium sweep for some work in the round.)
--------------------------------------
Anyway, the PDF files ("Slipstones") are very good and informative. Hope this helps.

Carlos

Terry Beadle
02-19-2009, 9:27 AM
Lots of good advise. Mike really knows his stuff so I'd follow his advice. Ease into it as it depends on what you want to carve. If you are going to carve in red oak vs mahogany, completely different chisels will probably be selected.

Why do I like flex cut? They come sharpe and you can keep them that way easily. Also I do carve "in the round" but I also use the flex cut "in the flat". Lately I've been using them to shape the in fill pieces for my St. James Bay coffin smoother project. Cocobolo is really tough stuff and the flex cut blades are giving me good results. I've got a Phifel gouge which I like but it doesn't give me as good a results.

I'm a bit mystified about other's comments about flex cut control. I guess I'm lucky to have found a way to push the blades semi-cross grained. I have a collection of "standard" gouges that can be used with a mallet and they give good service.

Digital camera's are cheap! A picture is worth a thousand words and with a picture all the guys here can give much better guideance.

It's very good advice to take a class. Nothing is better than some quality time with a pro. You learn so much that you don't realise until later. I also have Nora Roberts video's and she is a fabulous teacher. Her commentary whilst showing her technique is surpurb.

Enjoy!

Robert Rozaieski
02-20-2009, 10:27 AM
You've already gotten some excellent advise so I'm not going to rehash any of it but I will offer one additional bit of advise. Pick a project FIRST. The tools required are really dependant on what you are going to carve. I understand from your previous posts above that you are looking to do relief carving for furniture. Great! Now be more specific :D. What exactly will be your first carving?

Here's the thing. You won't need every tool for every carving project. Additionally, some carvings require more tools than others. For example, if you want to carve a simple convex lobed applied shell like the one Mike did for his first shell tutorial, you'll need considerably fewer tools than if you want to do a more complex convex/concave curved lobed shell. The reason is access. Concave shapes always require more and different sweeps to do than convex shapes because you need sweeps to match the concave areas of the carving. As a matter of fact, you can carve a straight, convex lobed fan or shell with little more than a parting tool and a bench chisel. Straight chisels can be used bevel down to do a lot of convex work.

Carving a B&C foot actually requires only a couple of tools. I did my first one with little more than a couple bench chisels, a 1/2" #3, a 1/2" #5 and a 1/4" #7 (English system numbering).

So pick a specific carving you would like to do and then come back here and let us know what you chose and we should be able to give you a better idea of actual tools to get so you don't waste money on tools you don't need. Then for your next carving, you can add the additional tools you don't yet have.

As others have said, pre-assembled sets are really not a good buy as you will be paying upwards of $30 per tool for a lot of tools you may never use. Instead, make your own set as you go along. If you have $200 to spend, get the 4 or 5 tools needed for a specific carving, a slip stone or two, some honing oil, a strop, some green honing compund, maybe a DVD and some wood to practice on. That should be a good starter set ;).

george wilson
02-21-2009, 5:56 PM
If anyone cares to do it,smaller carving tools are very easy to make.I've made dozens of special shapes,sets of fishtail gouges,etc. All you need is 1/4" square W1,or O1 steel bars,something to beat on
(not even an anvil is necessary),a hammer,and Mapp gas torch,a bench grinder,some files,and a quench-gallon of water or cooking oil.

First,hammer the ends out flat when orange hot. Bend the milder curves by getting the thin,fan shaped ends orange hot,then,take a bar of steel that has the curve you want to impart. Hold the flat "fan" shaped chisel down on a block of hardwood,ignore the smoke,quickly lay the piece of bar steel over it,with the bar parallel to the shank of the chisel,and drive the side of the steel bar down against the chisel,forming it into a curved edge against the hardwood. Try end grain hardwood if you don't get the chisel (now gouge) you are making,to fully form against the steel bar. As a last resort,you can file a round groove into a piece of aluminum to form your gouge into.

For "V" tools,just file the V with a triangular file. Suggest a needle file to sharpen the bottom of the V. File,or grind,then file the outside shape of the 1/4",or 3/16" square steel bar down to fit the V shape you have filed.

When you have made the business end of the carving tool,heat up the tang end,and hammer it into a square,tapered tang,or just grind it into shape. MSC sells cold drawn W1 square bars,annealed. The 1/4" square X 36" bars are less than $5.00 each.

If you aren't going to hammer drive these carving tools,no bolster is needed. The bolster is really the hard part. You can't forge the bolster out from the body of the chisel without advanced blacksmithing skills,and some special dies that you also made. However,you can take a thick steel washer,and file a square hole in it that fits over the tapered tang,but whose square hole is too small to go completely over the tang,and down the shank of the tool. You could make a better looking bolster by sawing off 1/8" thick discs from a 1/2" round bar of steel,drilling a hole,and filing the bolster octagonal after it is pressed home,perhaps over a dummy tang. The bolster doesn't need to be attached to the tang. When the tang is pressed into the handle,the bolster will be trapped. Drill a hole in the handle. Heat up a tang pattern,and burn the hole into a square,tapered hole. Leave room enough in the hole to have your real tang seat down tight when you drive it home.

Blue Spruce chisels do not seem to have a bolster. He apparently grinds the tang down,leaving a flat ,stepped out area where the blade butts against the handle,and traps the end of the chisel inside a tightly fitted ferrule.

Hardening is simple enough: Heat the tool on it's last few inches on the business end,to an orange color. Don't over do this,or you will blister the steel,and ruin it. Then,quench the tool in cool but not ice cold water (or oil if using 01).

Check the hardness with a smooth cut mill file. If it skates over the tool's hardened area,the tool is fully hardened. If not,re heat better,and quench. Then,polish off the surface of the tool,and VERY slowly,with brushing passes of the torch,a few inches back from the cutting end of the tool,watch as the tempering colors form: yellow,light brown,medium brown,purple,blue,then gray. STOP at medium brown. Aboue that,the tool gets too soft. At gray it is annealed dead soft. Quench again when the medium brown color reaches the cutting edge of your gouge. If you get it too soft,start all over with rehardening.

Grinnling Gibbons made his special carving tools as needed. An advanced carver really needs to be able to do this also,though these days they seldom do.

If you make your own tools correctly,you will have complete quality control from the steel selection,and will make tools as good or better than you can buy,because you won't be starting out with cheaper grades of lower carbon steel to save money,as some manufacturers are wont to do.

Tom Overthere
02-22-2009, 11:16 AM
Pick a project FIRST. The tools required are really dependant on what you are going to carve...then come back here and let us know what you chose and we should be able to give you a better idea of actual tools to get so you don't waste money on tools you don't need. Then for your next carving, you can add the additional tools you don't yet have.

If you have $200 to spend, get the 4 or 5 tools needed for a specific carving, a slip stone or two, some honing oil, a strop, some green honing compund, maybe a DVD and some wood to practice on. That should be a good starter set ;).

EXCELLENT ADVICE. I'm going to a local woodworking show today and will look for "first project" ideas.

Tom Overthere
02-22-2009, 11:21 AM
Chris Pye's website (http://www.chrispye-woodcarving.com/index.html)...has a TON of downloadable PDF files including information on how to buy tools, which ones are good, and even a bit about what tools to start with.
--------------------------------------
If someone could begin carving with only 3 carving tools, what
ones would you recommend? Say they have a good detail knife and they dont want to buy a set [yet]:

1. 3/8 x #39 (60) V tool
2. 1/2 x #3 straight gouge (You can do a fantastic amount of decorative work and relief carving with these two).
3. 1/2 x #7 straight gouge (A little over a medium sweep for some work in the round.)
--------------------------------------
Pye's PDF files ("Slipstones") are very good and informative. THANKS(!) CARLOS That's a BIG help. I'm going to a local woodworking show today. If they're selling individual carving tools, I'll have this list in my hand.

Tom Overthere
02-22-2009, 11:32 AM
If anyone cares to do it,smaller carving tools are very easy to make.George, you're KILLING me :D.

You left out a couple of steps: First I'm building a forge so I can pour the molten steel.
THEN I'll develop the blacksmithing and tool-making skills. :D Just kidding.

I think your idea/techniques are very interesting and "do-able" for some SMC members. I suggest you copy your comments into a new thread, specific to that topic - and title it accordingly so members can find it.

David Keller NC
02-22-2009, 12:49 PM
Tom - Yet another opinion, take it or leave it. Like you, my primary interest is in carving for furniture, which is typically relief and molding carvings, and the obligatory ball and claw foot. I've been carving for about 3-4 years, the last 2 under the tutelage of a 30 year local expert.

The advice about not buying tools sets is spot-on. If you're not doing letter carving, you will never use a flat chisel. If you're going to use a router (either a router plane or an electric one) to lower the ground on a relief carving, it's unlikely you will ever use a #9 or a #11.

As to flex-cuts, this what I'd say - Flexcut makes two styles of tools, the regular, flexible shaft palm tools, and the sturdier (and non-flex) mallet tools. I had a set of both which I sold because I have Pfiel duplicates. I have (and use) flex-cut knives. In my opinion, the steel in a Flex-cut is absolutely superior - it will take an edge and hold it better than any other carving tool I have, including the legendary (and antique) Addis tools. Whether you want to use Flex-cut probably depends on the opportunity that comes your way - I sold both the palm tool set and the mallet tool set for a total of $125, which is about $10 a tool.

I would advise against the inter-changeable handle Flex-cut sets. While it is a way to reduce the cost per tool, it's not a workable solution for efficient carving - you need to have the tools you need for a project in front of you and be able to minimize the time necessary to alternate tools. Having to interchange the tools in the handle would be an enormous PITA, in my opinion.

Finally, as to a basic tools set - you can buy a few tools with absolute confidence that you will need them, and build on it as you need the tools:

A 60 degree v-tool, perhaps a 12mm width - a v-tool is necessary for any sort of carving except perhaps whittling walking sticks.

A medium width #2 (Pfiel numbering system) - about 16 mm is about right. You will need this tool to get a good, reasonably level ground in a relief carving.

A medium width #3 - a 12mm, 14mm, or 16mm is a good start. This is the tool used to form the ball on a ball & claw foot.

A medium width #5 - used to round the toes on B&C foot, used to round the convex lobes on a larger shell, and also a very typical curve that you need to stab in relief carving, as well as a good sweep for egg and dart molding.

A medium width #7 - used to round the talons on the toes on a B&C foot, forming the convex lobes on a small shell, and also a typical curve in relief carving.

A smaller width #8 (perhaps a 10mm) - used a lot in elements of certain types of carved molding, such as "pea" molding.

A medium #9 (14mm) - used to quickly lower the ground on a relief carving (#9s and #11s are sometimes called "quick gouges" because of this use). You may not need this tool much if you're going to use a router.

A very small #11 (2mm or 3mm) - this tool is sometimes called a "veiner", and was traditionally used for the leaf veins in acanthus leaf carvings. You can also use your v-tool for this purpose, though a small #11 works a bit better in reversing-grain situations.

This is a basic tool kit - you will probably find later on that while you can use a straight carving gouge upside-down (with a back-bevel) to round convex elements, it's more efficient to have a couple of back-bent carving gouges. And as your skills grow, you will find the need for many other, more specialized tools. Most of us that have been doing this a while have a couple of hundred such tools, but you definitely do not need such a set to get the job done - it's just easier and faster to have the specialized tools.

Finally, if you don't have a suitable source near you, you can order some really superb basswood from Heinicke wood products: http://www.heineckewood.com/. I cannot recommend them more highly - all basswood is not created equal when it comes to carving, and the slow-growth stuff they harvest and sell is really superior for the purpose.

Carlos Alden
02-22-2009, 2:37 PM
Follow-up purchase report mandatory. Let us know what you get.

Carlos

Tom Overthere
02-22-2009, 7:04 PM
David, thank you for your amazing post. Very helpful, but if you read my comments below, you'll see why I'm still not sure what to purchase (because carving involves such substantial investment in terms of money for tools, and time spent developing lasting technique based on whatever tools you commit to).


Well, I attended a local woodworkers' show today, armed with all my notes from you guys. I happened to find the liason for the local wood carvers' club, and asked him every question I could think of.

His advice is about 180-degrees from most of what I've learned here at SMC so far. :D:confused:There's a surprise...:confused::D
Caveat: I realize he is just one man, with an opinion based on the extent of his own experiences, skills and applications. Seems like every question I ask online ends up in draw, with no clear course of action due to equally profound advice on both sides of every issue.

For hardwood relief carving related to furniture design, he advises purchasing individual Flexcut tools. His suggestion:

a) mount them in the big, two-handed reciprocating tool for a fast, controllable and less tiring alternative to mallet+chisel techniques.

b) mount them in the small-diameter one-handed recip tool handle for a fast, highly-controllable alternative to traditional fine gouge techniques.

When I asked him if sharpening Flexcut was any more difficult than sharpening traditional tools, he said, "I don't know because so far I haven't had to sharpen mine...at all."

I figured maybe he's just not using them much, but he said he uses them a lot - in basswood and cottonwood. So I'm thinking hardwoods are going to be much tougher in terms of wear and technique.

Anybody care to respond to this divergent (except for Terry's ;)) point of view?

PS The man with whom I spoke today does mostly 3D work - realistic fish, some characature, etc.

Carlos Alden
02-22-2009, 7:38 PM
Tom:

I have heard that Flexcut tools are sharp and tend to hold their edge. I don't see this is a huge benefit, though. It's really nothing to hone up the edges of my tools once or twice as I'm carving.

I'm sure there are other benefits to using them, and maybe this is the way to go. I tend to go with tried-and-true approaches, though. Beware of any advice that tells you "THIS is the very best and only way..."

I think you should buy one of the carving gouges by Pfeil and a simliar size of the Flexcut, and try them each on different woods. Your hand will tell you within a short period of time which one you like. At worst you're out the price of one tool.

Carlos

Tom Overthere
02-22-2009, 8:03 PM
Carlos ==

Thanks. The suggestion of buying "one of each" and doing my own comparison testing may be the ONLY way I can settle this without mortgaging the house to cover tooling and instructional costs...:eek:

David Keller mentioned the use of a router. I will likely develop my own "Half-Baked HYBRID" approach that uses a router to lower the ground, and more. Dare I say it in this forum? I'd like to build a CopyCarver-like pantograph device and use it to rough in subject matter. Then clean up and add detail with somekinda carving tools(!) and then maybe use the little Flexcut scrapers, which look like they'll save a lot of sanding (yes? no?).

I'm hoping to come up with a relatively fast-and-painless method, suitable for limited "production" of custom pieces. Sadly, tradition will likely take a hit...


QUESTION: Carlos, in an earlier post, you stated:
"I almost never use a mallet for my relief carving. I learned initial technique from a workshop with Nora Hall (http://www.norahall.com/) and she avoided using a mallet."

Is that in reference to hardwoods, or basswood and other lighter/softer carving woods?

Carlos Alden
02-22-2009, 11:58 PM
I haven't carved much in hardwoods, just some mahogany, so I haven't needed to use the mallet much. I can see where that would make a difference and be needed.

I tried using a router to rough out some of my carvings - in fact I bought a PC just for that reason. However after using it ONCE I decided it wasn't worth it. Way too much noise, dust, confusion, danger. I can really lean into basswood with a deep gouge and get out as much as I need to.

But then again I've never done production work, and for something like a mantel carving with lots of repetition of design, and an initial shallow removal of background, it might be really helpful.

So, what else did you see at the show carving-wise?

Carlos

Tom Overthere
02-23-2009, 1:51 AM
So, what else did you see at the show carving-wise? Not much. It was a small show in a small town, held at a VFW hall. Someone put on a chainsaw sculpture demonstration, a cartoonish cowboy figure with facial detailing done ala mallet-and-chisel. There were a bunch o' chip carvers and cowboy characature carvers hawking their wares. The only carving-related discussion I took part in was with the man from the local wood carver's club. Kinda lucky I happened to run to him, that is IF HIS ADVICE TURNS OUT TO BE RIGHT...:D

I think I'm going to try your "buy one Flexcut blade and one qualilty traditional version of the same blade" idea. Whichever one plows deeper into my left hand gets the nod :D [black humor] :eek:

David Keller NC
02-23-2009, 12:09 PM
Tom - The advice you were given at the local show is sort of outside the range of what we're discussing on this thread - it's the power-carving vs. hand-tool carving approach.

This is what I'd say about the two different approaches - both are valid, but for different things. Power tool carving (typically with high-speed rotating burrs, nor reciprocating carving tools) is a common method for wildlife and other "folk art" carvings. It's a very popular approach for decoy-carving, for example.

However, it's not used much for traditional furniture work. The reason is the surface left behind by the burrs, the lack of control with a reciprocating carver compared to mallet and chisel work, and the limitations of power tool devices as applied to typical period furniture ornamentation.

Generally, the surface left behind by high-speed rotating burrs is not acceptable for traditional furniture ornaments, so either the power tool needs to be followed up by hand-tool work, or the carving will need to be heavily sanded. Most period furniture ornamentation was designed to be carved very quickly and efficiently, so removing a ton of wood in a big hurry is not as useful as it is with completely "in the round" work like decoy carving. Moreover, heavy sanding really destroys the details that hand-tool work is designed to impart, and generally looks "wrong" when it's finished. That's not the same as using light sanding to finish a hand-tool carving, though there's still some debate as to whether a "gouge finish" is more appropriate.

As popular as the Carve Wright system may be, it's still very slow compared to someone with some skill and hand tools and a mallet. Just as one example, I can carve a rather complex-looking egg and dart molding with 3 tools and at the rate of about 3-4 feet in an hour, and that's ready for a finish in moderately hard woods like mahogany or cherry. The Carve Wright can rough out the same carving at about the same rate, but it will take a great deal of hand-tool work to completely finish the same molding, so it's just not as efficient.

The big factory CNC machines produce carvings that are a compromise for the machine - the tooling cannot control tear-out in wood nearly as well as an experienced carver with hand tools, so the depth and shape of the carving is changed to better fit the tooling's capability (and also to minimize the width and thickness of the required stock). Ball and Claw feet are rather obvious examples - one done by an experienced carver looks very different than one produced by Osbourne.

Finally, based on what you've stated is your interest, your least expensive route to your goal in terms of tools is the hand-tool approach. Buying the limited set that I and others have suggested will allow you to carve a great deal of traditional furniture ornamentation and molding. Part of the reason that I and others have several hundred different carving tools is that many of these tools are designed for many different niche aspects of carving.

For example, I have about 12 flat chisels, skew chisels, fishtail chisels and shallow gouges that only get used for letter carving - they aren't useful for anything else. I have about 5 tools that are specifically useful for bowl carving - they don't get used for furniture carvings. A group of my tools have been specifically modified for extremely fast carving of moldings - I use them for nothing else.

You get the idea - you can carve a rather vast array of moldings, shells, acanthus leaves, cartouches, etc... with just a few tools.

Tom Overthere
02-23-2009, 6:43 PM
David ==

Thank you (and ALL of you) for giving me so much helpful advice. It's absolutely clear that you are giving me the GIFT of your own experience - truly a valuable gift.

I understand and accept your comparison of 'proper tooling and skills' overcoming the routered/pantographed approach in terms of finished product quality and perhaps even in terms of hours spent. Per your comments and those of both Mikes, Carlos et al, clearly there is no "one true answer".

I don't intend to recreate traditional motifs exactly, and am not really interested in producing period pieces (no idea what my early experiments will look like :eek: ). In light of that, my choice of tools and methods may not be as limited as are the choices for those interested in classic feature carving only.

If I really can combine the use of a power tool for roughing out, with relatively few hand tools for finish carving/scraping (like you, I'm no fan of sanding, either as a process or a finished surface) - then I will indeed forego the CopyCarver build and focus on hand-eye processes - with the sincere hope that "hand" and "eye" never meet while learning the rudiments of carving...:D

george wilson
02-23-2009, 9:58 PM
Tom,there is no melting of steel That might have been a joke,I guess. the blacksmithing skills are very minimal. All you have to do is hammer the end of a square bar flat,and whack a round rod into it to form the arc. Really,anyone could do it,especially if money is an issue. Even if you buy tools,try it sometime.

Tom Overthere
02-23-2009, 11:38 PM
Tom,there is no melting of steel That might have been a joke,I guess. the blacksmithing skills are very minimal. All you have to do is hammer the end of a square bar flat,and whack a round rod into it to form the arc. Really,anyone could do it,especially if money is an issue. Even if you buy tools,try it sometime. Thanks, George. I was just kidding. My point was only that I feel pretty overwhelmed simply by all the choices/possibilities/pitfalls involved in merely choosing a particular tool/technique platform.

Per your instructions, I'm sure some here can (and WILL) attempt making some of their own tools. And who knows. Maybe I will too, when I have enough experience to know what type of tool to make for a particular operation.

I'm sure you know I meant no offense, and appreciate your comments. And I really DO think you should copy your instructions into a separately-titled original thread - so SMC members can find it easily.

David Keller NC
02-24-2009, 11:06 AM
"If I really can combine the use of a power tool for roughing out, with relatively few hand tools for finish carving/scraping (like you, I'm no fan of sanding, either as a process or a finished surface) - then I will indeed forego the CopyCarver build and focus on hand-eye processes - with the sincere hope that "hand" and "eye" never meet while learning the rudiments of carving...:D"

Tom - If you do decide to try power carving, I'm going to highly suggest that you ignore the advice you were given at the show about a reciprocating carver and buy a rotary tool like the Foredom. My comments here are based on the Raleigh Woodcarver's club with some 60 members - almost no one uses the reciprocating carvers. While in theory they would replicate the hand tool/mallet type of surface, I've been told they are extremely difficult to control, and are murder on your wrist/forearm. The high speed rotary burrs, while not leaving an acceptable surface behind without further work, are pretty easy to use (I've tried them - not my cup of tea, but I can certainly see the usefullness). They're also pretty inexpensive, and a huge variety of rotary burrs are available.

Tom Overthere
02-24-2009, 12:37 PM
Tom - If you do decide to try power carving, I'm going to highly suggest that you ignore the advice you were given at the show about a reciprocating carver and buy a rotary tool like the Foredom

...Raleigh woodcarver's club with some 60 members - almost no one uses the reciprocating carvers...they are extremely difficult to control, and are murder on your wrist/forearm.

...high speed rotary burrs, while not leaving an acceptable surface behind without further work, are pretty easy to use...also pretty inexpensive, and a huge variety of rotary burrs are available.Again, thank you, David, for the exceptional advice and its timeliness. I'm going to a local woodworker's supply retailer this afternoon to see and hopefully discuss some of these options. I very much appreciate your detailing the distinction between 'reciprocating' and 'rotary' power carving. I sure don't need a dose of carpal tunnel syndrome.

The advice I received at that show DID seem kind of "limited in scope" and the type of work that is apparently the focus of that club does not interest me much. I will take your advice with me to the store tonight, and will likely refrain from joining that carvers club altogether. Looks like I'll learn from DVDs and puncture wounds. :D

Thanks.

Tom Overthere
02-25-2009, 12:01 AM
David, Mike, Mike, Carlos, Robert, George and Terry ==

I went to a local stocking dealer of Flexcut tools. I looked at the SK 108 tool set I was tempted to buy online. They are TINY(!) and I'm very glad you guys talked me out of that. No offense, Terry. I'm sure you've found a way to make Flexcut work for you (and some Flexcut tools appear big and heavy, almost like traditional carving tools).

They're closing out all their carving tools except the Flexcut line, and had only two (large) sizes of Ashley Isles V gouges. The AI tools were GIGANTIC by comparison.

We also discussed Foredom rotary systems, and how I could mount Flexcut tools in a $50 accessory recip stylus/handle. That'd give me rotary burrs + reciprocating gouges = considerable flexibility. BUT much as I'd like to speed things up via expensive machinery, I now know the best approach is to buy the three or four most useful gouges, a detail knife, some "necessaries" and a good training DVD. Thanks guys, for helping me stay out of trouble on this.

What's the best DVD I can get for Relief Carving in Hardwoods? I watched an online video sample of Nora Hull. It took her ten minutes to convey the idea: For effective work holding, glue your workpiece to a larger wood base, with a sheet of newspaper in between for easy seperation of the two pieces later.

No disrespect, but she's getting up there in years. Are all her training materials so drawn out and confusing? Maybe the recent online video I saw reflects a recent reduction in the quality of her instruction...

Is there any concensus on a really good DVD for relief carving in hardwoods?

Thanks

Carlos Alden
02-25-2009, 12:21 AM
Tom:

I think you'll be going in the right direction with getting a basic set of tools and learning how to use them.

I haven't actually seen Nora's DVD instructional materials. My experience was taking a class from her, which was terrific. I would suggest Chris Pye. His website is great, and if his DVDs are anything like his site they should be good.

So, what store is this again that is closing out their Ashely Iles tools? I may need to give them a call.

Carlos

Tom Overthere
02-25-2009, 12:56 AM
Not worth your time, Carlos. They had just two sizes left, a #39 V gouge and something else that I can't recall. Mind you, they're not discounting the Ashley Isle tools. FULL PRICE for everything, they're just not going to restock the line... Just stocking Flexcut and Foredom, apparently.

I note your earlier post regarding Chris Pye. Thanks for the reminder. I'll look carefully at his website for DVD instruction.

David Keller NC
02-25-2009, 9:58 AM
Tom, I'd second the Chris Pye recommendation, though I don't have his DVDs, just his books (those are excellent, by the way, as are Dick Onian's). I'm not sure where you're located, but finding someone that does traditional (at least European traditional) carving to give you some instruction would really be best. There are certain aspects of carving that are quite difficult to convey unless you're "in person" with the carver.

By the way - by "European traditional", I mean with gouges, v-tools, skew chisels, etc... "American traditional" pretty much means carving with knives (and there's a tremendous variety of these knives).

Carlos Alden
02-25-2009, 10:59 AM
By the way - by "European traditional", I mean with gouges, v-tools, skew chisels, etc... "American traditional" pretty much means carving with knives (and there's a tremendous variety of these knives).

David:

Thanks for the distinction - it's important. When I started woodcarving I knew I wanted to do bas relief carving. During the first class Nora Hall was very specific about European woodcarving and the tradition of technique. She basically said (paraphrased): I learned this from my father, and brought it over when I came to live here. It's very old, and what I'm going to show you goes back hundreds of years. This is not carving wildlife, or Santa Clauses, or chip carving. I don't teach that. If you do what I show you, the way I tell you to do it, you can do this and you will NEVER cut yourself.

It was very interesting to hear the strength of her statements. She wasn't dissing the other forms of carving, she just didn't consider them to be "wood carving", as though they were water colors, or oil painting, or working in clay. Fascinating to see the different approaches to working in wood with sharp objects. I got bit by this bug: Even now I can't imagine doing an in-the-round carving and have it feel like I'm carving.

Every so often I'll pick up a carving magazine in the bookstore and see a huge variety of craftwork that has absolutely no call to me to pick up a tool and try it. But I get very inspired when I see almost anything in bas relief, even stonework in museums, and immediately start thinking about "hmmm... how would I get that in wood?"

Carlos

Matt McCormick
02-25-2009, 12:15 PM
I too recommend the Chris Pye DVD's. I think I have almost everybody's DVD's
but Chris Pyes' are exceptional as he has Rob Cosman as his foil and that really makes a big difference to me. Cosman listens and asks good questions and then grabs the chisel and tries his hand just like you or me would, then Chris is able the show Rob where he missed the nuance. This really helps me. Anyway I think all the DVDs' out there have good info on them, I just think the Cosman/ Pye seris is the best. -matt

Chuck Nickerson
02-25-2009, 1:14 PM
Tom,there is no melting of steel That might have been a joke,I guess. the blacksmithing skills are very minimal. All you have to do is hammer the end of a square bar flat,and whack a round rod into it to form the arc. Really,anyone could do it,especially if money is an issue. Even if you buy tools,try it sometime.

Some day, I'm going to live near someone like George and have a chance to give this a try under some direction. I bear absolutely no physical resemblence to a Norse God, but perhaps I'll get to mimic one.

george wilson
02-27-2009, 8:46 PM
Chuck,you could scream ODEN!!! while maniacially hammering on the little square steel bar!!