View Full Version : recommendation for carving chisels

Zahid Naqvi
12-28-2007, 8:56 PM
Ok! I think I am close to the tipping point for carving tools. They are inexcusably expensive on eBay, and the local action is thin.

What I have been reading so far is to stick with a good maker and accumulate over time. So considering the sale at woodcraft online (there isn't one in Arkansas so we do not pay any sales taxes) what would be a good beginner selection within the Pfeil system. The project at hand is a shell, similar to one shown in the "Carving Techniques and Projects) DVD by Taunton.

I have an older (W. Butcher I think) gouge, 1" wide no idea about the sweep (probably a #9), and a detail carving set.

Brian Kent
12-29-2007, 11:44 AM
Waiting, waiting, still waiting…

Zahid, I want to see what people say so I don't have to ask the same question.

I did notice another thread yesterday about combining several Pfeil tool deals at woodcraft.

Joel Ficke
12-29-2007, 11:46 AM
I suppose the answer will really depend on what you are carving, but my experience with early American motifs says start with sweeps #2, #3, #5, #7, and maybe #8 or #9 and then widths 5, 8, and 12mm. These will get you quite a long way. A veiner and some small #11s (1 and 2mm) are useful as well. Add more specific gouges as the need arises.

Brian Kent
12-29-2007, 11:47 AM
I just saw your post on the other thread. Congratulations on the new chisels. Which chisels does Chris Pye recommend?

Mike Henderson
12-29-2007, 12:20 PM
Here's what I recommend as a good general starting set. All are in the Pfeil system:

#2/5 Used a lot
#2/8 Good follow up purchase. Not necessary for first purchase
#2/19 Used a good bit for roughing a convex shell
#3/5 Used a lot but not as much as the 2/5
#3/12 Good follow-up purchase
The 8's are usually used for shell work. You can do without them and only get them if you do a lot of shell work
The reason you need so many is that the flutes change size as they go from outside to inside.
#12/6 V-tool. You'll use this a lot. Learn to sharpen it well. Some tricks in shaping it. Contact me and I'll expand.


Zahid Naqvi
12-29-2007, 12:43 PM
Mike I knew I'd hear from your soon. The $20 off on $100 sale was ending last night so I had to put an order before midnight. The $25 off $100 for Pfeil is still on as well as free shipping over $75.

I had a page bookmarked from Chiris Pye's site I ordered a smaller subset from it.
Once I get the coupons I will add some more from the list you recommend.

Mike Henderson
12-29-2007, 2:11 PM
Everyone has their own style. I find I use small, flat gouges the most and use the deeper and/or wider gouges for special work. I do think you're going to find that #12/8 a bit big. In theory all V gouges come to a point so you should be able to use any size, but in practice it doesn't work that way. If you're going to do small work, think of getting a smaller V gouge. And look at Pfeil's D size V-tools. They're a bit easier to handle for small work.

Good luck in your carving!


Zahid Naqvi
12-29-2007, 6:28 PM
I have this set (http://www.leevalley.com/wood/page.aspx?c=3&p=44106&cat=1,130,43332,43334&ap=1) from LV so I went a little big on the Pfeils. I will still add about 3 more when I get the rebate coupon.

Carl Eyman
12-29-2007, 8:27 PM
Zahid, my first carving experience was a shell. (see www.eyman.org/furniture for a picture) I had almost no carving tools; so had to buy everything needed. The two absolutely critical were the no. 25 backbent gouge, and no. 11 veiner. There were others, but these two were absolutely necessary.

Steve Wargo
12-29-2007, 10:32 PM

One type of carving tool I find especially useful is the outcannel style chisels. They are the ones that are bent backwards with the bevel on the outside of the sweep. They are great for all clean up work from carvings to complex moldings.

Zahid Naqvi
12-30-2007, 1:09 AM
Steve, is this (http://www.woodcraft.com/family.aspx?FamilyID=1319) what you were referring to as outcannel.

Carl, I have seen your furniture pages before, you carvings are very precise and clean. I enjoy looking at them every time. I have $45 in the gift coupons from my earlier purchase, perhaps I can add one more chisel and get one each from the recommendations of you, Steve and Mike.

Steve Wargo
12-30-2007, 6:02 AM
Those are the ones Zahid. Also I prefer a more shallow sweep.

Zahid Naqvi
01-02-2008, 12:35 PM
Which chisels does Chris Pye recommend?

Sorry I didn't see this earlier. Here's the link to what Chris Pye recommends for beginners.


Pam Niedermayer
01-02-2008, 2:21 PM
Here are Nora Hall's recommended starting chisels:
#3 (12mm)
#5 (6mm)
#7 (14mm)
#9 (12mm)
#11 (3mm)
#39 (10mm) V-tool
#5 (12mm)

You can get a lot more useful information at http://www.norahall.com/


Dennis Peacock
04-30-2008, 12:14 PM
Hey Z,

All it takes is a few $$$ and you can "start" with some nice Two Cherries. ;)

So Here I sit....with 3 new carving tools and no clue what to do with them yet....except look at them and admire them. :D

Zahid Naqvi
04-30-2008, 6:26 PM
D man, I got you beat on that one, I have about 6 still haven't used them, and clueless as well. Perhaps our next challenge. I do know a guy in Conway (I think I told you about him) who seems like a willing teacher.

Robert LaPlaca
05-01-2008, 9:05 PM

If the Taunton shell carving video is the one by Mack Headley, the VHS version of the video used to include a booklet with the required tools needed, stating the size and sweeps. Does the DVD have such a booklet included?

randall rosenthal
05-03-2008, 1:17 PM
for what its worth i really like fish tail gouges, fairly flat. great for carving to a scored line.

Jason Sutphin
05-04-2008, 10:34 AM
I have a mixed bag, of pieces I picked out over time due to budget, need, and presents. I do have a set of flexcut (fixed handle) palm fit chisels (5 I think) that were about $60. THey are the absolute best carving tools I have ever used. The point where the handle meets the blade was uncomfortable, so I wrapped in an expensive stretchy red tape (forget the name) but tennis racquet grip tape would work.

I have a few Pfeils for larger gouges that I use just with hand pressue. I like the shorter ones they have (around 6"?). Woodcraft had these, not sure anymore. Flex cut now has a longer handle, I may try those.

For mallet use, mostly have Henry Taylor Acorns. Handles are right length and thickness for me. Price isn't bad.

Also, most people don't mention this, but get a good knife or two. I love my Frosts laminated Swedish one. Great for rounding over corners and fast removal. Also a nice kevlar glove.