Coniscliffe Carving Club

Basic Carving Tools – What to Buy       By Alan Suddes

Having read the “Guide to Buying Carving Tools”, you may now be considering what to buy. Generally speaking, to start you need only a basic kit of say 8 tools which, in order of acquisition, might be:-

1. No. 6 straight gouge 18mm
2. No. 3 straight gouge 16mm
3. No. 5 straight gouge 10mm
4. No. 41 V or parting tool  6mm
5. No. 8 straight gouge 13mm
6. No.2 straight skew or corner chisel 10mm
7. No. 5 straight gouge  3mm
8. No.11 straight gouge 5mm

The above tools cover most small scale carving styles. If you have a particular interest in e.g. netsuke (Japanese miniature carvings), or larger scale sculpture, you may need smaller or larger tools. Please ask for advice.

Mallet:  You will need a round-headed woodcarver’s mallet. Find a friendly woodturner (there are several in the Club!) who will probably turn one up for you. They are easily made from one piece of beech, apple, or other dense hardwood. To buy from a dealer, they are at least £15 - £25.

Sharpening: Unless you buy Swiss Pfeil tools, or those from Ashley Iles, they will need sharpening before use. Yes, even when they are brand new! Do not try this yourself. Sharpening sounds complicated in all the books written on the subject, and it need not be. So ask one of the experienced Club members, who will advise on what you need, and get your old tools sharp!

Now you are well on your way to participating in a craft that has a history going back to Ancient Egypt. You will be given guidance and, from the start, it is important that you:-

1. HOLD THE TOOLS AS SHOWN
2. USE THE CUTTING TECHNIQUES AS DEMONSTRATED
3. CARVE SAFELY AT ALL TIMES
4. ASK FOR HELP WHEN NEEDED

Most of all, enjoy the craft, and do not worry if your first attempts are rough or unsuccessful. One lesson that you will soon learn is that, for every question on tools, sharpening and timber, ten carvers will have ten different answers!

Your First Carving – Advice 

1. Try a bold, simple design, and do not worry about mistakes (Superglue is part of every carver’s kit!)
2. Work well away from pencil lines until the bulk of wood is removed, then clean up to the finished line.
3. Get the basic shape right first before you go for detail. You cannot put eyebrows on a face before the skull and eyes are done!
4. REMEMBER – TWO HANDS ON A CARVING TOOL MEANS IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO CUT YOURSELF!