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Old 05-22-2011, 02:09 PM
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Default Best tools for relief carving?

Hi All,

As a new member of the forum I thought I would pick your brains. I have read many of the threads on various subjects and really enjoy the wealth of information available.

I make craft style furniture and want to start doing landscape and wildlife relief carving on some of my pieces. I am currently taking a 12 week carving class at the local carving club but would like other opinions on tools. I have some questions.

1. What are the best brands of tools that hold their edge and require the least amount of sharpening/honing/stropping during and/or between sessions? I'm on a budget but I firmly believe you get what you pay for - most of the time.
2. What chisels, knives and gouges will work the best? I am interested in a complete list, if there is such a thing. Once a project is started I hate when I realize that if I only had such and such tool it would be so much easier to do a good job.
3. I am considering joining Chris Pye's site that offers tutorials. Any thoughts?

Thanks in advance for your comments.
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Old 05-22-2011, 03:56 PM
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Default Re: Best tools for relief carving?

Welcome to the forum.
I am also just starting to get into relief carving myself.
You may want to check out the following web site.


Loads of information on there.
Good luck;
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Old 05-22-2011, 04:12 PM
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Default Re: Best tools for relief carving?

welcome, Drake Knives.com They now make tools with long handles, better for relief carving (IMHO)

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Old 05-22-2011, 04:27 PM
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Default Re: Best tools for relief carving?

I have 3 intermediate two cherries that are great. Came in a set with a knife for about $100. I have the sculpture set of 4 flexcut gouges that are great for hogging out lots of wood. I have some antique and vintage tools from ebay and etsy that I sent to Little Shavers for sharpening and are excellent tools now.
For about $365 which included shipping, I bought the 20 piece sculpture and 13 piece beginner set gouges made by Mastercarver. Hand forged not mass produced in China. The bevel is a little different than the other tools but they came nice and sharp. the steel seems to be very hard and they hold an edge. I strop them often like i do the other tools. Some folks say don't buy sets, but I'm really glad I got these and find I'm using them all pretty much. Look at Chinese carvings- they use these tools, that says a lot about what you can do with them and also experience.
33 tools for the price you can get 6 or 7 swiss made. That's a good deal for me. Maybe if i had some pfeils I would like them better??? Compared with the 2 cherries and the oldies, I say they carve pretty darn good!
The flexcut are good also, although i did nick a blade, but I was carving a big hunk of driftwood and hit sand.
Any way that's my thoughts.

Last edited by Sharon of the Dell; 05-29-2011 at 04:17 PM. Reason: wrong price
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Old 05-22-2011, 05:19 PM
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Default Re: Best tools for relief carving?

Following Chris Pye will put you on the right track. He has a book on relief carving that he uses to teach his classes. It lists the correct tools to use, and tools to add for advanced work. You're right again about quality tools. Buy them right, buy them once; they will last a lifetime and more. I prefer Pfeil and have tried several other brands. They come sharp and ready to use. Mike
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Old 05-23-2011, 12:51 AM
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Default Re: Best tools for relief carving?

Gary: You will get what you pay for. In the long run, top tools like Ashley or Pfeil (mine) save you time and money. As it is your plan to do relief work, probably in hardwoods, I'd advise you to buy tools which cost just a little more than you want to spend. Pfeil are dependable. I don't regret what I've spent.
Sharpening and honing = get used to the idea. Whether you want to or not, this is no more than a skill to be learned. Hit a knot with a cheap tool or an expensive one, you haver to hit the stones and strop (or buy another tool which may not arrive "carving sharp."
I carve in soft woods. Still, it's so easy to tell when a little stropping would make the work 'smoother'. Is that a good word? Smooth? Even a few wipes on my gloves change the edge.
A cheap set of little tools have an advantage in that you can practice sharpening.
They're good for linocuts for printing but not much more.
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Old 05-23-2011, 11:56 AM
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Default Re: Best tools for relief carving?

Bent full size tools are best for that type of carving.
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Old 05-23-2011, 04:13 PM
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Default Re: Best tools for relief carving?

Hi Guys,

Thanks for the comments so far. They have been a great help. After your various recommendations and a lot more research I have decided to go with pfeil for now. I plan on getting about a dozen of the full size tools to start.

Another question though. I spend a lot of money on having my plane irons, bevel chisels, planer and jointer blades sharpened each year and have decided to get a Tormek T-7. How will this work for tuning up new carving tools and stropping with the leather wheel?

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Old 06-06-2011, 04:34 PM
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Default Re: Best tools for relief carving?

Hi Gary,
i have a similar Wetgrinder (not Tormek) it's great for sharpening all kind of carving- and other woodworkingtools.
Problem you could have it the perpendicular fixture on plane irons or chisels. My grinder is not exact 90 from toolholder to the stone, so after sharpening the edge is skewed. You can correct this, if you fix the tool skewed in the fixture.
From a other carver, with a Tormek, i know he has the same mess. So pay attention on this behavior.
For straight tools you need no fixture, for bent or short bent the SVD-185 is a very good help to save time. I don't use the leatherwheel for small tools, that makes to much grooves. So i'd like to strop them by hand.

Last edited by germancarver; 06-06-2011 at 04:38 PM. Reason: forgotten detail
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Old 06-07-2011, 03:42 AM
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Default Re: Best tools for relief carving?

Carpenter's tools = 30 degrees included bevel.
Wood carving tools = 20 degrees included bevel angle.
Wood carving knives = 12-15 degrees.
I don't understand the reluctance to admit what the most useful bevel angles really are. Without that, you can screw up the most expensive of steels and wonder why.
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