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Nicholas Woodcarving
Wood Carving for Beginners

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Old 06-30-2012, 11:45 PM
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Default Carving tools for Tiki?

Greetings to all!

I have been searching for a hobby and am interested in trying out woodcarving. From my research, woodcarving appears to be a hobby that can be quite satisfying and rewarding. It also seems like it has many styles and methods, which should keep it interesting and fresh.

I am looking to purchase my first set of carving tools and need some advice. I am interested in Tiki culture, so I'm planning to carve Tiki statues and Tiki masks. I anticipate the statues being no more than 24" tall and 6" wide/deep, and I imagine the masks will be no more than 18" x 18". I plan to start out using basswood, but may choose different woods down the road.

I have purchased and read the book titled The Complete Book of Woodcarving by Everett Ellenwood, and the book recommends the following tools as a good set for a beginner:

1. Carving knife with straight-edge blade;
2. 3/8" #9 Gouge;
3. 1/2" #5 Gouge; and,
4. 1/4" 60 degree V-Tool.

The two questions I have are:

1. Will the beginning set described above meet my needs for carving the Tiki pieces I mentioned? If not, what changes/additions should be made to the list of tools I need to purchase?

2. For carving the types of projects I mentioned, would it be better to get the palm-type handles or the full-size handles?

I plan to spend the money on quality tools in order to give myself the best shot possible at being successful at and enjoying this hobby. However, I don't want to purchase more tools than necessary until I find out for sure that this hobby is for me.

This is a great forum, and thanks in advance for any advice!
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Old 07-01-2012, 02:57 AM
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Default Re: Carving tools for Tiki?

To me, those are good sized carvings. You will get as many suggestions as there are carvers.
For the rough in part, you need to knock out a lot of waste wood. Full size tools will be far less exhausting than little tools. In the Pfeils, don't buy the short D tools.
1. 12 oz and 30 oz mallets
2. 9/15 gouge
3. 5/35 gouge
Then, when the shape appears,
4. 8/7 or 9/7
5. 3F/8 & 5F/14 for smoothing
6. For stop cuts, a 1/8 double bevel allows you to go around modest curves. It's little, and may seem tedious in the beginning but well worth the time.
7. A pair of skews, left & right, maybe 1/2" wide. Any bigger ( like a Pfeil 1S/25e), and you can't get around a curve very easily unless you do totem poles. Plus, Pfeil doesn't make skew pairs.

What will you get for sharpening and honing supplies? These are not throw away items. Learning to hone (and sharpen when you have to) is 2/3 of the game.
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Old 07-02-2012, 10:51 AM
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Default Re: Carving tools for Tiki?

Originally Posted by TNBoro View Post

1. Will the beginning set described above meet my needs for carving the Tiki pieces I mentioned? If not, what changes/additions should be made to the list of tools I need to purchase?

2. For carving the types of projects I mentioned, would it be better to get the palm-type handles or the full-size handles?

Funny that I would be responding about a tiki...today....I was on vacation at the beach last week and since my carving chisels travel just about everywhere with me, I sat in the sun, drinking adult beverages, laughing at family, listening to the surf hammer the beach and pushing chisels thru a piece of wood that I found while bike riding....

FULL SIZED HANDLES at least to start. You can push and pull a full sized handle with great control....not so with the smaller palm sized handles. I found myself turning the chisel a lot while carving my tiki, then again...I had a towel draped across my lap and the wood on the towel.

I used mostly #5-3/4" and 3/8" , #7-1" for waste/background relief, #1-1/2" straight and skew and a straight knife for occasional cleanup. I made a mental note to myself to include in my travel set at least 1 #3. Your #9 (and I had one, never touched it) might be needed sometimes but I found the straighter chisels worked better because of the "roundness" of the limb I was cutting. My guy is about 24" long and maybe 6" in dia....(sound familiar??) AND...as RV mentioned, sharpening is necessary. Get some Flexcut Gold and a piece of leather, that will serve you very well for stropping between honings.

My very first tiki....Good luck with yours and welcome to the forum. Holler when you need anything
"how old would you be if you didn't know how old you are??"
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Old 07-02-2012, 11:00 AM
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Default Re: Carving tools for Tiki?

Two other gouges I'd suggest: a 3/12 and a 3/22. I find these useful for smoothing out the ridges left by the #5 gouge.

My ETSY shop: Claude's Wood Carving

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Old 07-02-2012, 04:48 PM
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Default Re: Carving tools for Tiki?

I typically start out with my #1 1-1/4" and 3/4" than shift to large and small V tools and smaller 1/2"+- gouges (usually straight) for most of the Tiki carvings I do, especially for something in the size range you indicated. Sometimes, for hogging out a lot of wood fast, I will use a large #9.

EE's suggestion is a very good beginner set, but you will find that the 24"/6" and 18"x18" carvings you are looking to do may require a bit more punch.

If you are just starting out, it may be a good idea to play around with small basswood blocks 1"x1"x4" or 2"x2"x6" and a flat 3/4" board. Learning to control the gouges is key. Although every now and than I use gouges on small hand held pieces I prefer to mount/secure the wood in a carving vice and keep two hands on the tool.

Good luck and have a blast.


Last edited by kayapee; 07-02-2012 at 04:53 PM.
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Old 07-02-2012, 06:56 PM
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Default Re: Carving tools for Tiki?

Thanks to everyone for the great advice and suggestions! I really do appreciate it.

I will plan to start out my carvings on a smaller scale and gain some experience, and then eventually work up to the larger dimensions I described in my original post.

I'm sure I'll have additional questions in the future as I delve deeper into woodcarving (and actually start carving!), and I'm thankful for the patience and willingness to help shown by members of this forum.
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