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Wood Carving for Beginners

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  #1  
Old 08-01-2008, 08:38 AM
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Default gouges

I'm trying to by a few gouges to start, but find they are very expensive. I'd like the swiss made, but they run about $25+.

Can anyone recommend some online stores with good prices or suggestions for other brands to be used by beginners?

Thanks in advance.
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  #2  
Old 08-01-2008, 08:42 AM
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Default Re: gouges

Hi, go here:
Beginner's Carving Set at Little Shavers
You cannot beat the price. The tools will be the sharpest you have ever seen. And they resharpen them for free, for life.
Great people, Geat service too.
Bob
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  #3  
Old 08-01-2008, 09:30 AM
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Default Re: gouges

Not to disagree with BobT's advice, but the Little Shaver's Set are palm gouges and what you were talking about were full size gouges - so it's a bit of an apples & oranges thing. I have not purchased anything from Rick at Little Shavers but his tools and his service get very high marks from folks here on the board. So if palm gouges and knives will work for what you want to carve - go for it.

However, if you're looking for full size gouges - well I hate to say it but unless you find some deals on any of the better reputation brands (Swiss Made [aka Pfeil], Stubai, Two Cherries, etc,) $25 - $45 per gouge is pretty typical pricing.

Every once in awhile you will run into a special from Woodcraft (exclusive US dealers of Swiss Made). I got my Swiss Made gouges about 18mos ago when they had a "for every $100 spent on Swiss Made get a $25 Gift Card" deal. Effectively this was a 25% discount and no shipping charges. So I jumped on it and bought quite a few (Chris Pye's "standard" set and a few others). However, most folks will tell you NOT to do that, but rather buy a few key gouges to start, then add slowly over time and as you learn more to better understand what you really will need and use.

Now that said - what type of carvings are you looking to do? There are some here who will tell you that there isn't anything you can't carve with full sized gouges, and probably some who will say the same going the other way - palm gouges and knives. And they're both "right". It's a question of convenience and ease.

I would argue that to some extent it really depends on what you want to carve. If you're looking to carve "hand held" (wear a carving glove) smaller items like caricatures, or maybe hiking sticks, or small relief carvings then you could start off with the Little Shaver's set Bob recommended.

If you're interested in a "classical" carving style of larger relief carvings, architectural elements, and in the round pieces that will be firmly clamped to a work surface via a workholder - then full size gouges are the way to go.

I started off with some palm gouges and knives from Flexcut that were very reasonably priced and would serve for my initial interests in carving cottonwood bark woodspirits and whimsical houses, as well as for woodspirit hiking sticks, shelf elves etc., but knew I wanted to try larger half log woodspirits and relief carving so I made the investment in my Swiss Made gouges and have never been unhappy.

You'll get a huge variety of opinions in this topic - but I spent about 2 years researching, reading, discussing and this was the conclusion *I* finally came to that worked for me.

In some ways it has seemed to break down (in my opinion) to those who prefer to follow the more classical European route (two handed or mallet controlled full sized gouges), or the American "whittle" approach for caricature that focuses more on Knives and Palm Gouges. But like I said earlier - there are adherants to both that will argue "I can do anything you can do better, I can do anything better than you..." and at that point (from a newbie perspective) it becomes like the Mac vs PC wars. ;-)

I happen to like both approaches - each for certain things.

Hope this helps and that I've not ignited any arguments.

ChuckT

Last edited by chuckt; 08-01-2008 at 09:36 AM.
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Old 08-01-2008, 09:38 AM
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Default Re: gouges

If you are in the market for small palm tools, that's a great start with Rick at little shavers, however if you are going to need full sized tools, just get used to paying the 20 to 40 buck range each for GOOD tools. Might I suggest starting out with a 3/4" #3 or #5 sweep tool and a good quality bench knife? These two will lserve you well in both relief and general carving. As you go along, then, you can buy more of what you find you need.

Stay away from buying one of those "reasonably priced"
full sized sets that you may find for $29.95 for a set of 6! That will surely spoil your exposure to carving.

Al
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Old 08-01-2008, 09:42 AM
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Default Re: gouges

One other thought - I know for awhile Woodcraft (online and in stores) was running clearance on Henry Taylor gouges. I've heard mixed reviews on them, but they had them for VERY low prices (like $7 - $15 a gouge I think). You might still find some. Another thought for you - if you're in Maine as your name suggests and if you have the patience - you might go hit the many New England flee markets & yard sales etc. and keep your eyes open for older gouges or a carver who has passed away and whose family is looking to sell their tools. It's getting harder to get good deals this way since the advent of the internet and ebay - but you can still get lucky at times. As long as there is steel left on the gouge and you have some idea of what you're looking for you can find deals that clean up nicely and sharpen as well or better than modern gouges. But again, you have to have patience and know what sweeps and sizes you're looking for and need.

Just a thought.
ChuckT
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  #6  
Old 08-01-2008, 10:55 AM
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Default Re: gouges

I agree with ChuckT, the tools you need depend on what you'll carve. I went for many years with a pocket knife and five palm tools. Then I bought a Pfiel sweep gouge #3-12. It was very expensive because I bought it in Switzerland! That one gouge opened up many new possiblities.

Then I went too far. I now have over 40 Swiss-made (Pfiel) tools, and a beautiful box. There are many I haven't even "put to wood." So, don't make the acquisition of tools your objective - stick to carving.
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  #7  
Old 08-01-2008, 12:57 PM
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Default Re: gouges

Thanks! The information is most helpful. I primarily want to carve some figurines of hikers or logging men about 4-5 inches high. Also, some christmas decorations, horses, and some wildlife like deer and moose. It seems palm gouges are the way to go for me at this point.

I'll try to post a picture of my first carving using only my bench knife. I want to get better at these type of carvings. I'll do that in my next post.

Thanks!
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  #8  
Old 08-01-2008, 01:02 PM
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Default Re: gouges

Then Little Shavers is the place for you. Looking forward to seeing your pics.

Cheers
ChuckT
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Old 08-01-2008, 04:00 PM
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Default Re: gouges

i have palm tools, the place most of us start-- but i wont buy any more--im using exclusivly intermidate sized swiss made-- small enough to use as a palm tool and have a handle that will work with a mallet. use the largest tool u can-- makes for fewer cuts and less sanding or work to finish the piece. --
learn to keep them sharp, im not real good at doing this. but it sure makes live easier. good luck and happy carving.
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Old 08-01-2008, 06:24 PM
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Default Re: gouges

I think you'll find that tools are like girlfriends and wives. Everybody thinks the one they have is the best. Along with being a carver, I also collect carving tools and have several complete sets of each size for many makers, not to mention all the ones and two's. I primarily carve smaller pieces 3" x 3" x however tall down to 3/4 " x 3/4" x however tall. I almost exclusively use palm tools, rarely the mid/Euro size, and even more rarely the full size. But, like I said, girlfriends and wives.
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