Woodcarving can be as simple or as complex as the project requires or as the carver cares to make it, and so can the wood carving tools used. An amazing amount of work can be done on small basswood or butternut carvings with just a chip-carving knife or an X-Acto knife. Add a few gouges and your range of carving possibilities increases.Power carving tools such as a flexible-shaft tool can help speed up the carving process and produce effects that you cannot get with hand tools. Large power tools, such as a band saw, belt sander, drill press, and chain saw, fill out the woodcarver's shop. For carving small, hand-held craft objects, such as duck or shorebird decoys, caricature figures, and chip carving (decorative designs on flat surfaces like the sides of jewelry boxes), basswood is an excellent choice. It is soft and easy to carve, the close grain holds small carved detail, there are few knots or blemishes, and it is stable when dry. However, basswood's softness makes it difficult to apply a stain evenly an carved surfaces or attain a glossy finish. Most basswood carvings are painted. For sculpture with a natural wood finish, walnut, mahogany, cherry, or butternut provide rich color with an attractive grain pattern. Butternut is very soft and the easiest to carve with hand tools. Walnut, mahogany, and cherry are rich in color, moderately difficult to carve because of the dense grain, and they take finished well. Gouges and a mallet will be needed for these woods.
Knives and Chisels
Chip-Carving Knife - Probably the first tool any carver starts with is a knife. Its primary use is for whittling and chip carving. The blade is about 1 1/2" long, and has a handle designed to fit the hand. Like gouges, it should be made of high carbon steel that will hold an edge for a long time.
Carpenter's Chisels - These chisels have a flat edge (#1 Sweep). They are not usually used for sculpture, because the edge of a flat chisel tends to dig into the wood, twisting and plunging the tool deeper on one side than the carver may have desired. They can give a crude, unschooled look that may be desirable on some types of sculpture .
U-Gouges - Gouges are the work horses of carving. U-gouges are designated by the width of the cutting edge (in inches or millimeters), the sweep, or amount of curvature of the edge (an arbitrarily assigned number), and the shape of the shaft (straight, bent, spoon, and back bent). Gouges can be purchased: - in widths from 2mm (1/16") to 60 mm (2 3/8") - in sweeps from #2 (a barely perceptible curve) to #11 (a very deep, half round curve) - in straight, bent, spoon, and back-bent shapes
V-Gouges - V-gouges are designated by the width between the top edge tips and the angle of the vee bottom edge. Gouges can be purchased:
- in widths from 2mm to 30mm - in 60° (#12 sweep) and 90° (#13 sweep)
Bent and Spoon Gouges - These specialty gouges are used to get into inaccessible spots on a carving that a straight gouge can't reach.
Bent gouge: the entire length of the shaft is curved.
Skewed Chisel - A skewed chisel's cutting is angled back from the leading edge at a 45 degree angle. They come in straight, bent, and spoon shapes and in varying widths. These are specialized tools and are seldom, if ever, used.
Rotary Tool (Dremel) - A rotary tool is a hand held power tool with a variety of rotating accessory bits and attachments that can be used for cutting, carving, sanding, polishing and many other applications.
Wood Carving Tools for Beginners
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