Tools for beginner

Brian Timmons

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94
Location
Arkansas
What would be a good set of starter tools for a beginner wood carver? I want to give it a try and see if I like it and maybe let my kids try it. I don't want something real expensive but don't want cheap junk either. Any suggestions?
 

Darren Wright

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Springfield, Missouri
I've got several Flexcut tools for carving, all have held up quite well. Primary thing with carving it to get the tools super sharp, makes it much more enjoyable. Basswood or butternut are great woods for learning to carve on.

The best class I ever took was a wood carving class. First fundamental was learning to sharpen and strop the blades, which has helped greatly with other tools in the shop as well.
 

Brian Timmons

Member
Messages
94
Location
Arkansas
Thank you. I have looked at the Flexcut tools online. They make several sets. Do you have a favorite set? I will look into classes also. A carving class would be fun.
 

Ryan Mooney

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The Gorge Area, Oregon
I think the first question would be what kind of carving you want to do. There are a lot of choices :D

There is chip carving, which the small set of flexcut say chip, skew, and detail would do fine:
Or you can do like I did and make a *very* similar set out of a couple of old hacksaw blades with some handled epoxied on... and then mostly use a cheap pocket knife anyway :)

There's spoon carving and general whittling.. which I'd get a Mora 120 or 106 (I generally prefer the 106, but a lot of folks like the shorter 120) and if you're doing spoons one or two hook knifes (either a 164 for small/deep or a 163 for large/shallow - not a fan of the 162 double edge as I like to use the back to guide the cut and well... yeah) or get fancy with something from say deepwoodventures.com :D.

I've done a lot of flowers (
) and roosters (
) and similar things with just a pocket knife.. and those are imho just a TON of fun (Chris's book has a bunch more things in this vein https://www.amazon.com/Whittling-Twigs-Branches-Easy-Find/dp/1565232364 and is a great intro to whittling as well - one of the canonical books on whittling - less so carving despite the name - is whittling and woodcarving by Tangerman https://www.amazon.com/Whittling-Woodcarving-Dover-Woodworking-Tangerman/dp/0486209652 but it's a lot less accessible to the beginner).

Those are all imho really great ways to start carving because you start getting into grain direction, removal techniques, chip management, etc.. and the tooling cost is relatively minimal (I mean sure you can spend hundreds or thousands on fancy spoon carving tools, etc.. but you don't have to to have a dang good time). The green wood projects are also pretty awesome to have under your belt because you can amaze the young (and old) ones with just a pocketknife at family gatherings, and do fun things with yard trimmings.

From there the next "level" (tool wise, not necessarily skill wise) would be low relief, For that something like the basic flexcut set of 5 (https://www.leevalley.com/en-us/sho...g-tools/68940-flexcut-palm-tools?item=06D0550 - these go on sale periodically fyi.. I've gotten a set for a friend as a gift as low as $55..) will do the job.

I personally prefer longer handled tools because my hands are in not-great shape and those give me better control.. so I ended up with a bunch of random chisels from a bunch of different providers kind of depending on what I needed and what was available.. I still use some palm chisels but prefer to use them mostly for very light work.

The killer with this type of carving is that you end up wanting a bunch of different shapes so the number of desired gouges especially can escalate quite quickly.

I've tried Flex Cut, Hirsch, Two Cherries, Henry Taylor, and Pfiel. I found them to be mostly comparable although the Two Cherries and Pfiel arrived close to properly sharp, the Hirsch was "ok" and the Henry Taylor needed a fair bit of work. I also have some older buck and similar but I don't think any of those are available anymore. The flexcut arrives sharp but being so thin is trickier to sharpen if you get past the "stropping" level so works best for lighter work (which is fine for low relief, less so for high relief / round carving excepting detail work). So if you're not familiar with how sharp carving tools need to be (really really sharp) and how to sharpen them that might be a consideration in your choice of selection (for sharpening look up the Mary May's sharpening instructions - https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLlnMx_WhpEEjMwok_5qeT6wKqucDVYbvXt).

Past that you get into round carving.. which you can either shift back to the whittling (i.e. greenwood wizards - this is in bass wood but more fun in green wood
) or .. well this gets complicated now haha.. A lot of the tools carry over from relief carving,, I also tend to use a bunch of files, rasps and rifflers for some parts and saws and .. well.. Lets not get to carried away just yet :)
 

Brian Timmons

Member
Messages
94
Location
Arkansas
The bass wood wizards are cool. I just watched the video. Sounds like wood carving is going to be more involved than I thought. Sure looks fun.
 
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