My carving tool kit.

My current carving tool kit.

My current carving tools

As I was working on the carving for my tool chest lid, I was struck by how few chisels I actually use and how much I get from them.  I’ve seen photos of carvers who have vast amounts of chisels in their arsenal, and I am always a little jealous of those people.  However, at $35 – $50 a pop for mid range chisels, it’s hard to justify that kind of expenditure for my hobby.

I originally started with six chisels, and have added a few here and there.  My initial purchase decisions were based on Peter Follansbee’s recommendations, and this gave me a very solid and flexible starting set.  To this initial set,  I’ve added a couple of straight chisels that I got in a lot of tools I picked up somewhere.  They were straight sided and with decent steel so I reground them to be flat carving chisels.  I usually only use them for outlining the outside of a pattern, so these aren’t must haves. In fact, I could probably get the same out of my bench chisels.

I also added a small flattish gouge for relieving the background, the 5/8 does a great job of getting into tighter spaces than the 12’s do for some of the patterns.  I also added couple of different curved gouges to fill in some of the gaps, but they are not used as much as my core set.

I’ve also upgraded my V tool from the Pfeil to a Auriou version from the Chris Pye set that Lie Nielsen is selling now.  The V tool is very important, and the Auriou is very comfortable to hold and use.  If you want to get into it you can read a lot of good stuff from Chris Pye and Mary May on the V tool, it’s worth spending the time to understand this tool.  It’s also worth the time to practice A LOT with this tool to build the muscle memory and comfort level, something I’m still working on.

In the style of carving I do, you can get a lot of mileage out of a few curved gouges and it’s really hard to go wrong with Peter’s original suggestion and build from there.   My next purchases will probably something in the 7/12 range to give me a smaller gouge for outlining.



  1. Kelly November 27, 2013

    What is the difference between a bench chisel and the “carving chisels” you mention in this post?

  2. Badger November 30, 2013

    The “bench” chisels are your standard bevel edges chisels you can buy for most woodworking (but not carving) uses. A carving chisel has a very thin cross section typically. A bench chisel usually has a lot of metal in the blade. For carving they would be only good setting in a straight line really. Most of your carving tools have some form of a curve on them.

  3. Kelly November 30, 2013

    I see. So, they are thinner … more like a pairing chisel I guess.

    Thanks for the reply.

  4. Badger November 30, 2013

    No problem. They are a bit thinner, but they have a “bolster”? where the metal goes into the handle to prevent it from driving into the handle when you tap it with a mallet. I use a round applewood mallet I turned, and a small brass one i bought to apply force.

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