Understanding Woodcarving Tools

Understanding Chisel, Gouges and V-Tools

Palm Size Mid Size Full Size Palm Size: This size is used for smaller carvings – especially those carvings that you hold in one hand and the palm tool in the other. The hand holding the carving should have a glove for protection. Caricature carving would be one example.

Mid and Full-Size: These tools are used for medium to larger size carvings. They made be pushed using one or both hands or may be struck with a mallet. We prefer both Pfeil (Swiss Made) or Two Cherries (German Made) not only for their steel quality but also because they use hardwood octagon handles.

Chisels and Skew Chisels

Chisels: can be any width but they have a flat or straight cutting edge and are called #1 Chisels may have a single or a double bevel. IE: one side beveled to a sharp edge or both sides beveled to the edge. Chisels can be used for removing wood on the edge of a project but are not suitable for removing wood on a flat surface as the edges will tear into the wood. Gouges are used to remove wood from a flat surface. IE: Skew Chisels: have a flat or straight cutting edge also but these shaped on a slant/skew and called #1S Skew Chisels are used for much the same purpose as the standard chisels but they can reach into corners. IE:


Gouges: have a curved cutting edge which is called a “sweep”. A very slight curve is called a #2 sweep and as the sweep becomes more pronounced, the higher the number given them. #11 is the maximum and is sometimes referred to as a “Veiner”. #11’s are often used to carver hair or to make deep narrow cuts. Here are some examples: #3 Sweep #5 Sweep #7 Sweep #9 Sweep #11 Sweep


V-Tools: V-tools are sometimes referred to as “Parting Tools”. The most common V-tools are those formed at 60 Degrees, but they are also available in 45 and 90 Degrees. Some palm tools (Flexcut in particular) come in 70 degrees. V-tools are used to make “stop cuts” as well as texturing and sharp definitions. This is a 60d profile:

There is still more to learn!

So now you know how to “partially describe” or identify carving tools. For example you might describe a tool as: Palm Style #5 Gouge; or a Mid-Size Style #1S Skew Chisel, or a Mid-Size #7 Gouge; or a Full-size Style # 5 Gouge; or a Full-Size V-tool 60d. All of the various sweeps are available in all tool styles. But there is still another part to the description – the width of the cutting edge. Some manufacturers give the width of their tools in metric measurement only, some US makers give the widths in inches and/or metric. Throughout our website, we offer images of the various profiles to better assist you in making choices. For instance: # 1 Chisel Widths #7 Gouge Widths

But wait … there is more!

So far I have only talked about the cutting edge as far as sweep and width. Learn the above and now add these styles and you will sound like a professional when you describe or order woodcarving your tools. Long Bent: A gouge, chisel or V tool where the blade is curved along its entire length. Used for reaching deep into your work. Spoon or Short Bent: A gouge, chisel or V tool where the blade is straight with a curve at the end, like a spoon. Used for work in deep or inaccessible areas. Fishtail: A gouge or chisel with a straight, narrow shank that flares out at the end to form a “fishtail”. Allows for clearance in tight areas. Reverse or Back Bent: A gouge that is similar to a spoon bent with the exception that it is sharpened on the inner channel. Used for hard-to-reach convex surfaces. Dog Leg Chisel: A chisel with a double bend to reach down into hard-to-reach surfaces.