Understanding Woodcarving Tools

Understanding Woodcarving Tools

Understanding Woodcarving Tools Sizes

Woodcarving Palm Tool Palm Size

Mid Size

Full 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. A 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.


Understanding Woodcarving Tools Sweeps

Chisels and Skew Chisels

Chisels: can be any width but they have a flat or straight cutting edge and are called #1 Sweep Chisels may have a single or a double bevel. IE: one side beveled to a sharp edge or both sides beveled to the edge. They 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: Flat chisel

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: 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. V-tools are used to make “stop cuts” as well as texturing and sharp definitions. This is a 60d profile:


Understanding Woodcarving Tools Widths

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, perhaps a Mid-Size #7 Gouge; or a Full-size Style # 5 Gouge; perhaps 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


‘Special Use’ Understanding Woodcarving Tools

But wait … there is more!

So far we have only talked about the cutting edge as far as sweep and width. First of all, learn the above and then these ‘special use’ styles and you will sound like a professional when you describe or order woodcarving your tools.

Long Bent: where the blade is curved along its entire length. These are especially relevant 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. Most of all used for work in deep or inaccessible areas like a bowl.

Fishtail: 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 because of its reverse or converse shape.

Dog Leg Chisel: A chisel with a double bend and as a result will reach down into hard-to-reach surfaces.


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