a short bit about carving tools

there was some question lately about how many carving tools I use, what sizes, etc.

There is always room for more; but a great many of the patterns I use can be carved with a relatively small set of gouges and a V-tool. Here’s a shot of the basic tools I use.

carving tools' profiles

After these I probably would add wider versions of the tool 2nd from the left above. 

Patterns like these use very few tools, maybe 4 altogether including the V-tool.

practice panel for MFA cupboard
crossed S-scroll pattern

This next panel was posted the other day; it represents about 2 hours or more of carving. Maybe up to about eight tools, I didn’t count them at the time; but judging by the looks of things that’s about it. Plus a punch. Size is about 9 1/2″ wide by 15″ long or so.

new panel, version 2


As for the punches, one of them is just a 5/32nd nail set…

Here are the tools, some made/filed by me, some by Jennie Alexaner years ago. The heart punch I wrote about some time ago; it’s made by a blacksmith. Need to make a punch to make this punch…  



If you want to see what I have written here about carvings, one way is to use the search button. (That’s what I do when I need to find something here…) Here is a result for the word “gouge” – it includes turning and spoons too, but lots of carved work.


9 thoughts on “a short bit about carving tools

  1. Spoil Sport!!!

    Peter, you are thoroughly debunking the idea that “He with the most tools wins.” Sigh. What are we tool nuts to do when someone of your expertise tells us “you only need…” Gheesh!

    Seriously though, you demonstrate very well how skill and expertise are much better substitutes for a huge collection of tools. Maybe there’s something to be learned from that. THANKS for showing the way.

  2. Peter:
    Your description of 17th Century carving tools and your photographs are right on. It is difficult to select a set of gouges such as yours. It seems that manufacturers have differing numbers. If anyone wants to copy your set of chisels, print your photograph and slightly adjust to make your selections. If you would be so kind you could reshoot the photograph to exact scale. .Just carrry the photograph with you during your travels.
    I recall that W.L. Goodman wrote an article about early 17th Century apprentiship documents that awarded 6 carving tools at the end of the apprentiship. Do you have a citation? This certainly confirms your practice.
    Unfortunately, your photograph of the punches leaves very much to be desired. Yuk! What a picture. Usually your photography is excellent.Would it be possible to reshoot? Most punches can be made with some tool steel and file. I notice that I made your Savell cross punch from a large cut nail.

  3. I purchased the video and was amazed at the quality. To look at period carvings it was hard to get a handle on how some of them went together. Your video and the sequence opened up new lights all over the place. Thanks!

  4. Do you mind if I quote a few of your articles as long as I provide credit and sources back to your site?
    My website is in the exact same area of interest as yours and my users would genuinely benefit from a lot of the
    information you provide here. Please let me know if this alright with you.
    Many thanks!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s