Carving tools I use for oak furniture

I left the owl alone today, plus it was raining so I didn’t walk the beach. Went to the post office & sent out the last of the spoons/carved panels. Then was in the shop all day. First full-day in the shop for the off-season. Felt pretty good…but soon I have to pack it up & move it. More on that when I know more…

Meanwhile, I’ll try to address a question that I have never satisfactorily dealt with.. –  “what carving tools do you use?” What brand, size, shape, etc. I have always frustrated people with my answers; often I would just strike the tools into a piece of scrap wood & say, get something like these.

Here is my latest attempt to help folks understand which tools I use for carved furniture. Doesn’t mean you need these exact sizes and shapes. These are just what I use. You can adapt carving patterns to suit your tool kit, as you collect and assemble a “set” of carving tools.

carving tools in trays

These two trays’ worth get me through most every carving I do. Sometimes I add one or two more (I’ll get to those.) Let’s start with these tools, with their profiles struck in a chunk of – surprise – oak. 

carving tools w strikes

carving tools struck detail

from left to right:

Swiss-Made (Pfiel) #7, about 3/4″ width. I use this on EVERY carving I do…no exaggeration. 
Swiss-Made (Pfiel) #5, 1/2″ width. I use this one for background removal, and shaping. Also in every carving, with just a few exceptions. Its end is slightly crowned, probably from sloppy sharpening -but it helps when meeting the incised cuts…

Swiss-Made (Pfiel) V-tool #15/6mm – I know because it’s marked that way. Mine’s old now, about 25-30 years. I think its shape is a bit different than what they make now. Tighter at the junction of the two “wings” – to make a crisp V. 

Swiss-Made (Pfiel) #8, 5/16″ width. A very small, deeply curved gouge. I use it regularly, but not always. For small details. Larger #8s are too rounded for my taste…but the small one suits what I need sometimes.

Antique – W. Butcher – I don’t remember when I got this one, I think it was a Brimfield find. 11/16″ wide, part of a circle that’s about 1″ in diameter. I use it when defining medium-sized curves. It’s used a lot in my S-scrolls…

Not-new, not-antique Henry Taylor – 7/16″ wide, about a 1/2″ circle. Same as above, but for smaller sized details. 

Buck Brothers, 9/16″ wide, c. 5/8″ circle. This one falls between the previous two. I sometimes combine two or more of these to create shapes that go from tighter to larger arcs. 

Two Ashley Iles gouges – #5, 1″ wide, and #6 just over 1″ wide. I got two of them from – They are great for large sections of arcs. Heavy, stout tools. Maybe they are available slightly scaled down, I forget. These are big tools…but I’d rather big than too small..

In some carvings, there are more details, and I need to break into another tray, but not for much. Here’s the second stringers:

extra carving tools


The first “extra” tool I am likely to reach for is a small Stubai gouge – #7, 1/2″ wide. I can’t stand the dinky size, but I just haven’t replaced it. It works fine, but I don’t like the way it feels. 

The middle tool is an antique Henry Taylor –  very small. 1/4″ wide, just a little more curve than the Pfiel #5. 

The tool on the right is just another #5 Swiss-Made (Pfiel) – but wide. 1″ wide. I use it for outlining when I don’t use a V-tool. 

I occasionally use some #2s, for shaping or outlining, but the #5s are best for that. I have a few other 5s…some wider, some bent. But I don’t use them for furniture carving much. 



The mallet, which is on its last legs, is hickory. 3″ in diameter. About 12″ long, more than half of which is the head. Its weight is about 1 lb, 12 oz. I have a new one I turned back in the spring. It is dry now, I just haven’t dug it out of the shavings yet. They last me about 6-10 years, I’d say. 

15 thoughts on “Carving tools I use for oak furniture

  1. Thanks Peter. Your work is an inspiration, and it makes me want to try this style of carving. This article will be a great help when getting set up.

  2. Good post.
    As far as the v-parting tool goes. pfeil makes 7 different sweeps for those. I would guess yours is a #16 sweep. The sweeps go from narrow all the way out to something that looks like a seagull. And not necessarily in order by number either.

    • actually if I paid attention you already said it was a 15. you are referring to the canal of the chisel coming to a sharper point. I have modified my new parting tools with a little elbow grease. the new ones are a little more round inside than they used to be.

  3. Peter –

    I really enjoyed your carving videos. I hope you make more.

    Maybe you should work with Lie Nielsen to put together a set of chisels!

    Your videos do seem to imply that there is a set of proportional chisels that would allow one to carve a wide range of designs.

  4. I was wondering what you use for your spoons. I enjoyed you instruction on the woodwright’s shop. Your chisels are Swiss made are your knives also Swiss made?

  5. I was looking at some old hutch carved oak and noticed a interesting pattern…. it looks as if they just pounded each line into the wood rather than carve it out…. with some relief carving… do you know more on this?

  6. I’m a self taught wood sculptor artist from one of Africa’s smallest countries called UGANDA with its capital KAMPALA, i have been working with wood since 1997, lucky enough God blessed me with a scholarship and i traveled to the united States am now living in Wellington, Florida state, I seek for friends who do wood carving, and i appeal to any member who has carving chisels that they no long have use for to give them to me so that i can also start up a wood working studio just behind here where i stay.
    11998 Sturbrbridge Lane, wellington , Florida- 33414-5762
    you can use to see my work of Facebook.

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