Carving gouges

First, thanks for the quick response on the Carving Drawings – I have 6 sets that haven’t gone out yet; but the 2nd print run should be here today. I’ll get those out right away. https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/carving-drawings-17th-century-work-from-devon-england-and-ipswich-massachusetts-set-1/

I thought this would be a good time to look at the carving gouges I use everyday. I checked and it’s been 7 years since I last did this run-down (& 3 years before that…). My gouges are a mixture of modern and old, some made here in the US, some English ones, some Swiss-made. A couple of other odds and ends too. As you see above, I keep them in shallow trays. In use I bring the trays to the bench, and try to keep the gouges in the trays as I work. It might make for more picking up & putting down, but my goal is to keep from hitting the tools’ edges together on the bench. When not in use, the trays fit into the upper drawer in my tool chest.

I count 13 tools in that photo above. I never use that many in any one carving, or even one project. Typically it’s about 4-8 tools per carving. Because of the mixed-batch of tools, it’s hard for me to tell students what to shop for if they want shapes like I use. In person, I usually end up whacking each tool into a scrap of wood and sending them on their way with that as a guide. So these photos aim for that effect. (I just previewed this post, and for some reason I have to click the photos twice to enlarge them.)

Left to right here, a Swiss-made (Pfiel is the company name) V-tool. Sometimes called a V-parting tool. Mine’s their #15 6mm wide. I tried to measure its angle and it seems to be around 55 degrees. Next is also Swiss-made; a #5 I use for removing background and shaping some patterns. Then two antiques, so no numbers. These are similar to the Swiss-made #8s, maybe a little more curve than that. Below are the same tools, with a ruler just below them to give you an idea of scale.

Below are the marks on those tools – the top two the Swiss-made, then W. Butcher (English I think) and Buck Brothers (Massachusetts, here in US).

There’s a few small gouges that get tucked into that box; these are only used once in a while. The first two from the left are essentially the same size and “sweep” (a term for the curvature of a gouge’s edge) – the difference being the one on the left is ground straight across its end, the middle gouge is crowned – sometimes referred to as a fingernail gouge. The narrow one is maybe like a #5, I use if for shaping in tight spots. It’s a Henry Taylor, made in Sheffield.

Some of the larger gouges are in the next tray. These are all about the same sweep, the one on the left is a Swiss-made #7, about 3/4″ wide. I use it in almost every carving I do, probably 2nd most important gouge after the V-tool. Middle is Austrian, Stubai is the maker. And the large one on the right is English/modern by Ashley Iles – here in the States they’re from https://toolsforworkingwood.com/store/dept/TXQ

The English sweeps are I think one step off from the Swiss/Austrian ones – that Ashley Iles is maybe a #6, but it’s a similar curve to the #7s beside it.

A few more, like in the first tray, these are less-used than the others. On the left is another antique, of these three, it gets used the most. It’s W. Butcher again. Then another Ashley Iles, more sweep than the previous one, and an antique Henry Taylor small shallow gouge.

A detail showing the edges of the tools above.

While we’re looking at carving gouges, here’s a few #5s – I use them for background removal, shaping & beveling, etc. The one on the bottom is straight across its edge, the other two are crowned across their cutting edge. I much prefer this shape, I feel it’s more versatile, better able to meet curved lines – just all around easier to handle. My everyday one is on top of this batch.

These V-tools were difficult to photograph to show what I want here – my everyday Vee is on bottom, it’s cutting edge is angle up from the V to the tops of the “wings” – the German tool above is an excellent V-tool, but its edge is pretty much 90 degrees to the line of the tool’s shank. I find the angled end slices a little easier…I can carve with either, I prefer the bottom one.

You can go back & read what I said about the same subject 7 & 10 years ago…I skimmed it. Not much has changed. I’ve switched some tools out here & there. There might be some better photos there…

https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2013/12/05/carving-tools-i-use-for-oak-furniture/

https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2010/06/21/carving-gouges/

11 thoughts on “Carving gouges

  1. Odd question… can you put up a shot of how they fit into that drawer? I think I can see it in my head, but curious to know how far off I am.

    • the upper drawer is the full width of the tool chest, and the trays just sit in it end-to-end. There’s a divider between them, but that’s it. Some punches tuck in beside one tray, and some small bits for a brace beside the other.

      • What are the dimensions of your tray? If I wanted to build my own for example, what overall length and depth would you recommend?

        • If you mean the trays the gouges are in – they’re determined by the tools they house. So just longer and deeper than the biggest gouge in the tray. The two I use the most are just a bit different in size, one is slightly longer than the other. The outside width of the trays in this case have to fit in the inside width of the tool chest’s upper drawer. Does all that make sense? I found pictures on the blog by searching “tray” – had to sift through a lot of results, but I never put any dimensions with them. Like this one https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2016/11/10/moving-in/

  2. My go-to gouge for texturing is also a Pfeil #5 with the straight-across profile. I think I’ve got another #5 that I might try crowning to see if I like that shape. Thanks for the suggestion.

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