Basic Carving Tools

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A 6mm #15, 12mm #9, 14mm #7, 4mm #8, 6mm #8, 12mm #8, 8mm #3 and 8mm #5 are my go to carving tools along with a set of sharp bench chisels.

I’m often asked what you need to get started carving wood. And, while I am partial to the Swiss Made (Pfeil) brand of tools, I don’t recommend one manufacturer over another. What I do recommend is that you assemble your carving tool set yourself. Don’t let a manufacturer or retailer do the work for you.

I realize that advice isn’t what most busy people today want to hear. We live in an age of pre-packaged everything where we sacrifice personal choice for convenience, but your carving tools ought to be the exception. They are, after all, an extension of yourself. They are the implements that telegraph your vision, your creativity and your skill to a wooden three dimensional expression of you and your intentions.

I purchased my first “set” of carving tools shortly out of high school – about half of which remains fairly unused to this day. I have a small collection of long bent and spoon gouges for which I have found little use. Sure, I’ve tried using them on different carving projects, but I tend to gravitate to the same small group of tools for most jobs.

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I keep my carving tools in trays in my tool cabinet. The tray in the bottom of the bin (at right in the photo) is where all the tools I never use reside.

I have a core set of eight carving tools that are my “go to” tools 90% of the time. And in this weeks article for subscribers, I use half of that core group to show how to carve a scallop shell (If you’re a subscriber, log in and click here to read the article). The funny thing is, they weren’t packaged as a set by any retailer.

I have lots of carving tools – I just find myself grabbing one of these eight most of the time. While I don’t suggest that woodworkers run out and buy a ton of tools to figure out which they gravitate to the most, it certainly helped me figure out not to buy sets assembled by someone other than me.

— Chuck Bender

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