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Beginner's Wood Carving Tool Sets

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  • Beginner's Wood Carving Tool Sets

    An Open Forum Discussion

    What tools do you need to start carving?
    What tools do you recommend for your first time carvers?
    Can you suggest a blog, thread, article, or posting that you believe has valuable information for our first time knife-to-the-wood hobbyists?
    What specific tools do you recommend for 3-D, Relief, Mallet Old World Style, Whittling, Chip Carving, Power Carving, or any other style of carving?


    My personal opinion:

    What tool sets I do recommend.

    This common question is very hard to answer because the tools and knives you may be using one year from now could well be very different than those that I suggest for a newbie carver.

    If you are just starting wood carving I strongly suggest a simple set of carving tools. Sets are available in 6 to 12 tools, and often come with a storage box or cloth roll. Select a medium-sized tool profile set of 1/2″ wide or less that includes at least a straight chisel, skew chisel, large round gouge, small round gouge, and a v-gouge.

    A mid-quality beginner’s tool set of five to six tools will cost between $40 to $75.

    To this set add the best bench knife or large chip knife that you can afford. Your bench knife is your primary tool in carving and the better quality steel makes all the difference in how easy your carving flows through the cuts. A high-quality bench knife often runs around $35 to $60. I use a Moore Large Chip Carving Knife.

    Interchangeable blade sets are also excellent for the new carve. As an example I use the FlexCut 11 piece Interchangeable set all the time for whittling, relief, and cane carving. This set has every tool profile that a new carver needs while keeps your initial costs low. I also have used the same Ramelson Beginner’s Set for nearly twenty years with great success.

    You will also need a sharpening set to keep the edge of your new tools crisp. Sharpening tools can include ceramic stones, a leather strop, honing compound, and a slipstrop. Estimate another $50 to $75 for your sharpening set.

    What I do not recommend for the beginning carver!

    1. I don’t use any of the sets that are available from the large arts and crafts box stores. These sets are very inexpensive because they are not manufactured from high quality steel. Often they come un-sharpened or only partially sharpened, which means that you must conquer sharpening techniques before you ever put a knife into the wood.

    2. I don’t recommend high-end, extra-high quality tools for a beginner. I know, those sets are just beyond beautiful and the very best you can buy. And I know that I just told you to buy the best bench knife you can afford … But … neither you nor I know whether you will love wood carving with the intensity that I do at this point in your new hobby. We also can not predict what style of carving you will finally chose.

    These tools can be purchases after you discover that you are addicted to carving! You can purchase high-end tools individually which means you can add to you beginner’s set one tool at a time.

    So, at this time, save that money to purchase wood.

    3. While I do list utility knives as a possible starting tool kit I do not recommend them. Utility knives are made to be disposable and do not have the steel strength that true wood carving tools do. Utility knife blades can crack, split, and pop at any moment, and create a danger of injury.

    For more of my personal options please visit: Back to the Basics of Wood Carving.

    Please see Dileon's post, #9, that has excellent suggestions!

    Please see Randy's post, #13, for excellent information of safety equipment!

    Please see Claude's post, #15, for more excellent ideas!

    Please read Pallin's post, #16, for more quality, beginner tool set names!

    Please see Randy's post, #24, for wood toxicity links!
    Attached Files
    Back to the Basics of Wood Carving | What tools do you need to start carving? This common question is very hard to answer because the tools and knives you…
    Last edited by Irish; 01-10-2018, 02:20 PM.

  • #2
    Hello

    Who has never carved wood, do not know how difficult it can be to carve.

    I am also a German carver forum. There I have already seen many who once carved something, and then never again!

    Often one can read at manufacturers of carving tools, "wood can carve everyone". That's not true! They just say it because they want to sell their tools.

    For the beginner, it depends in my opinion to test whether he has fun at all carving. Whether he has endurance, whether he can withstand setbacks / disappointments.

    A good carving knife and a piece of "soft (basswood) wood" are enough to test this.


    Best regards

    Comment


    • #3
      I don't know you feel Claude but if she keeps posting great info like this the forum might have to open a section just for Irish Stickies!

      Tinwood

      Comment


      • #4
        Irish has given a good review of the trade-offs that beginning carvers face when choosing their first tools. Perhaps no choice can guarantee a rewarding experience with wood carving. How does a beginner learn what a good tool feels like in use? At our carving club meeting I saw a beginner struggling with his knife. He had tried sharpening it, but it didn't work. I suggested that he try using my favorite knife - brand unimportant. It was an instant "A-Hah" experience. He knew immediately what stood in the way of his rewarding experience. We have all seen the videos of carving experts, their tools slicing effortlessly through the wood. Beginners need to experience the FEEL of that process.

        Comment


        • #5
          Let's not forget safety. At the very least, one needs a thumb guard or some kind of thumb protection. I personally prefer a good carving glove (on both hands), but maybe that's a just a habit I formed back when I used to drink and carve at the same time (DON'T!!!).

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Tasmandevil View Post
            Hello

            Who has never carved wood, do not know how difficult it can be to carve.

            I am also a German carver forum. There I have already seen many who once carved something, and then never again!

            Often one can read at manufacturers of carving tools, "wood can carve everyone". That's not true! They just say it because they want to sell their tools.

            For the beginner, it depends in my opinion to test whether he has fun at all carving. Whether he has endurance, whether he can withstand setbacks / disappointments.

            A good carving knife and a piece of "soft (basswood) wood" are enough to test this.


            Best regards
            TasmanDevil, Great point!

            I have tried my hand at so many hobbies and one that was a real dead end for me is fabric dying. I must have spent several hundred dollars on dyes, wax, tools, dye brushes, and special fabric. After three attempts I quickly learned it wasn't for me.

            Carving is, however, at least a hobby where you have so many great choices in what style you carve as well as what theme you carve that it has a much wider appeal. If relief carving isn't for you, give chip carving a go, or try 3-D ornaments, or even give fish decoys a chance.

            Susan

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by honketyhank View Post
              Let's not forget safety. At the very least, one needs a thumb guard or some kind of thumb protection. I personally prefer a good carving glove (on both hands), but maybe that's a just a habit I formed back when I used to drink and carve at the same time (DON'T!!!).
              Wonderful addition, honkety! Totally forgot that.

              The pattern below is 100dpi so just click and save it to your desktop, then print it without any size change.

              You will need 1 old leather purse, shoe, or boot, two yards of waxed linen thread, an awl, several pieces of cardboard, and a tapestry (dull point) needle. You can also buy scrap leather bundles from leather supply houses (I go the SpringfieldLeather.com) and you can use all the extra leather for walking stick joints, and magic wand wraps.

              Cut out the thumbguard you want to make out of the old leather. The raw leather side will become the inside, with the tanned leather side on the outside.

              With a compass and pencil mark along the outer straight and curved edges of the two sides of the guard at 1/4" seam allowance. Mark on the tanned leather side. Do not mark the v-cut central area.

              Place the guard onto several layers of cardboard and use the awl to make evenly spaced sewing holes along the seam allowance pencil mark.

              Use the waxed linen thread and tapestry needle to stitch it up!

              Repeat several times while you have all the supplies out on the table, then throw the extra guards in your tools kit for use later.

              Susan
              Attached Files

              Comment


              • #8
                Make your first carving projects with linden or basswood or other recommended woods...., hardwoods are for more experience carvers that can sharpen chisels and know the basic cuts.

                All first carving must be easy and simple, ...meaning your learning how to make cuts,... not make a master piece.

                Three... ask questions until you get the answers.

                Four.....Always have a set of band aids with your kit, I had a carving teacher once noted that if you pass-out at the sight of blood, this is not the class for you. Also know how to stop bleeding, by pressure.

                Five..... All tools purchased must be sharpen and ready to use. There some brands that expect you sharpen tools when you buy them, until you learn how to sharpen and keep your chisels strop...these tools can break you success at carving, not good idea for a beginner... It might be wise to use name brands that people like and use.

                As far as power carving....get a electric dremel rotary tool and kutzall bits and leather gloves learn from the small tools and then build your power carving from there.... do not get the dremel bits in a kit.
                Last edited by Dileon; 01-08-2018, 05:21 PM.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Dileon View Post
                  Make your first carving projects with linden or basswood or other recommended woods...., hardwoods are for more experience carvers that can sharpen chisels and know the basic cuts.

                  All first carving must be easy and simple, ...meaning your learning how to make cuts,... not make a master piece.

                  Three... ask questions until you get the answers.

                  Four.....Always have a set of band aids with your kit, I had a carving teacher once noted that if you pass-out at the sight of blood, this is not the class for you. Also know how to stop bleeding, by pressure.

                  Five..... All tools purchased must be sharpen and ready to use. There some brands that expect you sharpen tools when you buy them, until you learn how to sharpen and keep your chisels strop...these tools can break you success at carving, not good idea for a beginner... It might be wise to name brands that people like and use.

                  As far as power carving....get a electric dremel rotary tool and kutzall bits and leather gloves learn from the small tools and then build your power carving from there.... do not get the dremel bits in a kit.
                  and super glue!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I am amazed at the suggestions. On most forums if a beginner asks about tools, sometimes the suggestions could bankrupt a millionaire. Then in a few months you would see a some of them selling their fortune in tools for pennies on the dollar. It is refreshing to see so much common sense being used in the suggestions.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I feel strongly that first carvings should not be knife projects held in one's hand. A simple flower carved in relief will teach stop cuts, gouge cuts, grain direction while keeping the wood clamped to a table or bench and both hands on the tools. I have used this approach with several young grandchildren with good results. They were painting their projects within an hour, and very proud.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by pallin View Post
                        I feel strongly that first carvings should not be knife projects held in one's hand. A simple flower carved in relief will teach stop cuts, gouge cuts, grain direction while keeping the wood clamped to a table or bench and both hands on the tools. I have used this approach with several young grandchildren with good results. They were painting their projects within an hour, and very proud.
                        I would add to this, Palin, that I don't suggest that anyone learn how to carve using a block of soap. Newbies, especially children, have little or no control over the amount of force and pressure they use in their first carving strokes. Soap has almost no resistance and the chances of a tool or bench knife slipping out of the cut are very high. When you add a semi-dull cutting tool and the natural inclination to 'push harder' it can become a very dangerous situation.

                        As you suggested earlier, basswood is both a soft wood to cut yet has enough resistance that a newbie can learn how to control their pressure, angle, and force safely.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I would like to see Safety equipment be the first thing we put on the list of a beginners set of tools. Carving glove, finger guard, eye protection, dust mask are a good start. Like many of us I was self taught. I started with a Xacto set. And within a short time ER visits. None of the basic carving books I had started with addressed carving safety and safety equipment. Some of the first beginner classes I took the subject of safe handling of tools and there use was not shared or glanced over. I have known a number of beginners who quit after an injury. Most of which were from not knowing what they needed to do to prevent or minimize injury. I can still cut myself after all these years but it is mostly only when I try to skip the safe way to carve what I am working on. There are always those cuts that you just do not see coming.
                          Randy

                          WE LIVE IN THE LAND OF THE FREE BECAUSE OF THE BRAVE!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Randy View Post
                            I would like to see Safety equipment be the first thing we put on the list of a beginners set of tools. Carving glove, finger guard, eye protection, dust mask are a good start. Like many of us I was self taught. I started with a Xacto set. And within a short time ER visits. None of the basic carving books I had started with addressed carving safety and safety equipment. Some of the first beginner classes I took the subject of safe handling of tools and there use was not shared or glanced over. I have known a number of beginners who quit after an injury. Most of which were from not knowing what they needed to do to prevent or minimize injury. I can still cut myself after all these years but it is mostly only when I try to skip the safe way to carve what I am working on. There are always those cuts that you just do not see coming.
                            Randy, your point is so important that I edited the first post of this thread to include directions to your post, #13. You might, if you have a few moments, edit your post to give any other safety ideas that I totally missed. Thank you for this!

                            Susan

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I use a kevlar carving glove and a leather thumb guard. My thumb guard will usually last me 1-2 months before it gets cut through. I do what any good Red Green follower would do: I cover it in duct tape! Seriously, I cut a few strips of duct tape, wrap it around the thumb guard, and I'm good for another month. When the duct tape gets cut through in places, I peel it off and apply new duct tape. Some carvers use the vet wrap instead - equally good, but I had a roll of duct tape sitting on a shelf so...

                              My recommendation for a beginner's carving set is the Flexcut FR310 https://www.flexcut.com/home/product...nners-palm-set I bought this set over 15 years ago and still use every piece in the set. The tools arrive carving sharp right from the store/factory. This set has 4 of the 5 mentioned by Irish in #1 above, substituting a 3/8 #3 for the straight chisel. To this, I added the Flexcut KN13 detail knife https://www.flexcut.com/home/product/kn13-detail-knife I was fortunate enough to live close (15 miles) to a Woodcraft store so I was able to actually hold the knife in my hand before purchase. The store also had some basswood that they let customers use to try out the knife. I later purchased the KN12 cutting knife, but don't like it, as the blade seems to me to be too thick and difficult to use. I have also purchased knives from Allan Goodman, Helvie, and Bütz, as I gained experience at carving.

                              Phil made a good point about letting a beginner try one of your own knives to see what "sharp" means. I do that at carving club meetings when we have a new carver show up. Several of us will let the beginner try our knives on a scrap of wood to see how it feels in the hand. Some like thin handles, some like thick ones, some like whale-tail (Flexcut), some like "football" shapes...

                              To expand on DiLeon's comment about bits/burrs for the Dremel. Absolutely right about not buying burrs in a set (with one exception: https://www.woodcraft.com/products/d...-set-120-piece - this set has 4 different grits, and many shapes. I have found it quite useful in digging out fuzzies in tight places...). The burrs I have found to be most useful are
                              Bullnose cylinder
                              Flame
                              Ball

                              Power Tools: Once a beginner decides he/she really likes carving and wants to do more, a couple of power tools are very helpful. A bench-top bandsaw and a bench-top drill press. The bandsaw would likely be a 9 inch one (can cut wood up to about 3.5 inches thick) and the drill press should have a 1/2 inch jacobs chuck on it. The drill press at the DIY store starts at $80 and the bandsaws start at around $120. Whatever brand of band saw one decides on, purchase a Timberwolf blade from Suffolk Machinery Corp. - Timber Wolf Band Saw Blades it makes all the difference when cutting. Taking Lynn O. Doughty's advice, I bought the 4TPI 3/16 inch blade and have been very happy with it. This blade will cut 3.5 inch walnut on my little 9 inch bandsaw, make tight turns to follow patterns, etc.

                              Tinwood: That would be up to BobD. I like the idea that Irish puts her posts in various existing forums...

                              Claude
                              My FaceBook Page: https://www.facebook.com/ClaudesWoodCarving/

                              My Pinterest Page: https://www.pinterest.com/cfreaner/

                              My ETSY Shop: https://www.etsy.com/shop/ClaudesWoodcarving

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