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Tool brands, quality and what to look for

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  • Tool brands, quality and what to look for

    Hi everyone. I'm a beginning carver. Not wanting to overspend on a hobby I wasn't sure I'd enjoy or stick with, I decided to go for the Schaaf 7 piece expansion set, which after some hiccups, seems to be working well. I also added a set of 12 from Deadwood Crafted Tools, which also is of surprisingly high quality for the price. Both sets seem to hold their edges well, although without much experience, it's hard for me to tell. I've also added a few Pfeil and Ashely Isles, both of which are excellent. The AIs are definitely more robust, which really shows up when using a mallet.

    I've also looked into Henry Taylor's "Professional Line" carried by Classic Hand Tools (CHT) in the UK. I ordered a few of their double bevel carving chisels, but sent them back because some of the blades were not lined up with the handles. I don't think the actual blades were bent, rather, it seems they weren't fitted properly in the handles. It's a shame, because I really like the look and feel of these tools. More recently, I've been reconsidering ordering a few more HT gouges, hoping I could find some that weren't misaligned, but it seems a high percentage tools in this line are just not straight. CHT claims that as hand made tools, this in not an indication of a quality control problem -- it's just a result of making tools by hand. By most accounts, the steel is excellent for holding an edge, and the blades are very robust, and much thicker than Pfeil blades.

    I'd love to hear everyone's thoughts on this. More specifically, my question is how important it is for the blade and handle to be aligned, or straight (talking only about straight chisels and gouges here, not spoon bent or long bent tools). To be fair, I have one new Pfeil Blogs fishtail that isn't dead straight (but very close). But some of the Henry Taylors I bought (and returned) were at least a few degrees off line.

  • #2
    Clearly, you have done a careful study of carving tools. The ultimate test of any tool is how it performs for the task at hand. It doesn't matter if it is thick or the handle is misaligned, unless those shapes affect your use of the tool. If the alignment of the tool shaft with the handle were critical, then long bent or spoon bent gouges would be ineffective. I personally believe they are not meant for use with mallets because they rely on a prying motion.

    I think it's time for you to choose a project and produce your own assessment of tool brands.
    Last edited by pallin; 05-24-2023, 06:45 PM.


    • #3
      Thanks for your responses Nebraska and Pallin. It really helps to have more experienced carvers weigh in. Just to clarify, I meant the shafts of both the HT's -- and Ashly Isles-- both from the UK, are more substantial than Pfeil. There's just more steel. I guess some would see this as a good thing, while others might see it as overkill, only adding unnecessary bulk. Til recently, I've carved soft woods so I didn't notice any difference. But I've been carving madrone, which is quite hard, even green, and the Ashley Isles just feel more solid with less vibration when struck with a mallet. It's not a criticism of Pfeil, just an observation. And to be fair, the few Pfeils I have are less than 20mm, so I'm using only light strikes. I would expect larger Pfeils to be plenty sturdy.


      • #4
        I agree with Pallin. If the tool is holding its edge and is working for the task you are using them for then they are all you need. In the early days of my carving life I bought a large set of Lamp tools. I found very quickly I did not need 2/3rds of them with the subjects I was carving. While I have done some larger carvings I prefer carving on canes and walking sticks. Most of which I now do with power and palm tools. My point is start out with tools you need for the work you are doing. You can do alot of carving with 5 to 7 mallet tools and a couple good carving knife.
        We live in the land of the free because of the brave! Semper Fi


        • #5
          Major agree with Phil...every tool has its pro and cons depends what kind of effect you want. All my chisels were bought when they were highly recommended by top cavers for carving hardwoods. The wood and end effect determines which chisels I use big time... softwoods can be carved with old reliable box knives. Henry Taylors were prime at one time. Pfeil is my top choice in exotic hardwoods that I carve, next would be my Henry Taylors more due to shape and not ease of sharping and cutting. Next would be the old Japanese handmade chisels. I have read but haven't bought the new tools which I have heard people complain about. I am THINKING IT IS rather an issue of cutting cost and quality by manufacturing companies. I did get a new one about five years ago...Henry Taylor's palm tool was not impressive enough to put it in my line of preferred tools. I do not recommend top-of-line tools unless you carved long enough to get your money's worth. It is my finding most pro wood carvers have Pfeil tools and I agree with their choices. I will note the Pfeil tools I have today cost over a hundred dollars or more as I carve large. As far as Ashley Isles never was able to get my hands on one so zero experience with know people who love them. Today you need to be very careful what you buy as they can go from great and best to total junk especially if they change new hands. As having more or less steel shaft is rather meanless, if you know about forging steel and sharpening, it about the chemistry of steel is perfect then you can cut anything with thin walls. But again my opinion also depends on the chemistry of the wood to which kind of chisels and tools I will use...I find what works for one wood will not work for another.
          . Explore! Dream! Discover!” aloha Di


          • #6
            Another thing to consider is the bevel included angle on the gouge/chisel. A larger included angle (20 degrees plus) is usually recommended for really hard woods, as it provides more support to the cutting edge. Thinner included angles for the less hard woods means it takes less effort to split apart the wood with the gouge and the less-hard woods don't need the heavier steel backing the cutting edge. As Phil says, decide on what you want to carve, and then select tools that support that type of carving.

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