No announcement yet.

The "Price" of More

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • The "Price" of More

    We have had many discussions on this site seeking other's advice on tools to add to our carving "arsenal." Often these inquiries are driven by considerations of price, especially from beginners. One thing that is unique about carving tools is that there is a "price" to be paid in learning time. Every different shape of gouge or knife has a different technique for its use and for its maintenance. These have to be learned. A skew does not work like a #7 gouge. Even a #3 gouge does not work like a #3 fishtail gouge. And, V-tools are "somethin else." Each of these unique tools requires sharpening and honing. Sharpening a knife is not like sharpening a V-tool.

    How long did it take you to learn how to use the tools you have effectively? And how long to keep them "carving sharp?" Many of the expensive carving tools I acquired over the years are rarely used. Why? Because I've learned the multiple techniques possible with the few I use regularly, and I've mastered the process of keeping those few sharp.

    Consider that when you're searching for new carving tools that you "must have."


  • #2
    Sage thoughts, Pallin, sage thoughts.

    All I had to do is wallow in indecision for 6-8 weeks each time and buy 2 gouges per year! After 15-20 years, it looks like a lot despite selling off a few.
    Buy a consignment, one of those all-or-nothing deals. Time to get another tool roll sewn up.

    I'll say that it took me more than 5 years, more like 8 or so, to have a sense of what each would do in terms of marks. I liked the results.
    The merits of big and little came quite by surprise. Some for rough outs, some for fine and detail.

    I learned free hand sharpening, sharpening from my knees and what carving sharp meant, in the very first couple of days. I am forever grateful for that.

    I've spent a long time and a fair bit of coin, exploring the adzes and the crooked carving knives of the Pacific Northwest native carving community.
    Repurposing blades, making handles from scratch and hafting blades. I don't regret any of it and I'm not done yet.

    Pallin, if I may, ask people to point out their most regrettable purchase(s)?
    Blades that you just HAD TO HAVE that didn't work out so hot?
    For me, they are the monster 1" Pfeil skew, the 1S/25e and the Pfeil Brienz knife.

    Brian T


    • #3
      Brian - I can tell from your inputs that you have invested a lot of your time exploring the capabilities and sharpening challenges of various carving tools. You don't have to be told about that "price" in pursuing this hobby (perhaps a profession for some).

      You were generous to admit your "mistakes." Mine are in the photo with the opening of this thread. All of that Pfeil "Brienz Collection" in its beechwood case is rarely used. I think it cost about $900, on sale. The smaller box also holds 21 full size gouges, plus several non-Pfeil knives. The ones I use are kept on the top layer.


      • #4
        I'm too old to be embarassed. It's dang near funny now. Oh but I needed that skew and the Brienz knife so badly.
        You want to know why? I watched carvers using what I thought were those tools. I didn't watch closely enough.

        I still have the list of the 6 gouges and the 12oz mallet that I bought in the beginning. Took 12+ months to admit, finally,
        that a 9/15 would get the rough work done faster. Wouldn't you know it? The dinky little 12 oz mallet didn't have
        enough poop to pound the bigger gouge. 30oz lead core was the answer. . . . and the stories go on.

        I figured out how to use a pair of jeans to make a tool roll. Found a local guy restoring furniture to do the sewing.
        Old jeans are different shades of blue. I keep little gouges in one, etc. Hard to remember the colors!!
        The Pac NW stuff got put in a box I built. Dumb enough to add 4-5 more knives that don't fit.

        I hope others chime in here. I don't see it as any embarassment for the crazy-a$$ tool purchases that just flame out.
        Brian T


        • #5
          I think my trouble started when I went from whittling neckerchief slides to wall-size decorations. Palm tools with 3/8 inch wide blades just wouldn't cut it (pun intended). So I bought my first gouge. If I go from wall décor to full size sculptures of horses or elephants, maybe I could use those tools I have. LOL


          • #6
            My biggest mistakes were dogleg spoon gouges and a macaroni gouge. Had to have 'em, never use 'em. Phil hit the nail on the head when he mentioned learning to use your commonly used tools with different techniques to make them "multitask," if you will.


            • #7
              Many years ago I rushed into my new love of carving by buying a large set of very good tools. And while I do fined the better the tool is made the better the work you can do with it. I found out fast the good tools do not mean good skills. I have settled in to a carving stile and size of work which I do mostly with palm tools. Like my mallet tools It took me a few years to be confidant and combatant in their use and care. Today I tell people who ask me how to get started to pick what they want to carve, Relief, caricatures, wild life, walking sticks, but just start with one... Then look at what basic tools will get you started. You can carve many things with 5 or 6 tools and a good knife. Look at you tubes ask on this forum , Go to some carving shows or visit carving clubs if you have one within driving distance. As you develop your skills to will learn what you need to do your projects. Buy your tools because you need it not because you guess you should have one of those. This helps you to learn what you can or cannot do with what you have. Sadly over the years I have spent a lot of money buying tools I did not need. I just did not take the time to develop my skills with what I had. I am embarrassed by how many years and dollars it took me to learn that basic truth. I do have a large selection of tools. And I do use them all at some time or the other. But I do 90+% of my work with 3 different carving knives and 10 drake palm tool. I said all of that to say start very basic. Learn to use those tools they will teach you what you need.
              Last edited by Randy; 04-28-2017, 04:43 PM.
              We live in the land of the free because of the brave! Semper Fi


              • #8
                My mistake was initially thinking that I could get by with cheaper tools until I got to be a better carver. What I learned is that having better tools to start, gives you a much better leg up. My biggest regret was not researching good quality tools first, i.e. Drake, Denny, etc..

                I find that I have way more tools than I end up using, but that is half the fun of this hobby.

                My go to tools now are a Pine Forge 'Harley' knife, two Mike Shipley knives and a set of wide profile Flexcut palm tools. They take care of 90% of the caricature carving I do.


                • #9
                  Isn't hindsight 20/20?

                  Brian T


                  • #10
                    I was fortunate in that I had only purchased the Flexcut Beginner set when I started looking for some larger mallet tools. I still use all 5 of the gouges in that Flexcut set today, BTW. What influenced my next purchase of the larger tools was this article: Tools I Can’t Live Without « Fiebig and Yundt Woodcarving I bought most of these gouges in a set from Woodcraft and have no regrets.

                    My FaceBook Page:
                    My Pinterest Page:
                    My Instagram Page:
                    My ETSY Shop:


                    • #11
                      I have more than I need and more than I'll use but I wouldn't trade the experiences I've had in the process of purchasing them and the people that I've met as I've purchased them for all the tea in China. You couldn't book a more marvelous adventure anywhere with any travel agency in the world. When you get right down to it it's probably the cheapest venture I've ever undertaken. Perhaps at times not the safest, but definitely the most fun.


                      • #12
                        Great advice. More tools mean more time to take care of them, less time for carving best to have and use only the necessary - I too have a Flexcut palm set and mallet set and a detail knife.


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Eddy-Smiles View Post
                          . . .I wouldn't trade the experiences I've had in the process of purchasing them . . .
                          I certainly agree with your comment, Eddy-Smiles. The first Pfeil (Swiss-Made) gouge I purchased was in Brienz, Switzerland at Huggler's woodcarving shop. Had a nice chat with the woman master carver there. Lots of wonderful carvings. The gouge cost $21.50, and soon proved to be worth it, but counting the trip it was the most expensive carving tool I've ever acquired.

                          That was in 2001 when a group of us travelled to Grindelwald to help our sister ski club celebrate their 100th anniversary.
                          Last edited by pallin; 05-01-2017, 06:50 PM.


                          • #14
                            My maintenance time changes very little as I don't use all tools for every carving.
                            Most times, I'll guess that the maximum was no more than 8.

                            A tool vendor got a box of 5/35 from the factory, 5 of the gouges were damaged = dings, bent corners, real junk.
                            I said that I'd tune them all up for a discount on the pick of the litter. Got it for $10.00.
                            Brian T


                            • #15
                              I greatly agree with the concept. I have bought a tool or two (or more) thinking I was gonna need it but have it sit unused for ever after its trial run. Or even without a trial run. But for some strange reason, the following tune entered my mind:

                              Sometimes you never know what you got til it's gone ...

                              So don't throw them away ... yet.
                              HonketyHank toot toot