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Shopping for gouges and chisels in 1799

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  • Shopping for gouges and chisels in 1799

    With no internet and no malls in 1779 where could you buy your tools? Edward Brookes the Creator of the 'Sheffield List' catalog would be your likely source of purchasing standardized tool using your hard earned shillings and pences. Attached is a very readable copy of the first few page of the 14th edition of the Sheffield list. The gouges listed 'a'-'g' (g is only found in the text) are the shapes we now know as #3 - #9. If all the great work from that era used only these standards why do we have so many more tools now?
    Attached Files
    "Quality is not expensive. It is priceless!"

  • #2
    Straight, long bent, short bent, spoon bent and tracery bent. Macaroni and flutaroni profiles. The tracery-bent gouges for example were used to carve the elaborate wood trim for medieval church windows. There's no other way to get around some of that design geometry. I'd like to be a fly on the wall to watch the sharpening technique.

    I have no bent gouges at all. I found it far easier to do all of that work with the crooked knives common to the First Nations carvers here in the Pacific Northwest. The patterns defy logic.
    Long bent, short bent, tip bent, flat (sort of), then big and little. All you can do, short of making your own, is to look at the sweeps and pick the one(s) you need. Old Sawz-All blades are great steel.

    There are several very good blade smiths in the Pacific Northwest. All very nice people to buy from.

    Heavily ground down and resharpened farrier's hoof-trimming knives are good shapes and good steel to start with. I revise the bevels to 20 degrees, bash off the factory handles and haft my own. Cut and shape the tips with a Dremel and cutoff disks. The chief drawback is that the farrier's knives are single bevel. So to be practically useful, you need to scare up both the right-hand and the left-hand knives. It's OK to carve with one in each hand!
    Brian T


    • #3

      My guess would be wood carvers in 1779 would likely be working with the local smithy to get their tools. Why do we have more tools now is because we can and they make doing our work easier. Just like you couldn’t sit at your bench at home and watch YouTube videos to learn carving or sharpening techniques. Instead you would have to seek out some old carver who if you where lucky had bathed in the past month and hope we was willing to teach you.

      Last edited by Nebraska; 10-03-2021, 02:12 PM.


      • #4
        As Brian mentioned above, the classic profiles (#2 to #9) are available in various bends, several are also produced as fishtail shapes. You can also buy left and right skews with #2 or #3 edges. A recent listing Pfeil carving tools had over 400 choices. Of course we also have the option of reshaping what we have.


        • #5
          And then you get into the ones you make yourself, just because you couldn't find one to order
          . . .JoeB


          • #6
            The larger the veriety of shaps and sizes of cutting edges the more opptions you have and the less time you spend trying to get those shapes with other tools.
            We live in the land of the free because of the brave! Semper Fi


            • #7
              I think most folks do not use the bent tools because they have not been instructed on their proper use. I have a couple of bent knife but heck if I don't have a difficult time using them on anything other than cedar or basswood. The English love to whack with a hammer and gouge because the wood they traditionally use is oak and is much more difficult to cut with a bent knife. A lot of folks who do a lot of intricate carving use the same straight gouges most of the time but with commissioned work, they have many other tools that will do the exact cut and saves the carving from sandpaper.