Restoring Carving Tools #1: New Life For Abused Carving Tools

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Blog entry by Druid posted 10-08-2016 06:14 PM 719 reads 0 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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I recently unpacked a set of 6 small carving tools (no maker’s marks) that I had purchased at a carving show several years ago. These poor little tools had obviously been abused, but I figured that they could be brought back to life with a little care and patience. I really would have had difficulty cutting my finger with them. Here’s what they looked like, complete with fairly coarse grinder marks.

So, the time came to work on these, and all it took was 3 steps.
1. I did a fairly short demo to show my son Peace how to sharpen and hone these carving tools.
2. Preparation of the strops was done with Flexcut Gold Polishing Compound.
3. Then I stood aside, watched my son implement what he had just seen, and saw him patiently bring these 6 tools back to beautifully polished cutting edges.

He did a beautiful job on them, and they are cutting with ease. You can see the polished finish best on the 3rd from the left. (Sorry the photos are not showing more detail.) Job well done.

I have to add that I have been using Flexcut Gold Polishing Compound for several years now, and the results have been excellent right from the first use. I had previously been using other types of honing compounds (red and green), but none had ever given me the mirror polish that I get with this Flexcut product. The mirror finish (compared to what I was previously getting) really seems to reduce the friction as the blade cuts through the wood, and this means that my effort results in carving the wood rather than fighting with difficult grain. While carving, I find that I usually don’t need more than a few strokes, every so often, on my strop to maintain my blades at 100%. Of course the type of wood being carved, the moisture content of the wood, and the quality of the metal in the tool, will determine how often any touch up will be required. But, once tools have been properly honed, I find that this compound maintains the polish with much less effort, and I enjoy doing a bit of honing before putting them away so that they are ready for the next carving session.
Based on my recommendation, a local fellow who had his own sharpening business, which included making custom knives, decided to try the Flexcut Gold on his carving tools. His feedback was quite clear when he told me that out of all of the honing compounds that he had worked with, “this is the best I’ve ever used!”. I have to agree with him.

Now Peace has 6 restored carving tools to use while he is developing his carving skills.

Thanks for reading. Comments welcome.

-- John, British Columbia, Canada

9 comments so far

View iamtomkelvin's profile


9 posts in 28 days

#1 posted 10-08-2016 06:49 PM

Hello…namaste….would you know if there is great deal of difference between the makers of red/green polishing compound. I ask because I’m pretty happy with the green stuff I use. But if all is not created equal there may not be much gained in trying Flexcut Gold which I’m tempted to after your stropping report… good job on the carving tools though, something right in passing skills on…

Kind regards

View woodreamer's profile


97 posts in 2115 days

#2 posted 10-08-2016 07:10 PM

Great post all around! I too have had good results from using the Flexcut Gold Polishing compound.

-- Bob, BC, Canada

View Druid's profile


1232 posts in 2218 days

#3 posted 10-08-2016 08:10 PM

Hi Thomas, as far as red vs green compounds go, there are various formulations of both. I would suggest getting the specifications from the manufacturers of the compounds and see what types of metals they are intended for before you buy any. As an example, some green compounds are basically using chromium oxide, while others use chromium and aluminum oxide, so the cutting/polishing properties are different. Many of the red (rouge) compounds are formulated for softer metals (such as jewelry) than what we use in carving tools. When I first started carving, I used a bar of red compound that I picked up at a sale. It took a fair amount of effort, and I did finally get what I would call a moderately good edge. Later on, I tried some green chromium oxide, and the results were much better. Then, as I mentioned in this blog, I tried the Flexcut Gold Polishing Compound that came with some Flexcut tools, and of course since this is manufactured to work with the high quality blades that they manufacture, it does the job extremely well.
What I have mentioned here is based on my personal experience, so take what makes sense to you and enjoy.
Hope that this helps.

-- John, British Columbia, Canada

View iamtomkelvin's profile


9 posts in 28 days

#4 posted 10-08-2016 09:37 PM

Hi John…thanks so much for your usefull reply, it does help and I’ll give Flexcut a try when I’ve depleted my present Hulk-stick.

Kind regards

View lew's profile


11265 posts in 3178 days

#5 posted 10-08-2016 11:11 PM

It is wonderful that you can pass on your skills to your son, John. It surely must make you proud to see him learning and using the skills.

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View Cliff 's profile


858 posts in 1146 days

#6 posted 10-09-2016 02:07 AM

Great Blog John. I am not a Carver, but I really appreciate looking at quality hand tools. Something very reassuring and real about them. One can feel the atmosphere of a long ago time when great pride was taken in their work. The sort of thing to ponder on late at night with a nice cup of coffee.
Your Son Peace really did do a beautiful job in restoring these lovely tools. I take my hat off to both of you.



-- Cliff Australia : Snoring is good. It blows away all the Sawdust.

View Roger's profile


19714 posts in 2226 days

#7 posted 10-09-2016 12:00 PM

Gr8 info. Thnx for sharing

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed.

View Druid's profile


1232 posts in 2218 days

#8 posted 10-10-2016 12:20 AM

Bob, Thomas, Thanks for the comments.
Lew, Yes he makes me proud. Thanks. I’d be interested in hearing from you if you try the Gold Compound on your turning tools.
Cliff, you might not be doing carvings, but you are producing beautiful turnings.
Roger, thanks.

For a bit more information on sharpening, here’s another link . . .

-- John, British Columbia, Canada

View Druid's profile


1232 posts in 2218 days

#9 posted 10-10-2016 12:53 AM

Another suggestion that I make to anyone who is learning to sharpen any specialized carving tools, is to make a custom honing board as soon as the tool is properly honed to your requirements. Simply use the tool to carve a concave groove in the board, then flip the tool over and carve a convex profile along the shoulder of the board,

Then push the cutting edge of the tool straight into the surface of the board, next to the start of the
groove, as a reference to match the tool to its own custom honing board.

Coat both the groove and the shoulder with Gold Polishing Compound, and you are ready to hone that tool whenever necessary. The black in the photos is the metal that has been polished off the bevel and the inside of the gouge. About 10 seconds of honing.
The benefit of doing it this way, is that you will have a custom fit hone for each specialized tool . . . or for each of your tools if you want to make a whole set. Sure this might seem like extra work, but each groove/shoulder combination only takes a couple of minutes to create. I also make 8 sets on a single 6” long board, by using all 4 corners on both sides. It’s compact, costs me a piece of scrap, and the time spent is gained back very quickly since I always have the correct tool for the job when honing is required.
Comments welcome.

-- John, British Columbia, Canada

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