I spent a week last September carving with Adina Huckins at the Wareagle seminars and got to see a lot of different techniques. I was particularly inpressed with her tools and how she used them. She carves with full size Pfeil Swiss gouges, primarily #11 veiners in different sizes. She also has these ground to a thumbnail profile and uses them on everything from large carvings to the tiniest dolls. So, for Christmas, I added some #11s, in 15, 10, and 5mm sizes. I am never disappointed with the quality of Pfeil tools and these were ready to go, although I stropped them a bit just for practice! I started by testing the edges on some scrap basswood inorder to make sure I had no nicks. I will regrind the profiles at a later date, as I find the thumbnail shape very useful. It allows you to undercut better, if needed on a carving. The larger tools can be used with a mallet, with both hands, or with one hand, by holding the shaft of the blade rather than the handle. The U shape of the #11 veiner allows it to be used in different ways, by laying it sideways or tilting it. It can give you the shapes of other sweeps and even be used similar to a skew when carving. I recarved some heads that have been laying around, to practice some of the techniques I learned and to get acclimated to the new tools. I am amazed at the difference I get with the shape of these tools! A lot of my carvings have very angular transitions around hair and jawlines. I primarily used v-tools and knives to define and shape my carvings, but the #11s let me create a smoother, more realistic transition in these elements. And it is important, even with caricatures, to have certain details indicated properly. But it is not only the proper tools and wood and having them sharpened, it involves learning to see what is wrong, what is incorrect. I still struggle with symmetry and proper proportions for faces. I am trying to refer more to my notes and to use dividers as a means to try and improve in those areas, rather than just eye-balling it, but it will take some time. Practice, repetition, learning. But I will be buying a few more #11s!
-- Mike P., Arkansas, http://mikepounders.weebly.com