Home made carving gouges - a set of 31

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Project by Planeman40 posted 09-19-2015 08:20 PM 4662 views 14 times favorited 17 comments Add to Favorites Watch

First of all the website wouldn’t allow a long and wide photo of the finished gouges so I had to break the long photos into two smaller photos. There are 31 completed socket-type gouges and 31 smaller and uncompleted tang-type gouges which I will prepare handles for this coming winter. You will note the last photo is of the uncompleted tang-type gouges. The photos show the finished socket-type gouges lined up on a mat so you can see the handles and also the gouges inserted into a tool roll.

I’ve always wanted a full set of carving gouges but didn’t want to spend $2,000 plus to buy them. Then I found out I could buy the rough hand forged and hardened steels directly from China for about $150 for a set of 62 forgings. These forgings are made in the southern Chinese city of Donyang which has been one of the major centers of wood carving in China since the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907AD). The cutting tools come from the best blacksmith in Donyang. He still uses the centuries old traditional methods with these tools. The larger socket type carving gauges are made of double layered steel and have a cutting edge whose hardness is over (RC 60). The smaller tang type detail carving tools are made of a single layer of carbon steel (C60) with the hardness of (RC 58). Considering that the Chinese have been doing beautiful carvings from rosewood (which is like carving a brick) for centuries, I figured these would do just fine for me.

It took me three months to grind, polish, and sharpen the rough steels to a razor edge (my test is the easy shaving the hair from my arms, both of which were bald when the project was finished). I turned all of the handles from some Purpleheart I had lying around and made myself a duplicator for my wood lather to get this done. Getting the taper of the handles to fit properly into the steel gouge socket was a trick, however I developed a procedure of hand fitting that made a perfect match. The handles and steels are joined with some construction adhesive bought at Lowe’s, the kind that comes in a tube like caulking does. I wanted a strong adhesive with gap-filling abilities. The construction adhesive did the trick!

The gouges work great and really hold an edge! Its a lot of work. It does require a belt sander to grind the forgings. I used a 1” x 36” Delta belt sander (no longer made). The sharpening was done beginning with the belt sander for shaping of the blade with a little work also by a Dremel tool. From There I used diamond laps of various shapes and sizes followed by flat and round Arkansas stones. I finished up with a lot of stropping with some leather strops (that I made before this project). It was a fun project and I get a kick out of carving with tools I have made!


-- Always remember: It is a mathematical certainty that half the people in this country are below average in intelligence!

17 comments so far

View Dutchy's profile


3083 posts in 2315 days

#1 posted 09-19-2015 09:00 PM

View Ted's profile


2873 posts in 2358 days

#2 posted 09-19-2015 09:32 PM

That’s a nice collection you got there… I’m green with envy!

-- You can collect dust or you can make dust. I choose to make it.

View a1Jim's profile


117234 posts in 3723 days

#3 posted 09-19-2015 09:53 PM

Wow these the amazing ,great job.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View Ken90712's profile


17575 posts in 3335 days

#4 posted 09-19-2015 10:29 PM

Awesome , sweet set up.

-- Ken, "Everyday above ground is a good day!"

View Arlin Eastman's profile

Arlin Eastman

4248 posts in 2708 days

#5 posted 09-19-2015 10:40 PM

Those are a home run!!!!

-- It is always the right time, to do the right thing.

View QuinLeach's profile


14 posts in 2763 days

#6 posted 09-20-2015 01:14 AM

Those are great! Big fan of your handles.

Where would I go to buy the same set of steel forgings?

-- -- Quin, Oregon

View Planeman40's profile


1257 posts in 2907 days

#7 posted 09-20-2015 03:18 AM

Thanks everybody for the nice comments! QuinLeach, I anticipated the “where to get” question would come up. Here is a link to the seller which is a Chinese luthier’s supply company. This company has a lot of other nice luthiers type tools. You should take a look.


-- Always remember: It is a mathematical certainty that half the people in this country are below average in intelligence!

View kiefer's profile


5619 posts in 2813 days

#8 posted 09-20-2015 02:37 PM

Great looking set will have to check that website a little more looks like some interesting stuff .
Thanks for posting the link also.


-- Kiefer

View Bluepine38's profile


3379 posts in 3232 days

#9 posted 09-20-2015 04:56 PM

This is a great set of carving tools. I have made my own carving tools from scratch, but for the fine V gouges
and the precisely curved gouges and knives, this would be much easier. You would still have to do the fine
finish and sharpening, but know that someone else has checked them out and the steel is good would make
this a wonderful bargain. Thank you for sharing.

-- As ever, Gus-the 79 yr young apprentice carpenter

View ralbuck's profile (online now)


5124 posts in 2413 days

#10 posted 09-20-2015 05:03 PM

Well done, beautiful and should be extra useful!

-- Wood rescue is good for the environment and me! just rjR

View helluvawreck's profile


32083 posts in 3013 days

#11 posted 09-20-2015 05:06 PM

Nicely done. They are beautiful.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View Mauricio's profile


7144 posts in 3298 days

#12 posted 09-21-2015 12:10 AM


-- Mauricio - Woodstock, GA - "Confusion is the Womb of Learning, with utter conviction being it's Tomb" Prof. T.O. Nitsch

View NormG's profile


6252 posts in 3150 days

#13 posted 09-23-2015 03:15 AM

You have done a wonderful job on these tools. I am sure they will more than meet your needs

-- Norman - I never never make a mistake, I just change the design.

View Александр Materkov's profile

Александр Materkov

106 posts in 1615 days

#14 posted 02-07-2016 05:21 PM


-- Саша

View garhof's profile


6 posts in 3143 days

#15 posted 06-28-2016 06:40 PM

Did you ever get your other chisels finished? I just bought a set.

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