Cheap Carving

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Project by mpounders posted 09-06-2010 06:40 PM 7079 views 28 times favorited 16 comments Add to Favorites Watch

One of the first things I learned about carving was that you have to have sharp tools. (this was closely followed by learning that you need a carving glove and a supply of bandaids). Many carvers struggle with sharpening their tools, so it is somewhat easier to start with a blade that is already sharp and then just stropping and honing it to keep it sharp. The Stanley utility knife might seem too ungainly for carving, but it is really a great knife. The blades are sharp and can be made sharper by stropping and they are cheap to replace if you nick the edge. The thin blade also slides through wood very easily. Although I use the Stanley extensively, the blade is too big or too wide or the wrong shape to do certain things or fit in certain places on a carving. So I made my own knives for about a $1 a piece. I purchased Excel blades ( ) at Hobby Lobby. They were already sharp, but I tired quickly of changing blades in their handles, so I made my own handles in various styles and shapes. Making your own handles allows you to experiment with shapes and sizes to find what you like. I am currently fond of the Mike Shipley style handles that are long and straight (they are surprisingly comfortable). Simple get a small square of wood and drill a 3/8” hole in the end about 1 1/2” deep. Cut a slot in the end of a 3/8” dowel and cut it off so that it fits in the hole. The tang of the blade fits perfectly in this size dowel! I use belt and drum sanders to shape the handle and then use epoxy to glue the dowel and blade into the hole. Very simple to make and the blades are already sharp and easy to keep sharp. The blades are about $1 each in a package of three, so if you don’t like the handle or you want to reshape the blades, you are not out a lot of money. I have used the knives quite a bit over several years and they have held up well. You could easily use the same process to make marking knives for dovetails or other purposes.

-- Mike P., Arkansas,

16 comments so far

View Rustic's profile


3253 posts in 3625 days

#1 posted 09-06-2010 06:53 PM

sounds like you and I need to become the best of friends as I am just stating in carving and need all the help I can get.nice info thanks

--, Rick Kruse, Grand Rapids, MI

View WoodenFrog's profile


2737 posts in 2942 days

#2 posted 09-06-2010 07:02 PM

Mike, Thanks for the info. These are awesome and I seen these at Hobby Lobby and wondered about them.
Now I know, Thanks for the input.

-- Robert B. Sabina, Ohio.....

View mafe's profile


11732 posts in 3118 days

#3 posted 09-06-2010 07:20 PM

Thank you for the fine tutorial.
It’s a wonderful idea, and I like the simple way you mount them.
Have to make some.
Best thoughts,

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

View mtnwild's profile


3474 posts in 3556 days

#4 posted 09-06-2010 08:38 PM

Good idea, cool man….............

-- mtnwild (Jack), It's not what you see, it's how you see it.

View Flemming's profile


417 posts in 2925 days

#5 posted 09-06-2010 09:57 PM

very nice :)

this is definitely on my to do list!

-- Flemming. It's only a mistake if you can't fix it.

View Jimthecarver's profile


1124 posts in 3814 days

#6 posted 09-06-2010 10:03 PM

Hi Mike, I also use home made gouges and knives. The blades you show I have also made and find they perform quite well. A friend in the local carving guild gave me a small piece of what he called cobalt steel. All I know is it took 3 hours to sucessfully grind the metal to a useable blade.. They seem to be my favorite knives to use as they rarely need to be stropped.
I wished I had thought to use the dowel when I made some of my first knives from the Warren blades, I would have saved lots of epoxy.
The gouge on the end was made from the thick part of an old butcher knife, and the second gouge was made from a drill bit. Its one of the most used tools I have to get to the small places.

-- Can't never could do anything, to try is to advance.

View Bearpie's profile


2601 posts in 3047 days

#7 posted 09-06-2010 10:16 PM

Mike, those are very similar to the knives I use and I also have another that i made from a saw blade used to cut steel that is about 3/32 ” thick. Since I was a welder, I had access to equipment that I used to cut and shape the blade to the desired shape and once sharpened, it holds a fantastic edge! I shaped it with a blade about one inch long pointing downwards at a 45 degree angle and I have a tool that is great for roughing out my cuts and it works pretty darn good for chip carving as well. I don’t do much chip carving as it is just too tedious for me, one li’l slip and it is very tough to hide your goof ups!

Erwin, Jacksonville, fl

-- Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

View TJ65's profile


1378 posts in 3078 days

#8 posted 09-07-2010 07:11 AM

Thanks for the great info.

-- Theresa,

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18293 posts in 3705 days

#9 posted 09-08-2010 09:20 PM

Another great idea:-) thx

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View rance's profile


4258 posts in 3189 days

#10 posted 10-06-2010 12:41 PM

Nice job Mike. And with custom handles, you can more easily and quickly identify which knife to pick up. I noticed just last night that they’re putting in a HL near me. I’ll be there on Oct. 8 when it opens to check out the blades. Thanks for the tip, the pointy tip.

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

View Dez's profile


1166 posts in 4106 days

#11 posted 11-09-2010 10:58 PM

Excellent idea! Thanks!

-- Folly ever comes cloaked in opportunity!

View Rustic's profile


3253 posts in 3625 days

#12 posted 12-15-2010 06:18 PM

Hey Mike what is the rough size of the handles before shaping?

--, Rick Kruse, Grand Rapids, MI

View mpounders's profile


875 posts in 2924 days

#13 posted 12-15-2010 06:38 PM

about 3/4” square by 5” long.

-- Mike P., Arkansas,

View helluvawreck's profile


31417 posts in 2895 days

#14 posted 12-15-2010 07:03 PM

I have made some good knives from template stock that is high carbon steel and heat treatable. A piece of template stock is around 3” wide and 24 ” long and is a about 100 thousandts thick. Before it’s heat treated you can cut it with a good hacksaw blade and file it with good files. The template stock costs about 10 or 15 bucks but that will make a lot of small knives.

I will also say that I have a few manufactured carving knives and also a few v-tools, gouges, and veiners that I like a lot as well. Most of my carving tools are Henry Taylor, Pfiel, or Hirsch. The Henry Taylors are beautiful tools. The others are also beautiful. You can get various shapes (squares, rounds, flats, and rectangles) of high carbon steel from McMaster Carr#. I haven’t made any knives for quite a while nor did I ever make over a handfull but it wasn’t that difficult to heat treat them and they worked pretty well. I encourage anyone to give it a go because it’s very satisfying.

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View Rustic's profile


3253 posts in 3625 days

#15 posted 12-15-2010 09:10 PM

Thanks Mike

--, Rick Kruse, Grand Rapids, MI

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