Wood Carving Tools (wanting to start)

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Forum topic by mmckee posted 11-05-2013 11:24 PM 5731 views 1 time favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View mmckee's profile


11 posts in 2250 days

11-05-2013 11:24 PM

For the past few months I have really wanted to get into hand wood carving. I have done signs with a router but want to expand the level of detail and challange. I have looked on the internet for carving tools but like eveything else the prices are all over the place (I know some are junk and others are high end for very experienced carvers). Any advice on a reasonable set of tools would be greatly appreciated.

15 replies so far

View mantwi's profile


312 posts in 2072 days

#1 posted 11-06-2013 01:28 AM

Wish I could help you but I’m in the same boat. I’ve decided to buy one tool at a time and go with the Pfeil chisels Woodcraft carries. I’d be open to other brands if I could put my hands on them. I don’t want to buy a picture in a catalog. I want to feel the tool, look at it’s construction and finish. I’ll be tagging along here though in case someone has a good suggestion.

View Jim Finn's profile

Jim Finn

2684 posts in 3098 days

#2 posted 11-06-2013 02:37 PM

When I first started carving I joined the “California Carvers Guild”. They taught me how to carve and there were very experienced carvers there that will tell you anything you may need to know. There are carvers guilds all over the US. A search should find you one in your area. I bought my carving tools, while on a trip in Norway in 1984. I got good gouges for about $3 each. Still have them although I no longer do much carving.

-- No PHD just a DD214 Website>

View Julian's profile


1388 posts in 2866 days

#3 posted 11-06-2013 03:25 PM

I bought an inexpensive Flexicut carving chisel set at Rockler some time ago (used their 20% off coupon). These are reasonable good. I also bough a Two Cherries gouge at Rockler which cost as much as the Flexicut set. The Two Cherries are excellent tools but pricey. I haven’t done that much carving but found the flexicut chisels to be sufficient for my needs.

-- Julian

View MShort's profile


1797 posts in 3594 days

#4 posted 11-06-2013 03:33 PM

Alot depends on the type of carving that you are doing. I second finding a guild. They will help you make good choices. If you are looking to do this in the long haul and serious about carving then buy better tools. If doing a couple of projects then you can get by on the cheaper tools. I have both and I find that the cheaper tools work too but I have to maintain the edges alot more often than I do with the better tools.

Once I figured out what tools for the carvings that I was doing I found great deals on the online auctions and at estate/garage sales. You might even look on your local craigslist for them.

In short, best thing that I did was join a local group.

-- Mike, Missouri --- “A positive life can not happen with a negative mind.” ---

View FlaMick's profile


9 posts in 2229 days

#5 posted 11-16-2013 05:24 PM

I moved over to try carving about 2yrs ago. My health caused me to stop working and sell off almost all my big tools. They don’t let you take a contractor saw to the Nursing home! So the shop and full size toys are sold off. We are forced to sell our home and we have downsized to a place with a one stall garage of which I get half.

Being the “Tool Whore” I am, I started to look at Flexcut in Woodcrafters. So carving seems the answer. The most I could lift was maybe a quarter of a plywood sheet. Tried starting with just a couple of knives for chip carving, soon the Palm tools came into my life and of course the nicer wood chisels that I had kept.

I guess you would call it tool creep. I had bought two 20 lb boxes of Basswood which contained some larger pieces then I could work with. The answer was the nice Bosch portable table saw. But some of the blocks were too tall to rip on it ( didn’t want to just flip them over. So home came a Sears 10” bandsaw with 4-5/8” capacity (it’s really just a Ricon without the green paint) it really is a great saw! 7-1/4” sliding compound chops aw popped up along with grinder, belt sander etc.

I redid an older workmates in to a portable carving bench with MDF top and bench dog holes for the hold downs and a dog hole vice. This of course is in addition to the bench I built in my half of the garage.

In the last couple weeks I have found and joined a local carving club. So maybe now I will actually try some carving.

So at the end of two years the results are a nice small carving workshop and a half finished relieve carving of a leaf. Have I become a carving tool whore.

View helluvawreck's profile


32087 posts in 3043 days

#6 posted 11-16-2013 05:31 PM

I’ve purchased several different brands over the years but I like the Pfeil Swiss made tools the best.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View DaleM's profile


958 posts in 3560 days

#7 posted 11-16-2013 05:49 PM

I’m no expert and don’t have any other tools to compare to what I bought years ago, but they work for me. I bought the 12 piece Ramelson set. Since no pictures are showing up right now I could tell you about all the great carvings I’ve done, but as soon as this website is fixed I would be in trouble.{device}&network={network}&matchtype={matchtype}&gclid=CIjWoZ3u6boCFc5xOgodnCsAOA

-- Dale Manning, Carthage, NY

View fuigb's profile


515 posts in 3134 days

#8 posted 11-16-2013 06:14 PM

I wonder how long it will be before the Harbor Freight crowd weighs in to shill.

When I started my work and family situation left no time for tying up with a guild or other old timers, so I bought a book for beginners. I found that I really was interested so I bought a cheap set of those maroon-handled “palm” knives, leather for a strop, and then basswood cut-offs at the hobby store. Total investment in tools and material wood be less than thirty bucks today. I found that I enjoyed this enough to add maybe another fifty or sixty bucks in Flexcut knives with specialized blades for what I realized my generic set could not do. And that’s the advice for any noob: spend only a little money and try to have some fun. If you are having fun then your experience will tell you what to add next. And if you find that carving justing isn’t where it’s at then you won’t feel foolish for having over-invested in what’s proven to be a recreational dead end.

Btw, Harbor Freight knives blow, but maybe they’re worth a try if you have to begin somewhere.

-- - Crud. Go tell your mother that I need a Band-aid.

View Richforever's profile


757 posts in 3896 days

#9 posted 11-16-2013 06:44 PM

I prefer the Stubai brand, made in Austria. They are good quality and reasonably priced. There is a distributor here in the US.

-- Rich, Seattle, WA

View Planeman40's profile


1277 posts in 2937 days

#10 posted 11-17-2013 07:43 PM

I would suggest you try eBay. Buying carving tools new is very expensive! Ebay has some interesting stuff and a lot of it.

And while we are on carving tools and eBay, I want to throw out some thing that I have been considering for a while and just might do. I have a fair collection of carving tools but could always use more. Over the years I have had excellent luck with CAREFULLY chosen Chinese products and have gotten some fantastic deals buying direct from China.

There is a Chinese supplier of luthier’s tools and supplies that appear to me to be high quality but in the Chinese style. They have some carving tools that look to be excellent and considering what Chinese craftsman can do with a piece of rosewood they are master carvers. So I just might risk purchasing these.

You have to polish and sharpen them and supply he handles but for me I am willing to do that. The description is as follows.

The southern Chinese city of Donyang has been one of the major centers of wood carving in China since the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907AD). Our cutting tools come from the best blacksmith in Donyang. He still uses the centuries old traditional methods with these tools. The larger carving gauges have conical tangs to keep the handle from splitting when struck with the traditional iron mallet(socket chisel). The cutting edges are remarkably durable. The smaller detail carving tools are made of a single layer of carbon steel (C60) with the harness of (RC 58). The large carving gauges are made of double layered steel and have a cutting edge whose harness is over (RC 60). As with Chines tradition, the blade is only coarsely finished by the blacksmith. Those willing to take the time to hone it to perfection, will be rewarded with extraordinary life-time carving tool at an unbeatable price.

The price comes to around $2.00 per chisel plus a tad when the shipping is factored in.

Look over the items and the quality of the luthier’s supplys the company offers at

Here are some sets of fewer chisels that are offered:

Anyway, I just might bite the bullet and see what I get. Any thoughts?


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

View Planeman40's profile


1277 posts in 2937 days

#11 posted 11-18-2013 12:30 PM

Bit the bullet last evening and committed to a purchase of the large set of Chinese carving chisels noted above.

They are being shipped from China and are supposed to arrive around the middle of December. Did I get a bargain of some good carving chisels or was I skinned? We shall see. I will report in.


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

View mpounders's profile


894 posts in 3071 days

#12 posted 11-18-2013 03:56 PM

Usually, the tools and the wood that you buy from hobby shops are not really good for carving. The wood is quite hard and the tools are not properly sharpened, and they don’t even sell knives, safety gloves, or thumb guards. So a lot of beginning carverrs get discouraged or injured real quick. If you are carving in the round, then a glove and a knife can get you started. But a few gouges can add some additional cuts and are really useful if you are wanting to do relief carvings on signs. But you probably only need 4 or 5 tools, not some huge set. You add the individual tools, when you find you have a need. Flexcut gouges in the palm size are good, but their knives and larger mallet tools are not that great. Rammelson makes some decent palm tools also. Pfeil and Drake make some really good gouges and all my larger tools are Pfeil. You can buy the Chinese tools with our without handles and they are indeed priced well. But you’ll be adding handles and you will probably need to flatten the profiles on most of the tools before sharpening them. A friend bought a set and they didn’t cut very well until I fixed them for him. You have to know how to sharpen. Cheap tools will work great if you know how to sharpen them. And the best tools don’t work well when dull. Pfeil, Drake, and Flexcut come ready to carve, but most others will need a little work to cut well.

-- Mike P., Arkansas,

View Tim's profile


3812 posts in 2137 days

#13 posted 11-18-2013 07:06 PM

I just read a few recommendations for Mary May’s online carving school that mentioned she also describes how to get started with just a few tools. I didn’t sign up yet to find out what her recommendations are. Mike, what would you say are the 4-5 tools you could get started with? Realize I barely know the difference between relief or round or any other type of carving. I just want to be able to maybe add some carving to woodworking tools or furniture I make.

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 3824 days

#14 posted 11-18-2013 08:19 PM

This one is good. The tools come very sharp and are
easy to work with. There are a lot of cutters but only
two handles in the kit which is a drag, but you get a
lot of good tools for the money.

View quvia's profile


104 posts in 1843 days

#15 posted 11-21-2013 03:09 AM

Check out the flexcut carvin jack. It’s the only tool I use and I do aqll my carving by hand. Expensive but put it in your pocket and you’ll have everything. Amazon or ebay

-- Ted ,Conesus,N.Y.

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