In order to have a good grasp of the tools used in wood carving as a profession, I think it right to first become acquainted with the process of wood carving itself. Are you so eager or do you feel you do not need any other information besides the tools used? Patiently follow this guide and you will see how each topic discussed will contribute immensely to your understanding of the tools used in wood carving.
So, what is wood carving, you ask?
Wood carving is a very interesting form of woodworking which involves the use of a cutting tool, called knife, in one hand; a chisel by two hands; or with one hand on a chisel and the other hand on a mallet. The result is usually a beautiful, artistic, and maybe a storytelling wooden figure or figurine, or the sculptural ornamentation of the same. Wood carving can also refer to the finished product of the whole process of carving.
Interestingly, people sometimes mistake wood carving for woodworking, but these two are different ball games entirely. While woodworking has to do with forming useful objects and furniture like cabinets, wardrobes, and so on, wood carving focuses on the making of sculptures. If you remember an amazing sculpture of David by Michelangelo (though not made of wood), you will be able to clearly differentiate between the two.
Though they share some similarities, the tools are entirely different in many regards. In addition, woodworking involves a lot of tactfulness, precision and accuracy, to have the desired results, wood carving has to do with creativity more than it has to do with precision, accuracy and meticulousness.
The process of making sculptures in wood has been extremely widely practiced from a long time ago. However, it thrives much less than the other materials used to carve such as stone, bronze, and other metals. The reason why the use of wood is less preferred is its susceptibility to decay.
Nevertheless, the use of wood as a material for carving remains an important, though hidden, element in the art history of many cultures. Though in most parts of the world, outdoor wood sculptures do not last long, most important sculptures in places like China, Japan, Oceania, and a vast majority of Africa are made of woods, and are preserved with much care and dignity.
There are some methods and styles used in wood carving and they include chip carving, relief carving, Scandinavian flat-plane, caricature carving, love spoon, treen, whittling, chainsaw carving, and so on. There are also some important techniques in wood carving, and they are patterning, blocking, detailing, surfacing, and smoothening.
Now, we’re right where we were headed to. Are you ready to jump in?
What Are the Tools Used in Wood Carving?
When it comes to wood carving, the tools used are not so many. Though the tools are of different sizes and shapes, they are restricted to knives, mallets, chisels, chainsaws, and a few other tools. These tools have different uses in wood carving operations. Carving knives, for example, are used to round a corner of a piece of wood; V-tool is used to cut v-shaped channels and to also part lines.
Below is a more detailed list of a basic tool set used in wood carving as well as their uses and importance
- The carving knife is a specialized knife that is used for paring, cutting, and smoothening wood
- The gouge is a tool which has a curved cutting edge and a short handle. It is used in its different forms and sizes for carving hollows, rounds and sweeping curves
- The coping saw is a small saw that is useful for cutting off chunks of wood at a time
- The chisel, in different sizes and styles, possesses a straight cutting edge used for lines and cleaning up flat surfaces
- The V-tool is used for parting and emphasizing lines in some classes of flat work
- The U-Gauge is a specialized deep gouge with a cutting edge that is U-shaped
- There are also sharpening equipment like various stones which are necessary for maintaining edges
- There are also specialized screws used to fix work to the workbench
- In addition to the specialized screws, adapted tools and other tools listed above, other common tools are mallet; complete carvers kit; a router for making grounds to be on a uniform level; bent gouges and bent chisels for cutting hollows that ordinary tools can’t cut.
More Specified Tools and their Definitions
The list above is more a general categorization than it is a specific list of the tools used in wood carving. Follow closely as we discuss specific tools in wood carving, and what they are used for.
- The Gouge Carving tool having a curved cutting edge is the most used of all the wood carving tools. As above, it is used for cutting, parring and smoothening wood. There is a parameter used to describe the gouge carving tool called “Sweep.” The “Sweep” of a carving tool is the curvature of its cutting edge. A low number, like 3, usually indicates a shallow and flat sweep, but a high number, like 9, indicates a deep and a curved sweep; moreover, the carving tool with a higher sweep will be more effective at cutting deep hollows.
- Veiner is a small type of a gouge carving tool. It has a U-shaped cutting edge and a sweep number of 11. You can tell that it cuts really deep hollows because of its high sweep number.
- Fluter is just like the Veiner gouge since it shares the same features of same sweep number and same U-shaped cutting edge. However, it is larger than the veiner.
- Sloyd knife is a whittling knife which possesses a very strong blade that is slightly shorter than the handle. The length of the blade is around 5 inches, so you can imagine it is a really small knife. It is ideal for marking or carving wood.
- Chisel is a carving tool that has a straight cutting edge which is at right angles to the sides of the chisel blade. Interestingly, it has a sweep of 1 which indicates that it has a very limited ability to cut deep hollows.
- A Skew chisel is a kind of chisel with the edge at a “skew” angle to the sides of the blade. Its sweep is often assigned a value of 2 in the Sheffield list, but it is assigned a value of 1s in continental lists.
- V-tool is a carving tool with a V-shaped cutting edge. It is useful for creating outlines and decorative on cuts. Many old-time wood carving professionals usually refer the V-tool as ‘the carvers pencil.’ I guess it didn’t function like the pencil does to the artist.
- A parting tool can be grouped into long bent or short bent. A long bent parting tool is a gouge, chisel or V tool in which the blade is usually curved along its length. It is very easy to handle for deep work. On the other hand, the short bent parting tool is a gouge, chisel or V tool in which the blade is straight with a little curve at its end (You’d get a better picture if you can imagine what a tablespoon looks like). It is useful where the work area is deep or inaccessible.
- Fishtail is a gouge or a chisel with a straight and narrow shank which flares out at its end. The resulting shape is a “fishtail” which is where its name is also derived from. The narrow shaft of the fishtail tool makes it easy to clear tight areas.
- Back bent is a spoon gouge that has a reverse bent end. It is useful for achieving undercuts and reeding work during wood carving operations.
- Palm tools can be grouped into a variety of other tools. There is the short 5 inches, stubby tools that is held in one hand with the carved work held in the other hand. It is ideal for optimum detailing and small carvings. There are also the full-size tools ranging from 10 inches to 11 inches which is used with the two hands or with one hand and a mallet.
- Tang is the tapered part of a blade that is usually driven into the handle of a tool.
- Bolster is a flared section of the blade very close to the tang, and it keeps the blade from being driven more into the handle in a way that could cause harm or injury.
- Ferrule is a metal collar on the handle of a tool that prevents the wood from splitting when a mallet is used on the tool. Tools usually have different kinds of ferrule which may be either external or internal. Some ancient and small detail tools do not have bolsters and ferrules, and it is because of their light use which makes it unnecessary to possess these features.
- Rockwell hardness is a scale tool that indicates the hardness of steel. A range (called Rockwell range) of 58 to 61 is considered ideal for fine woodworking edge tools.
Now, let us look at some other things that may interest you. Are you desirous of knowing where you can get your wood carving tools in your location or the location nearest to you? The next paragraph will show more details on that.
You want to know if there are suppliers of these tools and if you can easily access them, right? Your answer is on the internet. Go online; input “Wood carving tools suppliers” in the search box of a search engine, and you’d see a large inventory of tools suppliers appear right on your screen.
There are a number of reputable Canadian tool suppliers that can be found on the Internet including suppliers who sponsor Prairie Canada like Artists Emporium, Canadian Woodworker, Lee Valley Tools, Professional Grinding and Razertip Industries. However, one very trusted tool supplier is Rockler woodworking industry.
Rotary tools are used in Power carving – a kind of wood carving that makes the most use of rotary tools. Power tools may be expensive or inexpensive, but you should know that the more expensive a tool is, the greater the quality of such a tool. Though power carving makes use of tools like knives and chisels, it also involves the use of tools like the micromotor. The micromotor is an electrically powered hanging rotary tool controlled by a pedal. Furthermore, it does not depend on whether an individual is right or left handed, the micromotor can move in the normal as well as the reverse speed.
Bits are also useful for power carving, and they include cutters, burs and stones. However, bits can be really expensive, so it is advised that power carvers should buy only what is recommended by the wood carving instructors. As you build expertise, you will be able to know how to go about buying the right bits and at the right time.
I hope you have patiently learned the details in this guide. The pieces of information left for you are deserving of good payment, but it is freely given to you, so I suggest you make the most of the guide. Study it! Make reference to it again and again, and feel free to share it with your friends and family who may also have interest in wood carving.