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Beginners tools Q's

1895 Views 8 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  mpounders
Hi All :)

I'm looking into starting carving and I've decided on Flexcut knives partly because they're often mentioned as being good tools for the beginner, but mostly 'cause they're the only knives I've seen that look hefty enough not to get lost in my big ole paws :)

while I'd eventually like to try all kinds of carving, for starters I'm looking at doing small "in the round" style carvings.

I've already got a pair of cut resistant gloves (rated at 5, the highest), safety first :) now I'm wondering if the Flexcut general cutting knife would be best or if I should get at a detail knife knife instead.

for gouges/chisels I'm looking at a set of "Footprint Tools" gouges, I realize these will be mediocre at best, but I figure they'll be perfect for learning to sharpen and reshape tools, and since they're too long for carving a hand held piece, my first project will probably be a set of palm handles if I buy them at all.

alternately I'm looking at a Flexcut set of 3 gouges, 70deg 1/4" parting tool, 9/16" dbl bevel skew, and a #11 1/4" gouge, I'd get a bigger set, but I'd like to know that I enjoy carving and flexcut gouges before I do :)

If I go with flexcut gouges I figure I'll get their slip strop kit, and if I get the cheap gouges I'll just buy a chunk of leather, a set of slips, some honing compound, and carve my own strop block.

I'm sure I'm missing something(s) any advice appreciated, I'm not interested in the "Best" tools and won't be till I've decided that I that I A). like carving, and B). am skilled enough to use them properly, so if you've ever flinched when looking at the price please don't recommend it :)

Y'all stay safe

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I would say buy quality tools as you need them as opposed to trying to go out and get a big set. I haveAshley Illes and they are pretty nice.

Iles palm version
I my opinion all the joy is contingent on keeping my tools sharp. I love the feel of a blade slicing through wood, maybe I am a little psychopathic.. LOL I have flexcut knives and palm chisels.. love em both, but they do not allow for the most optimal cutting, which I get from using both hands on the tool for optimal control. Mind you, I have until this last Feb used cheap, what I could afford tools.. and I still use them.. sharpened screwdrivers, old or cheap flat chisels, even a few turning tools. It is all about have a sharp edge no matter what the tool, several people I know now have given up because they can't get the swing of sharpening.

After that, the rest of caving is about matching the right shape tool to the grain at hand.. which is something very east to demonstrate in person and very hard to describe in words. I always keep a bottle of cyanoacrylate on hand to quickly catch accidental chip outs.. in those moments of.. "crap why did the grain change RIGHT THERE and no place else!!" Carving is reading the wood and picking the right shape tool for the job.
~ Good Luck!
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Flexcut tools are nice and I have a number of them. My favorite are Pfeil Swiss made tools. I have some Henry Taylor and they are also nice. As others have said, learning how to sharpen your carving tools is one of the most important things to do. You'll never get anywhere with dull tools.

helluvawreck aka Charles
Start small and add as needed. If you buy too many tools you'll end up with several that never see use.

For carving, I use flat tools for 90% of the cutting. They're easy to sharpen and with just 4 tools, I can get very close to the finished surface. I'll use gouges to finish off the background and concave surfaces that the flat tools just won't do.

My last carving was done using about 7 chisels: three flats and three gouges plus one v tool. For my flats I prefer an 1/8", 1/4", 3/4" and a 5/8" knife that's just a flat piece of steel with a heavily flared fishtail end. That fishtail knife is the most versatile of the bunch since it has pointy corners.
Hi All :)

Thanks for all the great advice and informative links :)

I've been looking at sets mostly 'cause I don't know what I need to get started and after hours of researching I'm getting the distinct impression that what's most important is how the tool feels in one's hand, unfortunately I don't have access to a woodcarving shop in my area and have to order online, so I'll order one tool at a time and if I like the feel I'll order more from the same company.

I found the set of cheap tools for $25 so I went ahead and ordered them, I may not do much carving with them, but I will be doing a lot of sharpening with them to learn how.

A couple questions on sharpening,

If I understand it correctly I only need a stone if I want to reshape or repair, I can do all my honing on a strop with compound?

Is the green Veritas honing compound good?

are the Micro abrasive sheets glued to a hardwood surface a workable substitute for a stone?

Thanks again for the wonderful replies

Y'all stay safe

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I use the green Veritas compound and it works fine for me. Someone I know who has more experience likes the yellowstone compound

Yellowstone Honing Compound

You can use sandpaper but I'd recommend either float glass or if you want to spend a bit more, a cheap granite surface plate. They should run about $80 plus shipping and the cheap ones are good enough for tool sharpening. You'll have a hard time keeping wood flat especially after getting water or oil all over it.

If you buy chisels, I recommend long handled chisels. If you don't like the length, they can be slowly cut down and tested until you like the feel.
If you bought a set for $25, they are probably not sharp enough to carve with! It took me several years to gain the skills and knowledge to make my set of cheap Buck Brothers tools suitable for woodcarving. Flexcut tools come already sharp and can be maintained with honing, but Pfeil is my prefered brand. I don't care much for Pfeil or Flexcut knives; have a look at Helvie knives for a variety of handle and blade shapes and sizes.
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