The Carving Bench
"Stay Sharp !!   Be Sharp !!"




Old Tips --Contains old tips and techniques that appeared on other editions of this web site.

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Buying Tools   Pocket Knives
General Carving Tips 
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Summer 1997

Buying Tools

After you have gotten started and you have done some carving, you will probably find yourself wishing you had a tool with some characteristic, like a curved or v-shaped blade, or a big handle to get a lot of pressure on. That's when it's time to go beyond the basic tools.

Here are a few things to consider when this urge strikes:

  • Don't buy real cheap carving tools. They are too frustrating. The steel in the blades doesn't get as sharp, and dulls quickly. Sometimes the steel is weak and breaks or bends under normal use. The handles may be an awkward shape, or have rough edges, or even break. If you have a choice between one good tool and a set of cheap ones, get one good one. I've seen a lot of stores where one shelf has tool sets and another shelf has individual tools, and the individual tools are the same price as the sets. ???? Skip the sets.
  • Carving tools usually aren't sharp when you buy them!
  • Something to keep in mind with gouges and v-tools is that they are a bit tricky to sharpen. It's a lot easier to work with a slightly inappropriate, but sharp tool than the exactly right, but dull tool. But, once you are comfortable sharpening your straight knife, the other tools aren't all that hard to sharpen. The right tool, very sharp, is obviously best.

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Fall 1997

Pocket Knives

We consider ourselves to be whittlers. The age-old discussion of the difference between woodcarving and whittlers constantly arises. Do we seek for the higher art? Do we strive to perfect the art we do best? Where does whittlin' stop and carvin' start? The dictionary defines whittling as the paring or cutting of thin shavings from wood with a knife. That is us!

The word whittling conjures the vision of an old timer setting, dressed in bib overalls, setting on a bench outside the general store. He has a pocket knife in one hand, a chunk of wood in the other, and a huge pile of shavings at his feet. A chaw is optional, though politically incorrect these days!

The pocket knife is identified as the tool of choice in whittling. We have tried several times over the years to find a good pocket knife to use in demonstrations. Success has not been ours. The thickness of the blades and the time required to make blade modifications do not make them attractive to our purposes. We have not been able to find a pocket knife to hold the edge that our handmade carving knives do. Herb Reinencke, in his book Whittling Simplified, offers tips for selecting a pocket knife.

The pocket knife's distinct advantage is that the blades fold into the handle thus making it easy to carry. The big disadvantage is that the folding blade can inflict a nasty cut as it can accidentally close itself due to improper use.

Pocket knives come in a variety of sizes and shapes. When selecting a pocket knife for whittlin', consider the following:

  1. Buy a good one!
  2. Settle for a knife with two or three blades at the most. Do you need a can and bottle opener?
  3. Buy a name brand. Buck and Case come to mind. These are expensive, but they are constructed with quality steel and hold an edge longer than cheaper steel.

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Spring 1998

General Woodcarving Tips

The tips in this edition come from the pros of CraftWoods as found on the pages of the Spring '97 Catalog.

When laying out the pattern on the wooden block, always be generous at the ends (leave lots of wood). This will greatly reduce the chance of checking and splitting.
  -- Ron Broadwater

I know many of you have heard it before, but I feel it's worth saying again. If you are a realistic carver, the key words are RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH.  If you don't know what it looks like, you can't carve it. The research portion can be just as challenging and rewarding as carving.
  -- Hugh Van Hayes

While carving or painting, use a .005 mechanical pencil for more precise feathering and enhanced detail. 
  -- Ron Broadwater

Depending on whether you are left or right handed, the opposite side of your carving will usually not be as good. Pay particular attention to this opposite side as it may require some extra work. A good judge can usually tell whether you are left or right handed.
  -- Hugh Van Hayes

When carving from a pattern, constantly checking the dimensions with the proper gauge, improves the quality of the work.
  -- Ed Green

When judging the quality of your carvings, cut a 1" round hole out of cardboard. Place this over your carving and review the area shown. It makes your eyes concentrate on particular areas. 
  -- Ron Broadwater

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   Revised:   2001-01-12


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