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Small Carving Tools


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I recently posted a carving (see "Mouse on Cheese" in the new work forum). Several people (including Janel) asked what kind of tools I used, especially for the undercutting. So, I'm posting a picture of my favorite small-scale tools. Some of these are primitive, but they work. I'm always looking for more tools and finding ways to re-use or reshape tools that gone by the wayside.


These are not all the tools I use -- I use a Foredom rotary power tool and a number of more traditional-sized hand carving tools for rough shaping.


Another simple but useful idea demonstrated in this picture is the tool rest made from a long piece of wood cut with evenly-spaced round notches. This really helps keep control over a cluttered workbench, and keeps the blades from banging into each other (which can mean another trip to the sharpening stone).



Numbered from left to right, they are:


1. SCRAPER. Purchased from Woodcraft in their "small scrapers" set. Very nice for cleaning out those deep or undercut areas.


2. SCRAPER made from a standard Exacto knife blade. The edge is ground and polished perpendicular to the face of the blade and is about 0.5mm wide. There is a slight curvature lengthwise along what used to be the cutting edge, so I can scrape with just the tip without worrying about the heel doing any damage elsewhere. This tool is very useful for smoothing in tight corners where sandpaper just won't reach. This isn't useful for scraping larger areas, however, because the blade is so thin it tends to chatter if pushed too hard.


3. Small chisel, made by Dockyard. I have and use a couple of sets of Dockyard tools, but only pictured a couple here.


4. Small dockyard gouge.


5. Small palm-gouge. It has a slight curvature (probably a #3).


6. Small knife made from an Exacto stencil knife blade set in a maple handle. It's not pretty, but the steel seems to hold up well, and is easy to reshape as needed.


7. SCRAPER made from a nail punch. The face is an oval shape. Used by holding at a high angle (maybe 70 degrees or more) and then dragging away from the face. Nice for smoothing very small concave areas that are difficult to reach with sandpaper. I have a couple of others of different sizes. (Thanks to Janel for teaching us how to make these scrapers).


8. Small knife made from a flat dental pick. This end shown is sharpened only on the end, which makes a small blade (abt 1mm wide) that can reach into tight areas. The other end of this tool is sharpened along the inside edge, which helps make undercuts in hard-to-reach areas.


9. Standard run-of-the-mill exacto blade. The end of the blade extremely thin, so it can go into undercuts that other blades can't. You have to be very careful using exacto blades in hard wood, however, as the tip breaks easily if any sideways pressure is applied.


10. Another re-commissioned dental pick. The sharpened edge is aligned 90% with respect to the handle, so it can reach in and undercut where other blades won't reach.


11. Detail knife made by Gil Drake of Drake Knives (www.drakeknives.com). The blade is about 23mm in length, but is made from thin high-speed tool steel, so it's pretty tough blade. I use this knife quite a lot for detailing.


12. Miniature scalpel purchased through a woodcarving catalog. The cutting edge extends down along the side of the blade, so sometimes this blade can reach where others can't.


13. Bent gouge made by Drake Knives. Although I think this is technically a gouge, the edge has no curve to it (which makes it a #1 gouge). This shape is nice for making deep undercuts.



As always, ideas or suggestions are welcome. Now that I've shared mine, how about sharing your own favorite carving tools?




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Thank you! What a useful array of tools! The tool rest is a fine idea! The foam pencil grips are a clever addition too. How is your #1 scraper shaped. I cannot quite see it, and could not find it at Woodcraft tools, though I gave up looking after a while. Lots of nice tools at that site!


My favorite undercutting tools are the tiny three-sided nail-punch tools. These images have appeared here before, I think, but I'll post them in this new topic. I see that the tips of the three-sided tiny tools are not easily seen, but resemble the larger three-sided tool, just wee in size.






The array of tools is a selection, not the entire group which I choose from.


The three-sided tools are related to the tools made by Stephen Myhre, which were inspired by the stone carving tools of the indigenous people of New Zealand.

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Janel - the scraper that I listed as #1 is from a set of four. I bought them at Woodcraft, but can't find them on Woodcraft's web site. I found the same set (I think) on Lee Valley Tools' web site here


They call them "Miniature Chisels & Scalers", whatever that is supposed to mean. The one that I listed #1 above is the third from the end on the right, which they describe as a "claw-shaped trapezoid".



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Hmmm, those look interesting. Thanks Kelly for posting the link to that page.


Dental chisels and scalers, surgical... (cringing smilie, holding jaws while imagining the sounds...) I'd rather imagine the tools working with wood, thank you very much!


Do these tools hold their sharpness while working on the hard woods?



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  • 1 year later...

Hi Janel, here are some photos of a few of my tools.

Not much new for you I think because some of them are copied from your tool photos.

Avarage total length for all tools is 13 cm. (5 inch) Because thats the right size for me.


These tools I use for roughing out wood.



Some fine wood tools made from dental picks.




Scrapers I use mostly for wood.




Scrapers for ivory and other hard materials.




Finer scrapers for ivory, etc.



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Here are some of my tools. I think they look very familiar to the most of you.





From down-left to up-right:

An X-acto 'knife-size-saw',

little 'Stumpy' (my only tool with a name ;) ),

a few scrapers and carvers (the one with the leather lace is my favourite),

a pen-vise with the smallest graver I could make,

black pencil holder with a diamond bur,

the blue one with a toothpick for use with abrasive powder (remember to lick it before you put it in the powder container!! :blink: )

and a sliver of a diamond nail file in a wooden handle.


All I miss at the moment are a few more small gravers, curved to left and right, for use in a pen-vise. No big deal to make (thanks to TCP tutorials!).



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Hmmmm :rolleyes: , good and simple idea! My beveled oval tip is an extreme, flat face with a straight shaft, and is good for many things. The variations you show here make good sense to me. Thanks Ersatz!


Leon, the toothpick and abrasive powders sound like a very interesting variation on a different toothpick tool with tiny sandpaper glued to the tip. What materials do you use this technique on, woods, tusk, horn or antler?


Ko, I appreciate all the work you have done to set your tool tips into comfortable handles. Mine are a hodgepodge of sizes and shapes, but one grows familiar with their differences. It is interesting to see the variations and the left and right versions of some.


You all, it is greatly interesting to try to imagine how you use each of these tools! Any more folks out there willing to show us your tools?



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