As hobbyists partake in the age-old pastime of woodcarving, they may find a peaceful escape as well as a fulfilling creative outlet. With just a few simple and affordable hand tools, beginning woodcarvers can begin to whittle, carve, shape and detail their own projects. Remember to practice proper safety. Become comfortable with these sharp tools on a soft wood such as basswood or aspen before progressing to more difficult wood types.
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Beginning and veteran woodcarvers alike will most likely spend the majority of their time using a bench knife. According to L.S. Irish of Carving Patterns, a thin blade—usually about 1 3/4 inches to 3 long—that tapers to a sharp point at its end characterises the bench knife. The blade's straight-faced edge is highly sharpened. The foundation of any beginning woodcarving tool kit, bench knives allow carvers to whittle, carve, cut lines and detail their projects. Bench knives are sometimes referred to as whittling knives, detail knives or straight knives, while longer blades of a similar construction are called Sloyd knives. Like all woodcarving tools, keep your bench knife sharp at all times by using a flat stone or leather strop.
Gouges are specialised handled tools with a blunt end and a sort of cupped blade that forms a wide mouthed “C” or “U” shape—referred to as straight gouges or c-curve gouges and “U” gouges, respectively. A straight gouge features a wider, more open blade while a “U” gouge sports a tighter, more rounded blade. Though the end of a gouge's blade is blunt in appearance, it is highly sharpened. “C” and “U” gouges are essential to beginning carvers as they allows users to slice out large chunks of wood during the beginning stages of the carving process. A third sort of gouge, the “V” gouge, comes to a sharp v-shaped point at the blade's end. This allows the blade to carve deep-scored lines in the wood, creating the patterns and details necessary for slightly more advanced projects. Gouges are sometimes dubbed veining tools or parting tools, while some carvers call the “V” gouge the “V” point chisel.
Chisels generally have a wooden handle and a blunt metal protrusion that comes to a sharp, tapered edge. Woodcarvers drive the chisel into wood using the force of a hammer or mallet to chip away at wooden blocks, adding finishing touches, carving reliefs, cutting off large areas, crisping corners and creating smooth surfaces. Woodcarving chisels come in numerous varieties that all produce different cuts, such as skew chisels, parting chisels and paring chisels. Beginners will want to start with a the basic straight chisel, the most versatile of these types.
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