An Overview of Wood Carving Chisels
If you want to move from general woodworking to wood carving, you are in for an adventure. Carving can be an enjoyable hobby for people who like to work with wood. As with any craftsmanship, it’s vital to start with proper tools.
Consider this a basic introduction to wood carving tools and keep in mind that all craftspeople have different opinions on these tools. This is just my opinion, and I hope I can offer insight that leads you to the right tools for you.
Wood Carving Chisel Reviews
Now that we’ve gone over the basics of wood carving chisels, we can take a closer look at some specific sets so that you can see which one might be right for you.
Flexcut Starter Set of Six
The perk of this set is right there in the name. It is perfect for beginners. With six different tools, you get a little of everything to get you started. There are V-shaped gouges, tight gouges, and nearly flat options.
Each blade consists of hard carbon steel and sharp enough to use right when you get it. That allows you to get an idea of how they should function before you have to sharpen for the first time. You can use this set either with only your hands or with a mallet.
- Made in the USA
- Six gouges in varying shapes and sizes
- Ready-to-go when they arrive
- Great for hardwoods
- May need to tighten handles before use
Shinwa Power Grip Seven Piece Set
This set of seven carving gouges is excellent for palm work. The handles are perfectly designed to fit into your palm and give you the torque you need as you carve.
This set comes with each of the following gouges: 3mm #9, 7.5mm #1, 6mm #8, 4.5mm v-parting, 9mm #5, and 9mm #3. That gives you a wide range of options for your carving project. The handles are 4-1/2” each, and the blades are 1-1/4” long.
- Perfect for handcrafting
- Plenty of options
- Japanese style
- Not for use with mallets
Narex 5-Piece Set
This is a smaller set than those above, but it still contains all the basics. In this collection from Narex, you will find three different gouges, a straight chisel, and a V-shaped tool. That covers the most important pieces you need to get started.
The blades are hard carbon steel with a hardness rating of 55 degrees. If you’re used to working with other woodworking tools, you may notice that that steel is a little softer than the norm. However, since these are palm tools that don’t take a mallet, the hardness rating is okay.
- Comes with practice lime wood
- Great for palm uses
- Oiled European beech handles
- Hardened carbon steel blades
- Fewer pieces than other sets
- Not for use with a mallet
Two Cherries 515-3441 Set of 11 Tools
This set is the most extensive collection on this list, and it comes from a trusted brand in the industry. The 11-piece set from Two Cherries comes with several gouges in varying sizes, flat chisel, V-tool, and even some carving knives. Furthermore, this set comes with a perfect sharpening stone.
The Rockwell steel in these pieces has a hardness rating of 61 degrees. This rating is a little harder than other gouges like this. What that means for you is that you can do more work without getting tired.
- Complete set
- Harder steel
- Comes with a sharpening stone
- Cannot be used with a mallet
SUNREEK Wood Sculpture Carving Chisel Tool Set
This set of wood carving chisels and gouges is another great one for beginners. With eight pieces in the collection, it has a wide enough range of tools to get you started. Inside, you’ll find sizes ranging 6mm to 18mm. You’ll also find everything from #1 flat chisels to #11 semi-circles.
- Well priced
- Plenty of options
- Perfect for palm use
- Not a well-known brand
- Cannot use with mallet
Anatomy of a Chisel
As you know, the main parts of a chisel are the handle and the blade. However, the anatomy of a wood carving chisel is more complicated than that. Here are the other parts you should know about before you purchase a set:
When you see a chisel description refer to the “sweep,” it is talking about the cutting edge. For carving chisels, this can be a straight or curved edge. In most cases, the sharper the sweep, the better the tool.
You will have to sharpen it from time to time. However, an excellent chisel will need grinding less often than lower-quality versions.
The bevel is the angle that connects the sweep and the neck of the blade. Sometimes, the edge is beveled on both sides. With curved sweeps, it is only beveled on one side. Different tools have varying degrees of beveling depending on the manufacturer and what the tool is typically used for.
This one is simple. The neck is the rest of the blade that gives it some length. The neck can be different sizes depending on what it needs to accomplish,
Ferrule and Bolster
The ferrule and bolster meet in the middle to connect the blade and handle. The bolster is on the blade side while the ferrule is on the handle side. The ferrule can consist of different types of steel or brass.
The tang is the part of the blade that extends inside the handle. This gives some extra support for better workmanship. It helps ensure stability and durability.
Types of Wood Carving Chisels
Wood carving chisels come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. The wide range of tools allows you to create exactly what you envision. There are plenty of types of carving chisels. It can be helpful to break them down into these categories: shapes and sizes.
The most basic shape is a straight edge. These have no curve in the sweep. Any chisel with some curvature to it is considered a gouge. These tools can have a gentle curve that goes all the way up the neck of the blade.
You can also get carving chisels with a gouge only at the end. These tools are spoon-shaped and called front bend gouges. Gouges can even have a concave bend or a backbend.
Furthermore, you can get a gouge that is wide at the sweep and gradually narrows until the tang. Some people call these “spades,” perhaps because they look like shovels. You may also see these referred to as “fishtail” tools.
Gouges are categorized by numbers from one to 11. You will see these written as “#1, #2, #3,” etc. #1 is another way to categorize a flat chisel. On the other end of the spectrum, #11 is almost a perfect semi-circle. The other gouges exist along the spectrum.
You can further categorize chisels and gouges by the width of the sweep. This is typically expressed in millimeters. However, some American companies use inches instead.
When you combine the number on the spectrum and the width, you can get a good idea of what the tool looks like without ever seeing it. For example, a #3 10mm gouge will have a slight curve and will be 10 millimeters long at the sweep. If the description calls it a “front bend” we can also know that it looks like a spoon.
Before you invest in your carving tools, it’s essential to answer some questions for yourself. There is no wrong answer to these questions. Instead, you can just use them as guides for your shopping experience.
What Can I Afford?
Be honest with yourself about how much you want to invest in your new tools. Wood carving chisels come in all sorts of price ranges. Setting a budget can help you set expectations as well.
How Intricate Will My Creations Be?
Are you the type of person who will get every single detail right? If so, make sure to get several different types of chisels and gouges. Each one serves a specific purpose, and you might need them all.
What Kind of Handle Do I Like?
Not all handles are the same. Some are made of beautiful woods. Others have rubber grips for comfortable holding. Some handles are long and thin; others are short and stubby. There’s not a wrong handle, just ones that aren’t good fits for you.
What Brands Do I Love?
If you’re a newcomer to woodworking altogether, you may not have brands you love already. However, if you have done other types of woodworking before, you may have a favorite in mind. Check and see if that company makes wood carving chisels too.
Five Sets – Which is the Best?
If all things are equal, the Two Cherries set is the one I’d prefer to own. It’s the most versatile and complete set here. The high-quality steel is a game-changer and allows you to get the toughest jobs done.
That being said, the Two Cherries set isn’t going to be in everyone’s budget. The Narex set is more affordable, albeit more “basic.” Basic may be completely suitable for you – in which case this is a great set to own.
Lastly, the Shinwa Power Grip set is strong all-around. The set is great for those who specialize in palm work and are looking for something reliable. You may not be familiar with the brand, but I feel comfortable endorsing this particular product, as I feel that it includes everything necessary to get the job done right.