We usually consider chisels under two main categories. The first category includes chisels for general use (click here to see our list of woodworking chisels). The second type of tool comes under the category of wood carving which will talk about below.
Anyone who is into wood carving will have a vast collection of wood carving chisels. To the uninitiated, the number of wood carving chisels that you can get can be mind-boggling. Indeed, considering the scope of creating a collection of these tools, the sky is the limit! In this article, we cover the different types of wood carving chisels that you need, if you want to have a complete setup for wood carving.
Wood carving chisels further diversify into chisels and gouges. While the blade of a woodcarving chisel has a straight edge, that of a wood carving gouge has a curved edge. It enables the tool to “gouge” out the wood to create different shapes.
Different Types Of Wood Carving Chisels
As we mentioned earlier, the wood carving chisel has a flat blade. However, unlike a regular woodworking chisel, a wood carving chisel has an angle on both sides. A gouge, on the other hand, has a curved blade called a “sweep.” We express the extent of the curvature of the sweep in terms of a number, which identifies a particular size of the gouge. So, let’s take a closer look at the different types of wood carving chisels:
Wood Carving Straight Chisel
As we said earlier, a wood carving chisel is, specifically, a carving tool with a flat blade. Wood carving chisels differ from ordinary woodworking chisels in that they have a bevel on both sides of the blade rather than a flat back. The standard chisels have a square cutting edge, but the length of the blade may vary.
This chisel has a blade skewed at an angle, typically 45°. You will find this chisel useful during wood turning operations. Plane, make different shaped cuts with the skew chisel or use it to make dovetail cuts. You get these chisels in various sizes from 1/8” to 1½”.
The shaft of a fishtail chisel is thin at the base, and it tapers out in the shape of a fish’s tail towards the cutting edge. You get the advantage of this tool due to its thin shaft, which allows you to cut deep without much interference. Also, you get better visibility while working in tight spaces, due to the thin shaft.
As the name suggests, the spoon gouge assumes the shape of a spoon. You use a spoon gouge to scoop wood out of tight or confined spaces. You can get into spaces that would be otherwise inaccessible with any other tools. Spoon gouges come in different shapes and configurations. Here are some of the common variations:
Spoon Gouge (Right Corner)
This gouge has a cutting edge, which angles itself skewed to the opposite side. It positions itself in such a way that you can remove wood from tight right-hand corners.
Spoon Gouge (Left Corner)
You can remove wood from tight left-hand corners with this type of spoon gouge. The left corner spoon gouge allows you to get into tight corners, concavities, and curves like the right corner spoon gouge, only in the other direction.
Spoon Gouge (Front Bent)
If you need to remove wood from awkward spots, concavities, and curves but don’t need to bend the tool much, then a front bent spoon gouge will do the job. This type of spoon gouge bends in such a way that you get the cutting edge on the convex side of the bend.
Spoon Gouge (Back Bent)
Here is another spoon gouge which enables you to work on concavities and curves like other spoon gouges. However, this spoon gouge bends in such a way that you will find the cutting edge on the concave side of the bend.
The “V” gouge belongs to a group of carving tools that we call “parting tools.” This tool helps us to cut a workpiece from the main block of wood while doing woodturning. The “V” gouge finds a prominent place in carving grooves, letter-work, and outlining, thanks to its distinctive profile. The commonest angles that we get are 60°, 70°, and 90°, although you can get other sizes as well.
Similar to the fishtail chisel, the fishtail gouge also has a thin edge that flares into a fishtail-shaped blade. The only difference here is the curved blade, which helps us to remove wood from tight spaces in a broad curve.
Dog Leg Chisel
The dog leg chisel has a straight edge with an offset blade to form the profile of a dog’s extended back leg. Due to the double angle of the blade, we can use this chisel to get into awkward, hard-to-reach places and tight corners.
Straight “U” Gouge
We consider the “U” gouge to be the workhorse of wood carving. The “U” shaped cutting edge of this chisel may vary in radius. As we mentioned above, the “sweep” of a chisel, corresponds to the radius of the blade’s curvature. So, we get “U” gouges of different sweeps. You can scoop out wood with your hand or by using a mallet. The shape of the scooped-out wood will correspond to the shape of the “U” gouge.
Curved “U” Gouge
Similar to the straight “U” gouge, the length of the blade curves to allow better manipulation. With a curved “U” gouge, you can cut in recesses like the profile of a bowl. You can use this type of gouge to make a deep cut and for roughing-out operations.
By now, you should be better informed about the different types of wood carving chisels that we can use. You may be an artist, or you may create carvings for commercial use. Whatever the case, it is vital that you have a complete set of wood carving chisels to perform each task.
Knowing the purpose of each wood carving chisel or gouge and how to use it is crucial to becoming successful in the skilled job of wood carving. We hope that the information provided here will help you in carrying out this skillful activity to the best of your abilities!
Featured Image: Ozzy Delaney