For those looking for a fascinating hobby or even an artistic career, woodcarving can be hypnotic — or frustrating if approached with the wrong equipment. Grinders and chainsaws work well on some materials and scales of work, but the simplest approach is still the mallet, chisel and gouge. Carving knives play only a small role in the trade, occasionally useful for cleanup and for folk art tricks like the wooden chain or ball-in-cage.
Relief carving once was a common skill among furniture makers and depends as much on patterns and matching tool shapes to known designs as it does on artistic ability. Complete sets of chisels and gouges in a wide range of sweeps and sizes make duplication of nearly any design a by-the-numbers project. Chip carving combines geometric patterns with simple knife and chisel blades, but even though the approach looks simple the best chip patterns are truly intricate and beautiful, challenging even for experts.
For sculpting the gouge and chisel provide nearly infinite control of angle and cutting depth. Heavy tools remove waste wood quickly, while smaller combinations handle fine detail. Tool sets are chosen to match the scale of the work, with most types intended to be driven by a mallet. The smallest combine with palm handles for working with hand pressure only.
Tye Two Cherries’ 5 Piece Carving Set with palm-sized handles — built for hand pressure detail work but also useful with a light mallet.
The Two Cherries’ 11 Piece Carving Set provides six full sized mallet driven tools, four chip carving knives and a whetstone.
The 20 piece Starter Set from FlexTool offers a broad range of tools in slim profile spring steel and interchangeable handles — a new and good idea.