Tools and info re carving/whittling
September 3, 2004 5:40 AM   Subscribe

I might take up carving/whittling. Do I need the myriad of tools? Where could I find good woods for this purpose? How hard is it to sharpen your own tools? Any book recommendations? Sites? [mi]

I've gone through the collection at my library but they don't have much that is useful. The same goes for sites, probably because I don't really know what I'm looking for.
posted by sciurus to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You might try The carving section is pretty low volume but if you post some people will respond. Also, the concepts of where/how to buy tools, where to read more, how to sharpen, etc will be discussed in other forums.

Reading resources: can't go wrong with any book from Taunton press. They make the best WW book by far.

You can/should/must sharpen your own tools. It's very simple and woodworking requires sharp tools, you won't have time to take them places to get sharpened. The only things I have sharpened are carbide bits/blades.

I'm not a carver. I've done a bit, like a little "chip carving" -- which is making a very simple geometric relief carving in a cabinet door, say, but little else. Man I have seen some AMAZING stuff people have made though.

There are several companies that make carving tools. Lee Valley is a good place to start. They make some of their own tools, have others made to their specs, and sell still others. They have a dedication to quality hand tools in an age where that's more or less disappearing.

The place to find wood is at a lumber store ;) No, I don't mean home depot. Most cities have several places to buy lumber. You might need to ask around or check the yellow pages for them. A good place to start is woodcraft (check for stores in your area). They carry all kinds of WW tools (including carving tools) and also wood "blanks" for carving and turning. Their prices and selection on wood are not ideal, but not bad. Also they wil often be able to direct you to all the other lumber places in town (don't feel bad asking, lumber isn't what they "do")
Actually they sell grab boxes of wood for about $20 dollars, I think you can specify domestic or exotic hardwoods. It's several good sized chunks.
posted by RustyBrooks at 5:50 AM on September 3, 2004

You might want to try soap carving first to see if you enjoy it.
posted by luser at 6:00 AM on September 3, 2004

If you're just testing the waters, all you will really need is a good knife (a proper carving knife -- I like these Flexcut ones) and a way to sharpen it. If you also want to get some chisels and gouges, Lee Valley's basic carving set, though it says it's for beginners, is actually a great set of tools for the price. I use mine all the time (I have the long-handled version). They also have a basic sharpening set, though you will also need honing compound and a strop -- I just glued a piece of leather to a piece of wood, and many people just use a flat piece of wood by itself.

Take the time to learn how to sharpen properly. You will thank yourself. It can be time-consuming when you first buy a tool (though this is not so much the case for carving tols as it is for planes and things), but it's not hard to maintain a tool if you're good about it.
posted by transient at 7:21 AM on September 3, 2004

And never carve towards yourself. I nailed my left index finger and had to Krazy Glue the wound together for a week.
posted by mecran01 at 8:13 AM on September 3, 2004

Which was actually the intended use of crazy glue: liquid sutures.

There is sort of a tape you can get to wrap around your fingers, that protects them a bit. and both sell it I think.
posted by RustyBrooks at 1:34 PM on September 3, 2004

Soapstone carving is another route you might explore. My husband has a kit; we've both messed around with the materials but not made anything. Which is to say I don't know really anything about it but it seems like it'd be easier than wood carving.
posted by kmel at 6:46 PM on September 3, 2004

Thanks for the good advice all! I'll send you a picture of the first thing I carve.
posted by sciurus at 8:06 PM on September 3, 2004

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