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Hello Folks,


Thank you for the welcoming comments. After quite some time reading and a lot of learning I have managed to make some tools. Photo attached (I think).post-3631-0-87048500-1364116108.jpg


The handles are ½ inch dowel and just temporary until I can ask a friend to turn something a bit better. I was amazed to find that they will make a nice clean cut in boxwood. I only used hand tools and found the most useful item was Flexi-cut gold on cereal cardboard and lots of patience. These are the successes - there were many failures of shape and tempering which will be re-worked. The tempering is a bit quesswork at the moment there is a lot to watch as well as trying not to incur burns. I still need to try to make more S. Myrhe scrapers as I cannot quite get the geometry of the plane surfaces correct.


Moving on a bit towards actually trying some carving I realise I shall need some larger tools to do the initial roughing out. I was thinking of U J Ramelson set of carving tools which consists of the following:-


5/16 Bent Gouge;

9/64 Gouge;

3/8 Chisel ;

9/64 Bent V;

3/8 Skew;

3/8 Bent Chisel.


There is a supplier in the UK and the price is within my budget. I was wondering if these would be useful for roughing out and whether anyone actually can recommend them?


The set is available with palm or straight handles. Which would be best?


Many thanks in advance,


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Hi Stephen,


Well done for starters! Some questions:

-What metal did you use for these first tools?

-What do you mean by "Flexi-cut gold on cereal cardboard and lots of patience"? Is that a method for sharpening? (I use such cardboard with a honing compound to only touch up the sharpness between using stones for greater correction of the cutting bevel and edge. I also use a leather strop charged with a black glittery powder for an alternate strop or sharpening touchup.)


Failures of shape, I understand. I now use wood dowels to practice understanding the shape of the tool before approaching the grinding wheel with tool-steel rod. Cut, cut, cut, sand to establish the planes and curves with wood, and even with practice movement to see if the angles feel useful, then move on to the tool-steel shaping. The variation of shapes and angles can make a wide range of useful tools. Larger, smaller, longer, shorter, narrow or broad angles, greater or lesser curves, all contribute to making tools more or less useful.


Tempering tip: place the steel rod against the heated metal of the back of a spoon or heat shield, fairly far away from the carving tip. Place the rod on and off the hot surface as it heats up, causing it to advance in heat ranges slowly. Watch the straw color advance towards the tip, and as it reaches the tip and just begins to turn slightly darker (or what ever your target color/temperature is to be), plunge and stir it into the oil for even cooling . The slower, controlled movement still happens rather quickly, but by placing the heat contact area farther back you will be able to be a little prepared for the moment for quenching.


Another tempering method that I have only read about is the use of a temperature controlled toaster/oven with a reliable thermometer that can be placed in that oven. Achieve warming the oven to the temperature that you are seeking for tempering, then place the metal tools (not the handles) into the oven and watch the change. My belief is that they will not overheat if the oven is set to the correct temperature. Plunge the lot into the quenching oil and agitate for even cooling (do not allow them to just sink and sit in the oil). Again, I have not tried this, I have only read about it. Do your own research to try to understand the concept of this approach.


Long ago I purchased variously sized sets of palm carving tools (dark purple handles mostly*) and have other tools passed along by family members (post wood/lino cutting hobbies). Various individual tools have found an active place on the bench through their use and need for one attribute or another each might offer. Most are straight, a few are bent, be it gouge,"V", skew or flat chisel. They do each have a useful part when I am carving. As you gain familiarity and comfort with carving, the various tools will make more sense to you.


*My small hands did not enjoy the palm bulb, so I have chiseled off the bulbs to a size that is comfortable for me. Also, I am perhaps not using them as might be generally expected by other kinds of carvers. If you look through the Studio & Tools section of my web site you will see those adapted tools on a bench photo from quite a while ago. The newer tools may be viewed in the first section, and those are most often on the bench these days.


Round handles turned would be pleasant, but you might also look at hand shaping the dowels that you have used into oval or flattened sides. That shape may be more controllable or comfortable in the hand when in use. It all depends upon what you like to feel and for what uses the tools undergo. Round or somewhat flattened both have a place on my tool bench. What ever the shape the handle is, creating a taper at the tool end will get the tool wood out of the way for carving. If you look at the tools others use, you will see this refinement is present in one way or another.


Good luck and have fun as you move forward!



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Hi Janel


Many thanks for the comprehensive reply.


For metal I used a mixture of masonry nails and silver steel/drill rod. The nails are the easiest to buy and the cheapest.

Thanks for the help on tempering. As a novice there is a lot to monitor at once - I am sure things will become easier with practice. I was amazed that I could end up with anything that would cut wood so cleanly and smoothly.


I did come across the following elegant sand bath method of tempering small springs :-



Yes, you are correct about the Flexi-cut gold on cereal box cardboard. I have a limited number of tools including some files but am short on sharpening stones. I was lothe to commit to an expensive set of stones so opted for "wet and dry" abrasive paper stuck to wood to remove the file marks. Then not realising that Flexi-cut gold was really intended for stropping I used it to sharpen as well - it worked but took time.I now have a black compound to try that has more cut. Learn, learn, learn.


My dowel tool handles are simply a method for holding whilst sharpening and testing the tools. I will have to try them out in the carving process and adapt. I really like the individualism involved in the tool making/miniature carving.


I think I shall buy the Ramelson tools and give them a try. I will report back in due course.


Many thanks to all the people on The Carving Path that have shared information over the years.



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