Recommended Tools

Decent woodcarving gouges and chisels are not cheap, but you’ll have them forever and they can be passed down through generations. Some of Master Carver Ian Agrell’s are about 200 years old.

The reason Ian recommends (not endorses) pfeil Swiss carving tools is that they are extremely reliable and consistent, which is important if you’re buying your tools online where you won’t have a chance to look at them first. They are strong, well made, light, and feature hardened alloy chrome-vanadium steel blades with octagonal hardwood handles. They are delivered razor sharp, but you’ll probably want to lower the angle of the bevel (see the article, Carving Tool Tune-Up).

By comparison, the quality of other woodcarving tools is inconsistent, which can mean you’ll have problems with sharpening. Others are heavy and cumbersome in their construction.

Here are 20 woodcarving tools we recommend you start with. All the “gouges” are straight (and called “sweep gouges” by Woodcraft). They are listed in the order we recommend buying them. If you are going to do lettering, add 14mm and 20mm double-beveled chisels for typical 2-inch letters.

  1. 20mm, #5 Gouge
  2. 13mm, #9 Gouge
  3. 8mm, V-parting
  4. 4mm, #11 Veiner
  5. 18mm, #11 Veiner
  6. 25mm, #5 Gouge
  7. 25mm, #8 Gouge
  8. 8mm, #5 Gouge
  9. 13mm, #8 Gouge
  10. 10mm, #3 Gouge
  11. 16mm, #8 Spoon
  12. 25mm, #11 Veiner
  13. 10mm, #9 Spoon
  14. 7mm, #9 Gouge
  15. 12mm, #5 Gouge
  16. 16mm, #3 Gouge
  17. 20mm, #12 V-parting
  18. 30mm, #3 Gouge
  19. 35mm, #5 Gouge
  20. 8mm, #5 Spoon

You’ll also need 1-pound and 2-pound woodcarver’s mallets. They should have a rounded, not a flat, striking surface and preferably be made of lignum. Don’t use a metal one as it will damage your tools. Finally, you’ll need a set of stones to keep your tools razor sharp, including triangle-, cone-, and/or round-shaped ones for cutting inside bevels.