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What Are the Different Types of Woodworking Carving Tools?

Carving knives are used for detail work.
Chisels are considered a type of wood carving tool.
Chisels are considered essential woodworking carving tools.
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  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 15 December 2014
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Chisels are perhaps the most important and well-known woodworking carving tools, though many other tools exist to help a woodworker carve intricate designs and accurate cuts. Mallets are important tools used to help control a chisel while it cuts, and various saws, knives, and blades are used as woodworking carving tools as well. Some power tools exist to help the wood carver accomplish his or her tasks more quickly; rotary tools such as the DremelĀ®, for example, are able to make intricate cuts at a higher rate of speed.

Woodworkers often have several different types of chisels, which are woodworking carving tools that feature a specifically shaped blade and usually a wooden or plastic handle. The woodworker can use these tools to carve a variety of shapes and patterns; some chisels, for example, feature a scooped shape, while others feature a V-shape. Others may simply feature a straight cutting edge of varying widths to create flat cuts. The chisel can be operated in two general ways: either the woodworker will simply apply pressure to the handle and push the blade forward, or he or she will use a mallet to tap the handle end of the chisel to propel the blade forward incrementally. Many woodworkers will create stop-cuts that will prevent the chisel blade from cutting beyond a desired location.

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Drawknives are other woodworking carving tools that are designed to remove wide shavings off flat or near-flat surfaces. This tool features a wide blade with wooden handles on either end; the blade faces inward, and the drawknife is pulled toward the worker for greater control and accuracy. It is known as a drawknife because the blade is drawn toward the user rather than pushed away from him or her, as is the case with most other knives or blades. Some drawknives feature a scooped blade instead of a flat one for carving cylinders or other hollow structures.

Power carvers and rotary devices are electronic tools that feature a motor that rotates a bit. The bit can be replaced with other bits of differing shapes to create various types of cuts on the wood. These woodworking carving tools tend to be more expensive than others, but the carving can be done much more quickly with these devices and, in some cases, much more smoothly and efficiently. The bits rotate at high speed, which means the cuts are faster and less likely to splinter or mar.

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titans62
Post 4

@stl156 - If you are only looking at getting the most functional tools, then a chisel set probably isn't going to be at the top of the list. Like you picked up from the article, they are mostly just hand carving tools or something for specialty joints or whatever.

The only real use I can think of for home repair would be door installation. You usually need a chisel to notch out the space in the door jamb where the latch and deadbolt will go. Maybe the hinges, too. If you don't expect a lot of doors to be installed, I would pass on chisels.

Along the same lines as installing doors, though, I would definitely suggest everyone remember what the article says about putting in a stop cut. It will probably save you a lot of grief. I remember the first time I tried to use a chisel, it was for a door hinge. I didn't put in a stop cut, and ended up taking out a huge strip of wood. Luckily, since it was the hinge area I could just use some wood filler and paint over it, and no one ever noticed.

stl156
Post 3

My son is moving into his first home soon, and I am looking into buying him a set of tools to take care of any repair projects that might show up. I was just wondering whether there would be any use in getting a chisel set for him.

What exactly could you use a chisel set for around the house? He wouldn't be doing anything like woodcraft projects or something. Just repair. Do they really have any purpose outside of woodworking?

If it is worth getting him a set of chisels, what should you look at when buying them? Are they usually all made out of steel, or are there different materials? What about sizes, too? Cost might be a factor, as well, since I am really only looking to buy the most important tools.

Emilski
Post 2

@kentuckycat - I have never done wood turning, but I think they actually make special tools for that. I think they are basically chisels, but have a curved end on them so that they don't catch on the wood while it spins.

I am curious if anyone here has any experience with bone carving tools. My friend just came back from Europe on vacation and brought me a little carved bone figure from Germany. I'm not really sure what type of bone it was carved from, but it is interesting. I was just trying to think of what types of tools they would use for something like that. Would it be a normal chisel or knife set like you could use for carving wood, or would they have to use something specially designed for bone, since it is much more porous?

kentuckycat
Post 1

Hmm, I never knew what the real name for a drawknife was. I used to watch one of those woodworking shows where the guy used just handtools to make things, and he always had a wide variety of chisels and drawknives. I think if I were using a drawknife I would be afraid of it slipping and cutting me.

What I was really wondering about though were the types of tools a woodworker uses when they are doing wood turning like on a lathe. Whenever I have seen someone doing it, it always looks like they are using chisels, but I can never really tell. Are they actually the same types of chisels you would use for a normal project, or do they actually make special tools just for people who do wood turning? What would be different about them?

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