Archive for April, 2011

Sharpening Woodcarving V-Tools

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

My first foray into carving was way back in early grade school. Dad taught me to carve a simple Scotty dog from a bar of Ivory soap with a pen knife. No V-tool was needed for that work.

By the way, this is a simple beginner carving project. The parts of the dog are blocky, the soap easy to carve, and even a simple blocky carving gives a sense of accomplishment. Be careful of breaking off the tail.

Somewhere in the middle of Boy Scout years, carving a wooden chain was intriguing for a while (“a while” means 5 or 6 inches of chain). No V-tool was needed for that work.

More recently, carving the scrolls on the stems for the Fiddlehead canoe brought carving back to the forefront. No V-tool was needed for that work either.

photo of botched up v-toolThe small set of inexpensive Ramelson “Beginner” carving tools purchased for the Fiddlehead work included a V-tool, but it wasn’t needed for the project. Besides, it was cast lopsided with one side wall thicker than the other. Not long after taking up the most recent interest in carving, I decided to fix that V-tool. The first photo shows the result. With it unsuccessfully “fixed” … through many grindings, it is now reground to be a very short gouge with something like a #5 radius.

photo of several good v-toolsThere’s a BETTER solution! Learn to sharpen a V-tool correctly. Chris Pye, a traditional woodcarver once published a collection of eBooks he called “Slipstones.” One of those was a 102 page book titled “Select and Sharpen Your V-Tool.” Holy pages Batman! 102 pages???! Yes, it’s a very comprehensive tome, spending a lot of time describing v-tools and offering advice on how to select the one(s) you might want.

The part of the book about sharpening clarifies the “secret.” In short, it advises one to think of a V-tool simply as two chisels joined at the keel. Sharpen each chisel independently, but to the same angle, and “voila!” you have a sharp V-tool. If that brief explanation isn’t enough, there are about 50 pages in the eBook to explain the details.

Chris recently upgraded his web site, and in the process the eBooks slid into that deep dark spot full of lost stuff from reworked web sites. Chris has also started a new “Woodcarving Workshops” web site offering excellent video instruction for a very wide range of woodcarving topics. There he offers professional instruction (for a reasonable fee) as series of very concise and expertly produced videos. Take a look.

I asked Chris about the missing eBooks. He answered that he’ll bring them back eventually, but for now suggested that I forward on to those who might want them any that I have. So, for a limited time, get your copy of Chris Pye’s “Select and Sharpen Your V-Tool” ebook.