Author Topic: carving chisels versus firmer gouges.  (Read 12190 times)

marymaycarving

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Re: carving chisels versus firmer gouges.
« Reply #15 on: December 02, 2010, 08:00:44 PM »
That makes a lot of sense. So, the tools that are stamped "Sheffield", (which I have a few of and are very good quality) can go as far back as 18th century? That's interesting. I wonder then whether the "sheffield" are older than the "addis" or around the same time? My guess is that "addis" is newer. I need to go through my tools and study them a little more.

So then the Sheffield tools were probably exported to the woodworkers in the rest of Europe. The only other thing I can think of is that many of the other woodcarvers in the mainland of Europe hand-forged their own, and with no stamps or identifying marks, they do not become "collectable", and therefore get lost in great-grandpa's tool chest as "those old rusty screw-driver looking things". What I wouldn't give to go wandering around some of those old European attics!

And remember - it IS possible to have too many carving gouges (so, Al - want to sell some of those English tools???) hee hee

Follansbee

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Re: carving chisels versus firmer gouges.
« Reply #16 on: December 02, 2010, 09:11:53 PM »
I remembered that Addis worked in London, and searched on the web, and found the toolie-people had run down much of the Addis story; seems that Sheffield lured one of them away from London & up to Sheffield. here;s a link to what I saw:  http://www.oldtools.org/archive/archive_get.phtml?message_id=48156&submit_thread=1

I'm not in the shop right now, but I have a couple of nice German carving tools that are oldies, I'll look at them next week. But like most of us reading these carving threads, the bulk of my old carving tools are English. There's even new English carving tools, Joel Moskowitz sells them. They are nice but a little bulky.

My assumption is that blacksmiths, not carvers, would make carving tools before this sort of thing was industrialized...

Peter Follansbee

http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/

chamfer

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Re: carving chisels versus firmer gouges.
« Reply #17 on: December 02, 2010, 10:37:56 PM »
James et al,

This thread has generated a number of interesting responses and has gone on some interesting tangents, but I'm not sure your basic initial question has been answered. And, I'm not sure I can answer it to your satisfaction, either, but have finally decided to give it a try. In part, because I find such basic definitional questions to be useful/interesting, but mostly because this thread has intersected a number of my interests.

As I think you already surmise, sweep numbers on gouges indicate carving tools. However, as others have noted, not all carving tools are so numbered. So, how to tell the difference between firmer gouges and straight carving gouges if no sweep numbers are present? (I'm mostly referring to 19th and early 20th century English/American gouges, consistent, I believe, with your initial question.)

In larger sizes, firmer gouges can be distinguished from carving gouges by the presence of distinct shoulders which narrow down to a shank which continues back to the bolster. Also, the inside of the gouge has a fairly uniform depth and is recognizable as a portion of a cylinder. This can be seen in the lower gouge in the first photograph below.

By contrast, the carving gouge lacks such shoulders and simply tapers inward to meet the bolster, as evidenced by the upper gouge in the first photograph. Also, note that the inner wall of the carving gouge gets shallower as it approaches the handle. This allows for the carving gouge to be relatively delicate at the cutting edge, yet be heavy enough toward the handle to be driven with a mallet. This is why shortened carving gouges, which have been ground/honed back over the years, look so stubby and chunky.

I've included the second photograph primarily to show that both gouges are, indeed, fairly heavy near the handles.

In smaller sizes, firmer gouges sometimes have shoulders and sometimes do not. In the latter case, it can be a little trickier telling whether it is a firmer gouge or a carving gouge (if no sweep number is present). In the third photograph (in the next post) one of the gouges is a firmer and the other is a carving gouge. Pretty difficult to tell from the top view. However, as shown in the fourth photograph (also in the next post), the firmer gouge has flat "shoulders" at the edges of the gouge, which continue the full length of the blade. By contrast, the carving gouge begins with a flat shoulder at the bolster, but this transforms into a rounded area which nearly terminates in an arris at the intersection of the inner surface. This allows the carving tool to be more "delicate" at the cutting edge and work in close to other details without fouling them.

Firmer gouges can be used in carving, but can be somewhat of a handicap because they lack the finesse at the cutting edge. However, they can be useful for roughing work, both for carving and general work in the shop. Regarding the latter, it can be useful to think of them as somewhat analogical to a "roughing" plane in situation where access for saws may be limited.

As to the sweep numbering system(s), yes it seems very confusing. The origins of the London Pattern/Sheffield List system aren't entirely clear. But, there is some circumstantial evidence that it arose in London, possibly associated with S. J. Addis, and introduced into Sheffield (sometime between 1870 and 1880) by Ward & Payne (who bought the rights to the S. J. Addis marks after his death) and J. B. Addis.  London was the pre-eminent center for carving activity in England, and the Sheffield makers worked hard to overcome a prejudice against non-London-made carving tools. To the point that Ward & Payne actually had a London stamp made up to use in conjunction with their S. J. Addis mark.

However, I believe some of the confusion about the sweep number regime is due to a lack of understanding of the system. It is often assumed that every gouge of a given sweep number is supposed to have an arc determined by the same radius. Not the case. Instead, the width and depth of each sized gouge in any sweep are proportional. For those who might be interested, I've written a short article outlining my surmise as to how this system might have been developed:

http://www.planemaker.com/articles_gouges.html

The continental sweep number systems are built along very similar lines, but differ from the London Pattern in a more complex way than simply being different by one number (as already noted by John). I have no idea which system is the earliest.

As has been noted, Sheffield did emerge as one of the pre-eminent centers for producing steel and edge tools during the 19th century. This emergence was built on a very long tradition of iron and steel working there (and in Birmingham), which had resulted in a good sized highly skilled work force. However, according to David Hey ("The Development of the English Toolmaking Industry during the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries"), Sheffield's rise to dominance in the 19th century was mostly due to this skilled work force, locally available sandstone suitable for grinding, and a plentiful supply of water power. The local iron ore was unsuitable for high quality steel, so most of the raw materials for blister/cementation and crucible/cast steel production was imported from Sweden in the form of wrought iron bars.

I have a number of older carving tools, and have to say that they seem to have been pretty consistently made of very high quality cast steel which was properly heat treated. Additionally, as Mary has noted, they have a delicacy, yet toughness, that makes many of the currently produced tools (especially from England) seem very clunky and clumsy by comparison.

(Incidentally, the emergence of the Bessemer Process had little, if any bearing, on high quality edge tool manufacture. That process resulted in a lower quality, inexpensive, steel suitable for railroad rolling stock, rails, boiler plates, etc. At least as late as 1910, most edge tools were still being made from crucible/cast steel. After this, tool quality steel was later produced by one of the electric furnace processes.)

Hope this has been of some interest/use.

Don McConnell
Eureka Springs, AR

chamfer

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Re: carving chisels versus firmer gouges.
« Reply #18 on: December 02, 2010, 10:39:26 PM »
Hi again,

Here are photographs # 3 and 4.

Don McConnell
Eureka Springs, AR

John Cashman

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Re: carving chisels versus firmer gouges.
« Reply #19 on: December 03, 2010, 12:19:18 AM »
Thanks Don, that was very helpful. Thanks also for the reminder about Hey's article. I've unburied my copy of Gaynor's book to read it again.

I think some of us get too wrapped up on the various sweeps and trying to figure them out. It's very interesting from a historical perspective, and I enjoy that aspect of it very much. But it doesn't help with the actual carving.

albreed

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Re: carving chisels versus firmer gouges.
« Reply #20 on: December 03, 2010, 06:13:55 AM »
Thanks for all the good historical info, everyone.
On steel- You can actually tell what the properties of steel are just by scraping your finger over the edge of a sharpened tool.(NOT LENGTHWISE!) I know what the kind of steel I like feels like when it's sharp. Some steel will feel brittle and some will feel more "dead". I was speaking with Michel Auriou of rasp fame last summer and we agreed that it's definitely possible to tell, for instance O1 from A2 just by the feel. To prove this to Tom LN, MIchel separated the A2 from the O1 plane blades in a random pile without looking at them. This isn't magic or myth, just based on a lot of experience with steel. You can do it with some practice.
I sell Stubai carving tools, and I can definitely tell the steel is tougher and has a harsher feel to it than Pfiel, for example. It's harder to sharpen, but it holds the edge. Steels are just different. As a carver, I like a lot of old tools for the lightness and the patterns, some of which are hard to find today. The Stubai and Heitmann V-tools, for example, are far nicer to use than the Pfeils because they are thinner and easier to modify. I've been really surprised by the Stubai V's. I can actually use them right out of the sleeve, which saves at least a half hour of sharpening that most V's need, in my opinion, before thy're good for anything. Sometimes one brand will have some advantage in a particular sweep that you like, so you'll mix and match.
In chisels, I think there's nothing better than a Witherby. They seemed to have figured out the steel thing and are pretty consistent. Old Buck paring chisels seem to be good also, as well as some old Ward and Paynes; they seem to hold a good edge.
I guess you just need to figure out what you are looking for in steel characteristics, and then be able to recognize it when you feel it.
And could someone explain to me what A2 is good for?-Al
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John Cashman

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Re: carving chisels versus firmer gouges.
« Reply #21 on: December 03, 2010, 09:25:05 AM »
I have no doubt that Al and Michel can figure out if steel is good by feeling it. I'm not that good. But since I started carving I have found another way that helped me a little, and that's using a strop. I've found that the hardness of steel in carving tools is usually just a hair softer than in plane irons or bench chisels. It strops easier. I'd never stropped, or tried to strop, a plane iron before I began to carve. Most plane irons don't strop too well -- they polish a little, but not as much or as quickly as a carving tool. And because they require more pressure, the edges dub much more. A2 irons really don't strop well at all. You can barely see them get a "shine." The same goes for O1 and A2 chisels.

It's a good comparison for those who want to try. I haven't attempted to strop a large enough number of non-carving tools to say if there is a difference between brands, but I can tell the difference in hardness between individual tools. I can tell the difference in stropping a Stubai and Pfeil, for instance, but I think they are equally good tools.

It has made me wonder if carving tools are made intentionally a bit softer because they must be stropped, as well as the fact that they don't experience the same stresses that bench chisels and plane blades do. If my carving tools were made and hardened like tools made from A2 steel, I don't think I would still be carving. Maybe someone will make carving tools with replaceable unobtanium inserts like they do for bench chisels.

I think it was Al who once pointed out another important quality of good steel -- it has to rust. If it won't hold rust, it won't hold a very good edge, either. I haven't put all my tools out in the rain to test the theory, but judging by the blades on many knives I own, I think it's correct.

dkeller_nc

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Re: carving chisels versus firmer gouges.
« Reply #22 on: December 03, 2010, 12:35:38 PM »
I think it was Al who once pointed out another important quality of good steel -- it has to rust. If it won't hold rust, it won't hold a very good edge, either. I haven't put all my tools out in the rain to test the theory, but judging by the blades on many knives I own, I think it's correct.


This is a bit off topic for the thread, but this adage isn't quite as universally true as it was a few years ago.  Specifically, several high-end kitchen knife makers have figured out how to make a "high carbon", "stainless" steel.  Wustoff is one such maker - I can confirm that the steel in their kitchen knives is every bit as tough (not brittle) as the plane irons and carving tools that I have, and will take an incredibly keen edge, something that SS316 or SS304 won't.  And they are quite rust-proof, though they aren't stain-proof.
Period Furniture & Carving as a hobby - about 20 years woodworking

albreed

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Re: carving chisels versus firmer gouges.
« Reply #23 on: December 03, 2010, 01:00:26 PM »
I agree about the kitchen knives. Just in the last few months I've been using one of those knives and it's way better than the average "stainless", which I find useless. The ones I use the most still  rust, but the other is pretty good.
John- Maybe carving tools strop easier because they're narrower than the plane irons, and you get more pressure-Al
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lwllms

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Re: carving chisels versus firmer gouges.
« Reply #24 on: December 05, 2010, 12:18:30 AM »
"....And could someone explain to me what A2 is good for?"

I was hoping someone would step in here with an answer. I'll try.

A-2 is good for critically machined machine parts, like gears, where it's best for the part to be hardened but to have minimal dimensional change during heat treating. The carbide inclusions in A-2 can add wear resistance to relatively flat and lubricated surfaces. Those same carbides, though, just tend to fall out when they end up on a fine detail like a cutting edge. They do that because they're not structurally part of the steel. Unfortunately the high heat treating temperatures required to form those carbides also causes the steel that houses those carbides to be coarse grained which is another problem for a good cutting edge.

The other good use for A-2 is to demonstrate the "dead feel" you mentioned in your post. I'm not the least bit surprised that Michel Auriou can separate high carbon steel irons from A-2 irons by feel or by hearing the different sounds made when just running a thumb across the edge.
« Last Edit: December 05, 2010, 08:39:43 AM by lwllms »