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Beginner Frustrations

Hi Folks,

I've decided I want to learn to carve.  I've watched a good portion of the Beginner videos and received my set of Two Cherry gouges in the mail over the weekend.  I have some Cypress that I want to carve and started yesterday on the Donut project.  My issue is right at the beginning of the lesson where we use the V gouge to line out the circle.  Cutting across the grain, I get a horrible amount of tear out (see picture).  And the tool tends to slip and head way off course when cutting with the grain.  I've tried to take very light passes.  This helps some but not much.  My other tools seem to cut okay but it's hard to clean up all the crushed grain left behind from the starting step.

I've tried to sharpen the tool and that seems to help, but only briefly.  I've looked up Cypress and most say it's 'easy to carve' so that isn't making me feel better.

Is it just me?  Or is it possible my V gouge has a problem I'm not correcting with the sharpening technique?   I don't have a magnifying glass but think there might be a nick right at the apex of the V.  I'm not a sharpening expert and wonder how to detect/correct this.

Any advice?


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Dan, in this picture, did you start from the top and worked clockwise? If so, you are working against the grain...if you switched directions, it should help.

Now if you started from the bottom and worked counterclockwise, I’d say you need to keep sharpening or go really shallow...you tool shouldn’t be tearing the grain like that, it should be slicing through.

Edit: I zoomed in on your pic and can see where the wood is tearing up and in towards the inside of the donut...I would guess you started at the top and worked clockwise. If you see the wood start doing that, reverse direction...that usually helps.

Thanks Matthew,  I am going counter clockwise with the cut.

Since I posted this earlier today, I've tried to cut the initial groove with a #10, 4mm that came with my set.  Not ideal but it's all I have at the moment.  it cuts fine.  So i think I do indeed have a nick in the V-gouge that needs to be fixed.  Too bad though, brand new tool.


Hi Dan,

Welcome to carving!

That tearing is definitely a sign that the corner of your v-chisel has a sharpness issue. I would suggest doing a test on something like basswood. My guess is you will have similar issues.

Another thought - cypress can be a challenge - especially if the tools are not razor sharp. I carved a sunburst fireplace design in cypress recently and every 3rd ray I carved I had to re-sharpen my gouges. So it's not the best wood to carve (unless you like to sharpen). I think it has a lot of minerals or maybe even silica in it that will dull the tools quickly. If you do not keep the tools razor sharp, the cuts across the grain tends to crumble the wood (like in your photo).

Thanks Mary.  I ordered your kit that comes with some basswood and stones last night.  I also re-watched the video on sharping the v-chisel.  My chisel definitely has a big point sticking out at the apex of the v accompanied by a chip right above it.  I think I might need a more aggressive stone than I currently have to fix this.  So your kit will help.

I'll keep at it.


If it came that way out of the box, try contacting the co. where you bought it, they should replace it!