Let’s talk about woodcarving

Let’s talk about woodcarving 2017-06-26T23:59:57-05:00
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Can a tool be bad?

I have an Auriou #3 14 mm gouge.  I was carving in cherry and I noticed it was breaking down at the edge.  I resharpened, same thing.  Then I resharpened with just a tad higher angle, nothing crazy, just a couple of degrees.  I thought that might help.  This time it was taking forever to get rid of the wire edge.  It was like a tiny piece of tin foil on the edge.  I finally got it.  I tried it out in basswood.  It seemed to be OK.  Then I took a few heavier cuts and once again, it started breaking down.  Can this tool be bad?  I had never messed around with the original angle on the bevel and always tried to match it.  I've had the tool for awhile.  Thoughts?

I had exactly the same thing with an old gouge I picked up. My brother retempered the steel and it seems to be better. I believe he heated it to about 400 degrees in his kitchen oven for about an hour (remove the handle first) and then let it cool at room temperature. This is supposed to remove the brittleness and make it tougher. There is a lot of info on the web about doing this.

Thanks Tim,  that's kind of what I thought.  I'm not sure I'm up to the re-tempering.  I will probably invest in a new tool.

Hi Marsha,

I haven't heard of that issue with Auriou tools, but it's always possible that it wasn't tempered well. They do tend to have a very fine angle - probably less than 22 degrees. Your idea of re-angling the bevel was a good one and I think I would have tried the same thing. I'm surprised that didn't help. So I agree - it might be an issue with the metal. Do you know anyone who works with forging metal? Maybe someone who makes wrought iron? They will probably understand the tempering process. It can be a delicate process of tempering too much, or not enough. It may have been just a bad day in France when they were working on making your tool (summer holidays maybe?)

Good luck!

Thanks Mary,  I was kind of bummed about that Auriou gouge.  I'll hold on to it, but in the meantime, I bought a Swiss Made.

I'd contact Auriou and speak to them about it, I'm sure they'll be more than helpful as they take great pride in their tools.

Quote from Marsha Werman on December 26, 2017, 6:49 pm

I have an Auriou #3 14 mm gouge.  I was carving in cherry and I noticed it was breaking down at the edge.  I resharpened, same thing.  Then I resharpened with just a tad higher angle, nothing crazy, just a couple of degrees.  I thought that might help.  This time it was taking forever to get rid of the wire edge.  It was like a tiny piece of tin foil on the edge.  I finally got it.  I tried it out in basswood.  It seemed to be OK.  Then I took a few heavier cuts and once again, it started breaking down.  Can this tool be bad?  I had never messed around with the original angle on the bevel and always tried to match it.  I've had the tool for awhile.  Thoughts?

The first thing that comes to my mind is that quality of the sharping or tool material, probably, not matching your expectations, if your tool is on warranty, so then I strongly advice you to ask the appropriate service check it or replace it.

If the edge curls then it is soft. If it chips and/or crumbles without curling then it is brittle.  Tempering alone can help with brittleness but will not help if the steel is soft. Your description of the wire edge sounds like the tool is too soft to me. I agree with the other posters about contacting Auriou. Also, it might be that the steel they use is very sensitive to heat from grinding. If the tool was bad from the manufacturer then I would have expected you to have noticed the flaw earlier since you say you have had it for awhile. The other thought is if this is the first time you have used the tool on something other than basswood or similar soft wood? If you resign yourself to keeping the tool then you might want to consult with a local knifemaker to see if they would be willing to try and re-harden and tempering it for you. I have picked up some older chisels that were either too soft or too brittle. Most of the time they can be annealed (heated to critical temperature and slowly cooled), brought back up to critical heat , quenched in oil, and then tempered (check the knife making and blacksmithing videos for information on the process). If that fails then you can retry the entire process quenching in water. If all of that fails then the metal is probably bad and it become a decorator item at best. There have only been a couple of chisels in my pile that have failed to be restored to good quality using that method. 

For the record, I have noticed with new tools that sometimes the edge seems to be soft but improves as you continue to carefully grind and sharpen them. It is my belief that it has to do with the manufacturers hardening process or loss of hardness at the edge during final grinding.

Have fun