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"Commissioning" carving tools

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I have tools done both ways. Early on, I read Mr. Pye's method and "commissioned" a handful of gouges. I did not spend the time reworking later acquisitions ... and those work just fine without the Pye modification. Every tool has it's own way of cutting and I have become accustomed to letting the tool have it's way. I see no value in "lowering the cutting angle."

... And as some have discovered, if one takes the "commissioning" a bit too far, the overall cutting angle is reduced and the edge becomes prone to crumbling. As with many things related to any kind of woodworking, the way something has been done for centuries usually works out OK.

P.S. It also becomes a pain to maintain that separate inside bevel.

Back on November 30 of last year Carolyn Senter mentioned she'd purchased a Ross Oar Sharpening Jig. It's a jig that makes it easy to maintain the correct bevel angle when sharpening your gouges. After reading Carolyn's comments I searched the net and read some reviews. They were mixed with some people commenting on the time it takes to set it up. I decided to purchase one and see for myself.

I've been using it for a while now and I'm quite happy with this jig. It does take some setup time to get the correct angle but once it's set for one of my gouges it tends to be the same for most of them. The only time I need to change the jig is when I'm sharpening a spoon gouge. I've been able to save a couple of tools that I had sharpened incorrectly over the years. Of course it would be better if I could do this freehand but it seems I have problems with that approach so the Ross Oar works great for me. Just my two cents and I'd like to thank Carolyn for posting her experiences with the Ross Oar Before reading her post I didn't know it even existed.

Michael Duncan and Tom Weir have reacted to this post.
Michael DuncanTom Weir

Changing the shape of carving chisels should be done by carvers with a lot of experience or on very inexpensive tools. I don't think Mr. Pye's intent was to suggest that beginning carvers should take new and expensive tools and start with them by grinding them. I believe it was his suggestion that experienced carvers should take their new tools, as they acquire them, and prepare them for use or that beginning carvers should have them prepared by experienced carvers. New carvers, in my opinion should sharpen their tools with minimum change, use them while gaining experience, and then adapt them as necessary when experience dictates. I would recommend that new carvers enlist experienced carvers to help them get their tools in shape to work. Woodworking clubs are a great source for that. I know Mr. Pye recommends a in-cannel bevel and his reasoning is solid, in my opinion. It allows for lowering the cutting angle for gouges while the overall edge angle remains the same, and allows for easier use when using the tool upside down. I have never found it necessary to stone a significant internal bevel and have found that stropping on the internal surface will normally cause a slight rounding/beveling on the internal surface anyway.  It is a good technique to consider when rehabilitating old tools which may have some internal surface pitting from rust. There is one company in the U. S. that I am aware of that Mr, Pye recommends for commissioning tools professionally but it should be noted that it, in my opinion, is quite expensive. It is far better that carvers learn to shape and sharpen their tools to suit their own style of carving and be able to enjoy the results of that aspect of the craft. There is no greater joy to a carver than a truly sharp edge. Have fun.

Hello. The concept of commissioning  tools as taught by Chris Pye I find intriguing. As I was watching Mary carve in the "Merry Xmas" sign video It looked like she was using a Swiss tool that had been altered which is what led me to this thread in the forum. Now, I am a relative newbie to carving, starting with whittling on sticks with a Swiss Army knife  about 6 months ago and now have a dozen Swiss tools and am enjoying carving immensely particularly doing low reliefs. I am not about to start altering my Swiss tools just yet. BUT, here's my experience with commissioning.  When I was just starting classic carving I was in a Harbor Freight store and bought a six pack of cheap (!)straight wood chisels of varying widths but never really used them as they were not suitable to classic carving. After seeing the Pye lesson I decided to try his process on these chisels. No big loss is I ruined one. Using a bench grinder and sand paper  I drastically thinned the cutting edge of the blade, lengthened and rounded the heel and sharpened to a mirror polish. The process does work and I now can use these tools primarily when I am leveling and letter carving. For what it's worth.


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