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Don't Mess With Mary

I just started carving and began with whittling.  I didn't mind having band aids on all my fingers but when one got infected I decided to try gouges and clamped down wood.  I loved using gouges and clamped wood almost as much as I love getting new gouges in the mail so I bought several before having any idea what I was doing.

Then I discovered this site  and started watching the beginner free lessons.  I would watch one all the way through and then rush out to my garage and whip out a carving.  The results were pretty bad but I am not handy and so I didn't expect much more than just to have fun and I had a ball.

Then I went back and watched a part of a video again that I had already seen to check my memory on something and I tried to do just that one thing.  Magic!  It worked perfectly.  So then on the next carving I watched one segment and then carved just that before going on to the next and, more magic, my carving started to look not so very bad.  So then I tried paying real close attention and doing every little small thing one at a time as she explained and showed it.  My wife thinks I am an artist now.  So now I am studying every word and gesture, facial expression and change of voice tone convinced that the woman is a savant and conveys reams of secret information with every little thing.  So, don't mess with Mary, just do what she says, how she says it, when she says it.

Sorry about the length of this but I am really excited about this carving stuff.  I should mention I did all this in just a short time because I am impatient as well as not handy and not talented.  So, now to why I am in this sub forum.  I know Mary says be flexible with tools but I am following her instruction as closely as possible.  I want to have the tools she recommends as closely as possible and I hope to buy a new gouge a month while not duplicating what I have too closely.  I have the following Pfeil full size tools:

2/5,  2/8,  3/5,  3/8 FishTail,  3/16, 5/8, 5/12, 7/8, 7/14FT, 2/9, 16/6V

I am just about to start my first intermediate lesson and want to buy a new tool and I am looing for a versatile one for doing the intermediate carvings.  I would very much appreciate a specific suggestion for the next tool I should get, and the next one after that if you will.

Thanks for any advice.


Russell Wagner, Marland Miller and 2 other users have reacted to this post.
Russell WagnerMarland MillerWendy NeufeldWayne Arsenault

I, for one, wouldn't think about "messing" with anyone with anyone with that many razor sharp instruments at their disposal, especially a person that is so generous with their knowledge and talent. As for suggestions for future tool purchases, just stick to Mary's list unless your carvings suggest a need for a specific tool. As you have discovered, carving is not just about acquiring  a carved piece but is really about the enjoyment of the process. After the completion of any project the project result itself becomes secondary. Have fun.

Thank you Michael.



I'm so happy to have caught the carving "bug"! And yes, best not to mess with people wielding razor sharp chisels...

It looks like you have a good set of gouges, but for the next step, I would recommend getting a 60 degree angle v-chisel, 6mm. (referred to as a #12 with Pfeil). It is really my "go-to" v-chisel and seems to work best for most things. A #16 v-chisel has a very small angle and is simply very difficult to sharpen. You would need to re-grind your slip stone to fit it into this tight angle of the chisel.

It also looks like you do not have anything over a #7 sweep. Maybe a #8 or #9 - 6, 8, or 10mm for hogging out a lot of wood? I don't use these a lot, but when I need to really remove a lot of deep carvings or create more aggressive hollow cuts, these are helpful.

I also use a #5, 14mm a lot, but your #5, 12mm can often be substituted.

Have fun shopping!

Wendy Neufeld has reacted to this post.
Wendy Neufeld

Thank you so much Mary.  I now own a 60 degree 6mm, a 5/14 and an 8/10.  I'm telling my wife that I have a note from my teacher saying I need these.

I just finished the country scene video and she is now aware that I can take a photo of our house and carve that and guess what she has decided my next project will be?

I give permission...

I look forward to seeing your house carved in a lovely scene! Please share!

I have just taken up carving more seriously. I had started a project 25 years ago, and it has set on the shelf unfinished since then.  Now my wife has "commissioned" me to do a relief carving of a nativity scene! I am having trouble finding a pattern. Any suggestions. Thanks in advance!

Google "Nativity Scene" or "Creche" and choose "Images". Let me know what you find. It would be a great future project.!

I found some relief carvings from Novica. They were for sale, and not patterns. I would think if I copied them I could have the carving for a gift or for myself, but couldn't sell it?!?  I may just have to make my own pattern.

Yes, be careful about copyright if you sell them. But just get "inspiration" from them.