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Fishtail Gouges ?

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Palm chisels are simply short, often too short for two handed use and that limits the control you can exercise over the movement of the tool. Fishtails are not too fragile for hand work at all and I am sorry if I left that impression. I just wouldn't reach for them if I was doing heavy mallet work. If by "hooking out" you mean prying then you should know that prying is discourage as a carving technique regardless of the tool being used. Have fun.

I agree with Michael Evans. I would not hesitate to use fishtails for fear of breaking them. I have tried and tested fishtails for many years and many different types of wood, and they have not disappointed. Not one has ever broken - even when I use them heavily with a mallet. Prying with any tool is simply not a good idea, but it can easily happen when those stubborn little bits want to stick and not release. Whenever you are tempted to use a gouge to pry wood, STOP! Let the blade of the tool do it's job by slicing the wood, and if it does not want to release easily, back the tool out and come at it from another direction (or define the stop cut more solidly, which is often a reason why a part of the carving does not want to release). Sometimes I do a little "flick" of the tool at the end of the cut, but this is by no means a "pry". It is simply to end the cut and get rid of the wood chip on the tool. Happy Carving 🙂

A few months ago at one of our club meetings we had some tools for sale. I picked  two Ashley Iles fishtails, a 3 and 5 sweep both about 12-14mm. Those things are built like tanks. I love using them and they really hold an edge. I don't think you could damage them using a mallet. One of the good things about belonging to a club is that bargains crop up periodically. However the sad thing is that these tools usually become available because one of the members has passed away.


I just love mary may's fishtail gouges. Usually I used 6mm and 14mm for carving. Thanks for this amazing tools.

Do anyone have experience any best wood working tools for routertable?

On the router table the Incra table is unreal. you can get the same cut over and over no matter how many time you move it . sorry you need the jig that goes with the table. been using one for over 20 year still works greatROUTER TABLE FENCES



you don't need this set up but its not bad. i have the older one, no vacuum hook up.

I have a question about the durability of fishtails.  Mary mentioned above that she has no problem using  a mallet with fishtails, but I wonder if that is mainly with softer woods like basswood.  What about harder woods like cherry, walnut or white oak?  I am an amateur woodworker and would like to try some decorative carving in furniture woods.  I know cherry, walnut and oak are carved.  I am just wondering whether I would be better off with straight chisels for that work.  I plan to buy the fishtails Mary recommends (probably from Chipping Away) to get me started in carving, but I would hate to damage them by pounding them into harder woods!

The only time I see what I would call "pounding" in proper woodcarving is when roughing large sculpture. That type of work involves larger and stouter tools specifically designed for that work. Most woodcarving consists of slicing away the stock instead of heavy mallet work, prying, etc. As in any form of tool work, sometimes it is necessary to use larger examples of a specific tool type to do the desired work and avoid damaging the tool. While fishtails may seem to be very slightly more "delicate" than the straight equivalent tools, their ability to reach into areas inaccessible to other tool types makes them valuable. Mallets are intended to incrementally advance the tool in a manner providing the artist with a different method of control and not to simply apply more force. You should still be making a slicing cut and not just stabbing-in which can actually compress, break, or weaken the wood. Traditional tool designs have been adapted and refined by professional carvers working in all types of wood over hundreds of years. If you stick with traditional tool designs from reputable manufacturers and use the techniques taught by carving teachers such as Mary, you would only damage your tools through tool abuse. Have fun.

Thanks Michael.  I guess "pounding" was not quite the right word -- Mary talks of using fishtails "heavily with a mallet" a few posts above, and I guess that is what I meant.  I was not clear whether that was okay for harder woods like white oak.  It sounds like it should be fine.  I wondered about this since, although I have not yet built anything from white oak, I have a bunch of it and have tried cutting a few joints to see how it works as compared, say, to red oak or cherry.  All I tried was to cut a shallow mortise and the chisel edge crumbled rather spectacularly.   That same chisel works fine for cutting mortises in red oak and cherry but required hospitalization and serious R&R, followed by some loving rehabilitation after its brief run in with white oak.  But cutting a mortise really is "pounding" and not the slicing you describe.  Oh well, live and learn .  I will get those fishtails!  Thanks again.

Hi Sanford,

I have not generally found that the fishtails have less strength than straight gouges. However, there are certain brands of tools (such as Two Cherry, Hirsch or Dastra) that have more substantial metal on the fishtails which will make them stronger than Pfeil. If you know you will be removing a lot of wood using a mallet in something very hard like oak, I would probably consider using straight, thick gouges and may even consider making the angle on the bevel larger to have a more secure, strong edge. Oak can be pretty brutal on gouges - period - whether fishtail or straight. When I carve in softer woods, such as basswood or butternut, I am comfortable using either fishtail or straight for heavy mallet work. Quite often the main reason I use the large straight gouges for removing a lot of wood is that those are often the largest gouges I have and they simply remove more wood faster!

Hi David:     we have the @#5-6mm Fishtail in stock ...see:

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