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Incannel Carving Tools

I have a number of antique straight gouges that have all of the design details expected of fine carving tools except that they are incannel. I understand that most incannel gouges were paring tools usually used by joiners and patternmakers and I have several examples of robust tools that were clearly intended for such work. While it is possible that a carving tool manufacturer would simply take their standard design and configure them for paring use but I also wonder if there were any accepted uses for incannel tools by traditional style carvers? I could always grind back the tools and establish a traditional external bevel but since I already have MANY of those I would gladly keep the tools as they are if there is a traditional use for them. Thanks for any input and have fun.

Hi Michael,

I remember when I first started carving my mom would find these incannel gouges at garage sales quite often - I suppose because nobody really knew what to do with them. So I have had several and have never really discovered a use for them in traditional carving. I know that violin makers use them, but am not sure where in the process. Another challenge is that to sharpen these, you would need to use a slip stone for the majority of the sharpening. It would take a long time to get a really nice edge.

If you do decide to regrind them, you may have to have the end re-tempered because often gouges are only tempered at the edge. I guess it depends on how much you have to grind off.

If nothing else, they look good on your tool shelf as they are often really old and cool looking 🙂

It amazes me that used incannel gouges bring so little (I have seen this myself) while outcannel gouges are so often highly priced. Apparently it is because few find a use for them. In spite of that, manufacturers still produce them. I don't have a display area in the shop because of the limited space and prefer to keep actively used tools near the bench. There are some tools kept around though primarily just because they are so darn cool and full of character. Sharpening and hardening/tempering doesn't represent  huge challenges for me since I have a lot of experience restoring antique molding planes, bench chisels, scorps, inshaves, and many other types of traditional tools.

I knew that they were used when making precision, straight concavities when coping, but that is such a seldom used process that I assumed there must be other additional uses such as running convex features when using the gouge upside down. It warrants some additional research.

Do you ever use other traditional style hand tools such as router planes for leveling backgrounds, scratch stocks or planes for establishing straight beads, panel fields or similar operations in preparation for carving? Also, do you have stock preparation such as furniture parts or large assembled blanks prepped outside your studio or do you do that work inhouse?

Many thanks.

I admit that I have been quite spoiled in that often clients that I work with help to prepare the wood blanks - or I ask my husband to use his router 🙂

Since I started carving, I have had a sort of obsessive focus on the carving process itself. So maybe one day when I get bored of carving (yeah, right) I might veer my focus. But yeah, because I have had the benefit of others around me with those skills, I have been able to focus strictly on carving techniques.

One of the benefits of belonging to a wood carving club is the variety of expertise and help the members provide. We have a few members with complete wood shops and they offer their help with preparing blanks, routing bases, turning things on the lathe, and many other things. It is nice to have someone to give you a hand and have the tools that you may not have.