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Japanese Carving Chisels Chipping

Hi all,

I'm just starting out on my woodcarving journey and am having some difficulty with tools breaking. I'm based in Ireland and recently made my first big tool purchase spending several hundred on a selection of carving chisels from a German store called Fine-Tools. Below is the list of tool I purchased:
  • Gouge spoon bent Cut 7 - 25 mm STUBAI
  • Gouge straight Cut 8 - 25 mm STUBAI
  • Woodworking Carving Chisel Marumagari 12 mm KAWASEI
  • Woodworking Carving Chisel V-Tool 6 mm KAWASEI
  • Woodworking Carving Chisel gouge 4.5 mm KAWASEI


Both of the Stubai gouges have been fantastic and have held their edge very well. However the smaller Kawesi carving chisels have been a real disappointment. I've had the tip break on one and the edge has chipped on another one. All three Kawesi chisels are made from Blue steel and the website does warn the metal is very brittle. Both breaks happened while I was adding texture to an oak bowl I'd carved (Images as reference for the texturing). 
Is the issue I'm having with these breaks quite common with more brittle metal like what Japanese tools are made from? Should I be avoiding these types of tools and instead buying more workhorse tools by the likes of Pfeil or Stubai?
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Hello Niall,

The textured bowl is really beautiful! I have not heard of carving tools being brittle and breaking and am not really familiar with Japanese carving tools. I have 2 of them, but they were so expensive that I rarely use them. I think they cost twice as much as Pfeil, but got them as a Christmas gift about 10 years ago. So I haven't really put them to an aggressive carving test. It certainly sounds like you might want to stick with the tried and proven Pfeil or Stubai.

The fact that the manufacturers actually stated that they are brittle is interesting. You would think they would try and sort that issue out.

The only time I have had a tool break was when I used it as a "pry bar" in my earlier years of carving of digging out wood in a way I shouldn't have been doing. The texturing you are doing should not make the blade vulnerable so it is most likely a manufacturers issue. Sorry you invested so much money on those.

Keep up the good work!

Tom Grieb has reacted to this post.
Tom Grieb