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Just starting out and adding tools

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Hello everyone,

So the last time I "carved" anything was about 35 years ago when I carved some stakes for chalk lines while helping my dad build his house, not artistic but they were pretty sharp.  I am just starting out on my creative carving adventure and have been purchasing many tools lately; so far I have the Auriou Chris Pye carving tools in #3, #6, and #9 sweeps in 8mm, 14mm, and 20mm sizes as well as the Flexcut 4pc Micro Chisel, Skew, Sweeps, Shallow-U, Deep-U, and 60 degree Parting Tool sets, Japanese Milled-Tooth Files in 3/8" Half-Round File Xfine and 3/8" Flat File Xfine, Auriou Carver's Rifflers set, Altraco 10pc Smooth Cut Riffler File Set, Gramercy Tools 3pc hand-cut riffler set and a 6" Hand Cut Rat-tail Rasp, 6",8"and 10" Bastard cut wood rasps, and a 9" Shinto Saw Rasp.  An Auriou 10mm 60 degree V-tool is back ordered. 

So my question is, would the Mary May Beginner Set be a good addition to the other tools? None of my gouges are fish tails and after looking at the set on Chipping Away I noticed that they are all fish tails minus the V-tool.



SmokyRick Crawford has reacted to this post.
SmokyRick Crawford


Welcome to carving and the forum. I would definitely add the beginner set from chipping away to your listed arsenal. They will open up more carving ability and be more useful than rasps...depending on what you want to carve out.

Good luck!


Thanks for the reply and suggestion.  The rasps are more for a custom guitar that I have been wanting to build for awhile now.  I bought all of the wood and hardware several years ago but, I have just recently purchased the power tools to really start the project, band saw, drill press  etc. and in the process of researching those tools and the rasps for doing some hand shaping of the mahogany body and maple neck, I stumbled upon Mary May's and Chris Pye's videos and websites and it rekindled an old desire to learn to carve.  I mainly want to carve some reliefs, decorate custom picture frames and make some crosses for the family if I am capable of it.

I have been hovering over the order button on Chipping Away and just submitted the order.  Any recommendations on spoon or curved gouges to add over the next several months?



I don’t have much use for the long-bent gouges if that’s what you mean by curved gouges. I have 2 in a #7 sweep that I may have used once or twice...I just don’t see much use for them that I can’t use a straight gouge for.

As for the spoon gouges, I have, and use a few. I have one each in a #3, 5 and 9 sweep, and 2 each in #7 and 8. All range between the 5-12 width except for the 8, which I use larger widths for carving gothic tracery. If you are looking to get into general relief carving, a #3, 5 or 7 sweep spoon would be a good long term investment. You won’t use them too often, but they are great to have when you need. Lastly, I have a spoon v-tool. I love using it for grounding low corners...it gets used a quite a bit. But a pain in the arse to sharpen!

The best advice I could give you is to find a specific relief and picture frame that you want to carve and give it a go. Then as you are carving, if you find your tools aren’t getting what you need done, whether you need a larger or smaller size of a particular sweep, order it. Another suggestion would be to go through Mary’s videos and find one that’s close to or like a relief or frame you want to carve  In those videos she will show a tool list that she used to carve it.

Let me know if that helps!



Thanks again for the information.  I ordered 3 spoon gouges and a spoon V-tool and realized the only chisel I had ordered was a 10mm skew chisel, so I ordered some #1 straight and fishtail chisels as well as a small 6mm spoon chisel and a few #11 Veiner gouges.  I think I should be set for a few projects now.  Now I just have to wait for 4 of the tools that are back-ordered to ship.

I am going to give it a go this weekend.  Going to watch the videos and pick up some blanks from the local hobby stores.


Matthew Mizner has reacted to this post.
Matthew Mizner

Hi Jeffrey. Welcome!

I often joke that us carving teachers get together and purposely make sure that our "preferred" tool sets never match - just to make sure lots of tools are sold 🙂 So if you take classes from 5 different teachers, each teacher recommends a set of their 10 favorite tools, you should have a good, solid set of 50 tools. It's a conspiracy, I tell you.

Seriously, I can't really add more to Matthew's comments. He explained the "journey" of collecting tools very well. Once you begin to carve more, you will discover certain tools are missing. Maybe an area is awkward to reach, so that's when you may consider getting a spoon bent. If you are making a particular pattern that requires a certain size gouge, then add that to your set. The more you become familiar with carving, the more you will understand what your specific set of gouges can and can't do.

Have fun discovering!

Michael Duncan and Matthew Mizner have reacted to this post.
Michael DuncanMatthew Mizner

Conspiracy !!  I knew it.

What I did was make a bar chart with the recommended chisels from each course I was carving from;  Dick Onions,  Grahm Bull, and Mary May.  then marked all that were the same or within 1 or 2 mm of each other and purchased them as needed for each carving I did.  Some times having to wait on a carving till the next chisel or two arrived.  Now after two yrs I've got a good collection of tools,,,  TOP TEN from each of three courses = 30,,,,,   NOT!!    I'm up to more like 75 + and still have a two pg. WISH LIST,  lol.

Investment Tip;  Buy stock in Pfiel!!

I'm waiting for two new babies to come any day now; a #3sp - 3mm,  and #7f - 6.  already got the 7-6mm straight but (just gota have) the fishtail!  My next carving has a lot of SMALL detail and tight spaces so the #3sp-3mm.

It never ends!


Michael Duncan

SmokyRick Crawford and Greg Messick have reacted to this post.
SmokyRick CrawfordGreg Messick

Hello Mary, thank you.

I joined your school and Chris Pyes after watching several videos from the two of you and enjoying all of them.  I can't wait to dive in and try these beautiful tools out.  I just got my carvers vice in on Tuesday and am waiting on four gouges that are back-ordered, my work table, bench dogs, dog clamps, and my carving wood orders to arrive.

I have had a hard time sourcing the tools I wanted from one vendor, so I ended up with a nice mixture of gouges and chisels from Pfeil, Auriou, Two Cherries and Dastra for the full size tools and Flex cut for Micro tools.  All of the tools feel good in hand.  It will be interesting to see which brand or tool I end up favoring.

I am well on my way on the journey of tool collecting already, I love buying tools, sometimes I'm like a kid in a candy store.

Jeffrey Morbit


Hi Michael,

I did something similar, I made an Excel sheet and bought Mary's an Chris' beginner sets and added some others in between, including some rifflers, rasps and needle files.

I wish I had an ETA on the MIA gouges from my orders.   Even my work table has had a four day shipping delay. 🙁

I got the sense of the never ending nature of shopping for carving tools over the last weekend as I spent many hours perusing numerous vendors sites and having to talk myself out of placing more orders before I even get my blanks and start practicing.

Jeffrey Morbit


Michael Duncan has reacted to this post.
Michael Duncan

My name is Michael and I am an addict. My slide into the quicksand hell of tools started when I saw Roy Underhill for the first time in the 1970's and became convinced that "he who dies with the most tools is the winner". My addiction of choice was  human powered edged tools with an occasional dabbling in powered tools intended to free up more time with my projects, that I can devote to additional hand tools.  I have come to believe that it is a conspiracy started by Mr. Underhill and his cronies so that they can benefit, evidenced by the many wood working and carving schools and tool stores. Under his weekly influence, I came to see all trees as potential sources and victims to be slaughtered as an excuse to express violence and destruction upon innocent timber in the guise of creativity to excuse spending time and money in the acquisition, restoration, and adoration of sharp instruments of destruction. I became so addicted that every excursion away from home became an attempt to acquire more of my drug of choice. Steel, even rusty steel, along with wooden tools, were constantly pulling at me, even during foreign travel where I faced having to explain the presence of broad axe heads and planes in my checked luggage. It is only in recent years that the realization that my shop has become so crowded with tools that I have no room for my projects, that I have decided it is time to learn to just say no to additional tools, and I will too, someday.  But then again, maybe I just need more room.  I wonder if my wife would consider sleeping in the car?  Now if I can just do something about all of those books.

Michael Duncan and ed goldsmith have reacted to this post.
Michael Duncaned goldsmith
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