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Reasonably priced tools

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I asked Mary about low cost carving tools, & she sent me a link to woodcarverssupply.com

The brand is Master Carver, made in china. All gouges & chisels are fishtail style, made from high carbon steel. It's a good steel, holds an edge. But will rust, they put a varnish coating on them. All gouges, chisels & V tools are $19.95 each. And they have 10 pc set $99.95,

13 pc set $139.95 &  20pc set $199.95.  I'm not hot on stuff made in china. I actually try to avoid buying items made in china, but I do know if they stay on top of quality control good products do get made there.


SmokyRick Crawford and Steve Jefferson have reacted to this post.
SmokyRick CrawfordSteve Jefferson

Hi Robert,

They aren't pretty, but they can work if budget is an issue. They are slightly shorter than the professional length gouges. They also don't come perfectly sharp, so you will need to put some sharpening time in to get them to where you want them. I believe they also sharpen them on a buffing wheel, so they come slightly rounded. I purchased one several years back just to test the quality and found the metal to hold up well - once I sharpened it.

If the price of professional European carving gouges is deterring you from getting started with carving, this would be a good place to start. My guess is that once you get several of the European gouges (like Pfeil or Dastra), you will see and feel a difference.

Wade Hehr has reacted to this post.
Wade Hehr

I started woodcarving in 1979 by taking a night class at a local school. Everyone in the class carved a deep relief dogwood flower with a leaf and stem. The instructor had us buy a 5 sweep gouge about 14mm, a double bevel straight chisel (I guess that would a 1 sweep) and a mallet. They were all made by Pfeil, except the mallet. With these we carved the flower. I also used these same two tools to carve many other reliefs. Over time I added more tools to the roll as I needed them for a specific purpose but I still use those original tools in every carving I do.

So, my advice would be, decide on what you want to carve and buy a few good quality tools to accomplish that task and add to the tool roll as you need and can afford more. I happen to be partial to Pfeil.

Just my (not so) humble opinion.

Michael Duncan, SmokyRick Crawford and 2 other users have reacted to this post.
Michael DuncanSmokyRick CrawfordTom WeirBernhard Baumgardt

Robbert, it’s really worth hunting around for second hand tools, just learn the brands that are sought after. Make sure the chisel isn’t bent, pitting should be avoided, but minor rust is ok, you can remove rust with steel wool or  a cheep small wire wheel atachment for a hand drill. After sharpening wipe on linseed oil then wipe off.

I think you make your own luck, if you put a lot of time into hunting for chisels out in the wild. You will in time get some great finds. If you can’t get out & about. Put your time into poking around online auction sites.


Tom Weir, bOb Crawford and 2 other users have reacted to this post.
Tom WeirbOb CrawfordBernhard BaumgardtSteve Jefferson

Hello Robert,

I recently bought a set of the Schaaf tools through Amazon and have been fantastically pleased with them. They are very similar to Pfeil tools (in my opinion) and are currently only offered as a set with a nice tool roll. I know that a lot of carvers recommend against sets for a first time carving tool purchase but the variety offered is very good for a general set and the price is extremely good for the quality of the tools. Like all new tools they do require sharpening before use but I have used mine quite a bit and they take and hold a great edge even in hard woods. I have communicated with the company and their customer service is as good as you could ask for. If you sign up to their site you get  a 10% off the first purchase. I have been so pleased with my first set that I have since bought additional tools from them.

Have fun.

Hi Michael, I am not familiar with this brand. I'll look into this. Thanks

My Dad used to say "The most expensive tools you can buy are the cheap ones"!


I would never argue with your dad, however, there is a difference between "inexpensive" and "cheap". I have had some expensive tools that turned out to be "cheap" and some inexpensive tools that turned out to be great tools. When it comes to tools, I have found that many details and aspects are very subjective, Handle shape, overall shape, weight, balance, fit and finish and similar details are all things that suit an individual craftsman where another might find them objectionable.  That is one reason why different manufacturers have differently designed products. I guess that my history of restoring and refurbishing antique tools might make me a little more forgiving of what others see as "flaws" that I simply see as differences. If a tool performs well, and the user enjoys the overall experience then it really can't be seen as a "cheap" tool regardless of price. The real issue, to me anyway, is that the consumer has little opportunity to use tools enough to determine relative worth before purchase and has to depend on other users to help weigh the decision on what to purchase. All too often we, as consumers, use asking price and the reputation of the manufacturer, to determine relative value and/or suitability to the task. Many modern manufacturers design products based on the cost of bringing the item to market, attractiveness of the item to the potential buyer, and how well the tool actually performs becomes secondary. That is why so many of the tools found in "big box" stores fail miserably.

The problem that many beginners face is trying to get tools that will perform well on a limited budget. Those folks are less inclined (and rightfully so) to spend money on high dollar tools. If money was no object, we would all go out and purchase very large sets of brand name tools, recommended by experienced carvers and would probably be very happy with those as long as we worked with them. However, for most of us, we have to compromise with the numbers of tools, brands, etc., and try to put together the best set we can for our intended work within our limited budget. With that in mind, it becomes invaluable for us to have an expert like Mary to advise us on what she sees as the relative worth of tools. I would be wary of any situation where an "expert" tells us "these are the absolute best" but hope rather that they offer us their subjective opinion, as Mary so often does so well.

I happen to own around 250 hand carving tools, antique, new, American and European, palm chisels, full length, intermediate, carving knives, along with several hundred other edged woodworking tools from broadaxes, adzes, planes, scorps, inshaves, drawknives, chisels of nearly every description, etc.  While a high cost of new tools is not a guarantee of quality, a relatively low cost does not mean the tools won't perform well. I recently had a brand name diamond stone that quickly lost the diamond layer when the plating separated from the main plate. I also have bought inexpensive woodworking bench chisels  that work as well as some of the more expensive ones I have, at less than 10% of the cost of the expensive set. So for those of you who know and use tools, I for one am happy to hear from you if you want to share your experience with quality inexpensive tools.

Have fun

Mark Vernon has reacted to this post.
Mark Vernon

Hi Michael,

Where do you live? Let's hang out and share tool stories 🙂

I thought I had a lot of tools, and I think I lost track at about 200, but they all are my favorite. When my husband asks me if he could borrow one of my "not-so-nice" gouges, I look at him in shock. That would be like choosing who is your least favorite child - is it possible??

Thanks for that very good explanation about the difference between "cheap" and "inexpensive" tool appreciation. I agree completely with what you said.

There are some things that I would definitely not recommend for beginners - don't get those little sets from Michaels or Harbor Freight. You will not be able to get them sharp, and it will simply be a frustrating experience. There's nothing like stopping before you even start.

Tool collecting can be an art in itself, and you can end up spending a lot of money on damaged/useless tools if you are not aware yet of what you need to carve, and what to look out for. For instance, I see a lot of antique tools with massive rust pits along the edge. These will repeat along the edge if they are not removed completely. Also, if you find a gouge with a full size handle, but a stubby metal shank, it means it was either used as a screwdriver or paint can opener and has been broken or ground down. Usually the tools are only tempered at the edge, so it most likely will need to be re-tempered to hold an edge. Another thing that I see quite often are spoon bent gouges that are "not-quite" spoon bent. It is difficult to explain this one, but a true spoon bent gouge will have an aggressive curve at the blade, so it can reach difficult areas. If a spook bent gouge has been broken, it gets more of just a single bend, rather than an "S" curve.

Happy tool shopping! Hope this helps.

Hi Mary,

I call Eastern Tennessee my home and love to hang out with kindred spirits. The cure for spouses (and other relatives) from borrowing is to buy them their own tools. My wife doesn't do a lot of woodworking but she has her own hammer, screwdrivers, etc. My young grandsons love to spend time in the shop but I limit them to specific tools that are age and skill level appropriate. They have also been gifted with specific tools of their own, depending on their level of interest. Another advantage to having a lot of sharp tools around is that it seems to give a father an "edge" when meeting, and discussing expectations with, young men dating your daughters.

I am not a "serious" tool collector, meaning that I use my tools and am less worried about financial worth and rarity than I am about the need they fill in the shop. Having said that, it is still exciting when I manage to get hands on a unique item. A couple of years ago I picked up a wall chest containing a collection from the late 1800's that had belonged to a carriage maker who had subsequently gotten into the funeral home business. The collection had set in the funeral home basement until the family sold the business.  At the time it sold it was the oldest business in the town and subsequently a history, including information about the founder, was written up in the local paper including a picture of a horse drawn hearse allegedly built by the founder . The chest contained several wooden planes, drawknives, chisels, spokeshaves, braces and numerous bits. Along with the rest of the tools was a dozen carving tools, mostly Addis, and Buck Brothers that were in excellent condition. The joinery in the chest matched the molding planes and it was fitted to accept each of the major tools. Each of the wooden bodied tools and the chest itself had the original makers initials stamped into it. Each tool has been restored to working condition and is being maintained as part of the original set. Each time I bring out one of the tools and use it to work at the bench I shake hands with Mr. Valentine.

While none of the individual tools are of great value, and the chest would not be considered a superior example of the cabinetmaker's art, to me it represents part of the history of an individual craftsman, another kindred spirit, who valued his particular set of tools enough to  house and protect them. Thank you Mr. Valentine.

As you noted, beginners have a difficult time cutting through all of the B.S. and it is difficult for them to separate good information and fine tools from "tool-like objects". Thank you for being so generous with your guidance.

Rick Raley, Tom Weir and 2 other users have reacted to this post.
Rick RaleyTom WeirDavid WohlgemuthSteve Jefferson
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