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Schaaf tools vs top tool brands

Schaaf tools
Worth it?
Not Worth it?

Hi all,

New to the forum, and looking to purchase a larger set of tools.  I've heard mixed reviews on the Schaaf tools.  Some people seem to endorse them as good quality for the cost.  Other reviews, particularly on amazon, highlight that they aren't well prepared and only have a rough finish to start requiring a lot of sharpening before first use.  How does this compare to the top recommended like Pfeil and Two Cherries?  I've been carving for about two years so I'm confident I'll stick with it in the future, and I'm wondering if it's worth it to invest the money for the top quality brands?  Any help would be appreciated.




Sorry for the long post. A little background: I am a woodworker who does some woodcarving and have restoring and using a wide variety of woodworking hand tools for about the last forty five years. As a result, I have owned most of the brand name (and no name) carving tools, new, old, and very old, that often come to me in a wide variety of condition. That gives me a little different perspective than folks who only buy brand new and very expensive tools, As a result, I have owned tools that required relatively little effort to prepare them for work and tools that also required some pretty extensive effort. I have yet to purchase a tool that didn't require some initial shaping and sharpening to get them working well to my personal preferences. I have found that Schaaf tools initially required a little more effort than some, and less than others.

When it come to hand tools, each person has personal preferences such as handle shape, balance, specific shape, etc. and that is why carving tool brands come in such variety. The basics are that they need to perform their intended function and that the user additionally finds pleasure in using the tool, that the tool enhances the carving experience. Most of us have a limited amount of resources, otherwise our choice of tools would be to simply buy the "best" of everything (by reputation or experience) and that would also be influenced by input from others. Only you can decide where you want to spend your hard earned money. Because of my experience, I don't mind expending a small amount of effort (for a one time operation especially) if the savings are significant. As a result, I don't mind spending the extra half hour/hour or so it might take for a twelve piece Schaaf set over a similar Pfeil set, considering that I am saving a a few hundred bucks in the bargain. Admittedly, the fit and finish are a little different, but that can be said when comparing other name brands as well. The steel in the Schaaf sets I have owned have been consistently first rate and I have had few issues with the tools after initial commissioning. I have had some issues with some of the other brands I have owned and you always run a certain amount of risk in getting a flawed tool. As far as the reviews, you can give away gold bars and some will gripe that they are too heavy. Nearly every review I have seen mentioning customer service has been positive and, even though I have never had to return a tool, I have talked to their representatives and I am confident that if you are dissatisfied  that they will do what they can to make it right for you.  If you find commissioning too challenging, the company does offer professionally sharpened tools for an additional price. Regular maintenance is the same as any other brand.

Some folks have an issue with buying a set of tools and advise buying one at a time. If you are a beginner, you have to understand that having a variety of tools extends your capabilities and that traditional carving normally involves a similar variety of tools. You can "get by" with a small set but having a group of commonly used tools enhances the experience and the work. Unfortunately, many inexpensive "carving" tool sets include tools totally unfit for carving and are a total waste. To their credit, the Schaaf tools sets seem to all be valuable profiles at a fraction of the cost of their competitors. You can always add additional (non-Schaaf) individual profiles to your kit if you decide you need them. I have several hundred carving tools from most of the name brands that are in a couple of chests and about a dozen-or-so  tool rolls. The hundred-or-so tools I keep in the chest next to my bench are mostly Henry Taylor, Pfeil, Two Cherries, and Ashley Iles, but the top drawer is reserved for twenty three Schaaf tools. I can't say that each is a favorite, but I can say that I value them as much as the other brands that I own. There are some YouTube videos posted by professional carvers that would be well worth a look if you want other opinions on the brand.  Have fun.


David Dostal and Bob Turner have reacted to this post.
David DostalBob Turner

Thanks, Mike.  This is very helpful.  I appreciate your experience and thoughtful reply.  You address a lot of my concerns - quality, customer service, value, etc. - so it's a great perspective.

I purchased the beginner set of 12 and had the fishtail set of 4 given as a birthday present.  I am a long time woodworker and have sharpened saws, chisels, planes (probably 30 or more of each) so I know about sharpening quite a bit.  I am totally new to carving.

My impression on the Schaaf tools were that they were a good quality for the money.  They take some work to get them properly "commissioned".  I would tell anyone to buy them, but only if they are serious about learning to sharpen and change the shape as needed.  Most of the work seemed to be in relaxing the angle on the larger gouges.  The smaller tools seemed to be a bit more ready to go.

I and posting this because I did have a good experience with their customer support.  The fishtail set had one gouge that had what I will call a dimple in the steel near the cutting edge.  I could not get the edge on one side to hold, one side cut, the other side folded over.  I gave it a good try but no go.  So when I contacted customer support I was promptly supplied with a full set of 4 new fishtails and not required to return the defective one.  Now I have passed the three good ones to a friend who may take up the hobby.  I was told before I bought them that the company was responsive, and they were.  So good for them.

My strategy is to use those Schaaf tools as a base to build from and to buy other tools as need arises, but maybe at a higher price point.   For instance, I did not get a wider #3 in the sets that I got and on the Camelia project, Mary uses a #3  14MM so I may pick one of those up.  Also, I could not get the Schaaf V-tool to work properly and it was probably my fault.  However, I bought a Hirsch v-tool from Lee Valley and I love it.  That cost about 2/3 the price of the set of 4 fishtails from Schaaf.

Buy Schaaf, go through the education of learning to commission, then piece mill in others would be my recommendation.  You actually have no choice, Schaaf is only available in sets so far.

I was a machinist for 30 years and have worked with many different kinds of metals, cutting, grinding, hardening and tempering tool steel for cutting metal. I haven’t purchased any Schaaf chisels but have been looking and researching chisels. As far as the steel quality of the Schaaf chisels I’ve found them to be quite comparable with the other top quality brands and wouldn’t bat an eye in purchasing them. Chrome vanadium steel hardened to 60 Rc is some high quality steel, if they need tuning when I first got them that would be no concern to me.

Jordan Ray has reacted to this post.
Jordan Ray

I been carving for a while and have a lot of different brands of gouges. I tried the Schaaf tools. In regard to tool shape, handle shape, and balance, they are a copy of Pfeil, so - no complaints. In regard to fit and finish, mine were varied. Some were fine, others were a little off-center. The bevel angles were pretty standard, but I lowered them  because I mostly work in basswood. The hardness was pretty good - not too brittle like old Mifer or most Japanese tools, not as hard as German and Austrian tools, but harder than old British ones. So, similar to Pfiel. As far as edge-holding, I'd rank them just under the old Flexcuts, well above the Ramelsons, but not really comparable to expensive top tier tools. As far as consistency of temper, I had no problems so far, like I did with later Sculpture House or even some newer Henry Taylors that  I've had.