Thursday, August 20, 2009

Do You Need a Gouge?

Kari Hultman over on The Village Carpenter blog tweeted a question to me asking if I ever use gouges, saying that she had trouble figuring out how to make certain cuts with a knife.

Well, Kari, join the club!

No, I don't use gouges, and sometimes I have a lot of trouble figuring out how to make a cut. It involves a lot of twisting and turning the piece and seeing if the blade will fit and still have enough room to move. All the cuts are easier if you use a slicing action.

The absolute best woodcarving video I've ever seen regarding how to make the various knife cuts is "Figure Carving Scandinavian Style with Harley Refsal". If you want something for free, check out Arleen's videos or Gene Messer's videos on YouTube. Both are excellent carvers and instructors, and both are primarily knife carvers. I spend time watching them when I should be carving!

So, you don't really need gouges to do hand-held carving, but you may sometimes compromise a little on the final look of the piece. Frankly, I think the knife "compromise" looks just as good as a gouge cut.

So, until next time, let the chips fly!


  1. Thanks, Bob! I just subscribed the the two carvers on youtube.

  2. i will take the knife over a gouge anyday, but i mostly 98 % use a knife only, good question , thanks for the nice comments, happy carving to all arleen

  3. I use a gouge almost exclusively when I'm using hand tools. ( not power carving) Think gouge as a tool for BIG carvings. I know this might not be true for everyone, and I have seen micro carving tools out there ( stumps me how they work) but for BIG carvings ( carousel horses, ship figureheads, etc) a gouge is the way to go. The only hint I can offer is shallow cuts, sharp tools and you won't even need a mallet for most stuff.