Good quality carving tools are often expensive, which is why a lot of people prefer making their own tools at home. The prospect might seem a bit daunting at first, but you’ll find that making your own carving tools is a fun and interesting process.
The most common carving tools that a beginner woodcarver needs are a carving knife, bench knife, chisel, gouge, veiner, riffler, and the mallet. Carving tools are generally defined by the shape, width, and profile of the cutting edge with mallet being the exception.
And these are just the manual tools of the trade- electronic tools include scroll saws, electric chainsaws, rotary tools, and reciprocating chisel holders. These tools can’t be manufactured with industrial machinery, so making them at home is not an option
It goes without saying that more advanced and complex tools are best bought as making them at home is not viable. Today we will discuss the basics of making your own carving tools as well as the instructions for making the most basic ones.
How To Make Your Own Wood Carving Tools
Below, the making process for two of the most essential wood carving tools for beginners will be discussed- the carving knife and mallet. These two tools are used for both basic and advanced levels of wood carving, so even if you’re a seasoned woodcarver, you’ll find that making these tools by yourself will allow for more flexibility in your work.
Making a carving knife is quite simple. Here’re the instructions:
· 1095 Knife steel 5/8 inch wide by 3 inches long by 1/8 inch thick
· 2 inch long brass rod 1/8 inch diameter
· Wood (preferably hardwood) 5 inches long x 1-1/4 inches wide x 5/8 inch thick
- Bench vise
- Mill File
- 1/8 inch diameter drill bit
- 3 clamps
- Sandpaper (320-2000 grit)
- Hand saw
- Small mini files
- Hand drill
- Propane torch
- Peanut oil
- Ball Peen Hammer
- Coping Saw
- Danish Tung Oil – Dark Walnut
Instructions to crafting your own carving knife
1. First, use the file to clearly define the shape of the blade.
2. Use the marker to outline the edge of the blade.
3. Use a drill bit to scribe a line at the middle of the blade’s edge. Make sure the drill bit has the same thickness as the blade.
4. Lay the blade down on a flat surface to mark the center lines with the drill bit.
5. Once marked, you need to make the bevel of the blade by clamping it to your workbench and filing the blade according to the outline you marked. Once done, flip the blade and repeat the process.
6. Now that the blade has been prepared, polish it with sandpaper to remove the scratch marks made during the filing process.
7. With the blade complete, time to make the handle of the blade. First, determine the centerline and depth of the wood by marking it using the blade to determine the measurements.
8. Use the hand saw to cut down the centerline and then use the file to trim down the gap until the blade fits in comfortably.
9. To properly secure the blade, you need to screw it tightly. Mark two pinholes on both sides of the handle and then use the hand drill to drill the holes.
10. Now time to go back to the blade again to heat treat the blade. Use a pair of pliers to hold the blade on one hand and the handheld propane torch on the other.
11. Heat the blade until it doesn’t display any magnetic properties. Use the peanut oil o quench the blade and cool it. Check it’s sturdiness by running the file against the edge to see whether the fill digs in. If it does, reheat again.
12. After heat treating the blade, use sandpaper again to clean the torch stains until the color changes.
13. Temper the blade at 400 degrees Fahrenheit either with the blowtorch or an oven.
14. Once the blade is tempered, make a few brass pins from the rod.
15. Clean the blade for one last time before using glue to fix the blade with the handle. Then use the pins you made to lock of the blade with a handle.
16. Once attached, carve the handle into any shape you want and polish it with the Dark Walnut tang oil.
The mallet is the small hammer that woodcarvers have to use to taper and shape designs on wood. One of the oldest tools in the craft and still just as effective, customizing a mallet to custom specifications allow you to have more control over your work.
- 1 piece of oak wood dowel of 36″long x 1″ diameter.
Note: If you want more power, then use a bigger dowel size for making the mallet
- 1 galvanized pipe of 24″ x 1″ inner diameter
Instruction to crafting a mallet
1. First cut down the piece of wooden dowel into 5 pieces that are of 7.25” length with the hacksaw. These will serve as the handle of your mallets.
2. Now take the galvanized pipe and cut off the threaded ends of the pipe. After cutting off the ends, the galvanized pipe will now stand at 22” length. Cut this into 5 equal pieces of 1.375” length
3. Once the pipe has been cut, place the wooden dowels below the pipe pieces. The position of the pipe pieces should be horizontal as they form the ‘head’ of the mallet. The wooden dowels need to be positioned below them vertically.
4. Once positioned use the screws or nails to secure the dowel against the interior of the pipe. Use glue along the seams and cracks to further secure the bonding strength of the nails.
5. You need to let the glue set in, so leave it out overnight.
6. The next day, use sandpaper to remove any residue glue stains from the mallet.
7. To prevent oxidization, wax, or oil the mallets. This will also help seal any visible blemishes.
8. Once the mallets are oiled, it’s time to take the final step, which is heating the mallets. You need to bake the mallets at 350 degrees for two hours. After baking them take them out and let them cool off. You will get 5 mallets in the process and have enough pipe pieces for 10 more mallets.
9. You can also carve the dowels before attaching them for an ergonomic grip if you want.
10. If you want more weight, you should use heavier pipes.
Things To Keep In Mind
1. Make sure you always keep your carving knives sharp with a whetstone. A dull carving knife can often make your task difficult or even ruin it completely.
2. Making your own tools often means making a good investment in heavy machinery. Check out online where you can get the necessary, but the quickest way to get things done is by talking with a professional woodcarver who has their own setup.
3. Chisels and gouges can be made at home, but don’t offer any extra benefits that mallets, gouges, and carving knives offer. Just by them from a store to keep things simple.
4. Never forget to take care of the safety precautions. If you’re using a power tool to make your own carving tools make sure you have safety goggles on. Also, use gloves and aprons when handling glues and epoxies as getting industrial-grade stuff off your skin and clothes is definitely not a pleasant experience.
5. You don’t need all the tools that are usually sold in packages for your work, which is why making the basic ones at home is popular. Know which ones you need to keep things simple.
To Sum It Up
Wood carving might seem intimidating at first, but with practice and dedication, you can master it fairly quickly. Making your own tools helps you ease into the basics and builds up your confidence. So definitely give it a try.