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post #1 of 9 (permalink) Old 07-13-2009, 11:52 AM Thread Starter
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Default beginner questions

I bought a cheap woodcarving set from Harbor Freight to fool around with on some scrap 2x4s.

Seems the chisels require a lot of pressure to use.

Also, it is particularly difficult to cut across the grain.

Makes me want to reach for my dremel

Is it supposed to be this hard to do or do I need to buy expensive woods?
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post #2 of 9 (permalink) Old 07-13-2009, 02:45 PM
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Hello David, Welcome to the forums. I would guess that the hardness is not of the best quality. But also, it is not uncommon to have to sharpen new hi quality chisels and plane blades. Or, you may be able to hone them to bring the nice keen edge on them. Good luck with your chisels

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post #3 of 9 (permalink) Old 07-13-2009, 04:59 PM
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Greetings David and welcome to the router forum. Can't help you because I have never tried to do what you are doing. Hang in there something good will come of it I am sure.

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post #4 of 9 (permalink) Old 07-15-2009, 01:27 PM
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Hi David. Like you I'm a noobie in woodcarving and bought a cheap starter set. Howard's right, even out of the box they need sharpening and honing but that's often true of even expensive tools. If you need tips on carving (including sharpening) I don't think you can go past Mike Burton's book "Architectural Carving".
BTW, nothing wrong with reaching for the Dremel, I use mine all the time as well as the hand tools.

I've cut it twice and it's still too short! But only at one end.
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post #5 of 9 (permalink) Old 07-15-2009, 07:44 PM
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Ok guys, here is some cheap advice from a non wood carver: Construction grade lumber is NOT what you work with. You need soft wood like Basswood or balsa to start off. Don't have a local craft store to buy it from? Practice on a bar of soap. Once you have a feel for the process you can try different woods. Be sure to wear a carvers glove because even the cheap carving tools will take a nasty bite out of your hand.

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post #6 of 9 (permalink) Old 07-16-2009, 07:15 AM Thread Starter
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post #7 of 9 (permalink) Old 09-22-2009, 11:33 AM
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Another bit of advice.
Check out Rick Ferry's site ( He has a great Beginner's set that comes sharp and is easy to keep sharp.

I did that when I started and it made all the difference for me.

Good luck and have fun.

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post #8 of 9 (permalink) Old 10-08-2009, 03:44 PM
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I'm a carver. I'm actually advancinng by working with a master carver at a carousel museum.

Anyways... your tool have to be razor sharp. Harbor freight carving sets are not good steel. That doesn't mean you shouldn't USE them, but it does mean you'll spend more time sharpening than carving.

Good, sharp carving tools will cut cross grain like nobody's business. Even on a 2x4. Sharp, sharp, sharp. I mean... so scary sharp that you're afraid to pick them up by anything but the handle for fear they might bite ya.

I use Pfeil Swiss Made carving tools. The steel is high quality and once you get them sharp, you really only have to strop them to keep them sharp. Depanding on the wood... I may only use a tool for 8 to 12 cuts before I strop it again. On some woods you can go much longer than that.

And... did I mention you have to get them sharp?

I'm not kidding
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post #9 of 9 (permalink) Old 10-08-2009, 07:02 PM
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I agree with Reikimaster. The tools are not sharp. I sharp tool will just slide across endgrain and you get that real purdy sound. Lots of people carve 2 x material. People carved it for years. Basswood is definitely easier to learn on, it's not splintery like fir grades are, but sharp tools with the proper bevel are the keys.


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