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Sets of Cheap Woodcarving Tools!

Cheap Carving Tools!

Lots of firms make sets of woodcarving tools for beginners - the sort of thing in the picture - and they’re much cheaper than individual tools!

Which one should I buy?

Short answer: None of them!

Ok, so why not? There they are, called Beginners Sets. I’m a beginner. What’s the problem?

Let’s back up and ask some questions: Who chooses which tools to put in what ‘set’, and for what purpose?

Did you answer: 'A master carver with years of experience as an instructor, with no interest in selling an inventory and who knows exactly what you have in mind to carve and what tools you’ll need to do it?

I doubt it. (But if you did, congratulations. Enjoy your carving!)

Many would-be carvers think a cheap 'set' is what they need to start off with. After all they may not like it, and I do understand cost is an issue for us all. But it’s false economy and and a poor, frustrating way to begin, if you ever get that far.

Here’s the thing:

1 Making quality woodcarving tools requires a high degree of smithing skills. Mostly, these cheap sets are poorly made - thick blades, poor forging, or designed for Lino rather than wood, for example. None of which will help you learn or feel satisfied as you start your journey into the craft.

2 Your 'set' was put together by a non-carving marketer, in a non-specialist engineering firm, needing to make a living. Tools surplus to an inventory. Tools made because they can, rather than should. Tools that a non-carver thinks might be a Good Idea.

3 These box ‘sets’ always seem to contain tools you’ll never use anyway. Woodcarving is a hugely varied enterprise and woodcarvers themselves tread different paths. Buying a set, with individual desires.  and interests and there’s a comparable range of tools available to meet these needs.

So… what’s a better approach?

1 Understand that there really isn’t such a thing as a ‘set’ of tools; it all depends on what you are doing. Lettering? Ornamental carving? Wildlife? Big? Small? Carvers build up unique complements of tools as they explore and learn.

2 There are definitely tools that are always to be found on the bench. In Woodcarving Workshops, the same useful tools come up again and again - and they rarely appear in cheap box sets. So ask a competent carver doing the sort of thing you want to do about tools - or, of course, or explore this website. That’s the pond to fish in.

But before you do:

3 You only need a few (3 - 4) tools to start with.

4 Here on Woodcarving Workshops we have a Beginner’s Course that lays down for you fundamental, transferrable carving skills, and it uses just a few, very useful tools. Get to know them. Learn to sharpen them. Then take on gradually more challenging projects, which ask for a couple more tools here and there.

Yes, I’m promoting Woodcarving Workshops - but, yes, it’s the best advice and approach, whether you dig into what we do here or not!

Practice, practice; carve, carve, and before you know it you’ll have grown your embryonic complement of tools and all will be ones you know and need, and which will last you a lifetime.

5 There are loads of reputable manufacturers with huge experience making tools; tools that will last and be loved for generations. Buy from the best. As they say: The quality remains when the price is forgotten.


You can find a ‘Chris Pye Woodcarving Tools’ online (made by Auriou), sometimes called a 'set. So, a bit hypocritical?

Not in the slightest. In the question at the top of the page, I am that ‘master carver with [35] years of experience as an instructor, with no interest in selling an inventory [I get no royalties from sales]’.

True, I don’t know ‘exactly what you have in mind to carve and what tools you’ll need to do it’ but this particular complement of 'my' tools are what I use in my book ‘Relief Carving in Wood’. When I started instructing I ran a course that became this book. I needed to give students a tools to work with, and here they are. And I will still recommend these tools as among the most useful tools ever on my bench and in the hundreds of wide-ranging carving videos on Woodcarving Workshops.

Some years ago, Auriou went bankrupt and I helped them restart making carving tools, and these were the ones I chose for them to kick off with and supervised the quality. The word ‘set’ was never in my mind.

Anyway, don’t buy this set! Get stuck into the Beginner’s Course - there's a fat download to go with it - and begin your journey with just a few tools.

Tools on my benchj