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Carving Smooth

Carving a smooth surface directly from your tools is not just about working with a flat (#3) gouge although of course that's an obvious and useful option. It's also about understanding something about how tools work and the relationship between flat and deeper gouges.

The upshot is that you may choose to work surfaces smooth with the gouge in hand, even when it's not flat. You can't beat flat gouges for levelling wide surfaces but, in some circumstances, not switching gives you a quicker, more fluid way of 'carving smooth'.

Chris Pye / Ashley Iles 2 1/2 Gouges:

Most modern, flat gouges (Sheffield #3 or Pfeil, cut 2) are not as flat as the older, Victorian tools. This prompted me, some years ago, to ask Ashley Iles - who also produced a less flat #3 gouge than the old ones - if they would make me a set of flat gouges using the sweep of my favourite, lovely old Herring gouge as their guide. Ashley Iles liked the flatter gouges they made for me so much that they went on to include them in their inventory. And since #3 as a number was taken, they called the flatter-still sweep "2 1/2".

In the video I demonstrate how flat these gouges are compared to the flattest Pfeil gouge (cut #2). You can certainly get flat surfaces with regular #3's, using the technique I demonstrate in, say, relief backgrounds, but if you want a really, really flat gouge, consider the Ashley Iles 2 1/2's.


- "Slicing, and the Value of the Inside Bevel with the Chris Pye #2½ Finishing Gouges from Ashley Iles" below, has more information about these gouges.


Last word:

When I was involved in the relaunch of Auriou carving tools, I specified this older, flatter sweep for the #3's, so what you have there is the equivalent of the #2½ but not, as yet, the range of widths that the Iles tools have. 


Subscriber download: Chris Pye #2½ Finishing Gouges


| 02 February 2020 21:37

Yes this worked!

The inside bevel definitely assists in using the gouge "upside down"

There's a lot to absorb here; it helps me to go back to the beginners lessons, hoping to gradually be able to do some of these things without thinking about it.

Thanks again.

| 01 January 2020 16:29

Mark - One really big trick is to turn your gouge 'upside down' so that its concave sweep matches (even to some extent) the convex form of the surface.
You can imagine that if you use a gouge 'right way up' on a convex surface you'll cut a deeper facet with harder edges; on the other hand, it'll match hollow, concave, surfaces. Do experiment.
So, as you carve, you'll turn your gouge over depending on the surface. I do a lot more switching like this with flatter gouges and the inside bevel makes using the tool upside down much easier, preventing the edge jigging itself into the wood like a flat bench chisel - which it will do if you have no inner bevel.

| 30 December 2019 22:28

I practised flattening tool marks as described, my question is

how do you remove tool marks from a round surface? specially one with a number of contours?

I find this quite difficult.

Thanks very much.

| 18 June 2018 20:25

Got one of your 2-1/2 and ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT!!! Wanted to pick up a few more, but the best sizes are usually sold out. Hopefully they get more soon. (Good Sheffield steel tool makers like Ashley Iles and Henry Taylor are tough to find in the US. Prolly just gonna get worse with new steel tariffs...)

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