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Chisels and Skews

Carving chisels are not at all the same as carpentry or bench chisels, and the skew or corner chisel is an essential tool.

An introduction to Sheffield #1: chisels and #2: skew or corner chisels.


| 04 May 2024 08:10

Darrin - I think it best to use true, double-beveled carving chisels for lettering. I know it's possible to use bench chisels but I find it much more difficult. The heel between a bevel and the blade proper allows you to pivot, adjust or rock out of a cut, which is why gouges can scoop. Without a heel, as in a flat-faced bench chisel, the tool tends to jig into the wood and control is a lot less.
On a convex surface like your sculpture this isn't so much of an issue, but anything concave, or incised like lettering, really needs the proper tool.
I wouldn't put a second bevel on your bench chisels unless you're sure you'll never need them again for paring, cutting mortices or the like - they're perfect for that sort of job. But if not, go ahead and experiment!
Hope this helps.

| 01 May 2024 23:22

Hi Chris. Hope all is well with you! My question is about bevels on chisels. I know in the case of lettering chisels, keeping each bevel equal facilitates straight cuts. Aside from lettering, I've found carving chisels to be very useful for rounding off and getting fine finishes on curves in large sections of sculptures. I sometimes use bench chisels for this purpose, using either the flat side or beveled side depending on the particular need. But due to the high bevel angle (roughly 25 degrees) and general clunkiness of bench chisels, this is a bit awkward. So I'm wondering if having two different bevel angles on a carving chisel might be helpful (with the caveat that it would make lettering more difficult). I've thought of putting a slight bevel on the flat side of a bench chisel, but for carving, it seems more fit to modify a carving chisel. I'd appreciate any advice. Thanks, Darrin

| 27 February 2021 12:36

Lee - You asked in the Pea Moulding. Easy to lose yourself! This is what I wrote there:

If you look in the 'Tools' section of the videos, we have one on shortbent skew chisels (I think it appears on the 3rd page) and there are more notes about what you are after in the text below it. As for sources, I'm afraid it's a matter of hunting the tools down online. Classic Hand Tools carry the Pfeil versions in the UK for example - sorry I can't make a active link in these comment boxes: - but I see they have limited stock. These are specialist tools and no doubt not the first distributors want to stock. But worth the effort to find. Good luck! Sorry not to be more precisely helpful.

| 26 February 2021 15:54

Hi Chris,
I have asked a couple of times for the sources for the short bent skew chisels you often use in the videos. Perhaps, I’m looking in the wrong location. Can you please direct me to your reply?
I’m talking about the approximate 3/16 left and right short bent skew chisels..
Thanks, Lee

| 28 December 2020 20:29

Hi Chri,
I’ve recently signed up. I have watched a number of your videos and they are superb. One of my best investments. I’m laid up at the moment and not able to physically participate but really looking forward to it. I have ordered your letter carving set and am looking forward to receiving them. They look very good ! There are delays in the shipping as well but understood due to the virus, etc.
Thank you Very much and Happy New Year!

| 02 June 2019 09:47

Jim - Yes. I found myself using fewer and fewer tools as I understood how I could make one do the work of many. No I think I could happily lose two thirds of the tools I have and still be a very happy carver.
As to the perception of time, again, yes. At it's best - at MY best, and when I'm not being filmed or talking about it - carving is quite meditative.

| 01 June 2019 13:05

Chris, in all honesty, have you come to a point that you can say "I don't need any more wood carving tools, I have all the tools I need"? Is woodcarving some kind of addictive disease where you can never have enough tools and the perception of time becomes lost when carving? LOL

| 10 March 2016 17:00

Justin - Do you mean the one designed by Ray Gonzalez and manufactured by Ashley Iles? I'm afraid I've never used it so can't say. I believe there's an accompanying document written by Ray, so perhaps you can find it or other information online. A skew chisel made from a fishtail certainly has corner-reaching benefits but the ones I have are far less refined than this 'hooked' skew.

| 08 March 2016 07:54

What about hooked skew chisels? What's it used for?

| 29 July 2015 11:28

John - I think you are being misled in the video: all my lettering chisels have double bevels, and this includes the Auriou. Although you buy gouges with no inside bevel, the fact is - at least in my carving heritage - that's only because it's an expense for the manufacturer and they've always left it to the carvers to profile their gouges and add inner bevels as they wanted. So the fact is that all carving tools (except spoon gouges) have double bevels.

| 27 July 2015 19:40

why do the Auriou chisels have double bevels? When i see you carving letters on video your chisel is single beveled.

| 12 February 2014 05:43

Just a quick follow up to say I was one of the first recipients of the new Auriou letter carving chisels and they are very good. They are super sharp from the get go, comfortable and light to hold. I've created a project to track my progress, so I will be posting more information about them as time goes on.

| 23 September 2013 12:11

Thanks, Chris. I just called the Forge De Saint Jeury and left a message. I hope they are releasing the chisels soon. My capitals are about 45mm and lowercase 35 mm. None of the capitals have round elements, they are all straight elements: M, W, L, H. I need to buy in stages due to limited funds so my next purchases are the fishtails for the serifs. I have your letter carving book and DVD and they are a superb resource - thanks! In your book you recommend a No4 (5/8") Fishtail Gouge and a 1/2" Fishtail chisel. I hope these sizes will be OK for both my upper and lowercase letters. Perhaps you are reluctant to recommend particular brands, but I found a Pfeil 5/8" fishtail gouge and Lie Nielsen 1/2" fishtail chisel on I love Lie Nielsen tools (a lot of my carpentry chisels and planes are from them), but not sure about Pfeil as a manufacturer. I do have a philosophy of buying the best quality tools I can afford. I think in the end it's cheaper that way - cheap tools have a habit of wearing out and failing. If your up-and-coming set is appropriate for my project and they are selling them soon, then I can wait a bit for them. Next month, I'll tackle the round gouges. Many thanks, David.

| 19 September 2013 12:59

David - The set will include a fishtail chisel, but not a skew. You need to understand that what gouges you need depends on the letter style and size, which of course are very variable. The gouges in the Auriou set - whenever it materialises, and I don't know when - will fit a particular alphabet that I have drawn and will be included in the set, which is why it's called a 'set'. But they only may or may not match other lettering. Use my book on lettering to help work out what you need before committing yourself to buying tools that might not work?

| 18 September 2013 20:33

I've just received the set of 7 straight letter carving chisels from the Forge De Saint Jeury and they are very nice to work with indeed. I'm building up a set of carving chisels as I have a couple of projects on the go that require letter carving - a great motivator to learn about it!! This site looks great, and thanks for keeping the fees low!

Next on my list will be skew gouge and skew chisel for the serifs and I see on Jeury's website they say "COMING SOON (OCTOBER 2013) - 5 MORE CHRIS PYE LETTERING TOOLS". Can I please ask will these five include a skew gouge and skew chisel? If not what makes should I look at? After that I will need round gouges for the rounded letter forms. My commission involves a lot of lowercase letters (oh, start with the easy stuff!), so I guess they might be included in this set of five tools too?

Many thanks, David.

| 23 February 2012 23:21

I've always wondered why one of the chisels in my set had a bevel on both sides, now I know! Thanks!

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