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'True' Gouges

The basic, most important tool of the woodcarver is what I call the 'true gouge'.

It has one extremely important characteristic, the one that makes it special and a real blessing to the woodcarver. Let me show you here - it's fundamental to your understanding of how carving tools work.


| 18 November 2020 09:50

K F Alviti - If you mean these gouges have thick wall and a bevel on the inside, then they are what are known as 'in cannel' gouges. These tools are effectively bent carpentry/bench chisels and are used to cut in curves - in the way a flat carpentry chisel cuts a straight edge.
You can certainly use them for carving if you regrind the bevel to the outside. The main difference is the thickness of the blade; usually very thick, which means your bevel will be much longer than what you'll see in a carving gouge. They are often much longer too. And they won't follow a carving tool nomenclature like the Sheffield List.
But, hey. If that's what you've got... It's what you do with the tool that counts!

| 14 November 2020 19:00

Thanks for getting back to me. That was kinda what I was hoping you would say. Most of mine are the small ones but I like the feel of the bigger tools better I think. That will probably be the direction I go in the future.

| 14 November 2020 18:38

Eric - Glad you are finding the videos useful!
Bottom line, the gouge you are using is an extension of your hand, literally and metaphorically. There is no hard and fast rule about any of it: blade length, handle, whatever; it's all about what feels comfortable for you; what works. At the end of the day you want to forget the tool in your hand and just... carve!

You certainly don't need to double up on tools at different lengths. I have gouges at different lengths and with many different handles, but the gouges themselves aren't duplicated. You may well end up with just the one length of gouge that suits your hands and needs. A for the ones you don't use or like - sell them and build up your kit of tools with ones you do.
Hope this helps!

| 13 November 2020 14:45

I am finding the videos very informative. Thank you.

What length gouge do you prefer? I have varying sizes and sweeps in both the 10" over all length (full size) and in the shorter smaller 8" length. My real question would be do you need the sizes and sweeps in both lengths or is it good to just have the sizes and sweeps covered between the two handle sizes?

| 17 May 2020 20:22

Thanks very much.

| 17 May 2020 13:38

Mark - I wrote that book a while ago and am not sure now why (or in what context) I might have said that a gouge over 38mm is not useful. Probably I was thinking that the bigger the tool the bigger the wedge of metal you need to force into the wood and thus the more physical effort - bigger mallet etc. Hard on the arms! Not so much fun as you get older…
Anyway, a #7 x 38mm is one of my favourite sculpture tools; a good balance between effort and wood removal. So, yes, can recommend that.
But we all favour different tools, and for different work. My advice is to try the tools you have and then make a decision along the lines of: ' 'Yes, the right sweep but I wish it were wider'; or, 'Good width but I wish it were flatter' sort of thing. Then use the Sheffield list to work out what you need to buy. That way you'll settle to your own set of sculpture tools.

| 16 May 2020 21:07

I should add, that I read in your book “wood carving tools materials and equipment “ that a gouge over 38 mm is not useful.

(To other members, That book is excellent.)

| 16 May 2020 18:50


what sweep and width should I use for large amounts of wood removal, roughing in a 25 cm cube of wood, ie sculpting.

Would a 7 x 35 mm be useful for this purpose?

also, I have a 3 x 35 mm, it does a smooth job, but seems a bit slow. Also have a two inch # 3, but have not used it yet.


| 14 March 2017 20:37

Michael - 'Fluteroni', 'macaroni' and, yes, 'backeroni' tools were used pretty much exclusively by Victorian furniture makers; rather exotic V tools for running beads or flutes of particular profiles - sort of having 2 tools in one ad saving the on production work.
Although they are still made by some firms, I've never used them, or had the need of them.
Sorry, but that's about all I can say!

| 14 March 2017 16:51

Hello Mr Pye,
There are some specific gouges like fluteroni and macaroni tools with special form. Do you use this gouges ? In which situations are they efficient ?
Thank you.


| 07 March 2016 21:39

Mr. Pye,
Thank you for your quick response! I just wanted to clear the matter up before I get to sharpening my few new tools. (;
Thanks again,

| 07 March 2016 20:25

Brian - The #9 is sharpened like all the other true gouges in one continuous movement, corner to corner; not like the U-gouge because there are no flat chisel-like sides. It takes a little practice to get the rotation but it's not too difficult when you get the hang of it.

| 07 March 2016 02:52

Hello Mr. Pye,
I have a question about sharpening deep gouges; a number nine in this case. In your videos, I believe you only demonstrate sharpening gouges with flatter ones. So here is my question: is the outside bevel of a number nine sharpened like these (one curve across the stone), or like a u-shaped gouge - the sides and the curved part sharpened separately?
I apologize if my question is confusing; but I would much appreciate your input.
Thank you,
Liam Hedrick

| 16 April 2012 20:41

Thanks So Much Chris! That really cleared up the question. I often see them listed, like on eBay, as "carvers" gouges. Now I know the story. Thank goodness I never bought any.

| 12 April 2012 17:03

Sandy - The 'cannel' is the technical term for the 'channel' of any tool: such as a gouge, but even a V tool. In-cannel gouges are essentially curved, single-bevel bench chisels, with the bevel on the inside (in the cannel). They have long, thick, narrow blades and are specifically used by cabinetmakers for running precise flutes or paring an exact inside curve. In-cannel gouges are NOT carving tools and of no use to us carvers - I don't possess any and because of the length and thickness I wouldn't even consider converting one. So, not tools to even think about! You COULD call a normal carving gouge with an 'outside' bevel an 'out-cannel' gouge, but I've never actually heard the term: to carvers, a gouge is a gouge is a gouge...

| 07 April 2012 18:11

From: Sandy Maguire

Unless I have missed it somehow I have not heard you speak about the difference between "in-cannel" and "out-cannel" gouges and their specific uses. Could you comment a bit on the in-cannel gouge please? Thank you so much, Sandy

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