As I was working on the carving for my tool chest lid, I was struck by how few chisels I actually use and how much I get from them. I’ve seen photos of carvers who have vast amounts of chisels in their arsenal, and I am always a little jealous of those people. However, at $35 – $50 a pop for mid range chisels, it’s hard to justify that kind of expenditure for my hobby.
I originally started with six chisels, and have added a few here and there. My initial purchase decisions were based on Peter Follansbee’s recommendations, and this gave me a very solid and flexible starting set. To this initial set, I’ve added a couple of straight chisels that I got in a lot of tools I picked up somewhere. They were straight sided and with decent steel so I reground them to be flat carving chisels. I usually only use them for outlining the outside of a pattern, so these aren’t must haves. In fact, I could probably get the same out of my bench chisels.
I also added a small flattish gouge for relieving the background, the 5/8 does a great job of getting into tighter spaces than the 12′s do for some of the patterns. I also added couple of different curved gouges to fill in some of the gaps, but they are not used as much as my core set.
I’ve also upgraded my V tool from the Pfeil to a Auriou version from the Chris Pye set that Lie Nielsen is selling now. The V tool is very important, and the Auriou is very comfortable to hold and use. If you want to get into it you can read a lot of good stuff from Chris Pye and Mary May on the V tool, it’s worth spending the time to understand this tool. It’s also worth the time to practice A LOT with this tool to build the muscle memory and comfort level, something I’m still working on.
In the style of carving I do, you can get a lot of mileage out of a few curved gouges and it’s really hard to go wrong with Peter’s original suggestion and build from there. My next purchases will probably something in the 7/12 range to give me a smaller gouge for outlining.