Record Power 12-Piece Carving Chisel Set - Tool Review
by Jeffrey Fleisher
New Market, VA
Click on any picture to see a larger version.
The 12-piece Record Power Carving Chisel Set is a nice collection of carving tools for both the beginner as well as the more experienced woodworker.
Record Power has a long and impressive history having started in business in 1909. Their website states that they were "...established in Sheffield England, the heart of the UK's steel industry, and stretching back over 100 years, we enjoy an enviable reputation for creating high quality tools through our many years of experience and unparalleled knowledge in manufacturing and design. Our policy of continual improvement and development has seen us remain at the forefront of tool manufacturing..."
I started my woodworking career many, many, many years ago as a woodcarver. I started out carving caricatures from the civil war since I live in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia.
You use both knives and carving chisels/gouges for these figures since they are about 12" tall. I also did some larger carvings like this bust of a female head.
This bust was carved from black walnut using chisels and gouges like the ones in this kit. Even if you do not consider yourself a 'wood carver' but a 'wood worker' you may still find yourself needing to do some carving when you're working on a piece of furniture. I will discuss this more a little later in this article.
This set is a complete system to get you started in carving if you have never tried to carve, and also works as a good complement to an existing set of chisels and gouges if you have done a little carving already. The 12 tools are made from high-quality spring alloy steel to maintain sharpness and minimize corrosion. The tools have solid, securely mounted beech handles so they are tough enough for hand and mallet carving. Each of the tools are about 9" overall length with 5" handles.
In addition to the 12 chisels, the set comes with an illustrated booklet and DVD which describes the basics of woodcarving from selecting wood, sharpening, how to hold and use the chisels and some simple projects to get you started.
The author, Mike Davies, is a woodcarver in the UK and I found him very engaging to listen to on the DVD.
The videos are very well done and his descriptions of tool sharpening and how you hold the chisel are excellent. I do think he has tried to over-simplify the description of chisel and gouge profiles. This works for his simple projects but I think it is a drawback in the long run. Carving gouges are defined by their size (measurement across the width of the blade) and sweep (the amount of curvature) of the blade. There is a 'standardized' description for this across most carving tools but Mr. Davies has just numbered his tools from 1 to 12.
You can see this size/sweep description by looking at some of the individual carving tools on the Highland Woodworking website. For example, a #5 sweep is a gentle curve and can come in gouge sizes of 1/4", 3/8", 1/2" 1", etc.
I normally recommend my students to buy tools as they are needed and not buy large tools sets, which contain tools that are unneeded. In this case, I believe that this Record Power set of chisels and gouges represents an excellent cross-section of the tools you need to get started in carving. It contains eight gouges with very reasonable sizes and sweeps, a mid-size V-tool, a deep U-shape veining tool, and an angled straight-edged tool. All of these will be used at one time or another. For example, the V-tool is used very often to define a line.
Remember how I said that even if you consider yourself 'only' a woodworker that you may eventually have to do some carving? This set of tools is just what you need to carve a ball and claw foot. For example, the #5 tool is the perfect size to carve the circumference of the ball in the ball and claw foot.
Besides the size and sweep issue I mentioned earlier my only other issue with the set of tools is that they need to be sharpened before use. Like all hand tools, carving tools need to be 'razor sharp' to make nice clean cuts. This is both an ease-of-use issue as well as a safety issue. The bevels of these tools still show the manufacturing machine marks and they need to be honed and stropped to a fine edge.
On the DVD, Mr. Davies discusses sharpening for the straight-edged and curved edged tools. He doesn't address the V-tool, which is a special case and not trivial to sharpen. However, there are plenty of places online where you can get guidance on sharpening a V-tool. He discusses buying 'flea market' tools and how to bring them back to life so when you're ready to expand your set of tools the DVD is an excellent reference.
All-in-all, this is an excellent set of tools to get you started in wood carving. The set covers the basic set of tools that you will need for most projects and you can fill in the gaps as you expand to more advanced projects. The few issues that I've identified are minor when compared to what you get in the set of tools for the price you're paying. Record Power appears to be a very reputable company with a long history of producing fine tools for the woodworker and now woodcarver.
As a bonus you can download a project on carving a 'Patera' from the Highland Woodworking website.
Carving is fun....give it a try!
CLICK HERE to find out more about the
Record Power 12-Piece Carving Chisel Set
Jeffrey Fleisher has been a woodworker for approximately 20 years and a professional woodworker for the past 6 years. He is the president of his local woodturning club, the Woodturners of the Virginias and past president of the Northern Virginia Carvers. You can see some of the furniture he has made at www.jeffswooddesigns.com. He can be reached by email at email@example.com.