Finally, it’s time for the second part of the chisel types article.
These will be four sub-sections in which I will try to include important information for the sculptor. I wanted to write all the important information, but this can not be included in one article because always with time will appear some new things worth adding 😀
As in the first article about chisels, I will focus here only on carving chisels (designed for sculptors). However, it should be remembered, that there is a huge amount of other tools available that can speed up the tedious (sometimes) sculpturing process. Of course, for the persistent ones – you can limit yourself only to chisels 🙂 The most important thing is that sculpting is not burdensome, only pleasant.
When we think that our sculpture is finished, we also do not have to limit ourselves to the texture of the chisel trace. An interesting alternative are different types of abrasive papers thanks to which we can completely remove the chisel trail leaving a smooth surface, which works well, for example when finishing the face, skin or surface that have a neutral background to the carved part with the texture. There is also a wide selection of wood rasps with different gradation, stamps, knives and nails.
I think that only our imagination is the limit. But returning to the point.
1. Straight and straight/diagonal chisels.
Straight chisels as the name suggests have a straight shaped cutting edge. I use them most often for carving straight and perpendicular surfaces. It must be remembered that it is very easy to accidentally get off the edges of the blade too deeply, trying to level the flat surface. l suggest to constantly control the size of the chisel in relation to the workpiece.
This kind of chisel is often used as the first chisel when digging into the material (most often in the case of a surface perpendicular to the wood) when the design was applied to wood. Thanks to it, I can safely work the whole material. It must be remembered, however, that if we want the surfaces between one element and the other smoothly pass between each other and the boundary is not clear, I recommend using a chisel with a strongly curved profile. Straight chisel will always be used when we have to create surfaces, edges and flat lines.
I noticed that with prolonged use of a straight chisel, because I am a right-handed – cutting edge starts to curl one way. Of course, if it does not bother you then there is no problem, because as you know, the main feature of a tool is utility. I am talking about this, because despite everything, it is worth paying attention to it and regularly adjusting the curvature when sharpening.
A flat chisel with a diagonal blade is very useful. It allows us to cut wood at an angle. Good to be carried out with one long cut, this is practiced, for example, in lettering, but also for any surface that requires a stable straight cut. I have this type of chisel in several sizes. They also worked great for sculpting convex and spherical surfaces below the level of the remaining bas-relief, eg. eyes, nails, elements of plants. Also when I cut wood to create elements in space (it can be seen in my bas-reliefs in the elements of plant flagellum). Basically a chisel with this type of blade will be useful everywhere where a simple chisel is not possible to reach and we need a flat surface that remains further.
Both types of blades should be included in each basic set of chisels. Of course, you have to choose the size of the blade depending on what you plan to sculpt.
2. Chisels with slightly curved profile U and „strong” U shape.
This type of blade can be divided into slightly curved U and strongly bent U. And just like in the work with each tool, we have to learn ourselves in which situations we use it best.
I usually reach for the chisel with this type of blade when I choose a large part of the material but I want the edges between the part chosen and the rest are smooth and almost not noticeable. In fact, it rarely occurs in the natural surface (elements of flora and fauna and characters) is completely flat. When we look closely, we always find three dimensions. Even if you look at the human frame from a distance, it seems that it has only two planes, but in fact the closer we come, the more we will see.
Returning to the chisel itself. Slight U, as well as flat chisel will help us work on large, flat surfaces. However, it does not leave marks on the side edges as often because the cutting edge goes out from the sides of the blade. This type of chisel will leave a trace depending on the level of bending. While this is useful when we consciously build a texture, we can spoil the intended effect when we forget about it, or we do not properly polish the wood and after applying the stain on our work and light rubbing on the surface, an unwanted figure appears.
However, this type of blade will greatly help us build a variety of textures, for example fur, hair, vegetation, landscapes. It is easier for it to take out the material, we work with angles more convenient for us. It is more difficult to sharpen such a blade because it is easier for the less experienced sculptor to lose the microphase on the edge. The worst thing is, as for me, in the case of a small, strong curved U because the chisel itself is not only bent, it is also thick and the surface of the phase itself is also shorter than in the case of other types of blades.
3. V shape chisel.
I have not been convinced for this type of blade for a long time. However, with time I also found use for it. First and foremost, it works great when creating a facture. It leaves a sharp trace, not soft as in the case of the U-edge, thanks to which the light collapses on its edges in a distinct manner. When I worked two flat surfaces perpendicular to each other, the chisel also made my work easier, two birds with one stone. Despite everything, it remains the chisel that is the least used by me. However, it does not take anything away from it, but I have not yet found such a large usefulness as in the case of straight and curved chisels.
Sharpening is also not the easiest because we have two outer flat surfaces, two internal ones and additionally a guide phase outside in the middle – definitely for a pro 😀
4. Chisels with a bent blade.
A good chisel to be used in all places where the complicated construction of our sculpture does not allow us to get to and work with a chisel with a straight edge, eg when the elements overlap. Similarly as I wrote earlier, depending on the type of blade, we will find application.
Simply, thanks to the bent part of the chisel, It feels better in our hand and it works pretty well.
There is a number of more or less – known chisel profiles. I always dreamed of chisel with the so-called dog leg profile 😀 I suppose that it will be great for cutting the surface vertically, but still perpendicular. There are people who commission a chisel type typically for themselves. However, it is simply expensive. It is more common for sculptors to use the handle tuning under their own preferences. Chisels depending on the manufacturer will differ from each other, so it is important to try to work with them whenever possible. We will be able to adjust – based on experience – what works best for us.
Regarding sculpting for the beginners. We have a large number of starter sets on the market that contain both basic chisels and wood for carving. If you are not a pupil of the art school, then I recommend starting wih something like that at home. However, you must be aware that the cheaper tools you choose – the easier you will get discouraged. There is nothing worse than a low-quality chisel. I’m talking about everything here, weak steel will be quickly blunt and it will be hard to sharpen, the hand working with a plastic handle is quickly sweating and the work itself brings less satisfaction.
When buying a micro chisel, I would nevertheless recommend choosing options with a shorter handle and shorter working part, unless you plan to sculpt deeply in the wood. Recently I made this mistake. I bought a 0.5mm chisel with a long handle. At work for a short time, a skilled hand can manage, however, if you plan a very small bas-relief or how it was for me – to sculpt a pipe, long blade on the extra-ordinary handles just did not work. Hand is very tired and sculpting tiny details I had to catch the working part – metal part of a chisel that is not sharpened.
As with everything, remember that practice makes perfect and no article or advice can replace you hours of hard and conscious work with chisels and wood. I recommend sitting down and carving with an open mind. Everyday we can learn and create something new. 🙂