I was speaking with another tool nut and good friend Barney the other night and we stumbled onto the subject of patternmakers chisels and particularly the paring gouges that seem to be a bit of a slow selling type hence the comparably low price these fetch compared with other types of chisels.
These tools were meant to be pushed by hand and never used with the aid of a mallet due to the way they are sharpened. These usually have a low pitched bevel, around 20 degrees with a secondary micro bevel so they would cut with ease so the user had better control. The length also contributes to the overall control aspect because the further the hand is away from the cutting edge the less hand motion plays a part in the finish. The chisels are typically 10″ long from the cutting edge to the ferule so this is generally a good guide when assessing how much use the chisel may have had.
Given how incredible the quality these old chisels hold we discussed why these seem strangely overlooked by woodworkers. Patternmakers often kept their tools in wonderful condition so why these aren’t in such high demand is quite strange. These long chisels were difficult to produce and usually required highly skilled smiths to make them as they had a tendency to warp during the manufacturing process. This probably explains why they aren’t produced today.
Patternmakers often faced many challenges in their work, the the objects they made were often carved to make the different sized patterns used for the castings they created for the foundries. Patternmakers rarely dealt with square simple surfaces and had to be precise in the modelling and had to take into account contraction which was a real skill.
As we discussed this we wondered whether wood carvers had ever considered what patternmakers did and maybe this was the reason they didn’t associate the long paring gouges with carving wood.
So are wood carvers missing a great opportunity? I guess that really depends on the size of their wood carvings they create and whether a longer gouge would assist in their creations. Worthy of consideration that’s for sure, before they become popular and find their true worth.