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Making luthier gouges and carving tools.


HullGuitars
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Some time ago I started a thread about gouge making. (mostly just discussion about the jig/swage block that makes it possible. However this thread discusses the gouges needed for violin making, what works best for me, and how I made them.  If you want a step-by-step I will be posting it next week when the gouges are complete, and you can scroll to the bottom of this first post.

I found out very quick that for most carving needs I prefer short palm chisels/gouges. It is so difficult for me to carve a scroll with a standard tool which can easily be 6 to 9 inches long...& the weight is an issue as well. I sometimes hold it like a pencil just so I can get closer to the work. Also, most gouges I have seen (no matter how good the quality), have needed to be thinned down on the belt sander to be suitable for violin making. Michael Darnton and several other prominent makers also discuss the thickness issue. So these are the problems I'm looking to address. I use around 10 gouges/chisels to make a violin start to finish. These tools and their measurements came straight off Mr. Darntons bench. They are the exact tool profiles he uses (and has published several times) About half of my 10 final kit tools are palm sized. These are obviously used for scrollwork mostly, but have many other uses in making, such as the top channel.

I wanted to make sure the blades would not flex under Normal pressure, but be thin enough so that they were lightweight, and easy to use. So far I have experimented with .025" .0625" And .093" material. It has all been 1095 high carbon steel which I anneal. The hacksaw blades (.025) worked out really well, and I am amazed at how well they stand up to use and pressure.  Once the curvature and sweep is shaped into them, their strength increases 10X.  I may incorporate some of this thinner material into my final working set. If somebody is in need of scroll carving tools I would definitely recommend using hacksaw blades if you are on a low budget and don't want to order material. And even if you wanted to make all of your Gouges/tools you can order material from Jantz Knife Supply and get it for less 3-5$ Per foot. This is extremely cheap considering you can get 3 to 4 tools out of a foot and only need around 10 tools. Then figure in the handle material ($20) and you have a complete set for under $50.


So far, I'm really liking the hacksaw blade gouges that I made today, and have more material on order that will be here by the end of the week. While I wait  Im going Get my handle material and prepare that. At first I was going to order a $15 1 1/4 inch Cocobolo dowel rod. And the fact that it's already round is a big plus.

There are several companies that offer 1.25" dowels in every exotic or domestic wood known to man.

This would be the perfect handle material for someone wanting to have a great looking/functioning handle, but not have to cut and mill round stock... then turn in on the lathe. You can literally just buy the nice dowels, cut to length, then shape them with chisels, rasps, and sandpaper.

 

 While I was fishing today I turned my attention to a huge log next to the dock where I fish. I know it's been laying there at least 3 to 5 years. It's approximately 60 to 80 feet long, and is a sycamore I believe. Half of it is in the water but the other half is really good looking. I took some test cuts out of the stump area with my machete and couldn't believe my eyes. The lumber is absolutely beautiful and it has sentimental value. This is where I bring my family to fish. This is the river I grew up fishing with my grandfather dad and uncle. This is where all of my memories and a lot of my inspiration comes from. This place is home. it would be extremely special to me to use this wood. So I took a small block back to my shop to mill it down. The wood is very lightweight and partially rotted so I will stabilize it with resin in a vacuum/pressure pot. This transforms the wood into a concrete substance impervious to damage whatsoever. Once the handles are stabilized and shaped, and material arrives… I will make a final decision on material thickness. Once I decide the material, I will form of my tools, shape, heat treat, tumble for better surface finish, and installing handles. Then it's time to put them to work.
You can see in the photo... The dock I fish on. The log runs alongside the rite side. I'll get more pics of the tree when I harvest more handles this week.
 

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Grant,

 

I am very interested in your gouges, since I am planning to make my own. I have the lower part of the molds. I find it very interesting that you can use thin steel. I use O-1.  I think Mike Molnar uses thin tools.  janito advised me to make short ones like you are describing. Please tell me more.

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I'll be comparing your process to mine!   Having used some ok but not great gouges for a while I knew what I wanted in a set of scroll gouges and made my own from O1.  They slot into the handle tight enough to stay, loose enough to change. I often use them without the handle. I have access to a medical kiln so was able to be quite particular with the heat treatment.    They take and hold an edge as well as my nice old Berg bevel edge chisels.

 

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Well some great-looking tools guys! Mike I'm curious how you formed the radius in your tools? What thickness material did you choose?

On the subject of wood stabilization, I posted a pretty lengthy thread about it some months ago in regards to using it for violin bow and fingerboard material. Basically I use a very high-tech two part resin that is virtually indestructible once infused with the woodgrain. I put it in a vacuum/pressure pot and work the process described in the other thread. It is heat cured and adds an amazing strength to wood, or anything else you would like to use it for. My father and I developed it for the use in the knife industry, as he supplies a lot of the knife handles for half a dozen of the biggest knife companies in the world. He mostly make synthetic acrylics, pearls, and ivories but once wood stabilization became a staple we had to figure out how to do that quick

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Hi Grant,

 

   I used 3/32" flat bar O1 tool steel. Heated in a little tin can propane driven forge and formed with a peening hammer on and over the various shapes and radii available on my old engineers vice. Pretty much 'freehand' if that word can be used.   It took a few trial pieces to work out my technique but really wasn't very hard from there on.

  I followed this (http://www.cashenblades.com/steel/o1.html) exactly for heat treatment with the additional step that before polishing I dressed off 0.1mm or so from the inside curve to remove the decarburized material due to not having a controlled atmosphere during heating.

 

 

  Sorry,  I don't mean to jump on your thread, just join it.   : )

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I am very glad you joined it! I had not even considered removable handles. I really like a handle on all my tools because I have ocd that makes it hard for me to even function! HOWEVER.... just because I want handles on all the tools.... I can see it would be VERY beneficial to me if I can make them easily removable. So that when I hold the tools as a pencil... I don't struggle with the off balanced weight of the handle. GREAT IDEA!

Im to obsessive when it comes to "free handing" anything to do with hardware. That makes me a good machinist... but poor time manager. So hats off to guys like you who can free hand a gouge radius. I spent two weeks designing and machining several swage blocks to match the radii perfect. Check out that thread if you haven't'

 

TO answer the heat treating question... I built a nice computer controller for my fiber furnace... so heat treating is a snap. I also have two different Rockwell testers... so making sure my results are perfect is pretty easy. 1095 is an amazing steel.... and just because O1, A2, and all that PM stuff is NEW or COOL doesn't mean they are at all better. After studying metallurgy for two years I decided to stick with 1095 for everything EVER. The only change I ever make is to coat the tools in carbide. That's fun and "COOL"

 

I am documenting this process so that others can hopefully make all their tools with just a few $ bills (or none at all).

I am traveling tomorrow to pick up Starrett hack saw blades and several different reciprocating saw blades. All high carbon (1095). This will allow me to experiment with material thicknesses ranging from .02 to .06. and also gives the option for those on a budget to find cheap easy access material IN ALL THICKNES. (instead of ordering it.) You can get a 5 pack of assorted reciprocating saw blades for like $3 at Lowes. Im opting for the $12 Starret's instead.... but only because my grandfather was one of the biggest sellers of starrett tools EVER and using Starrett reminds me of him.  WOW run on sentences are a bitch. suck it high school grammar teacher.

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Haha,   I'm probably just as obsessive about not using jigs and guides etc etc...    You may cry to know that I have access to a complete set of jeweller's swage blocks in incremental sizes from a tiny little radius to several inches radius and...   I didn't use them!

 

  My blades stay in the handles by being very slightly bent in the flat dimension for the part that is inserted. It works very well.

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1095 is wonderful stuff , and so are the others , a lot of the big trick is being familiar with the materials language , knowing how a material works , better to know one language well . I went through quite a learning curve when I made mine from o1 round stock ....forge hot! ... do several draw downs . .....

  I am curious about the carbide application , never heard of it , would you mind explaining the process? is it like a case hard?

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This is a very efficient blade and handle design for scroll work.

I see you reshaped the balde. Is it bevel up, or bevel down? I can't quite tell from the photo.

 

I use mine just the way it came from the factory; It's one of my favorite scroll gouges.

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Carbide plating or carbidizing is basically a fancy word for electroplating heavy amounts of carbide on to the tip of a tool. Is used in the night industry so that locking points of the knife do not stick and are smoother when in motion. I have a homemade carbonizing set up as well as one that you can buy. They both work equally well. It is pretty easy to coat the tip of your cutting-edge in carbide..... After it is been honed.....and then hone it on very very fine Diamond paste. I usually start with something around 10,000 grit diamond paste and work up to around 40,000 in two or three steps. this keeps my cutting edges sharper a lot longer, and even when it wears off the microscopic tip of the cutting edge… It supports that fine but and keeps it ther longer. I've experimented with this for a few years, and have observed some of my findings under high-power magnification.

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I see you reshaped the balde. Is it bevel up, or bevel down? I can't quite tell from the photo.

 

I had problems with glare and reflections.  It's out-canneled (you see the back and the bevel).

 

A short blade and a stubby handle work well for scrolls. I need to convert these super Japanese gouges to short heavier handles - but never get around to do them.

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Got a few more pieces of wood that I will hopefully be able to dry out and stabilize. Here's my preliminary drying method. I just use a regular fan, and some containers to captur and recirculate the air where I want it. I decreased them from an average of 85 grams per piece to around 20g in 48 hours. I will bake them for a few hours and then put them back At the fan for a few more days. Then it's time to stabilize them. I may even try to rough shape and them now on the (before stabilizing) because Once they are stabilized it's like working concrete

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Ran into a little bit of an issue. I have a few gouges that are wider than .5" and common hacksaw blades only go up to that size. Therefore I've been looking for another easy source of carbon steel flat stock in the .025 to .050 range. Pretty hard to find unless you want to purchase 200 feet. Any ideas? I tried reciprocating saw blades but carbon steel ones are impossible to find these days. I also purchased a very cheap handsaw from the local hardware store that is carbon steel. However it is the air hardening and needs to be cooled over the period of 24 hours to reach a softness that is workable..... Even though I have a furnace I'm not taking the time to do that that's ridiculous. Also this is kind of about finding a cheap and easy way for the common person to make their own gouges with as little tools as possible, using very cheap and commonly found materials.

I did however successfully make three of the gouges this evening. I annealed them, cut them to length, marked and filed them to the proper widths, and stropped them on some sandpaper (while stuck to a Percision flat block) so that they have a very good surface finish and are perfectly flat.

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industrial hack saw blades for recip hack saws might be what you are looking for they are about 2" to 3" wide, I have gotten mine in junk stores. something like this

 

http://www.globalindustrial.com/p/metalworking-tools/metalworking-saw-blades/hacksaw-blades/redstripe-hss-power-hacksaw-blades-40065?infoParam.campaignId=T9F&gclid=CjwKEAjwo5OpBRDU64qO07OXq00SJADn5hYnj1MskWyfVi1oprjAZjgSll9Umm-NV5uXAWoXxgNZ2BoC0T7w_wcB

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Hi SaintJohn - Starret Red Stripe blades are M2 steel. It has a very narrow window for heat treatment. Even though I have a furnace with a PDI controller I found it difficult to forge.

 

Easiest is just to grind it slowly as is - takes a beautiful edge.

 

cheers edi

thanks edoi/.  yes I don't heat treat them , as you say , I cut with a plasma cutter to rough out then grind slow with plenty of water coolin, still my favorite scraper and thumb plane tools.   

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