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Making luthier gouges and carving tools.


HullGuitars
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Well I'm wicked pissed. I've spent all day driving around it two metal supply houses looking for 3/4" to 1" wide high carbon steel under .05 thick....

Dammit this is hard to find. I ended up buying some feeler gauge stock as well as some carbon steel band saw blades that are 1 inch wide. However they are BOTH hardened. And annealing the stuff is impossible. It is so thin and loses heat so quickly that it hardens itself in the air without any agitation. I have no problem slapping a piece of 1095 hi Carmen on the flat grinder to get exactly what I want,....but I really wanted to document a gouge making process that is not only easy for the common individual with a little tooling… But very inexpensive and only takes a few hours. Now I am contemplating making 1/2 inch wide gouges ranging in sweep from 1 to nine, and I think this will be all you need for violin making except maybe one or two bigger gouges for roughing.

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Band saw blades are not usually hardened except maybe the teeth or they would not stand the continuous flexing. Find somebody with a portable saw mill, such as a Wood Mizer, and talk him out of some old broken blades. They are usually 0.035". That's what I use for the wider ones with no problems annealing and forming. I hardened one and tried using it that way but promptly snapped the edge off so I tempered it. All with a propane torch.

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I have a metal supply house with three dumpsters full of bandsaw blades ranging from 1/16 of an inch wide to 4 inches wide. I picked out some scrap today and it seems to be high carbon steel. It's so hard I can't cut it with a hacksaw blade, but I'm going to possibly grind out some gouges from it and then harden and temper it properly. However this defeats my oprocess which is easy for the common interested luthier

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Nothing is just easy,....if it were everyone would already be doing it, The common luthier is probably best off buying  ....

  I have some old stock sheet ,Pittsburg  , from the 50's  ...6 inches X 12 X 3/16 water /oil hardening annealed flat ground.. I cut strips out with a cold chisel and snapped them off in a vice , worked great, then I forged my 'Pro set " from round to have bolsters and cool looks . If you want to pay for postage ...I will send a sheet over your way .

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Man that's great thanks for the offer! I'm trying to decide where to take this project now. The scrap bandsaw Blade I picked up seems to be bimetal high-speed steel teath and softer backing.... It's perfect at 1 inch wide,

I clamped seven blanks together and ground the teeth off flat. It seems to Harden well, so I'm super tempted to just make them out of these. Should be easy enough for the common person to order off-line by the foot very inexpensive.

The whole point of this project was for me to bang my head against the wall for a while so that new luthiers wouldn't have to. I was hoping to find something super economical and easy. I still think hacksaw blades ranging in sweep from 1 to 9 would get the job done.

You can clearly see in the last photo that the bandsaw blades have what looks like a welded seam. So I'm assuming they are bimetal which means the backing is probably mild steel. Probably wouldn't make good gouges. I'm getting pissed off

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Grant,

 

I appreciate what you are trying to do.  Can M2 steel that is already hardened be formed cold? 

 

Here is a source for O1 steel 1/16 inch thick. A 36 inch length is $10. I know some have heat treated it with a torch, but I think that method is tricky. But yes, it would be cheap.

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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

The M2 is just two narrow strips covering either side of the teeth area ,the rest is just un hardened carbon steel as far as i know . I have a couple of small planes with blades made from the steel after grinding off the teeth .I use these on pernambuco and they last for weeks between sharpening.I did have to harden the edge with a propane torch though. Does anyone know what composition this steel is ,they just say a soft steel backing.

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hull , on unknown steel ...I do a snap test, get hot to harden and see if it will snap under a hammer ... this will give you a good idea of how hard or soft the steel is , it will also give you a peek at the internal structure , you can make a mental note of the color at the quenching point to see what good heat is.

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When I ran a Wire EDM for my father's tool & die operation, I cut the punches from a heat-treated M2 bar. I recall that heat treatment of M2 consisted of immersing the hot bar in a salt brine, not oil as we customarily did with O1. My father specified M2 because it could withstand shock that punches experience. He felt that tungsten carbide punches tended to flake. Anyhow, having worked with heat-treated M2, I can say you are not going to be able to forge that stuff unless you alter the heat treatment somehow. I have no idea how you could do that.

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Well so far the bandsaw blade spark Tested, snap, and Rockwell tested for carbon steel. Seems to be 1095 or something similar. I'm going to go ahead and make The larger Gouges out of this because I feel it's easy enough for the common person to get a hold of. However I'm also going to make a set of 5 to 7 scroll gouges of carbon steel hacksaw blades. I'm just going to use sweep numbers 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, and then maybe bullnose chisel or something similar. I think that will be a good beginner set for scroll carving gouges, and be a lot easier for someone to figure out. I think after this tutorial I can outline the process and make it very easy and clear. Probably start a new thread for that so it's easy to be found

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The M2 is just two narrow strips covering either side of the teeth area ,the rest is just un hardened carbon steel as far as i know .

 

Not quite.

I tried cutting through one if these - tough stuff thoughout

 

L.S. STARRETT 40065 Redstripe HSS Power Hacksaw Blades
  • Fully hardened molybdenum high speed steel
  • Ideal blades for long wear life and top performance in sawing a wide range of materials
  • Withstands heavier feed pressures better than other hacksaw blades
  • For sawing a wide range of materials, including stainless and other tough-to-cut alloy steels
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Well I'm wicked pissed. I've spent all day driving around it two metal supply houses looking for 3/4" to 1" wide high carbon steel under .05 thick....

Dammit this is hard to find. I ended up buying some feeler gauge stock as well as some carbon steel band saw blades that are 1 inch wide. However they are BOTH hardened. And annealing the stuff is impossible. It is so thin and loses heat so quickly that it hardens itself in the air without any agitation. I have no problem slapping a piece of 1095 hi Carmen on the flat grinder to get exactly what I want,....but I really wanted to document a gouge making process that is not only easy for the common individual with a little tooling… But very inexpensive and only takes a few hours. Now I am contemplating making 1/2 inch wide gouges ranging in sweep from 1 to nine, and I think this will be all you need for violin making except maybe one or two bigger gouges for roughing.

 

Anneal it in salt.  I think you are not gravitating towards the appropriate steels for this sort of application.

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What type would you suggest? Keep in mind I'm trying to keep this easy for someone who doesn't have the ability to jump online and purchase high-grade flat stock.

 

No suggestions. One needs to buy proper stock , from the right suppliers and in the right quantities. People who "can't jump online" also can't afford the heat treatment - most decent steels have long soaking times at around 1000C , vacuum or inert atm and the temp within 20C.

 

Honestly, I'd move on. Cheaper to buy them already made. By FAR. Been through this with a factory behind me. :)

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I RESPECTFULLY do not agree. I have worked and studied metal for several years. I don't know everything about all metals.... but I do know an awful lot about a select few.

1095 and its cousins are very easy to harden and temper by sight. I have TWO Rockwell testing machines and have tempered hundreds of pieces by site and verified by testing and retesting.  I grew up a knife makers son and forged my first Damascus billet at 12, designed and completed my first stock removal knife at age 10, and always helped my dad with knife batches as a younger child. This by NO MEANS makes me an expert. However I have had two decades of working with high carbon steels exclusively.

I can harden and temper 100 blades in a row with nothing but a store bought map torch, and test 98% of them at the desired hardness plus or minus 2 points.

 

I have forged more mortise chisels and socket chisels than I can count... however I haven't worked with steel this thin.  It losses heat extremely fast, however I have finally annealed it successfully.

 

This thread was meant to show my experimentation... and arrive at a usable method.

I believe that I can present an avenue where new luthiers can make a set of 5 tools that will preform 90% of gouge work..... using only carbon hacksaw blades, a few common tools, and a bit of time. This wasn't meant to forge gouges which compete with factory tools. Although I do have the tooling and ability to do so.

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So far this is what I have. Four out of the five gouges formed out of carbon steel blades. I will shape the last one tomorrow, and the set will be complete. So far The process is to anneal the hacksaw blades, dress them flat and remove the teeth, I form them, sanded them by hand starting with 400 grit and then switching over to 100 grit. Followed by some metal polish. This bright chrome like finish will allow me to see the color change while heat treating very well. Once the final gouge is complete I will heat treat the set, and then repolish everything. I will then grind the edges and home. The wood stabilizing will be complete within the week and the handles will be installed. I'm taking the handle design out of Roubo's book of plates

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This thread was meant to show my experimentation... and arrive at a usable method.

I believe that I can present an avenue where new luthiers can make a set of 5 tools that will preform 90% of gouge work..... using only carbon hacksaw blades, a few common tools, and a bit of time. This wasn't meant to forge gouges which compete with factory tools. Although I do have the tooling and ability to do so.

 

As an exercise in making "tools" , it's all good and instructive. Beats me how new luthiers are going to save anything compared with buying proper gouges from Pfeil .  One needs some tooling made, some annealing, some heat treating, some forming, some driving around and A LOT of time. Better flip burgers for a weekend. FIVE gouges bought right are $150.

 

Again, nice project !

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So far this is what I have. Four out of the five gouges formed out of carbon steel blades. I will shape the last one tomorrow, and the set will be complete. So far The process is to anneal the hacksaw blades, dress them flat and remove the teeth, I form them, sanded them by hand starting with 400 grit and then switching over to 100 grit. Followed by some metal polish. This bright chrome like finish will allow me to see the color change while heat treating very well. Once the final gouge is complete I will heat treat the set, and then repolish everything. I will then grind the edges and home. The wood stabilizing will be complete within the week and the handles will be installed. I'm taking the handle design out of Roubo's book of plates

 

Super nice !!

 

1. How do you "dress them flat"

 

2. How much more than $150, time included do you have in that by now ? :)

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Well after some experimentation, I could follow my own instructions and make a complete set of gouges for around $30. This includes purchasing the carbon steel, handle material, and the impact sockets to make all the needed radii. I'm going to edit the first post in this thread and give a step-by-step.

The point of the project was to take a little time and money to figure out a way to make this work. It wasn't as easy as I thought it would be, but after everything said and done it worked out well. I was able to achieve a Rockwell of 62 on the two dollar hardware store carbon steel blades with nothing but a blowtorch. I was also able to make a complete set with nothing but a four dollar batch of extra long impact socket drivers.

I guess there's two way someone could go about this. They could purchase their material, and handles from the hardware store. Or they could order the ideal material and purchase a nice 1.5 inch Cocobolo dowel off-line and still only have about $45-$50 in the project. Once I figured it out I can now make a set of five gouges in about two hours. They're not beautiful but they will last many years. I've got a buddy that's built a few fiddles with subpar tooling, and I'm going to give these tools a nice new home

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I must chime in here about the HRC 62 hardness.  With my knives, I have found makers like them harder than that. Regarding gouges, I have some "Swiss Made" ones that don't stay sharp very long. I have some O1 gouges I made in the tempering bath right now. We shall see if the edges hold up better than the Swiss Made.


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These gouges are meant for finer work so they may be ok to go higher than 62. However that is where I shall start. I assume that it will be very satisfactory and I will be pleased with the amount of time they stay sharp. I have always used rc62 in all of the chisles, knives, and infill planes I made. It seams that hardness isn't that crucial to a point. Sharp fixes a lot of pesky and over discussed issues such as material, hardness, angle, secondary bevels and so on. Everyone has a different idea of what really sharp is. I have a very nice microscope that I have used to define what It takes to get something laser sharp.... (without all the crazy gizmos and hyped up "methods") I do the best I can and get it laser sharp..... then the tool takes over.

 

I had the time to heat treat and re-polish the tools today. I honed them and set them aside. I will be stabilizing the wood sometime this week, and then turning the handles. I'm ready to put them to work! Im also making a set of 3 finger planes out of thick copper tubing. Basically just copper ibex copies. I'll have about $20 and 8 hours in all three.... and will write a how to thread on the process for those who cant afford 3 new ibex planes I wish to make them themselves. I was surprised how easy it is to make them this way. I have casted many, as well as made many violin sized infill's.... but this is an easier way to make much needed tools.

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My scroll gouges are laminated Japanese tools and the cutting edges are extremely hard, to the point of being chippy. Of the set of 19 I bought from Dick in 1986, I use about 5 for scroll work. They take and hold a very keen edge. 

 

At school we were encouraged to hollow grind tools, scroll gouges included. In practice, a round bevel is what's needed for carving. It follows the shape of the cut, where a flat or hollow grind must chatter, tearing the edge off the tool. Properly ground and sharpened, I'd choose to have the tools as hard as possible.

 

Actually, because they're thick, I grind the tools fairly long and hollow, but then hone them quite round at the tip. 

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

Janito,

 

I made a short gouge 6 inches in total length. It is 19 mm wide. About a 7 sweep.  This handle is NOT the finished one. Just wanted to test the concept. I cold-formed the O1 gouge and gave it my standard heat treatment.  The great thing about the short gouge is that it enables great leverage and control from the wrist action. Wow.  Thanks for the idea. I intend to make a full set.

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  • 8 months later...

Janito,

 

I made a short gouge 6 inches in total length. It is 19 mm wide. About a 7 sweep.  This handle is NOT the finished one. Just wanted to test the concept. I cold-formed the O1 gouge and gave it my standard heat treatment.  The great thing about the short gouge is that it enables great leverage and control from the wrist action. Wow.  Thanks for the idea. I intend to make a full set.

I continue to work on the "shorty" scroll gouges.  Total length is 6 inches.  I would be interested in hearing from folks about whether you think the shorter gouges would be useful to you, or if not, please tell me why not.

 

Thanks

 

John

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