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Discussion Starter #1
Received my set today. Not sure I'm impressed. They have good reviews, some people even comparing them positively to brands like Pfeil, etc. $90 for the set of 12. I knew they'd need fettling to get going, which I don't mind. This is my first set of carving chisels, so the rules may be different.

The big thing bothering me here is how rough the back sides (opposite the bevels) is. Very rough ground (see picture). As with other tools, I assumed it is necessary for the back side to be smooth to obtain a good cutting edge.

Am I incorrect?

Also, how would I go about smoothing the back side (inside curve) of a curved gouge?
 

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Hi Awesome,

Congratulations on finding a great set of tools on your first try. All too often beginners will buy their first set and end up with some really terrible tools. I actually have several sets of the Schaaf tools and love them. It is a relatively simple matter to smooth the edge area of the internal surface with curved edge slip stones and/or abrasive paper on a rounded stick. Many carvers advocate putting a small shallow internal bevel at the edge anyway. The whole internal surface need not be polished, just near the edge. I have restored many an old carving tool along with commissioning many new ones (over 250 total) and they all require some shaping and sharpening to perform their best. I have bought several other brands for much higher dollars and still had to work on them to get them ready for work. It is par for the course. Just watch a few videos on the subject, don't go crazy with the grinder, and have some fun with it. Don't forget to strop or buff them well to get that super sharp edge. After that it is only a matter stropping to keep that perfect edge. Schaaf does carry some professionally sharpened tools on their web page but I have found that you are the best judge of what works best for you, a great way to get to know your tools, and practice your sharpening skills. Have fun.
 

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Do not over heat the cutting edge, if it changes color it is shot. When sharpening with an electrical sharpener I will hold my finger really close to the cutting edge I am sharpening, if it gets too hot to hold my finger on it, I pull the tool away and let it cool.
 

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Hi Awesome,

Congratulations on finding a great set of tools on your first try. All too often beginners will buy their first set and end up with some really terrible tools. I actually have several sets of the Schaaf tools and love them. It is a relatively simple matter to smooth the edge area of the internal surface with curved edge slip stones and/or abrasive paper on a rounded stick. Many carvers advocate putting a small shallow internal bevel at the edge anyway. The whole internal surface need not be polished, just near the edge. I have restored many an old carving tool along with commissioning many new ones (over 250 total) and they all require some shaping and sharpening to perform their best. I have bought several other brands for much higher dollars and still had to work on them to get them ready for work. It is par for the course. Just watch a few videos on the subject, don't go crazy with the grinder, and have some fun with it. Don't forget to strop or buff them well to get that super sharp edge. After that it is only a matter stropping to keep that perfect edge. Schaaf does carry some professionally sharpened tools on their web page but I have found that you are the best judge of what works best for you, a great way to get to know your tools, and practice your sharpening skills. Have fun.
This assuages my fears a bit. Thank you. I will research proper stones for sharpening inside curves.

As with all my other hand tools, I much prefer to hand sharpen. My intention with all of my fine woodworking is to go without power, and that includes tool maintenance; so no grinders. I'm sure it'll take hours on each, but I'll just fettle them as I get to using them.
 

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Hey again,
I found this YouTube video that will help you out. Having a professional carver like Alexander explain these tools and how to get them ready to work says a lot more than I ever could, Have fun.

]
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Continuation: As I looked down the handles to the metal, I found that 3 of the 12 in my package were inserted crooked, left/right, to an uncomfortable degree. I didn't worry about the ones that were crooked up/down. I contacted the company with pictures and sizes and they sent me replacements for all 3. Great customer service!

As so many new hobbies go, I ended up buying a DMT 8000 grit sharpening stone, a pack of slipstones and a Flexcut slipstrop that supports a bunch of shapes. Of course it all cost more than the chisels themselves.

For my first tool, I sharpened what is probably the hardest chisel to sharpen in the pack, a large curved U gouge (7L 20mm). I like a challenge. ;) I found it difficult to verify if the factory bevel is around 22.5deg, due to the fact the chisel is curved. I didn't concern myself much with the degrees, and just honed to the default bevel, and made sure that the edge is paper-cutting sharp on 1200 grit. (I don't have my 8000 stone yet, as I bought it while visiting family, and couldn't bring it back with me for now.)

Got it cutting through poplar without much difficulty, seeing as I have no experience relief carving. I know some of you are about to say "poplar isn't the best wood for carving; you should use basswood", but as I intend to take on carving as decorative addition to my furniture making, I need to learn to use the tools in woods that I will build with. That means poplar, oak, walnut, cherry, etc.

The steel feels good, and I didn't find any rolling or crumbling of the cutting edge in my short stint trying it out.
 

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These tools are not suitable for all carvers. They aren't for knife carvers or for carvers who use palm chisels exclusively but I have all types of carving tools and find that I need full sized traditional carving style tools for much of my work. It might be that my opinion is influenced by the fact that I have had a lot of experience restoring antique carving tools, and lots of old woodworking tools in general, but I found my Schaaf tools to be excellent, even compared to other new "high-end" brands (Swiss, German, English, Austrian, American, even Spanish) in my set. I would recommend that you worry less about any specific angle and adjust the shape based on what is working best for you in your chosen species of wood. Having said that, it doesn't hurt to use cheaper woods for practice and study instead of burning through expensive stock. Poplar is not a highly desirable carving wood but can be bought at a reasonable price (at least in my area). The really good news is that once you find the shapes that work best for you then you should be able to maintain the tools by stropping alone for the most part.

Sharpening (and shaping) is one of the most challenging aspects of the craft for beginners and each major type/shape has it's own challenges. I won't attempt to give instruction here but I do recommend that anyone, even experienced woodworkers, reference the many videos available to learn the techniques. I personally have the most issues with tiny deep gouges, spoon gouges, and had a major breakthrough when I learned to properly shape the keel of parting tools years ago. Properly sharpened tools are a true joy to use.

The steel in my Schaaf tools hold up extremely well even at the lower angles I normally put on my tools and while I have never had to contact the company with negative issues, they have been very responsive to any questions I have contacted them with. I got on their mailing list and they have indicated that they will be adding to their tool line/profiles soon. They seem to be passionate about offering quality tools instead of simply making sales. For about one quarter of the price of their obvious competitor you can get a really good set of traditional style full sized tools. A lot of folks are against buying sets but this particular set seems to consist of very useful profiles of high quality tools, unlike a lot of the other inexpensive sets on the market. If you find that you need additional profiles you can always order those from another manufacturer if need be until the folks at Schaaf offer more. There may be some slightly "prettier" tools in the market at a much higher cost, but the carvings won't care.

Be sure and post some phots of your furniture for us to enjoy and have fun.
 

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I just saw that the folks at Schaaf Tools have added a seven piece set and a four piece fishtail set on Amazon. All of the profiles/styles listed are different than what they have in their original set. They look similar to their original set and come with tool rolls. I checked some prices against some of the "high-end" open stock tools and the four piece fishtail set costs about the same as a single "high-end" tool. Based on how happy I have been with the original twelve piece set I have ordered one of each set. I will post as soon as I get the sets and have the opportunity to try them out. Have fun.
 

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I got the two new sets from Schaaf through Amazon and can honestly say that they are great tools. The tools are well formed, sharpened up well and really hold a good edge. The seven piece set includes some flatter profiles which are welcome additions to the twelve piece set and along with the fishtail set, really rounds out the original set for general carving. Add to that the great tool rolls and a fantastic price compared to similar tools and they definitely have some winners on their hands. I also see that the company is offering a 10% discount code for folks who go to their website and will sign up for updates. Have fun.
 
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