Notes From the 'Net
By Mike Bloomquist, with Doug Evans and Loren Woodard
Email Mike at m.bloomquistATverizonDOTnet or visit his web, Wooden Dreams Woodcarving


Sorry about the short hiatus Gang, but it's a new year... 2008 for those who keep track... and we're bbaaaaack.  So lay the knife/gouge/grinder/chainsaw down for a bit, warm up the coffee/tea/cocoa, and enjoy some "good stuff" from The Web.

Be Sharp!

Paul asks....

Hello, I have been monitoring list for months now. And you all are a wealth of great resources! I. Know this is a cliche question, but how. Do I approach the world of sharp tools? Basically I have been unsuccessful at it and haven't honed a good tool very well. Any pointers from you pros?

Paul. In jersey

Big Dog answers...

Hi Jersey Paul,

This question has been asked many times over the years. It is a frustrating one that still plagues some carvers who have been carving for many years.

The quickest and easiest solution to your problem, if you can come up with $25, is to get Ev Ellenwood's DVD called "Sharpening Simplified". It is, without a doubt, the most thorough method of finding sharpening success using non-motorized methods.

You can reach Ev direct at or give us a call and we'll be glad to help.

Did I do alright Uncle Ev??? :o)

Larry (BIG DOG) Yudis
[Yes this is an endorsement (actually two), but a they're good ones.  I've got Ev's DVD and I've bought carving "stuff" from The Woodcraft Shop.  They're both good bets! Read Matt Kelley's review of "Sharpening Simplified" in WOM Sept/Oct '04 - Mike]

And so you know it's not just me and Big Dog....

Another vote here for Ev's DVD. It's very helpful.


...And another from Steve.

Just finished watching Ev's tape what an eye opener ,

Charlie had another great suggestion...

Hey Paul,
Welcome to the list. In New Jersey there are several clubs that can give you a first hand look at the world of sharpening. I can stair you to them if you would like. I would just need to know where in Jersey you are.
You can send me a private e-mail if you would like.

Some wise advice from Bill Judt, The List owner...


Sharp tools are an acquired touch. Muscle memory is key... train your muscles to hold the tools correctly when sharpening, and the process becomes routine and speedy.

Many approaches work... but all employ the same principles. Carving tools are sharpened differently from carpenters' chisels.
You'll get lots of practical advise from subscribers. Ev Ellenwood ( has a great video demonstrating the principles of sharpening. Hope this helps,

Blessings and Peace,


W.F. Judt,  

A good outline to start with from Donna...

Lets see if I can do this- it is a hard one to describe, but I like a challenge.
1.) Knives, gouges, and all edged tools get dull because the edge doesn't come to a point anymore. Maybe it was rounded over in sharpening, worn down in use, or dinged along the sharp edge. You can see this by catching light off that edge. The light is being reflected off those dings and rounded/flattened areas.
2.) Your job is to replace the point on the edge by removing the metal that is in the way. You can do this by hand with stones or very fine sandpaper, or using a powered wheel- slow speed, of course. High speeds will heat up the metal, draw out the temper (hardening process), and leave a soft metal that will no longer hold an edge. If it gets too hot to touch it is a bad thing. Don't do that.
3.) Either way, you work both sides of the blade equally, against the abrasive at the same angle it had before it was rounded, a little at a time, to keep it even. Doesn't matter if it is in circles or back and forth, as long as you are consistent. After a while you will have the "V" point back and there will be no reflection off the point of the edge.
4.) Often you will get a wire edge when you use a powered set-up. This is a good indication that the metal is about as sharp as it can be. Hone off the wire edge and you have a very sharp blade.
5.) Keep the edge sharp by not letting it touch any other piece of metal, and not prying as you carve.
TTTTTTthat's all Ffffffolks

Donna Menke
Author: The Ultimate Band Saw Box Book

And finally some impractical advice from Woodbutcher, but he knew that <G>...

Good way to explain Donna
You forgot to mention
"to KEEP the knife sharp" DON"T USE IT !!! (lol)

Woodbutcher Jan

Personally I think routers are a noisy, high risk, high anxiety way to waste out the background of a relief carving, but you know what?  It works really, really well.  Also, what follows becomes a brand name thing again, but there was too much good, generic router advice in this thread to let it go.

Taking the plunge... router... route?

Jim writes....
It looks like it is getting to be time for me to bite the bullet and get a plunge router to help get a good start on thick relief carving panels. I have been shopping and have some ideas but would like some input from carvers who have experience with them. One of my questions relates to HP or amp rating needed. I am pretty sure that I would need at least a 2.25 HP, 12 amp but perhaps a 3.5 HP unit would be better. I am not expecting to do a whole lot of carving - maybe 2-3 per year so maybe the 3.5 HP would be more than needed. What do you think???
Also, what make/models have you found most to your liking?
Visibility while cutting seems important to me - which are the best in this regard?
Any input would be appreciated.
Alex Bisso

Peter leads off with good advice...

Alex you need to get the most powerful you can afford.
What happens if you use under powered is that the cutter does not rotate
smoothly which causes it to vibrate and this will cause it to slip out of
the chuck, next thing you know you are cutting deeper than you want. I know
from expeience when I bought my first router years ago and thought it just
the thing to hog out the back ground.
still have the piece in the shop as a reminder.


Woodcarvings and Wildlife Sculptures

A sale alert from Dan..


I bought a 3.5 HP Freud router from Woodcraft last week for that express purpose. IT is on sale right now for $129.99, and seems to be of very high quality.


Another good brand reccommendation from Dave...

I've had good luck with both of the Dewalt Plunge routers. I use the large one in my router table and the smaller one for most everything else. The small one also has a vacuum connection.

Dave & Hannah Kratzer

More first hand experience from Larry...

Hi Alex,

The new 280 Porter Cable is a very good tool. The Plunge base of the new 280 is soooo smooth I'm getting a new base to replace the old one. My 280 has seen tons of work over the years and has never failed me---except for the sticky plunge. Now that will be fixed.\

Larry O.

Bill Judt has a great point about power ratings...


HP[Horse Power] ratings are almost always misleading... driven by the customer perception that HP is the best way to measure power in routers/drills/ saws etc. Peak HP is different than operating HP.

I much prefer to look for the amp rating. Less than 15 AMPs indicates a router that is underpowered for heavy work. AMP rating doesn't vary and is a more reliable indicator of power.

My Makita router has 15 AMPs rating, and is well suited for heavy wood removal.

Blessings and Peace,


Richard (and he IS a Wizard) follows a brand endorsement with a great tip...

The Freud is a very good router. Which ever one you pick out, make a extra base for it. I have one router that I put a 8" x 20" piece of 1/2" plastic on it. It works real good spanning the edges and keeps the router for digging in.

Richard L. Rombold

Donna makes a good case for bigger not always being better...

You have gotten a lot of advice here about going bigger, so I'll go the other way. If you think you will want to do some regular woodworking with the router, and maybe put it into a router table, then by all means get a big boy. If you are buying it strictly for waste removal on relief carvings a couple of times a year, and that is all, then a smaller router would do fine, like the Porter Cable 690 series. They cost about the same, so that is not an issue. They will all remove the 1/4" of basswood/butternut at a time that you will need. The smaller router will be easier to handle because it weighs less. They all have about the same visibility. Best thing is to run a hose off the chip chute to a shop vac to keep the area clean. I'm not an expert on this subject- but that is my 2-cents.

Donna Menke

Byron seconds that motion...

I'm with Donna here. Bigger isn't necessarily better. A smaller router that easier to handle would be my choice for removing waste for relief carving. Speaking of smaller, I have the router attachment for my Dremel, it works quite well for many things that don't require dragging out the bigger router.


And now a little of what to use in the business end of this beast...

You have received many comments on routers and I would like to add something about Bits. My Bit of Choice for removing waste wood from a Carving is a 1/4" Down Spiral Bit. I love this Bit it removes wood quickly and is extremely smooth to use and the downward action maintains the drawing on the surface.

Mark Whillock
Whillock Woodcarving

And another...

Mark & All,

I use something similiar to outline my levels. Ray Kinman used to sell something he called a "wood carvers router bit". It is a spiral bit that that tapers to a point on the bottom. I found one on ebay last year, and it works real well. Ray has been sick for the past few years, and I'm not sure if he is still with us. If he is gone someone else may be able to produce a bit like it for wood carvers. I sawe him at a woodworking show years ago when I was first stating out in the shop, and he claimed he could guide the router with one hand with his bit. Does anyone else have information about this?

Dan Heine

Mark again...

We have not heard from Ray in quite a while. He did a great job promoting Woodcarving and Stubai tools to woodworkers around the country. I have a few of his bits and they work well but use the 1/4" more often. It "feels" about the same but removes wood faster.

Mark Whillock

A possible alternative from Joe Dillet...

Hi Dan,

I have no information about that tapered bit however I believe that it can be guided with one hand and get up tight to the line without the worry of chattering. A tapered bit is not prone to chatter like a straight fluted bits are. That's why it can be guided with one hand.

I use tapered carbide lettering bits, either a 60 or 45-degree taper to a point at the end. There are many manufactures that make them. The last bit I bought was from Eagle American 800-872-2511 V-groove, 45-degree, 5/8, 1/4-inch shank. .

I run it tight next to the line using my small RotoZip. Then I space trenching cut across grain every 2 inches. A large chisel splits out the excess wood in a hurry without much mess. If I'm working in a hard maple I make the trenching cuts about 1-inch apart so it still splits out easily.

Joe Dillett
The Carving Shop

And Bill comes in with a source for the original bit recommendation...

About router bits:

The spiral router bits sold by Lee Valley tools (Onsrud bits) are excellent for wood removal in relief carvings, up to 1-1/2" depth. Take a look at these bits at:,46168,46171

These are upward spiral bits, available in both Carbide and HSS. They are far and away superior to conventional single and double flute router bits.

Believe me, I have gone the full route with router bits for relief carving applications over the years, and these spiral bits are
EXCELLENT... so much so that I even sent a note to Lee Valley Tools stating the same.

BTW, for relief carving choose bits that are either 5/16" diameter or 3/8" diameter. Smaller bits fatigue and twist off, and don't have the speed at the cutting edge that the larger bits offer. Bits that are
larger than 3/8" are too wide to fit into the smaller spaces. For each of these sizes you will likely have to purchase... at nominal
cost... the appropriate collet for your router and the bit. These too are available at LVT.

Hope this helps,

Blessings and Peace,


OK, Gang, warm that cup up again and get back to work!  Keep them edges keen, the chips piled high... and hope you're getting lots of "corvin'" done this Winter. 

Keep on Carvin'
-Mike Bloomquist->

Please take some time and check out the wood carving lists on the Internet. There is a lot of knowledge free for the asking on all of the list serves.

For information regarding the various email lists for woodcarvers, visit The Carvers' Companion Resource Files, or click the links below.


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