I recently bought a set of the three Warren Cutlery V tools. For a list price of $5.50 each, or $16 for the set, how could I go wrong? I'm a sucker for carving tools, and I'm not alone. The tools come in 1.5 mm, 3 mm and 4.5 mm sizes as measured across the wings or top opening of the V tool. Each one is a delicate tool, made in Japan, with a nice straight handle that is slightly sculpted to fit several different grips.
First the cutting edge: the two sides of the tool come together at a sharp V, not a slightly rounded bottom, but a definite sharp V that looked sharp under a magnifying glass. Most V tools have a noticeably rounded bottom where the tool is extremely difficult to get a sharp edge. (And has caused me countless hours of grief trying to get properly sharp in my early carving experience) This sharp V is created by joining two pieces of flat metal into the V shape, and welding them together at a 60 degree angle. Most V tools are ground from a single piece of steel and it is the grinding process that cannot produce a perfect angle but instead leaves a slightly rounded bottom to the grinding process.
The metal is the same bi-metal process used in the best Japanese chisels. The process is expensive but produces an edge that is excellent. They are joined at 60 degrees to each other, and the bevel ground smoothly back to form a sharp edge. The wings, or each edge that rises up from the deepest part of the V is ground forward of the V itself. This forward sweep of the cutting edge relieves the wood in the top part of the cut while the deeper wood is relieved and has some place to move to as the chisel sweeps through the wood. There is some controversy among carvers as to having these chisels sweep forward like these, or backwards, or vertically where the cut is perpendicular to the bottom of the groove. Personally, having used chisels sharpened all three ways, I think this is my preference as the wood has a chance to be lifted without extra effort from the cut and therefore you need less effort when using fine detail chisels like this.
They came to me razor sharp from the dealer but they strop well on a leather charged with yellowstone and I'm certain they will keep a fine edge.
As I noted, the handles have a slight sculpting. I found several grips that worked with these tools and all produced great results. First was my usual "ham-fisted" approach: handle straight into the palm of my hand and pushing with my forearm muscles. This grip takes you deep and fast and not well controlled but it gets wood out in a hurry! Second is holding the tool like a pencil, cutting on a diagonal stroke toward my opposite hand. This is a very light, controlled cut that produced the 4 cuts in the picture included with this article. The third grip, if you can call it that, is holding it mostly between my thumb and first and second finger, carving in little sweeps like I am trying to sketch with the chisel. This is an excellent grip for fine detail, and similar to the pencil grip mentioned before. BTW, in the picture, the smallest chisel made the two finer cuts while the others each made one cut for my demonstration.
These tools are a great value in my opinion! I brought out my 45 yr old Millers Falls V tool, with it's sweptback wings and 4 mm size, sharpened it up a bit and did some comparison tests......I still can cut a nice groove with it but clearly the Warren set offers me more choices of grips, better cut control, and a lighter, less fatiguing hand hold. This is a set that has become a fast favorite in my collection of tools that graces my benchtop. I highly recommend them!