Gardening Tips and Tricks : Wood Carving – Bevels and Cutting Angles
Most wood carving tools are cutting tools. Every cutting tool has at least one bevel. This is the sloping surface coming off the edge. But it’s more than jut a sloping surface. It’s actually a cutting angle. So the bevel supports a specific cutting angle that determines how the tool can be used. Experienced carvers know about bevels and how they affect cutting efficiency.
If you’re just starting out as a wood carver, and you’re going to purchase carving tools for the first time, here are some things you should know.
Some carving tools leave the manufacturer without a bevel. This means that you’ll have to be the one to make the cutting angle, which determines the shape of the bevel. Many experienced wood carvers prefer new tools this way because they want to put the cutting angles on themselves. They don’t want to have to remake an edge.
Non-beveled edges are only recommended for those wood carvers who already know how to sharpen knives or similar types of cutting tools. Beveled edges are essentially wedges and every metal wedge is, in effect, a knife. When you know how to sharpen knives, you can make the cutting angle (AKA the sharpening angle) just the way you want it. You control the bevel exactly.
It’s pretty easy to find new carving tools with pre-set bevels already ground in by the manufacturer. Nevertheless, the new carver must be aware that, even though the cutting angle was created by the tool maker, it may not be the correct size or shape that they want. Don’t just assume that the bevel is correct. Know your needs, i.e. your specific carving tasks, and get the right tools. You shouldn’t rush this.
The cutting angle of your carving tool, or the length of the bevel, determines the strength of the wood you can carve. At its very basic, the greater the cutting angle, the steeper and shorter the bevel. The greater angle means more cutting strength on the edge. The stronger the edge, the harder the wood to be cut. What does it all mean?
If you’re going to cut soft woods, you’ll want a small cutting angle on your tool’s edge. This is a very thin edge and makes for a very large bevel (a long backwards slope).
If you’re going to cut hard woods, you’ll want a large cutting angle on your tool’s edge. This makes for a much thicker, slanted edge and a small bevel (short and steep).
Here is another important point to keep in mind. The size of the cutting angle on your edge can determine how much control you’ll have when carving.
If you’re using a carving tool with a small cutting angle and a large bevel, more of your hands can rest on the wood. This provides better control and, therefore, better carving. Unfortunately, your edge isn’t as strong as it could be.
If you’re using a carving tool with a large cutting angle and a small bevel, less of your hands can rest on the wood. This could make carving a bit clumsy because you’ve got much less control of your hands. It’s a curious thing. You’ve a strong edge that cuts fast but mistakes are easily made.
Because we’re talking about bevels, here are the three main types of bevels that can be found in wood carving: straight (square) bevels, rounded bevels (convex) and hollow (concave) bevels.
Straight bevels. As the name sounds, these bevels have a straight square edge. They provide the most efficient cutting and the greatest strength to the edge for its sharpness. Many wood carvers prefer this type of bevel.
Rounded bevels. The profile of a rounded bevel is convex and looks the exact opposite of a hollow bevel. More effort is needed to cut the wood because the wedge is normally thick. Therefore, cutting angles are large.
Hollow bevels. Hollow bevels are concave and look the exact opposite of a rounded bevel. It’s a very unique shape but working with it isn’t very easy. Oftentimes, the hollowed bevel will unknowingly ride up on the edge of a cut so you’ve got to watch every part of it all of the time.
When you know the fundamentals of how cutting angles on beveled edges affect cutting efficiency, you’ll know so much about any cutting tool that you hold in your hand. Simple mistakes can be avoided and you’d be well on your way to becoming a skilled wood carver.