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Wood Carvers Put Schaaf Tools Steel to the Test

Not all chisel blades are created equal. 

Any wood carver who has experience using a professional quality gouge versus a "Harbor Freight" alternative knows that. 

So what's the difference? Or more specifically, why do the two cut and feel so different?

The steel holds the answer. 

In this article, we explore how professionals Joe Dillett and Dick Belcher test the metal of their wood carving tools (literally), as they demonstrate on Schaaf Tools gouges.

The Spark Test

When Wood Carving Illustrated first got their hands on our 12 piece beginner carving chisels, they sent the set to Dick Belcher, of Belcher Carving Supply, to test the steel quality. I remember hearing the chisels passed the spark test, and Dick was impressed with the results. But what did that mean?

When you put a tool's blade to an abrasive sanding belt, the blade will produce sparks. Someone with Dick's knowhow can learn a lot about the tool, as well as the quality and makeup of its steel, simply based on the type of sparks it's blade produces. 

Let's use Henry Taylor gouges as the benchmark for professional quality. From Sheffield, England, these gouges are hand forged and tempered to Rockwell 61 (Rockwell is the measurement of a steel's hardness). 

Here's Dick: 

"61 Rockwell carbon steel produces a white spark when making contact with an abrasive sanding belt. The more orange a spark becomes, the softer the piece of steel.  Also, hard tempered steel produces a spark that with the grinding action is thrown off of the belt into the air. This hot piece of metal, when traveling at high speed with the oxygen mixture around the spark, continues to heat as it travels, and from one to three inches of travel it will explode, giving off a little flash similar to a kid's fireworks sparkler.  Stainless steel does not produce a spark and the grinding particles will not leave an orange/white streamer.  57 to 58 Rockwell also does not give us a white spark. It has a reddish-orange streak through the air.

When Dick put Schaaf Tools blades to the sanding belt he saw sparks that closely resembled in color and activity those you'd get from the hand-forged Henry Taylors. In other words, the quality and makeup of Schaaf Tools steel was similar to Henry Taylors, and indicative of high quality.  

This was the information that Dick passed along to the folks at Wood Carving Illustrated, and the reason why they were excited. 

A Hole Puncher, A Metal File, and Magnetism

Master Carver Joe Dillett took a different approach to testing Schaaf Tools' steel. Check out the video to see his methods and final assessment. 



Schaaf Tools

Test out a set of Schaaf Tools Wood Carving Gouges for yourself. Schaaf Tools has three total sets of gouges - a Full Size Beginner Set of 12, a Set of 7 with Additional Profiles, and a 4 Piece Fishtail Set for Detail Carving. You can view all three wood carving sets here.

You can also choose to ship a Premium Carving Set that has already been professionally commissioned by Dick Belcher. Check out our collection of Premium Sets here

Interested in seeing more articles like this one? Join the Schaaf Tools family to participate in our community, and get carving tips and tricks and news updates delivered to your inbox. 

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  • Eli

    Hey Jeff, we are working on developing a palm tools set! Hopefully later this year :)

  • Jeff

    Do you plan on offering a palm tool set? That would be awesome for caricture carvers

  • Gene

    I am an advanced carver. I am interested in buying seperate chisels not kits.

  • Eli

    @Steve we have a 4 piece set of bench chisels in the works! We’re excited about these chisels, I think they’ll be right along the lines of what you’re looking for.

  • Eli

    @Joseph – you can buy a commissioned (professionally pre-sharpened set) on our website under “premium collections”

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