Dr. BassLove

Carving Knife Recommendation

12 posts in this topic

So, like so many of these threads, I am brand new to lure making and wood carving in general. I have done a lot of researching on this site and I am in awe at the amazing work I've seen demonstrated here. Having read many threads about talent and wood carving, it is clear that experience is the number one factor in becoming proficient. I seriously drool when I see the incredible works here and often get overwhelmed by the prospects of never reaching that level (especially since I am starting fairly late in life [i'm almost 30]). But, I really want to try and so I am planning on starting by getting a few tools to just get me started so I can just get a foot on the ladder.

I've read lots of those "What tools would you recommend I start with?" threads and they are very helpful at giving me an idea of how different different people approach it. It would seem like a majority of the lure makers here have power tools and prior woodworking experience. I have neither so I would like to start really simple: a hand carving knife and some sand paper.

However, simple things are never that simple when you dive into the specifics and I hope someone can clarify a few things for me that I haven't been about to glean with the search function.

1. R. Murphy hand carving knife vs Flexcut. I have read that these are both excellent beginners' knives, but can't figure out the other differences. I've read on this site and others, some people who say one is the best over the other. I'm sure they're both great, but which one would be easier to use? Less maintenance? Stays sharper, longer? I found them on eBay, the Murphy for about $18 and the Flexcut for $21. I'd really appreciate any recs.

2. Strop: Is there anything special that I should be looking for in a strop? There's a wide range in prices and I'm unsure if a cheaper one ($10) would be a waste of money vs a more expensive one ($50). I'm recently unemployed and want to use this time to chase a dream, but saving $40 dollars is pretty significant. Also, would this polish be any good? It looks like the DOVO white/yellow tube, but isn't labeled as such.

3. Sharpener: I read that a sharpener is only to be used if the blade is damaged. Does that happen often? Should I get a sharpener? If so, any advice on which one? There are so many different kinds and no real specifics that I can find on the differences.

Thanks so much guys. I seriously can't wait to start and look forward to the day when I can show my work and share my ideas as a member of the community!

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Welcome to the addiction! Once you get started, there is no cure. :lol:

I am a woodcarver and have been for almost 17 years. I'll try to answer your questions the best that I can and try to to save you some money in the process.

1) Murphy or Flexcut? Both are excellent knives but my choice would be a Murphy. The reason? If you look around, you can find the Murphy for under $15. You may also find that the Murphy is a little more comfortable to hold. You can buy a Murphy at Smoky Mountain Woodcarvers in Townsend, Tennessee. Regardless of where you buy it though, have them sharpen it for you. No, don't pay them to do it! They should do it for free. Most will though.

2) Strop? Be careful of what you buy. You can make your own though. Two things to keep in mind whether you make one or buy it: you will need a good hard, clear grained wood such as maple, poplar, aspen, cherry, etc. The harder the wood, the less it flex and the sharper you will be able to get your knife. the other: use the thinnest leather that you can get. I use pigskin for my strops. It's extra thin and holds the sharpening compound good.

3) Compound? I use a dry compound called Yellowstone. Again, Smoky Mountain Woodcarvers sells it for $7.25 a stick. The stick is 1 inch square and 4 inches long. It only takes a little to load your strop and the stick will last you YEARS! There are other compounds that are also good. Just make sure that you buy the finest grit that you can find.

4) Sharpener? Save your money. You don't need anything fancy. Just buy a diamond sharpening stick. A couple or three different grits will do you. If you get a nick, use the diamond hone to dress the edge, then strop until it's razor sharp and get back to carving. You should never use the diamond hone unless you damage the blade.

I hope this helps.

Gene

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Hey Gene, thanks so much for responding. In fact, it was one of your posts that I read recommending the Murphy knife! Smoky Mountain looks like a great seller. I think I'm just going to buy a strop. Would this work? As for the sharpener what do you think of this?

I just had one more question. I noticed that Smoky Mountain Woodcarvers also sells wood. This made me think of an important thing. I don't have any wood. Where is the typical place to get wood? I know that balsa and basswood are often recommended as easy to start with. I was planning on carving a rat wakebait. What wood might you advise I use for that?

Thanks again for lending you expertise.

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Dr. Basslove,

I have done a lot of business with Smoky Mountain WoodCarvers over the years and have always had great service from them. As a matter of fact, I did some business with them at a woodcarving show in Huntsville, AL this past Saturday. Mac Profitt is the owner and will go out of his way to help you.

Yes, that strop will work but I would prefer a thinner leather than what is on that strop. But, it will do the job.

As for the sharpener, here are a couple of links to (IMO) to better diamond hones. These are cheaper and have free shipping. I have two sets of these. One set for the house and travel and the other set for the shop. For maintaining an edge, I don't really see the need for the set of 5 but it would be nice to have them if you were to ever need them. http://www.ebay.com/itm/EZE-LAP-L-PAK-5-Diamond-Sharpener-Fine1200-Fine-600-Med-400-Coarse-250-XC-150-/380504543259?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item5897d6901b & http://www.ebay.com/itm/EZE-LAP-L-PAK-3-PC-Set-Color-Coded-Diamond-Sharpener-Hones-SF-F-M-USA-/271096723680?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item3f1e9fb8e0

Where to get wood? Yes, Smoky Mountain Woodcarvers sells wood but it is pricey. But, if you just want a little bit to start with it, shouldn't be too bad. Check your local Hobby Lobby first though. They sell basswood and balsa. Just don't forget to print out a 40% off coupon from the web before you go.

As to what type of wood; Some of that is personal preference. A lot of the people here use basswood and it's a great carving wood. Just make sure that you get it sealed GOOD. Basswood is like a sponge. It soaks up water more than most woods. Balsa is another good wood but requires some extra building processes because of it's softness. I personally use paulownia. I find it to be a great carving wood and has the strength of basswood and the bouyancy of balsa. It does have a pronounced grain and requires a little extra sealer to cover that grain but that's the only problem that I have with it. There are people that use cedar, poplar, and just about any kind of wood that you can imagine. As for your rat, I would recommend a light weight and bouyant softwood such as basswood, balsa, paulownia, cedar, etc.

Mark,

I do not use any full hand protection but I do use a thumb guard like the one pictured here: http://www.ebay.com/itm/Wood-Carving-Leather-Thumb-Guard-1-guard-only-finger-protector-/180942737851?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item2a210711bb .

Gene

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Dr.Basslove,

What ever Gene tells you take it for gospel....I'm lucky enough to call this guy my friend and have seen his work in person...Wow is the only thing that can be said...Nathan

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Thanks for the nice words Nathan! Your check will be in the mail in the morning! :yay:

Gene

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Thanks for the nice words Nathan! Your check will be in the mail in the morning! :yay:

Gene

Hey Gene,

Don't forget to send Nathan a 10-99. Uncle Sam always wants his cut. :D:lol::D

Ben

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Okay so I'm back with a few more questions. I picked up the Murphy knife, 3-piece Eze Lap diamond sharpeners and a leather strop. Unfortunately, I purchased the knife from another retailer and when I received the knife it was really dull. I had been practicing with an Xacto knife before and it is much sharper than the new knife. So I figure it's time to use my sharpening kit or just strop it? Either way, are there some instructions or a good video anyone could recommend? Thanks.

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Start with your coarsest diamond sharpener and start working one side of the blade putting about a 15-degree angle on each side. When you have both sides ground evenly, switch to the next sharpener. Repeat as in the first step. When that's done, the the last sharpener and repeat again. As you do each side feel for a fine wire edge along the cutting edge on the opposite side. Each time you change sides you will push the wire edge to the opposite side. When you have finished with the diamond sharpeners it's time to go to the strop. I am assuming that you got an abrasive to go with your strop. Put abrasive on your strop and strop your knife on both sides until it's sharp. It's sharp when you can drag the cutting across your thumbnail without any pressure and the knife wants to "drag". If the knife "glides" across your thumbnail, keep sharpening. It's not rocket science. Two things to keep in mind. Always maintain your angle and work both sides an equal amount.

Gene

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