Power carversHigh-speed cutting with hand-tool precision
Synopsis: Judi R. Bartholomew is convinced that power carvers, such as rotary grinders and electric reciprocating machines, are the best tools for sculpting wood. She uses them to texture or rough out pieces quickly and accurately and to remove tool marks, surface, and polish pieces. Here, she discusses several types and models of electric power carvers, which are listed in the article, and explains how the various types work. She details rotary tools, reciprocating machines, microcarving grinders, and tells how to evaluate them. Then she rates 12 different carving tools specifically.
I’m convinced that power carvers, such as rotary grinders and electric reciprocating machines, are the best tools for sculpting wood. It may take you a while to get used to the carvers, but once you do you’ll find they excel at many carving tasks. Reciprocating devices are great for texturing or roughing out pieces quickly and accurately. I rely on rotary grinders for removing tool marks, surfacing and polishing. For ultra-fine detailing, I use highspeed microgrinders, which have smaller hand pieces than most rotary grinders. When guided skillfully, power carvers can rival the work of an accomplished craftsman sculpting wood by hand.
Of course, power carvers may not be suited for everybody. I know carvers who say they can rough out a piece with a mallet and gouge faster than they can with a power tool. This is true if you can clamp the piece securely, and I often work that way myself. But if I anticipate hours of back-breaking labor on tough wood, I rough out with power. Once most of the waste is gone, power carvers are easier to control than hand tools when working gnarly grains. Since the power comes from the tool, not from a mallet, it is relatively easy to change your wrist angle or move your body to cut in from another side, although the tools can kick back dangerously if you try to cut against the grain. As with any power tool, you must wear adequate eye and ear protection, as well as a dust mask or respirator.
In this article, I’ll discuss the major types of electric power carvers listed in the chart on pp. 84-85: rotary grinders powered by an electric motor in the tool or by a flexible shaft connected to a separate motor; high-speed, microcarving rotary tools often used for jewelry work; and self-contained or shaft-connected tools with reciprocating chisel-like blades. But before discussing specific tools, I’ll explain how the various types work.
From Fine Woodworking #87
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