As I was watching my buddy, Sam, poke his head into the kitchen through the cat door as he often does, I got to thinking about v-tools. Sam’s problem is also the problem of many v-tools: his bottom is too wide. In Sam’s case, too wide to follow his head through the cat door; in the case of a v-tool, too wide to follow the cutting edge deep into the groove.
Unless we get a bigger door, Sam is stuck. But not so with the v-tool; that we can fix. But what use is a v-tool anyway?
A v-tool certainly isn’t the first tool that comes to mind for bowl carving, but once the adze and axe are put away a v-tool can come in very handy, just as it does with various forms of relief or in-the-round carving. Above is just one example. I’m just about done now with this second exploration of the hen bowl design. In the photo, I was using the v-tool to remove the material in the sharp angle between the tail feathers.
And for the large letters on this just-finished maple bowl handle above, a v-tool works well to remove just the bulk of the central material before moving in with a knife. With harder woods, that initial excavation makes room for other tools and provides a release area for the chips. I use a similar approach for removing the bulk of the material in large triangular recesses like those of the necklaces I carve around some bowl rims (left).
The photos and captions below show the difference between a v-tool as it usually arrives new and how it can be ground and honed in a way that will make it much more responsive. Making that wide keel into a more sleek shape makes a lot of difference. Sam is envious.
This isn’t anything close to a full tutorial on sharpening a v-tool; I’ll try to do more along those lines in the future. I’ve got some carving to get back to now. Meanwhile, a great source on sharpening wood carving tools (and more) is Woodcarving Tools, Materials, and Equipment by Chris Pye. Chris Pye is the man, and I learned a lot from that book.