How to use a gouge chisel
A gouge chisel is used for carving though what is special about it is that it adds depth to the carving. This is the tool for burrowing out areas of wood, which have already been defined, to give a carving shape. These come in various sizes, and the size you choose to use will depend upon the size of the gouge you wish to make in a piece of wood.
• Creation of a background
When a large area of background is required, you have a choice to use the gouge chisel to either take out all the background to an even finish, or to make it more rustic, choosing an appropriate gouge to create a patterned finish which looks like the work of an adz. The gouge is held in the left hand and is worked into the area, already defined by an outline chisel or “v” chisel. The chiseling is worked in phases, taking out a little of the surface at a time. Using a large gouge chisel, take out the majority of the background, leaving sufficient to use a smaller gouge to create the background pattern. This is held against the wood, and a mallet used to tap the end of the gouge.
• Gouging out complete shapes
For intricate work with a gouge chisel, choose the appropriate size, and work from the edges of the pattern, following the grain of the wood as near as is possible, to create a fine background. Again, a little at a time is the best way to work, since this will allow you to sculpt the shape without threatening the integrity of the wood and causing splintering.
• Leaving the background flat
Gouging the majority of the background out with a wide gouge, a flat area can be created by using a straight chisel and chiseling across the area in smooth movements. This is an unusual way to finish an area, since the gouge on its own creates a background which has more character.
• Buying a gouge chisel
Look at the different makes available, and also bear in mind that the handle of a gouge chisel needs to be able to withstand the pressure upon it of a mallet. Cheaper quality chisels are not a good investment.
• Trying out new things
Try different approaches with the chisel at differing depths, on a piece of wood. The best woods for this kind of sculpture or carving are nut and fruit trees, the fruit trees being the softest woods to carve. Oak is one of the most likely to splinter so be aware of this when using the gouge.
A gouge chisel must always be looked after to give the user good service, and should be sharpened in between uses. It is one of the most valuable chisels a woodworker can have, and next to the straight chisel, will give the woodworker years of use. Always buy good quality, since the quality of the metal will determine the quality of the finish produced.