Thursday, May 17, 2007
Above you see a few inshaves. Really, the only one that I use is the one on the left. It is available from Highland Hardware under the name "oxhead". I have seen all types of inshaves and found this to be not only my favorite for its shape and ease of sharpening, but also the value. While it is not a "beautiful" tool I have found it to be easily tuned and just the right shape for the job. The inshaves on the right are antiques (you can see the imprint "cast steel") and I think that their shape is very telling. You may have noticed that the inshaves generally available have a tight circular radius, yet the shape of these old tools is relatively flat. What gives? Somehow, I think that the toolmakers today have looked at the windsor seat and decided that to carve it takes a tight radius. I haven't found this to be the case. The shame is that these inshaves are often beautifully made (with a cost to match), although I find the geometry tough to sharpen. Here is the difference, imagine trying to flatten a board with a small blockplane. It would take a great deal of care because it could only take a small cut and a limited amount of information about the surface. The idea is generally to take a larger plane that will take in more information and "map" its shape onto the wood. The same goes for carving seats. An inshave with a tight radius may be more suitable to bowl carving. If you already own an inshave with a tight radius, you don't "need" to buy any other, but if you are in the market for one, I've found the "oxhead" to be a great buy. I'll go into the use and sharpening of this often misunderstood tool in another post.