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Tools for carving netsuke/okimono from boxwood and other hard, carvable materials

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Postby Janel » Sun Dec 19, 2004 4:04 pm

Holiday greetings to you all!

I recently received an email of introduction to Peter Welsh, a netsuke/small sculpture carver from the UK. He lives in the Cornwall area. He experiences some problems with AOL on his computer and cannot use forms so I have volunteered to post his contributions in the various areas of the Forum today. Janel

In regards to the topic about tools:

"I make scrapers from second-hand gravers. These are readily available on Ebay (search under 'gravers' and 'engraving tools') and there are several suppliers on the internet. As I'm sure you know, gravers come in a variety of shapes and sizes and can easily be altered to the carvers needs. Some of the small gravers can be re-shaped on a disc sander. I also buy carving knives and small chisels from
They already make very small, high quality knives and will do custom work to your own design."

"Do you know of Bishu Sato's book? ISBN4-8170-5161-2. Written entirely in Japanese, but does show various profiles of blades and files." . . . . . . . Peter Welsh
"Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it!" ~ Goethe

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Postby lotzla » Wed Jan 05, 2005 6:17 pm


Janel invited me to joing the discussion on this bb. I'm a professional carver but I don't work as small as you do. I'm in awe of your tiny carvings.

I really enjoyed reading about materials and especially Janel's discussion on tool making. I tend to use my tools as scrapers too. My husband always fusses that I dull my blades. So I've been wanting some small scrapers. I love the idea of reshaping punches and needles. I have some misc tools that I can reshape. I'm going to look through my studio for items with potential.

Something I find indispensable are old mechanical pencil holders - the kind you press a button on the top and metal claws come out to hold a large lead. I use these to hold diamond, ruby, metal or ceramic roto cutters. I can use these bits by hand to sand and rasp up close with a lot of control and without my fingers cramping. So I don't hold tiny roto bits in my fingers anymore.
Many years ago (on an old carving listserve), a very talented Australian carver suggested using broken glass as a scraper - infinite shapes and edges. She just held the broken pieces in her hand BUT she worked in a large scale. She got this idea after she accidentally broke some glass. She saw all the sharp edges while cleaning it up and she got excited.

If I used glass, then I would want mount the glass shards into a handle for safe working. I was thinking about making a wooden handle with a slot in the end, then inserting a piece of glass gluing with epoxy and filling with epoxy clay. That should hold it firm enough. You would need to protect these glass scrapers.

Most of the other experienced carvers on this bb questioned the safety of using broken glass and said, "why use it when there are so many good commercial scrapers on the market". Well that isn't true when you work in a small scale. And she replied that she never found a scraper to hold an edge like her glass shards do.

But recently my friend, Hanna, replied to this suggestion with the following comment:

"It really is a cliche but so true - there is nothing knew in this world. In the early sixties when I went to the London Art School, one of the finishing tools was a shard of glass. However, glass really can only be used with larger carvings, in those days most of my carvings were abstract or organic forms. Glass definitely doesn't work on small areas or any areas with a great deal of detail. The glass just cuts into the wood, destroying the detail."

Any comments?


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Postby old_greek » Thu May 05, 2005 2:03 pm

There is a catalogue called Micro Mark that has smaller tools that can be adapted for holding vices, and such. Also there are several work holding devices, vices, clamps, etc. that I've found useful. Hope this is a help to someone. Catalogue web address is [url=][/url:169l37p2]

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Postby Janel » Thu May 05, 2005 4:08 pm

Thanks for the information! and welcome to the INS Forums! It is nice to see you here.

I'll have a look at the link.


"Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it!" ~ Goethe

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Postby RedTengu » Thu Nov 23, 2006 4:57 pm

Hi its me again :)

I was wondering, with all the talk of netsuke tools

what did the traditional netsuke carvers use? back netsukes were in practical use and were quite common.

Did they have specific tools, or did they improvise also?

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Postby Clive » Thu Sep 16, 2010 11:23 am

Edit.. previous links no longer valid

Last edited by Clive on Mon May 16, 2016 2:36 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Tools for carving netsuke/okimono from boxwood and other hard carvable materials

Postby JoshuaPype » Sun May 15, 2016 8:20 am

New, seasoned, somewhere in between, It is good to stop a renew your sense of carving safety. Thanks for tanking the time to write down your ideas, its alway good to refresh . . .JoeB

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Re: Tools for carving netsuke/okimono from boxwood and other hard, carvable materials

Postby DSW90049 » Sun May 15, 2016 5:08 pm

Bravo Janel & other contributors!!

The more that collectors, academics and dealers learn about exactly how carvers work their magic, the more we can appreciate and understand what we cherish in this field.

Thanks to all carvers sharing their knowledge and techniques here!
"There is no shortcut to netsuke collecting; it takes time, study and patience. The market is flooded with utterly worthless rubbish. . . . "
Netsukes: Their Makers, Use and Meaning, H. Seymour Trower(1898)~~~~David

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Re: Tools for carving netsuke/okimono from boxwood and other hard, carvable materials

Postby KPR » Sun Jan 15, 2017 8:42 am

My carving tools. :love:
Do not worry, I will only use it as a collector and not as a carver.

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