View Full Version : Gouge size comparison needed

01-22-2015, 09:24 AM
Hello, I have been using Speedball carving tools for my linocuts since they are inexpensive and easy to throw out when dull. However, now I'm ready to order some Pfeil gouges. Since I"m ordering them online and will not see them in person, I wondered if the numbers on the Speedball blades ("1,2,3...etc.") refer to "mm" and therefore are comparable to the Pfeil sizes?

Pfeil gouges come in 1mm, 2mm.. sizes, as I'm sure most of you know.

Thanks for any info.

winking cat press
01-22-2015, 05:24 PM
Hello JB- All I use nowadays are Pfiel gouges, and have never been happier. I have no idea how Speedball numbers relate to mm's..... but I know that they don't correspond to the Pfiel numbers at all.

I'll be back in my studio on Saturday, and will post "The Winking Cat Press Guide to Pfiel Gouges"..... aka a quick rundown of what I have and use for what. Maybe that would help.

01-22-2015, 09:52 PM
Thanks, WCP. That would be a great help! I'm glad to hear another recommendation for the Pfiels. I'll check back after Saturday.

01-23-2015, 09:22 PM
Hi JB, I'm a very new member myself and can't say anything about printmaking but I've just bought online seven Pfeil chisels for wood and lino cutting and they've just arrived. Like you, I'll be interested in what WCP so I'm glad you asked this question.
At this site http://http://www.chippingaway.com/Woodcarving/SwissMade-PfeilTools/SwissMadePfeilToolsPalmSize.htm under 'Palm block size' near the bottom of the page it gives the sweeps of all the Pfeil tools. This helped me to buy some tools online here in Australia. All the best.

winking cat press
01-25-2015, 09:59 AM
OK..... as promised, I've arrived back in my shop and looked at my carving tools and how they compare to Speedball tools. Keep in mind as you read this that nothing in printmaking is "written in stone", and you may find that you prefer a different path.

I use the Pfeil palm-handled "linoleum and woodblock" tools.... and I've got at least one of each, and several each of the ones I use the most. I like the palm tools because it gives me the best combination of control and power... but if you like straight handles then by all means use straight ones. I would recommend however that you refrain from buying the new "ergonomic" handled tools. Their Ergs never seem to fit just right.

The Pfiel (and most vendors) website has a chart showing the various sizes of gouges, but for clarity's sake I've attached them to this thread so you can refer to them while reading.

First let's talk about small work: The two gouges that I use most are the 12/4 V tool and the 8/7 U gouge. These roughly correspond with the standard Speedball tools in size. I use the 12/4 to outline my designs, and the 8/7 to carve away unwanted materials near my designs. The 7/10 is also good for removing background material near the design.

For small details within the design, I like the 15/2 V gouge.... or a 11/1 u gouge. For teenie tiny work, I use the 12/1. ( They make an even smaller V gouge, the 12/.05..... and I've never found a use for it. )

I also like to have one flat chisel for cleaning out backgrounds.... the L1/8 or the slightly curved L5/8

So.... if i were designing a set of tools, it would look like this

12/4 and 15/2 v gouges (roughly correspond to the speedball Large V and Small V)
8/7, 7/10 and 11/1 U gouges (roughly corresponds to Speedball large and small U gouges. Speedball doesn't make anything as small as the 11/1)

L1/8 flat or the L5/8 curved (no Speedball equiv.)

with those 7 tools, I could do all of my work smaller than 8x10 or so.

For bigger work, the selection is similar.... just bigger. Speedball doesn't make equiv tools in these sizes... except for the 12/4V. )

Vgouges- 12/8 and the 12/4
Ugouges- the 9/10 and 7/10
flat chisels- 1/12 or the slightly curved 5/12 for background removal.

And that's about it. I don't use any of the skew chisels.

One last note: While speedball tools are meant to be disposable. Pfeils are not. So... if you go Pfeil, then you must get a good small sharpening stone and learn how to use it. This is the stone I use, and it works great:


Anyway... i hope that helps you decide what tools you need, and helps you transition from cheap / throwaway tools to ones that will last a lifetime. Once you do, you'll never look back.

01-26-2015, 01:23 PM
Hi Winking Cat P,
Thank you! I appreciate your detailed info! The comparison you made to the Speedball in relation to size is very helpful, as it gives me a real visual sense of the Pfeil sizes. The numbers you have given me for the Pfeil tools seem different than what I found online (at Woodcraft, I think?) so I will now go back and review them.

I basically use three Speedball tools. #1, 2 and 3. Two small vee tools and a small U gouge. This is approx. what I'd like to get from Pfeil, and as you said, maybe more than one of each. Though, I am guessing that with wood, I will also want a flat chisel or wider U gouge for larger areas.

I had already purchased the Arkansas stone awhile ago, so i"m glad to see you recommend it. Many people suggest honing on leather (I have McClains microfine Honing compound) every 15 mins or so, and this allows more time before actually sharpening. Do you agree?

Great! I'm ready to order. Can't wait to get away from the Speedball.

One more question regarding wood: I ordered some Shina samples from McClains. They seem a little soft, though finer than birch plywood... I was looking for a "beginner" alternative to boxwood or maple. What do you use most frequently?

Thanks again. For some reason, I do not receive email notification from WetCanvas of activity or replies to messages, so I'm sorry if I didn't respond right away.

01-26-2015, 01:37 PM
To Bombadil,

Thanks for the website! Good beginner info. The prices are very reasonable for the micro and palm tools. Do you know anything about the Dockyard brand? I like their small size for the hand, but I read somewhere they were not as good as say - Flexcut (which has removable blades).

Another idea I had was to purchase the Pfeil tools, but, additionally, a lesser expensive brand of gouges like Woodcraft or Flexcut. Linoleum dulls blades quickly, so it occurred to me to have separate tools for wood and lino, even with regular sharpening.


01-27-2015, 08:06 PM
Hi JB,
No, I've never heard of the Dockyard brand. I just thought it best to go for Swiss tempered steel because I know how to sharpen good chisels back from my time working as a carpenter. I don't mind paying more for good tools and I know that I can use these Pfeil tools for both lino and woodblocks. I know that the lino will make sharpening regularly essential but I don't mind that. I have three of those DMT (diamond impregnated sharpening stones) at my side and a leather strop with a compound that I rub on it.
Also, I like to get use to a handful of tools which I can use on both so that I'm not always going to tools I have little experience with. But, your way might be best for you, having separate tools for both, I suppose personel choice comes in here.
Looking at the list that WCP gave of his most used Pfeil tools I realised I'd bought 5 of the 7 or 8 he mentioned! That was a nice surprise. I haven't used them yet as I'm still waiting for ink and paper to arrive but I'll let you know how I get on with these new Pfeil tools. I'd like you to tell me your thoughts if and when you get some Pfeil tools.
You mentioned wood to work with. I have three 10"x8" Magnolia panels from Japan which I bought from an Australian printing firm. I'll let you know how it goes. Let me know how the Shina ply works for you.
All the best.