The Nimble Fishtail


Having just finished carving “necklaces” on a couple bowls, I thought I’d explain a bit more about the tool I use for the carving of the large triangular recesses that make up the design.  In the FWW  article and video, I refer to the tool as a skew chisel, but, the more I think of it, it’s the fishtail aspect of the tool that’s at least as important as the skew.

IMG_8299Here’s a shot of the necklace I just finished on a cherry bowl.  I briefly outlined the procedure in a blog post a couple years ago.  And in another post, I showed the fishtail skew in action on a straight-walled version of the necklace.

The fishtail shape excels in these tight quarters, as the shank of the tool doesn’t interfere or mar the surrounding wood.  By grinding away the sharp corners on the sides of the tool behind the cutting edge, the tool can be made even more stealthy and nimble.

Technically speaking, the tool is a double-bevel fishtail carving chisel.  As it is straight, it is a #1 sweep (sweepless).  I’ve not been able to find one that also comes with a skewed edge, but no matter.  The fishtail aspect is the most important, and if you wish to make a skew of it, it’s a simple procedure (see the top sketch) and you can create as much or little skew as you wish.

The particular brand doesn’t matter, so long as it is by a good reliable maker.  How wide the edge should be depends on the size of work you’ll be doing, but mine is 20mm (3/4″) wide and serves me well.  Here are some links to a few options and no doubt more can be found: (looks like single bevel, but could easily be reground to a double-bevel)

You’ll find such a chisel useful for all sorts of situations, including lettering.



This entry was posted in Lettering, patterns, sketch, tools, Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to The Nimble Fishtail

  1. Larry Boyer says:

    Excellent! Thanks for the drawings. we “talked” about this last month.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Keith Green says:

    Brings to mind these chip carving tools used in Eastern Europe. There are videos on the Stryi site as well as YTube showing these in action.


  3. David Armstrong says:

    So, I checked out the link for the auction, out of curiosity. Very happy to see the evidence of everyone’s generous spirit. And then saw what ebay recommended as “We found something similar”…


  4. Great post about a fabulous tool, I have made a few carving tools which work in a very similar way and that I find are by far the most versatile tools in my arsenal. One of them is pictured in this post. I find that I can get so much more control over my cuts with a double bevelled skewed fishtail blade than I can with a knife. I have always found knives to be the best tools to fit my carving style but I have shifted to more of a stubby chisel shape than a true knife.


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