So far I have only used Pfiel carving tools and am accustomed to sharpening them.

I picked up a set of old Mifer (Spanish) gouges today. It is taking me a couple hours per gouge to set their bevels because the gouge is so thick. I read somewhere they are made with Vanadium steel; and it is ridiculously slow to sharpen.

They are about 3x thicker than my similar Pfiel gouges. When I say thick, I mean there is a very large spine underneath the cutting edge running along the length of the gouge -- what is normally about 2mm between the shallow portion of the gouge and the complete bottom of the edge on Pfiel gouges is maybe 5mm.

What's the point of this? It is more metal so presumably more costly to manufacture. It makes sharpening take forever. It also seems like it is harder to use (but I may not be used to them yet) since the thick bottom portion of the gouge is getting in the way of the actual cutting edge!

Edit: I have added some pictures comparing the Pfiel to the Mifer.

Below the Mifer gouge is on the left. The bevels are approximately the same angle between the two but you can see how much longer it has to be on the Mifer.

The mifer gouge is on the left

Another angle. The Mifer has a higher sweep and slightly longer cutting edge but they are pretty close. Mifer gouge on the right

  • Could we get photos of the gouges alongside the Pfiel ones?
    – Graphus
    Jan 8, 2017 at 8:53
  • This doesn't form part of your query so I left commenting on it from my Answer, but can I check how you're sharpening? Even with very thick, hard steel 2 hours per gouge seems far too long (even accounting for gouges taking much longer to first sharpen than chisels) and I'm wondering if it indicates your sharpening materials/equipment or method could be tweaked to help combat this sort of problem in future.
    – Graphus
    Jan 8, 2017 at 8:55
  • @Graphus: Thanks, I added some pictures. My sharpening setup consists of a ~600 grit arkansas wetstone for any flat edges. I also have a 1000 grit stone (red) which has gouge grooves in it (which I used for the gouge shown above), finishing off on 5000 grit white corundum, then hitting it with the buffing wheel for a few minutes until I can see the wire edge removed. Please let me know if you have any suggestions. I am fearful to use the stone grinder on carving tools like this (especially the gouges)
    – jbord39
    Jan 8, 2017 at 15:51
  • Thanks for the pics. First off looks like you've done a superb job sharpening those so kudos there. Grinding is generally the way anyone these days wants to do major shaping work on a bevel. You can of course do it by hand on stones or something else but the more metal you need to remove the more the time it takes climbs, especially if the steel is particularly hard (some old chisels are much harder than the norm today) or wear-resistant (some old steel alloys can be, although it wouldn't often be a particular feature). [contd]
    – Graphus
    Jan 8, 2017 at 19:23
  • Anyway, if you want to do this sort of thing by hand I would highly recommend a very coarse diamond plate for the bulk removal. Maybe 80 grit if you can stand how rough that is, but certainly 250 or lower. Good news is that this major shaping work only needs to be done occasionally, so you're not looking at hours of work per tool often throughout the year!
    – Graphus
    Jan 8, 2017 at 19:25

1 Answer 1


I think there are two possible answers here, both of which may be right.

The first is, "that's the way we make them". There may be multiple reasons they made them that way (including the one that follows in the next paragraph, but also simply tradition, giving the customer what they expect to see and some others).

The second is for strength. Professional tools are often made particularly robustly to take continual, heavy use over the lifetime of the user (many chisels can outlast an entire working life, even when honed daily).

  • I was wondering if the older tools had been designed for a more aggressive cut and larger/faster carving...
    – keshlam
    Jan 8, 2017 at 22:06
  • I wonder if the greater amount of metal would make it less likely for the steel to heat up to the point of losing its temper. I would think the additional material would act as a heat sink, pulling heat away from the surface being ground. Jan 9, 2017 at 17:45
  • @CharlieKilian I'm not sure that could make enough difference when grinding because the edge, where the steel is thinnest, heats up very much faster than the rest of the steel at the tip. Certainly on old tapered irons you stand as much chance of blueing the edge as on a thinner modern iron if you grind the bevel all the way to a sharp edge. This is using standard wheels, some wheels like CBN grind very cool and reduce this risk enormously. Not cheap though!
    – Graphus
    Jan 10, 2017 at 9:07

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