Power Wood Carving Tools

Dale Cochoy

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I thought I'd switch gear here a bit and talk about what I offer for the world of power carving bonsai.
I believe I have the largest selection of power wood carving tools (to be used specifically for bonsai )of any vendor in the USA.
I have researched, and tried tools for this purpose for many years and have filtered out the good from the bad and the safe(er) from the not-so-safe through personal experience.
I thought I would show some of the flagship tools from my offerings.
Before I get into showing some tools I DO want to mention.....Power wood carving (of any kind) CAN be dangerous and if not careful and sensible you can get hurt badly in the blink of an eye!
I have 4 rules that I have given often to people and I will repeat them again:
1. DO NOT talk to anyone while you are carving with power tools.
2. DO NOT let anyone talk to you while you are carving with power tools. If they ask questions or want to talk, turn it off until all conversation is through.
3. ( I just added this one recently since I felt a need for it lately) LET THE TOOL DO THE WORK! This is true of ANY power tool from a tables saw, dril to a chain saw. If you have to lay on the tool with your full weight, or force it in any way then the tool is not doing the work. The tool will cut without you forcing it. If you do, it will be ruined or you will be hurt, or both!
4. Always, ALWAYS wear eye protection ( or even face protection and a breathing mask if you feel its needed) . Your eyes are too valuable and too vulnerable to go without protection.

For several years now I have been the importer and distributor of the Samurai line of tools from Europe. The two best tools I sell for use in die grinders with 1/4" collets are the "Samurai" and the "Ninja Master" These tools are now used all over the world by many famous bonsai artists. They are wonderful for heavy , or lighter, removal of wood from bonsai projects. The heart of these carvers are tungsten carbide hollow-ground cutters. The Samurai ( in gold or blue anodized aluminum) has 5 cutters. The "Ninja Master" ( turned from solid stainless) is a bit smaller and now contains 4 carbide cutting heads that are a bit smaller than the cutters on the "Samurai".
I will enclose a few pictures of these two tools. I have also included a shot of Florida bonsaiman Ernie Hernandez at the Florida convention two years ago. He had just finished extensively carving on his demonstration Podocarpus using a "Samurai".
I hope to cover many new tools in this section, many that are unfamiliar to you new bonsai carvers out there.
Regards,
Dale
 

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irene_b

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Fantastic Dale!
Have any for smaller hands?
Mom
 

Graydon

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Fantastic Dale!
Have any for smaller hands?
Mom
Irene - these are not for hands... they are for wood! ;)

Dale's selection and guidance in carving tools is great. I picked up some stuff from him earlier this year and have been very happy with the purchases.
 

grouper52

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Dale, this is great to know! I was just looking at a Euro site that deals in these, and wondering who has them in the US. BIG die grinder fan here, so I'll be in touch. Thanks.
 

irene_b

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Irene - these are not for hands... they are for wood! ;)

Dale's selection and guidance in carving tools is great. I picked up some stuff from him earlier this year and have been very happy with the purchases.


LOL Hush Graydon!
I work with wee small trees and need something that can be handled with one hand.
(Unlike you men who have monster sized hands)
Mom
 

Tachigi

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something that can be handled with one hand
Irene something tells me that there is very little that you can't handle one handed or two :)

Dale sells some nice smaller bits for a dremel one being cutzall a mini version of the samuri or ninja. However I would recommend that you use two hands be it a makita or dremel. First because its safer for you and the tree. Second that the second hand is used to steady the tool. Making for a more precise cut.
 

Dale Cochoy

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Irene and all,
Yes, I carry quite a few carvers for Dremel-type carving tools. They are excellent for shohin trees and/or refinement of wood on larger trees. They all have 1/8" shanks.
I have the tungsten carbide "burrs" in many shapes for Dremels which remove wood slower and neater than the heavier carvers. Please the burr pages.

I also carry the tri-cut solid carbide rotary chisels in 2 sizes and 3 cutting faces. Please note the attachments. The CT100 and CT101 sizes are for 1/8" high speed tools and they come in cutting faces "A", "B" and "D". I do not sell face "C" as I don't like its cut for our usage.

The tri-cuts are used for heavier removal of wood on smaller bonsai, or refinement of larger carved bonsai, and then the burrs do an excellent job of smoothing out if you want the area cleaner and smoother.

In regards to Toms statement. I always recommend two-handed operation of any carving tool. I recommend that one hand hold the tool securely and the other hand to be used to steady the tool. This is easily done by simply having your other hand touching both the tool and the work. It is suprising how much steadier your work is even if you only have one finger just touching the work. It is steadier than having both hands heavily grasping the tool and nothing touching the work.
Regards,
Dale
 

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Dale Cochoy

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BTW, for you 1/4" collet die grinder carver types out there....
The Rotary chisels are also available in 1/4" shank. These are rated for high speed grinders and the heads are SOLID carbide as with the smaller carvers. The 1/4" shank models are the CT102, CT103 and CT104, and as with the smaller cutters, come in head shapes "A", "B" and "D".

The burrs also come in 1/4" shank styles. There are a couple different levels of coarseness and several specialized shapes/sizes.
Regards,
Dale
 

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Dale, for someone who wants to get a die grinder or such with a 1/4" shank, what would you recommend as a good budget tool, a good mid-priced, and a good top-quality tool?
 

Dale Cochoy

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Chris,
The standard Makita Model GEO600 is the most common die grinder we see in bonsai. It fits hand good, pretty powerful, OK construction and priced right ( a big factor). I prefer the new Makita model GDO600 that has the "DEADMAN" paddle switch which is safer than the standard model. Likewise I REALLY like the DEWAlt mod. DW887 which is better made ( my opinion), than Makita, has nice "grippy" snout and has deadman switch.
Makita variable speed is most expensive. Model GDO800C and the commercial model 906H has aluminum body so pretty beefy, also a bit faster but don't need that.
Right now, my recommendations taking ALL into account are the Makita GDO600 w/ paddle or DeWAlt DW887 model.Both are very near same price and about $50-60 more than standard Makita GEO600

One more thing I feel I should add about buying power wood carving tools. Do NOT be tempted to buy the cheap Chinese power tools!! No matter who you get your power tools from or what you are buying, do not buy cheap chinese power tools. Do not be tempted by the $15-25 Makita knock-offs I see at flea markets and salvage stores. Without getting into a long discussion about them and their history of faults I will just say ...you will be sorry in the long run!
Power tools are made all over the world. I see Makita tools with different countries listed as manufacturers. It is not as important WHERE it is made as it is the standards it is made under. I see no standards used in chinese knock-off tools.
 
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Ang3lfir3

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BIG die grinder fan here......
LOL I wonder why ;) ;) :cool: :cool: :D :D

In regards to Toms statement. I always recommend two-handed operation of any carving tool. I recommend that one hand hold the tool securely and the other hand to be used to steady the tool. This is easily done by simply having your other hand touching both the tool and the work. It is suprising how much steadier your work is even if you only have one finger just touching the work. It is steadier than having both hands heavily grasping the tool and nothing touching the work.
Amen!.... That was one of the first things Daniel taught me as he began teaching me how to carve. Making sure I have a good solid base to work from by always trying to have at least one hand on the tree.

I'm pretty sure you know but router bits can be used as well. The trouble seems to be with burrs is that they clog easy making them only good for detail work (where they do a magnificent job). Cove router bits don't clog but lack the control offered by burrs. I would be interested to see a burr like design with fewer teeth (say 3 to 5) which should help reduce the clogging issue....[no idea why i brought it up now i have just been thinking about it lately]
 

Dale Cochoy

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Yes Angel, CORE BOX bits are widely used for heavier carving. They remove wood faster than burrs and don't clog. BTW, clogged burrs are EASILY and QUICKLY cleaned by burning with a torch ( or gas stove) then brushing with a brass brush. This is the BEST way, not oven cleaner ( there, I beat those who were going to mention oven cleaner! ;) ) I disagree about them being only used for detail work. You may only be familiar with the silver colored burrs in 1/8" or 1/4". I regularly use them for quite heavy wood removal especially the new teal colored EXTREME burrs! and the Black SUPER EXTREME burrs. A burr with 3-5 teeth isn't a "burr"...it's a "Samurai" :)
I sell Core Box router bits in a few sizes. Note: the bigger the diameter the harder to control and the quicker they can get away from you and cause damage and/or....pain! Beginners need to stay with 1/4" to 3/8" bits. Use 1/2" or 5/8" after some experience. I don't recommend using the sizes larger than 5/8". All of the sizes can grab quick since only two cutting faces, unlike burrs. A common rule of cutters....the more cutting faces and the faster the speed....the smoother the cut. Here are the core box router bits I sell.
BTW, regarding core box router bits. When I went to Seoul, Korea to sell carving tools at the World Bonsai Convention I took a couple dozen in various sizes. I sold them ALL in first hour to mostly Japanese bonsai guys who bought each size.. When I asked why they bought them all so fast I was told that they were VERY hard to get in Japan ( at least in 1997 it was hard to get carbide router bits) and they were THREE TIMES the cost! I guess I should have marked them up a bit!

Dale
 

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Dale Cochoy

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Angel,
Here is a picture of the same head shape of a 1/4" shank burr but with the 3 different types of tungsten carbide material, from the standard ( Silver with random carbide teeth) to the Teal Extreme ( more coarse with systematically applied teeth) and the most coarse available ( Black Super Extreme with systematicaly arranged teeth). The Teal Extreme and Black Super Extreme cut MUCH faster than the standard silver and they don't load up as bad because of the way the teeth are applied. They are all cleaned the same way by using a torch and brass brush.
Dale
 

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rlist

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They are all cleaned the same way by using a torch and brass brush.
Dale
I assume this means you heat the wood to either a dry and hardened or slightly past to a charcoal and brush the wood out. Have you any recommendations on duration of flame application so as not to change the temper of the little burrs/teeth?
 

darrellw

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I assume this means you heat the wood to either a dry and hardened or slightly past to a charcoal and brush the wood out. Have you any recommendations on duration of flame application so as not to change the temper of the little burrs/teeth?
Hi Rich,

I use these in another hobby (woodcarving), and you heat them until the wood burns away, then brush the ash off. This is for the carbide burrs, as I understand it, there isn't any "temper" to carbide.

-Darrell
 

Dale Cochoy

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As Darrell says, the wood burns away leaving an ash. The carbide is cleaned off with a brush and the tool is as new. Mine have been cleaned thusly MANY times. As I have said, I use these tools!
BTW Darrell, these are also used by ice sculptors.
Do not misunderstand, all cutters wear overtime. Carbide holds up better than high speed steel, especially with the tough work we put them through. Carving bonsai with the use of a die grinder is serious work for any tool. As time goes by the sharp tips of the burrs do deteriorate and break off or wear away. I often have folks come to me at shows carrying a burr in awful shape that they've almost completey worn away. They want to show me how they've worn them out on bonsai and want to pick another one out exactly the same!

For Angel,
Perhaps this is more what you were wishing for. These are SOLID CARBIDE milling tools for milling brass/aluminum.They work great for our purposes. They have multiple cutting faces thereby making them easier to control ( like burrs) but offer a cutting surface that doesn't load like a router bit. I sell quite a few of these in various sizes and shapes to people who are reluctant to try the larger router bits or to people who are a little newer to carving via die grinder. They do not grab and get away from you near as easily as a router bit or some of the other bits I sell.
Dale
 

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Graydon

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Dale - have you tried any of the 1/4" shank burrs in a pneumatic die grinder? I'm fortunate to have a sizable compressor and several of the pneumatic models at my shop (see attached photo). So far I am happy with the results. There seems to be plenty of torque available as long as I let the tool do the work (I grind aluminum and steel welds with them so there must be lents of torque). They are much smaller in size, lighter and don't heat up from the electric motor. If you regulate the air pressure you can get variable speeds for various jobs. The downside is the hose is a bit more of a pain to maneuver than an electric cord.

I have not paid attention to the MAXIMUM RPM on the cutters I purchased from you but I can guess that the unregulated pneumatic models I use may exceed that rating. Safety first - I never open them up full speed.

Looking forward top seeing you in Florida again so I can pick out some more cutters... or I suppose I could call you and order them huh?
 

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Dale Cochoy

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Graydon,
Most of the carbide burrs are rated at 35k rpm so they would surely work with air powered grinders, in fact, their original intended use was in a market place where those grinders are used. ( see picture) But you do not need those speeds or anywhere near that for operation of the burrs. They are not like the 2-5 cutting-faced carvers where a high rate of rotation is needed. The burrs work on our material at a lesser speed, although, they work faster at higher speeds. My suggestion is to slow your pneumatic grinder down to the 20-25k range, I doubt you'll notice much difference in the operation. You aren't grinding welds!!
Also, the sanding flap wheels, which are very nice for bonsai carving, operate at much lower speeds, in fact, they work well at speeds in the higher range of most hand-held home workshop drill motors.
Yes many cutters are not rated at 25krpm speeds. By their nature of construction we find that as carvers get bigger...the max rpm goes down. Also some materials, like sanding flap wheels, are impossible to make balanced at high speeds. We have to make the final decisions as to what we will use, and when, and on what. I always suggest to folks that they buy a speed control for their die grinders so as not to exceed any rotational limitations. These are available in the $45ish dollar range, also some die grinders have variable speeds like the Makita Model GD0800C. It's the most expensive, but NICE!! BTW, I sell all the Makita models.
You want to be safe. That is my recommendation. Do not exceed rotational limitations to your tools.
Power wood carving can be dangerous so we must make wise choices in our actions.;) ;)
Dale
 

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grouper52

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For Angel,
Perhaps this is more what you were wishing for. These are SOLID CARBIDE milling tools for milling brass/aluminum.They work great for our purposes. They have multiple cutting faces thereby making them easier to control ( like burrs) but offer a cutting surface that doesn't load like a router bit. I sell quite a few of these in various sizes and shapes to people who are reluctant to try the larger router bits or to people who are a little newer to carving via die grinder. They do not grab and get away from you near as easily as a router bit or some of the other bits I sell.
Dale
Dale, that's the kind I've always used, and been pretty pleased with them, but am looking for bits that can do some of the heavier work more quickly. I'm glad to see you've got some of those for sale also, as mine are wearing down a bit and they were initially a bit hard to track down, not really knowing back then what I was looking for.
 

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