Nigel, the term inexpensive is relative . However, for power it would be a foredom S series with the 43T handpiece and 8D handpiece. Check out http://www.shadysidebonsai.com/id90.html for more info..
For hand carving, a draw gouge, flexshaft tools, and a small palm chisel, dental picks, wire brush.
I have been experimenting heat carving using an acetylene/oxygen torch with a special cutting head on some of my über bonsai. It has given me some results that are amazing. It can do what no other carving tool ( hand or power) can do.
Fair enough regarding my use of the word "inexpensive". I am still trying to recall the name of a carving tool kit I had as a kid. It eludes me but it is what I had in mind.
I'll take a look at the link you sent, but torches are out for me for the time being.
That is a nerve wracking idea to even think about. Maybe at a later point.
What I'm really after is something to hollow out where large branches have been removed, or trunk chops were performed so that the cut heals over flush. It hard to get it just right with knob cutters.
I think "draw gouges" may also be found as "scorps" on many woodworking tool sites. Some scorps have full circles of metal as their cutting surface, while some have crescents. All carve on the pull or draw. Several woodworking sites offer scorp sets with different sizes. See a fancy scorp set here.
One other addition - a dremel tool set with a flexshaft extension can work as a cheap replacement for more expensive dedicated flexshaft tools.
And of course, the omnipresent x-Acto tool set. It might not do the best job, but it keeps you awake with all the cut fingers
If you plan to carve alot a dremel with or with out a flexshaft will burn bearings and brushes up in a blink of an eye in comparsion to a "expensive" version. When I started carving seriously I burned up 2 dremel sets inside a winter.Thats what started me on my quest to find a better carving tool. The foredom I use now I have had for three years. It has served me well and is more highly adaptable than a dremel or a makita in a carving situations heavy or light. You know the old saying... Pay me now or pay me later
My concern is that with power tools, one slip and you've done more harm than good.
Do the other power tools you are mentioning are easier to use in this regard than a dremel?
Greg mentioned "scorps" and Tom mentioned in response how it affects the grain. Right now
I just need something to hollow out where branches have been removed and trunk chops performed in order for the wound to heal flush.
Hi Nigel, Hollowing out a branch can be done a variety of ways. The scorp or the draw gouge is not one of them. The foredom I mentioned can give you the delicacy of a dental instrument. It can offer a small hand piece with a small bur if that's all the carving your doing. The foot peddle allows you to keep your hands on whats important the tree and the tool. The dremel will do what you want, but in my opinion not to the same degree of ease and quality.
If all your near plans for carving are just the branch, you could.......
Use a small gouge or hand pick to start a pilot hole in the area you want to carve. Take a small diameter drill bit smaller than the hollow you want to create. Then hollow the branch out, followed up with a pick, craft knife, or any other small suitable cutting tool to detail the hollow.