This mid-19th century carving gouge has lost some length in the blade but the steel is in good shape and it holds a keen edge. The handle was a different story, with several splits, losses and rough sections that made it difficult and uncomfortable to use.
For the gouge to be useful to me I couldn’t retain the old handle and decided to replace it even though it had been with the gouge for some time. It had no previous owners initials stamped on it and had been badly abused. It had served it purpose and the gouge was in need of a new handle if it was to continue to be useful to a carver.
With the old handle off, we can see the forged, straight, tapered tang. The taper and sharp edges of the tang make fitting a new handle a breeze, cutting the sides of a pre-bored hole as it’s twisted into the handle, creating a perfect negative shape of itself.
On the back of the gouge is the imprint “S. J. ADDIS JUr / LONDON. Samuel Joseph Addis (1811-1870) used the JUr designation while his father (1792-1858), also an edge tool maker, was still producing tools. S. J. likely used this imprint from the mid 1840’s through the mid-1850’s. Samuel Joseph Addis and his younger brother, James Bacon, displayed their carving tools – winning medals – at The Great Exhibition of 1851.
A detail of the imprint on the back of the gouge.
I prefer octagonal handles on my carving tools. They are the oldest style of handle, easy to make, and the narrow tools won’t roll around on the carving bench like they do when fitted with turned handles.
I made the handle from beech, a wood traditionally used by British toolmakers. With the lightest coating of boiled linseed oil, it is already developing a patina from use. It’s wonderfully romantic to use historic tools whose handles are stamped with one, two or more previous owners names. Replacing a handle of a neglected tool and watching the white wood gradually darken over time with the oil and perspiration of your own hands is equally romantic.