Lino carving methods – carving tools and blades

These are the 4 main sizes of blades I use to carve my linoblocks – they are known as ‘V’ gauges and are blades designed to push away from you whilst you carve. There are other blades known as ‘pull’ blades designed to pull towards you as you carve – I have never used these. These blades fit into a handle when using them.

Now at this point I need to stress that these particular carving tools are over 25years old – they are certainly old and faithful and I guard them jealously. Not because they were hugely expensive but because out of long years of use they are comfortable. Sometimes it’s hard to let go of the comfortable. I also have noted that a newer set of Speedball blades and handles are not the same as these – they are a different shape of handle and gauges and have less weight in the handle.

I have not the access to shops that sell the more expensive carving tools nor the finances at this point and I would need to feel them before I bought them but I also know that into the future I will need towards replacing these.

The end section on the right of this image below comes off and the spare blades can bet stored there but this is not something I do. I do also though use some padding I tape onto the end for the finer blade as it gets the most use. The end of the handle fits neatly and comfortably into the centre of my hand.

Essentially you need to find the blades and handles that best feel comfortable to you. As an aside I do not like the long straight wooden handled cheaper lino carving tools that are most used in schools. They contain only larger sized blades and foe me I find them cumbersome to use as I have a small hand and do a lot of fine carving.

There are the 4 blades – I use a very fine sharpening stone with oil about once or twice a year depending on much I am carving and then in between use very fine sand paper and grinding past on a heavy piece of leather as I carve.

No 1 is approx 2mm across the widest edges and goes down into a deep V gauge – as you can see in this image there is a sharpened section on the end of the blade and this is the edge that I keep the sharpest.

I find this size blade is the best one to use for the initial outlining of the edges of the design, the very fine line and small spaces and the final neaten and finishing off part of my carving.



No 2 blade is approx 3mm across the widest edges and goes down into a slightly less deep V gauge.

I find this size blade is great for doing smaller areas closer to the actual sides of each of the carving areas. It is also great after you do the outside edge of a block that is an irregular shape before it can be cut back with something like a Stanley knife.



No 3 blade is approx 4mm across the widest edge and creates the cut that transitions from the sharp ‘V’ to a softer ‘U’ shape.

I find I am able to get broader areas of cut – more like a scoop with this blade but still with the added depth of that closer to the ‘V’. I use this often in scooping out larger areas to print blank – or  leave white paper – that the ‘U’ shaped No 4 blade is too broad for.


No 4 blade is approx 5mm across the widest edge and creates a softer ‘U’ shape in the lino carving.

Although this blade can provide an edge I do not use it for that as it does not create the sharp neat edges I want. I use it for carving out larger broad areas as it is able to take out the broader sweep of lino using the wider ‘u’ shape.


It is with these 4 blades I can carve lino like the block below to create the final print – oh and of course lots of practice!!

New Zealand Wildflowers Linoblock Final
Linocut - New Zealand Wildflowers



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