I receive a lot of questions from people asking me about the Pfeil lino cutting tools I use, and I’m not surprised. Whilst Pfeil are brilliant at making lino cutting tools, they are pretty rubbish at actually selling them by informing their prospective customers about their product. I would fully recommend these tools, they are a pleasure to work with and appear to be the lino cutter and print makers number one choice.
I’m not an expert, but I’ll share with you my thoughts and any useful info about the tools in this blog. Firstly, Pfeil tools are Swiss made, they have a pear shaped wooden handle made from Ash that sits comfortably in the palm of your hand whilst you work with it. They are 12.5cm in length and the chrome vanadium alloy steel metal parts of the cutting tools are all heat treated and sharpened into great cutting edges (So mind your fingers and don’t slip!).
The tools are mainly distinguished by the profile of their cutting edge and then the general overall size of the business/cutting end. The sizes scale up from very small, 0.5mm wide up to 10mm in width. The shape of the cutting ends are V-Tool and U Shaped or ‘Gouge’ Tools and Flat Tools.
You can buy the tools individually or in sets of six, eight or twelve. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend buying twelve to start with as they are expensive tools and you will probably find like me that you have some that you use all the time and then others that you use a lot less.
If you buy a set of six like I did there are a few sets to choose from, imaginatively named LS A, LS B, LS C & LS D. I have added a small screenshot from the Pfeil website below that shows you the profiles of the different tools in each set.
I didn’t completely understand the naming convention, but the number after the forward slash seems to represent the measurement of the width of the cutting edge in millimetres. However, my knowledge here has been expanded by DCIP visitor Jon who wrote in and stated that he believes the number before the slash is the degree of curvature of the tool. A1 is a flat blade, while 5 is a shallow U-shape, 8 and deeper U, 12 a V, and 15 a very sharp V – Nice one Jon!
So apart from sounding like the names of Atlantic convoys, what’s the difference and which one should I buy I hear you ask? Personally I’d recommend tool set – LS C as it has a really nice variety of U-Shaped gouges and V shaped cutting tools. This was the set that I got and I’m very pleased with it. However, I do like to work in fine detail quite a lot and so did end up buying one more V Shaped tool L 12/1 which I absolutely cannot live without.
The other sets seem to have a lot of flatter profile tools and less variety, but this really does come down to personal choice and the style you prefer to work in. I would say that as a person who enjoys fine detail but also needs to quickly clear away areas of lino then LS C is a good choice. I tend not to work larger than A4-A3 in size, but if you were working on a very large scale you might prefer to go for set LS B as that has some good size tools for clearing away excess negative space in your designs but still comes with a few tools (L11/1 and L12/1) which are very well suited to finer details and accurate cuts.
The tools I use all the time are the V-Shaped carving tools L12/1, L 15/2 and the U-Shaped tools L9/2 and L8/3.
I use the V shape tools for all the accurate edges and corners, and I really like the effect you can achieve for areas of shading in your designs by just slightly penetrating the lino and then flicking the tool up and out. The V-Shaped tools also provide nice sharp pointed ends to lines, whilst the U-Shaped tools will naturally give you a much softer and curved end point to a line.
You can buy Pfeil lino cutting tools from lots of places online. I bought mine from G&S Tools and Timber for £83.71 which was the best price I could find when I looked. You can also buy them from other online retailers like www.greatart.co.uk who sell the tools individually or you can visit Intaglio Printmakers if you are in London and near to Borough. Another new online resource that I was recently contacted by is a website called Handprinted where you can also get Pfeil Tool Sets. I’ve also just found another retailer in London near the British Museum called Cornelisson that also stock the Pfeil tool sets as well as individually selling the tools.
For all you lino cutters in North America I have found an online store called www.woodcraft.com who sell sets of six for $139.99.
Thanks to fellow lino cutter Sarah from Germany who got in touch I can also reveal that you can buy Pfeil carving tools from art suppliers Gerstecker or Boesners. They sell a range of Pfeil tools for 15,12 € and 13,70 € respectively. This is a great price, and although I am not sure if they ship internationally it’s definitely an option for European lino artists.
Thank you so much for this post! I was starting to get desperate on how to decide which Pfeil Tools I should buy and this has helped me a lot.
Super helpful. Just the information I was looking for. Thanks.
Thanks, this is really helpful. As you say, info from Pfeil is minimal. Cheers!
Thank you! You have cleared up a great deal for me. Now I can tell people exactly what I want for my upcoming birthday…
What a clear, informative and helpful post- gave me the confidence to buy, and at a very good price. Thank you so much.
Thank you! This post made my mind clear before buying Pfeil sets
Pfeil should employ you as their brand ambassador! Really helpful. Thank you.
Very helpful. I believe the number before the slash is the degree of curvature of the tool. A 1 is a flat blade, while 5 is a shallow U-shape, 8 and deeper U, 12 a V, and 15 a very sharp V.
Thanks so much for this really informative piece. You will have saved me a lot of money as I would have probably bought several tools which I would never use.
This is the best (easy to read and informative) post on lino tools I’ve read, so helpful, and actually encouraged me to take the plunge (feeling far more confident which ones would be useful for me) and buy some! (I opted for the L9/2 and the L15/2/ MANY MANY THANKS for taking the time to write this post!
Thanks so much I will definitely be purchasing these, I am a painter and have gotten into a bit of carving thanks for the info it helped a lot.
Thanks so much for this. Very informative!
Thank you so much for this wonderful article.
Such a helpful post, thank you for taking the time to write it.
Hugely helpful info. Thank you so much!
Thanks so much for this explanation which has helped me choose the right size Pfeil tools! Ann
Thank you – you’re the only one to give clear advice to a beginner!
Super helpful. Thank you. I saw them today at Cornelissen’s in London. Sets and individual tools. They also carry the Pfeil sharpening stone set.
Your link to Woodcraft.com in the USA goes to the set B. Set C is what you suggest and that one is $174.99. Looks less expensive to order from G&S even including VAT and international shipping fee, still less.
This was super helpful!
Are these able to be sharpened or do they pretty much last forever?! You are right about not having much info on their site!
This is such great advice for a beginner like me – thanks a lot.
Great post! Thanks for the advice. I had not idea what to get.
Fantastic stuff thank you so much for taking the time to write this. For people in Canada, there’s a store in Montreal that sell Pfeil tools: http://www.langevinforest.com/en/tools/carving/carving-chisels
I ended up getting the 12/1 to start my kit.
Thank you for demystifying the size options of each set. This post is tremendously helpful! Cheers!
This was very helpful, especially the pictures showing the actual cuts and how they match up to the blades. Thanks!
Really useful thanks a lot. I realised Pfeil were the best ones but didn’t know the numbering system and the best use in practice.
Super helpful. Pfeil should hire you as their spokesperson!
This is such a useful post. You anticipated all my questions and I agree with the comments that refer to the photos showing the blades and the cuts. Really useful. I’m now planning to upgrade to Pfeil from my rather inferior Essdee starter handle and blades!
So good to get some really useful info’. Thanks very much for sharing it.
Thank you for your really helpful advice on tools. I am about to buy new ones and didn’t want to spend a fortune. The ones you suggest sound fine for me. Best wishes.
Great advice and blog – many thanks!!
I’ve noticed that people are raving about the L12 tool as the finest and best one for details, but the L11 looks much finer to me. Can you weigh in on that?
They are both favourite’s of mine to work on details. The L12 is a very small V shape, whereas the L11 is smaller but more U shaped. I think that the L11 can be let down if the printmaker doesn’t apply enough pressure when using it to cut into the lino (or wood) then the cut can be too shallow and therefore it doesn’t print clearly. The beauty of the L12 is that you can get cleaner and clearer cut marks. It’s all about practice and personal preference I guess… I use them both all the time and would recommend them both equally.
Thank you so much for taking the time to write this – just what I wanted to know!
I am so pleased to have come across this article whilst searching for info about Pfeil tools! I have been wanting to get some for ages but couldn’t tell which ones would be most useful and didn’t want to make an expensive mistake. Thank you very much for writing this. Pfeil should be paying you commission for doing what they’ve failed to do themselves!
Hi thanks for a very informative piece do the handles have flat on them fro stop them from rolling on the bench when laid down?
Hi George, Yes that’s exactly right! And you can quickly glance at the tool tag that is stamped into the metal stem of the tool
Can I use them on wood ?
Yes you can https://www.drawcutinkpress.com/linocut-vs-woodcut-printmaking-materials/
I really struggle with fine detail and this has been extremely helpful! Thank you