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.