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.

The blades above fit into a handle when using them to carve lino.

Now at this point I need to stress that these particular carving tools are over 25 years 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 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 side of the above 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 due to the constant pressure into the palm of my hand whilst carving. 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.

The No 1 is blade is approx 2mm across the widest edges and goes down into a deep definite 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, this gives a very fine outline and is great for small spaces.

I use this to neaten and finalise the carving of the larger gouged sections so that the final print has as close to a neat definite line as I can get.

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

I find this size blade is great for gouging lino from 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.


The 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 – it carves 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.

The 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 deep 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 can also be used over large areas roughly carved to create ‘texture’ or random raised areas that pick up small amount of ink that creates texture in

The above image gives a clear comparison of the 4 blades varying in-depth and width.

The image below shows the variation achieved with one simple gouge through a piece of lino.

So 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!!

The final handcoloured print resulting from the above linoblock – New Zealand Wildflowers completed in 2008.

Copyright – Lynette Weir

3 thoughts on “Lino carving methods – carving tools and blades

  1. Dear Lyn, thank you very much for these amazing tutorials. I remember reading recently in one of your posts about the carba-tec microtools. I am seriously considering buying a couple because I want to try to get thinner lines in the work (I work mostly on wood). I wanted to ask you if you find the tools do allow you to get finer lines, and if you know whether the angle matters (there seem to be choices for 45, 60 degrees). Many thanks for your help. Laura Castell

    1. Hi Laura,
      Sorry for the long delay in replying!
      The tools I bought are lino carving tools & I bought the finest bladesL 11/1 & L11/05 which are quite fine for lino. Not sure about wood. I like the V & U guage blade with the V guage (0.5) being the finest.
      Pete over at
      might be someone good to ask! He has carved with wood & also wood engraving.
      All the best

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