Kirbert recently posted a link on AQ to an inexpensive set of carving gouges sold through Amazon. These are labeled Heritage Arts and are manufactured for and distributed by Alvin Co. I thought they were worth a try for fun and to see how they compare to my favorites from Speedball and Staedtler. I took a couple of pictures to show the difference in the tips. All of these are #1 size gouges with the Alvin brand on top, Speedball (in a calligraphy pen handle) in the middle, and Staedtler on the bottom. The Alving gouge is distinctive because of the hole in the rounded area. Right away, you may notice that the gouge is bigger than the others. It’s wider at the top and also has a more rounded point at the bottom of the V than either of the other brands.
The next picture shows a side view where you can see that the height of the V is also taller.
The Alvin gouges come with a wooden handle shaped similarly to the speedball plastic handles. The Alvin handle is noticeably smaller and the cutting nibs fit into the wood with a friction fit. The bottom of the nibs is tapered so you can push them firmly into the handle. For stamp carving the handle is a good size if you like to hold the handle in your palm.
I should emphasize that the cutting nibs are NOT intechangble with Speedball. The metal bends onto an almost circular shape which does not fit into the Speedball handle. I was also unable to insert the nibs into my pen handle. You might be able to modify the pen handle insert a bit to make it work, but I didn’t have an extra one to play with.
Overall I found the #1 gouge to be too large for my taste. The feel when using it with OZ cut was more friction and force than I liked, slightly more than I have with the Speedball. For some reason nothing cuts the OZ cut as well as the Staedtler gouges. With the pink stuff, the Alvin gouge cuts fine and is a very usable tool. I also like the #2 blade which is a small U shape that works well for cleaning up areas with less detail. Overall, I doubt I’ll use the #1 blade much. I like my other tools better.
Strangely I like both the Speedball and Staedtler gouges for different materials and types of carves. For OZ Cut, I use the Staedtler #1 and reversed gouges almost exclusively. They take significantly less force to carve in this material. For pink stuff and SQL materials, I prefer Speedball gouges unless I have very tiny details. For some reason I can carve faster with the Speedball gouge, and it leaves fewer spots which need clean up.