Monday, February 22, 2010

Product Review: Carving Material Sample Pack

The Sample Pack

Padawan and I shared a sample pack procured through our friend Dixie. It included three slabs of carving material; ECO, Karve Majik and Smooth-Cut (actually, I'm unsure whether this sample pack is still available for sale). We are both gouge carvers, occasionally using other tools such as modified gouges, needles and knives (both x-acto and wire). Padawan tends to carve taking short, more shallow cuts along the design, whereas I lean more toward the longer, deeper sweeping cuts. Interestingly enough, we both came to the same conclusions about the materials tested.

I will be sending my samples onto another carver (one who I consider to be the best needle carver in the country) and am very interested in what she has to say about these samples. I had a rather hard time using needles/knives with these materials, as they all tended to 'pull' rather than cut smooth and clean.

The difference of thickness; on top is Smooth-Cut,
then ECO, the layered Karve Majik,
and on the bottom is grade A PZ Kut

[Disclaimer: We are huge fans of PZ Kut and are eagerly awaiting the return of our favorite carving material. As we tested each of these new materials, we were comparing to our 'gold standard' of PZ and how each sample worked with our particular style of carving. The following is just our opinion and not meant to discourage anyone from trying or using these materials. I do believe that everyone should try these materials for themselves and come to their own conclusions.]

Sample I - ECO

Brown & rubbery, but somehow grainy at the same time
hard to get good control with the gouge
great printing with no beading
good pencil transfer, but hard to see

Bottom line:
Not something I could carve for any length of time, due to frustration and rubbery consistency. It reminded me a lot of Speedball's Speedy Cut (the crumbly stuff), but without the smooth cut-ability. Could get an acceptable cut, but had a tough time getting up close to my lines, and forget about fine detail. (This is probably the best of the three, but would take practice and a change of carving technique to achieve the level of detail I get with PZ.)

Sample II - Karve Majik

white top layer over black material
harder to gouge, apparently my gouge isn't sharp enough...even my new one
didn't like the black showing through my cuts - rather distracting
difficult to clean up fine lines
pencil transfer'd well
good printing with no beading

Bottom line:
I really didn't like the layered materials; while it sounds good in theory, it didn't seem to have that much benefit. I wasn't able to get smooth sweeps with my gouge as I am used to, my gouge sort of 'hung up' and stuck ever so slightly, making smooth, fine lines difficult. The black material was grainy (similar to the ECO), while the white was more smooth, but not smooth cutting like PZ...bleh.

Sample III - Smooth-Cut

white and very thin (1/8")
a cross between PZ and gum or white eraser
pencil transfer'd well
good printing with no beading

Bottom line:
This material gouged OK, but I was still unable to achieve the level of smooth consistency and detail I am used to; I experienced some of the 'choppy' cuts trying to get close to my lines. Also, the thinness of the material made it difficult to handle, making it absolutely necessary to back it in some way. If this was all there was, I wouldn't carve.

Carves of each of the sample materials along with a
sample carve of PZ Kut, just for comparison.

In conclusion, I am obviously not happy with any of these options. (What I really want is, there's a shock.) However, I want to say a heartfelt 'Thank You!' to Dixie for doing the legwork required for us to give them a try. I am still hopeful that we will be able to have our beloved PZ Kut available sooner rather than later.


Ari C'rona said...

Excellent analysis of the three, my friend! I, too, say 'Thank you!' to Dixie for offering something for us to try.

You know, your expressions say it all... lol! :o)

Mama Cache said...

A picture is worth a thousand words? (I'm sorry, but I scrolled through before I read, and I had to regain my composure before I went back for a serious perusal -- those "blech" shots are the true bottom line.)

Now, to what I really have to say...

I always appreciate your ability to distill your thoughts into something concise for your readers. Coupled with your years of experience and subsequent mastery, that ability makes your reviews invaluable and trustworthy.

They are your opinion, but they are not just your opinion.

Many thanks!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, I appreciate this information and you willingness to share your results.


Mandy said...

Thanks, SHH. I value your opinion, and I always read your blog . . . just wanted to let you know. It looks like we have the same magnifiying lamp. I LOVE that one. Thanks for adding some humor to this somewhat "heavy" subject. I appreciate you.

"X" Marks the Spot said...

My friend,

Your review was very helpful. Naturally, I am very interested in what the experts are saying about the material.

Here's a good question to ponder...what are you/we going to do if/when the new and improved PZ comes out with different carving characteristics than the "old" stuff?

Oh my...

...not sure I should have brought that up. Something to think about.


Hendel D'bu said...

Oh yes, I have considered this. *sigh*

I'm still of the thought that I will resort to pink stuff if I have to, but I am ever hopeful that the 'new' PZ will be close enough to what we love to be workable. :-)

Anonymous said...

What a dramatic review. Seems a bit unfair and biased. I ordered the sample pack too and it is not near as bad as your drama tends to make it seem.

Anonymous said...

I've tried all three samples as well. While I'm not a carver of your caliber, I didn't find them as "objectionable" as you seem to have. My gouges cut all three with no problem. The ECO I didn't like that much, but that was mostly because of the color - it was just too dark for me to look at with my not-so-great-anymore vision.

The Karve Majik cut well, and while I did find the black to be a distraction, I also got some nice detail on the two stamps I carved with it.

The Smooth Cut did better after I mounted it, and was just easier to handle while carving. I did find some graininess, but it was perfectly acceptable for "every day" carving. Alas, not everything I do is a masterpiece (in spite of my best efforts ;-)), so I do have a need for economical carving materials.

I'm not sitting around waiting for PZKut, though I will be happy if it returns in the form that it was before.

Thank you for your review, though honestly, I wish it had been a little more professional - the "faces" and the "blehs" were a bit much - not at all necessary to a carving product review. Maybe it was intended to instill humor - but to someone who likes the products, and appreciates having more affordable options than pink stuff (like me) it didn't come across like that.

Mama Fox of The Little Foxes

Hendel D'bu said...

Thank you Mama Fox and Anonymous for your input and opinion. Since I was reviewing material and not people I didn't think adding a little humor was an issue.

I am not a professional carver, nor professional carving material critic. I am just a hobbyist and do not strive to be professional with my 'carving' blog. I presented my opinions, of which I have a right. I'm sorry you felt that I was being unfair, as this was not my goal, nor was it my intention to disrespect any person(s).

Thank you for reading my blog and I wish you the best carving with whichever material you chose.

Hendel D'bu said...

I would like to add another view of these materials, just to add to the conversation:

Mama Cache said...

In light of these recent comments, I thought I would read what you wrote again.

Honestly, I think you were more than fair with this evaluation. I took the photos as humor, but humor that got right to the point in a light way.

I tried all three products as well, and I recorded my thoughts before I returned to read your post again. I also didn't re-read the board comments that you and others made before I formed my own opinions. (Just trying to be objective.)

My conclusion? If I had to use any of those three products for the rest of my carving days, I would constantly be saying to myself, "I can do better than this. I have done better than this." That would take most of the pleasure out of my carving experience, to be sure.

I wish people would just read what you wrote, and focus on your descriptions. They were so clear and helpful. What a shame that anyone saw them any other way. ;-(

Ari C'rona said...

I couldn't agree more, MC. :o/

Kay/The Little Foxes said...

For clarification: I do think SHH was honest in her opinions and I appreciate that. Her delivery hit me the wrong way, and I have apologized to her, and given her permission to delete my previous response.

In the AQ community, she is looked upon as a professional (whether she wants to be or not ;-)) and her opinions carry much more weight than the very-average-carver-like-me. So yes, I was disappointed to read her review - but I guess that's my problem.

I personally found the products quite acceptable and look forward to using them more as time goes by. If they aren't the same quality as PZ Kut - well, so be it. Pink stuff isn't as good as PZ Kut either. Perhaps my challenge to myself will be to do a great carving with ANY material, not just the gold standard ;-))

Mama Fox, who's gonna stop commenting ;-))

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