Pfeil Tools Review
Updated: Aug 22
Like most people starting out in linocut, I learned this art form using a Speedball cutter. I kept using it for a few years, and it worked just fine. I don't want to knock the Speedball tool, as it's a solid product, and I do enjoy being able to store the blades inside the handle. However, as the number of blocks I was carving increased, it was getting to be time for an upgrade. My wife realized that and got me some Pfeil tools for our wedding anniversary. Since I've been using them for several months now, I thought I'd share a review.
First of all, I should note that these are much pricier than the Speedball cutters. If you're new to linocut, there's no sense in investing around $30 per single-bladed tool when you can spend $10 on a Speedball tool with multiple interchangeable blades. However, as the volume of your printmaking increases, it pays to put some of your print sale profits toward better tools.
One huge plus to the Swiss-made Pfeil tools is how easily they cut through the linoleum. I use Blick Battleship Gray blocks, which are fairly sturdy. Early on, I learned the hard way that Speedball tools aren't the best fit for this block. I had to put a decent amount of force into each stroke, and at one point this extra strain caused me several days of neck pain. My workaround was to keep a hair dryer handy and heat up the block before each carving session. With Pfeil, this is no longer necessary. These tools move through the block smoothly without having to pre-soften with heat. That's because they're built not just for linoleum but also for wood. I can't speak much to their woodcarving capabilities, although I have used them on one fairly dense piece of wood with good results.
Another aspect that keeps things moving smoothly is the handle shape. The mushroom-shaped ends fit comfortably in your palm. Further, the 70-mm metal blades are long enough to allow you to place a finger near the end when you need added guidance for fine lines.
While I'm still building my collection (like I said, they're a bit pricey), I've been able to get the lines I need with the five tools I have. Still, as I add tools, I'll gain more versatility thanks to their large number of blade types. They offer a wide range of blade sizes so that you can gouge away large portions of your block or create fine details with a 1-mm blade. With choices of v-blades and u-gouges, you'll have the right tool for any project. My favorite is the nearly flat sweep blade, used to clear away lines left behind from the other blades, ensuring large portions of white space wherever you need it. The only one I'm currently having trouble figuring out is the hook-shaped blade. Perhaps I need more instruction with it, but the odd shape is so far yielding inconsistent cut depths.
I haven't been using Pfeil long enough to speak to their durability. I imagine they will stay sufficiently sharp for a while, but just in case, I plan on adding a slipstrop sharpening kit to my collection soon so that I'll be ready when they start becoming dull.
Although I've been using Pfeil tools for a relatively short time and with a relatively small arsenal of tools, I'm so far very impressed. Their ease of use and versatility in blade types are huge selling points and time savers. I highly recommend Pfeil for anyone who has been working in linocut for a while and feels the need to invest in better tools. You can learn more at the Pfeil tools website or order from Woodcraft.com.