|Left to right, Mora 162, 163, 164|
The gouge is probably the more readily available of the two. Quality gouges of many styles are available from every woodworking catalog I can think of. I've carved a couple of spoons using the gouges I have, some Buck Bros bench gouges. It works but I find it a bit awkward, perhaps due to the length of my tools and the weight. Perhaps I'd like a proper carving gouge better but I don't have one in a width and sweep I like as well.
Curved or hook knives also come in a variety of styles and shapes. They can be semi-circular, semi-elliptical, or of a decreasing radius. So far I've only found them from either some dedicated small production blacksmith makers or from Mora of Sweden, who's straight knives I've covered in a previous post.
Let's start with the Mora hook knives. While their straight knives have a wonderful, almost legendary, reputation the hook knives could only hope for such status. Mora offers 3 models of hook knife, one in each of the above styles. While the steel is pretty good and they are inexpensive they do not come with the level of finish that the straight knives do. The edge needs work to cut well and perhaps a bit of re-profiling, this can be a bit daunting. The way the stock blade is beveled at the edge actually makes this task even more difficult in my opinion. It can be done though and the knives can be made to work acceptably. This video describes the process for the Mora 164 decreasing radius single edge hook knife which is my favorite of the three. The 162 and 163 just haven't caught on with me.
I have no direct experience, yet, with a hook knife from a small blacksmith. That said there are at least two people in the US, probably more, that make them. I've ordered one from Del Stubbs of Pinewood Forge and will review that knife when it comes in late January. The other is Kestrel Tool which which offers a variety of hooked knives in the Pacific Northwest. Both are well regarded.