REVIEW: Manpa Powercarving Tools
Above: After outlining and removing some of the background material, the 3" Manpa V-cutter was used to refine and add ‘veins’ to the test piece leaf pattern.
Review and photos: Sandra Skodnik
Sculpting and carving has been a part of my life for approximately 40 years now. I began with traditional hand carving, and years later I discovered rotary power tools, which opened the door to working with harder timbers and speeding up the initial process. These days I combine both techniques to create my sculptures and decorative but functional pieces.
Manpa, a new brand of powercarver made in Korea, has now arrived on our doorstep. I was sent the Multi Cutter Master Kit and a few other tools from the Manpa range to review. The Master Kit includes 3" and 4" circular cutters, 270 and 348mm extension tools, safety covers, a handle, drive gear, timing belt (200, 270, 348 XL) and adjustment tools. The tools are attached to a 850 watt grinder with M14 spindle (not supplied).
I designed and made two pieces specifically to evaluate the performance and practicality of the tools – a relief sculpture to be powercarved into soft timber (camphor laurel), and a small bowl with added texture to be carved from harder timber (burl).
I wanted to test the comfort and ease of working the tools along with their safety features and versatility. I was interested to look at the quality, performance, changeover and effectiveness of the cutters, and in summary, if the tool could enhance my process as a woodworker.
I followed my usual process. After drawing a rough design with chalk, I secured the timber and prepared the space around me. As a rule, I always check my workplace to eliminate any potential safety issues. After that I gather the required PPE, as well as the tools I intend to use.
To get the feel of the 3" cutter in the softer timber, I used it to outline my design and remove background material. The 3" triangle and the square cutter were then used for the deep line work. After that I used the mini carving bits and concave eye cutters to create some patterns and textures.
My first impression of the multi cutter was how super smooth and powerful the tool felt while cutting and shaping the timber. It was comfortable to hold, and with no vibration – I could feel the quality.
The 3" cutter glided through the camphor laurel in any direction resulting in crisp clean cuts, with clean shavings. No force was required, the tool did all the work; I just needed to apply concentration and direction. This cutter was the perfect size for the second bowl project and the combination of smooth cutting and the power it produced removed material very efficiently. I was unable to use the 4" cutter on the test project, however I did put it through its paces and strongly recommend it for larger works.
Overall, I was impressed with the Manpa cutter’s performance and quality, I can see applications for the tool in sculpture, bowl making, general shaping and large texturing.
Angle adjustment and extensions
When powercarving, a comfortable height to secure your work is elbow height, that way your arms won’t tire as quickly. Being able to adjust the angle of the body to the angle grinder from 90 to 180° is a fantastic feature. I found that adjusting the body down took strain off the arm holding the grinder and helps to keep the tool balanced.
When working on the bowl project, I found I didn’t need to hold the grinder end up as high to reach into the bowl – again, less effort for your right arm. The extension tools were very handy for reaching hard-to-get-to places, eliminating double handling with an additional tool which can save a lot of time in reaching the required result.
As well as the Master Kit, I was sent a 3" triangle cutter, 3" quad angle square, concave eye cutters and mini carving bits (round, triangle and square). In addition, Manpa also produce a 600mm aluminium ‘Woodcraft Vice’ which was also sent for review.
Manpa 3" and 4" circular cutters
The triangle cutter leaves a crisp and clean distinctive V-cut, suitable for pushing and pulling long sweeping sharp lines, patterns and texture. I had no problem running the cutter back through the same groove for a deeper V-cut – the cutter sinks into the wood with no pressure needed to achieve desired depth. The cutter is capable of carving slight curves with little effort, although it will kick into the outside wall of the timber when attempting a tight curve
Quad angle cutter
When pushing or pulling, the quad angle achieves a square line with three clean edges. Widening the square line was surprisingly easy, however I found that when adjusting the width, the depth was hard to mirror up with the first line. You can shape from left and right, as well as produce a variety of interesting textures, depending on the angle.
Cutter change-over was straightforward, only requiring loosening the nut with the supplied U-spanner and then spinning the nut off with your finger.
Concave eye cutters
Instantly I thought of the patterns I could create with these cutters: overlapping circles, semicircles for flowers, fish scales, mandala designs and more. However, when the spinning tool first contacts the timber, I found it wanted to roll off the intended position. Tilting the tool on a slight angle aided in hitting the mark, and what’s more, I found while pushing the cutter down I could also rotate the tool to get an even depth.
The smaller eye cutters worked well on my Foredom carver, whereas the larger eye cutters required the power from the die grinder. All in all, such a fun and quick process, I look forward to experimenting more with these.
Mini carving bits
These little pocket rockets come in round, triangle and square shapes, each in different sizes. I used the round bit for shaping hard-to-get-to areas and texturing, quite smooth and powerful. The triangle bit is more aggressive than the round bit, excellent for finer lines, curves and texturing and the square bit was fantastic for texturing a variety of shapes when altering the angle. I used the mini round bit to texture the top surface of the bowl project, leaving a clean finish. These bits are dynamite.
Hooray, the answer to securing my burls. In the past I’ve used everything from sandbags to a wheelbarrow packed with towels, spending so much time readjusting and retightening.
Priced at $475, the vice has semi- soft gel walls allowing an uneven burl to be manoeuvred as required. You can work from all sides and what makes it a must for people like me is the quick-release button.
In my opinion these tools are high quality with a price tag to match, definitely a worthwhile investment for the creative woodworker. These products are a ten out of ten from me.
Sandra Skodnik is a Brisbane-based woodcarver and sculptor. Learn more at www.skodniksculpture.com.au and Instagram @sandra_skodniksculpture
Review tools supplied by and available from Manpa Australia, see www.manpatoolsaustralia.com.au
Showing the finished piece that was used to test a variety of cuts.