There are three popular modifications made to carving gouges:  Pinching, reversing, and miniaturization.  On this page I will discuss pinching.

Pinching is a modification intended to allow a gouge to make a narrower cut, and hence carve smaller details.  The idea is simple enough; this V is too big, so let's squeeze it to make it narrower.  This makes sense until you realize that the way you control the width of a cut with a gouge is to control the depth; a Staedtler 1V or 2V, unmodified, will make a cut so small that you wonder why anyone would need to make cuts any smaller.  In fact, they'll make cuts so small that they readily fill up with ink when stamping and don't appear in the image anyway.  The whole pinching idea originally arose from the use of Speedball #1 gouges which, due to a slightly rounded bottom of the V, won't cut an especially small groove without popping out of the rubber altogether and skipping across the surface of the rubber.

If the reason you have arrived at this page is because you've been carving with an unmodified Speedball gouge and want to be able to carve smaller details, take this bit of advice:  Buy a Staedtler 1V and just forget about the whole pinching idea.

That said, a pinched gouge actually is handy for some tasks.  For one thing, it's better than a regular gouge at making grooves that are all exactly the same width.  Once pinched, the sides of the V are more nearly parallel, so variations in the depth of the cut don't vary the width by much.  I personally use a pinched gouge to "sign" my stamps, cutting the letters "KIRBERT" right into the rubber.  The pinched gouge leaves very visible lettering while a regular gouge leaves grooves that are too shallow to be seen as clearly.

Unlike the other modifications described in these pages, pinching does not primarily involve grinding a tip to a different shape.  Rather, it involves bending a tip to a different shape!  Both Speedball and Staedtler nibs are made of hard steel alloy, which means they don't like to be bent.  In order to bend a nib successfully, it needs to be hot -- hot enough to render the steel malleable.  That's really hot; it means the nib needs to be glowing red.

Hence another reason this modification is associated with Speedball nibs more than Staedtlers.  Staedtler gouges come with handles, and the nibs are theoretically not removable from those handles (some have actually succeeded in removing them, but most carvers don't even try for fear of damaging their prized gouges).  Since the handles are plastic, getting the tip cherry read hot is likely to cause melting.  It is possible to do it by heating the very tip very quickly, doing the pinching, and then dunking the tip in cool water before the heat has a chance to make it to the handle, but that's not a job for the faint of heart.  Besides, Staedtler gouges carve so well without being pinched that most owners wouldn't even consider this mod.

Speedball gouges are another story.  They are readily removed from their handles, so you can easily hold one with a pair of tongs or pliers or hemostats or whatnot while heating it.

The task of pinching a nib is simple enough:  Holding the base of the nib with pliers or something, get the tip cherry red hot -- possibly on a stove set on "High" -- and then, using another pair of pliers, squeeze the tip.  You need to squeeze very quickly, as the tip is tiny and will cool down in a matter of seconds once removed from the heat.  It will also cool down very quickly once it comes in contact with a cold pair of pliers, but fortunately this cooling is mostly out at the sides of the tip and you're hoping most of the bending happens down in the V.  Once bent, dunk the nib in cold water; letting it just air-cool may "temper" the steel if you got it hot enough, making it a bit softer.  In fact, the best course of action is to reheat the tip red hot and then directly dunk it; this will both relieve any residual stresses in the steel resulting from the bending and it will ensure full hardness.

The whole job is not really all that difficult, but the results are inconsistent.  If you don't get the nib hot enough or let it cool down too much before pinching it, the result is that the nib will crack right along the bottom of the V.  Sometimes it's hard to notice -- until you try carving with it.  If it's cracked, just take it off the handle and throw it away, it is well and truly ruined.  Fortunately, Speedball nibs are cheap, just grab another one and try again!

Ideally, you'd like all the bending to occur right at the very bottom of the V.  That way the bend would get "crisper", which would result in a real improvement in its capacity for cutting very fine grooves, and it would also leave the sides of the V straight, which keeps it relatively simple to resharpen.  Unfortunately, it's more likely that the bending will occur in both the bottom crease of the V and in the lower portions of the sides of the V, resulting in a slightly bowed V.  If these results are not entirely to your liking, you might just try grabbing yet another Speedball nib and trying again, perhaps trying to get it hotter yet before pinching this time.

There's also the question of how far to pinch it.  Pinching it to the point where the two sides are flat against each other would be bad.  Some have suggested positioning an X-Acto blade in between while pinching to make sure it doesn't go that far, but getting and holding that thing in position and doing the pinching without the nib cooling off too much in the meantime may be a bit much, even for two people working together.

Even a pinched nib will need sharpening now and then, which means the same process described on the sharpening page.  That means you're going to need to fit a ceramic knife down the middle of that V.  Ceramic knives tend to be kinda thick -- they are ceramic, so making them thin would invite snappage -- so you might want to take this into consideration.  If the sides of the V get bent a bit, the ceramic knife won't fit flush against them, but believe it or not you can still hone this curved inside surface by sliding the edge of the ceramic knife up and down the side.  This works reasonably well.  You will also have to be fiddling a bit when honing the outside, of course, rolling the nib a bit to hone the curved surface.

Among carvers, a pinched nib is commonly referred to as a "#0" or a "#0.5".