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

The carving edge of a properly-formed V-gouge is a flat V facing directly away from the handle.  Since you carve with the handle angled down toward the rubber, this carving edge leans forward and the top corners of the V are out over the area you are trying to carve.  To some carvers, this doesn't make any sense.  It makes more sense that the angle of that cutting edge be reversed, that it lays back toward the handle out of your line of sight.  This is the idea behind the reversed gouge.

It must be noted, however, that there's a very good reason that gouges are shaped the way they are.  With the standard configuation, the gouge will cut smoothly and controllably at any depth up to the point where the top corners of the tip get buried.  Once a gouge is reversed, this is no longer the case.  With a reversed gouge you can readily cut very tiny details, but carving deeper doesn't work as well.  The gouge will have a tendency to "dig in" and start cutting deeper than you want.  With care it can still be used to cut deep grooves, but it's definitely not as smooth and controllable in deep cuts as the unmodified gouge is.  For most carvers, it would be a good idea to keep a regular 1V on hand and only reverse a second or spare gouge.

Many carvers have purchased the Staedtler package and hence have a 1V, 2V, and 5U on hand -- and rarely use the last two.  Good news:  You can reverse the 2V just as easily as a 1V, and the finished product works every bit as well.  In fact, if you have a 2V laying around, that's the gouge I recommend you reverse.  The end result looks a bit different than a reversed 1V, but it works fine.  The illustrations in the following process show a 1V, but the method of reversing is exactly the same.

When reversing, the condition of the original tip matters not a whit, you're about to hack it off.  Hence, if you have a gouge with a deformed or damaged tip, it's a fine candidate for reversing.

Step 1:  Hold the gouge with the handle at a 45° angle to the grinding surface and the top of the gouge facing the grinding surface, as shown.

Reversing a gouge

While holding this position, grind the top corners off the tip and continue grinding until you can look at the shiny spot formed and see a complete V.  This is one place where a power grinder comes in handy, but this task can still be done by hand in only a matter of minutes.  If using a bench grinder, you will need to stop several times and dunk the tip in cool water to keep it from overheating.

The instructions for the rest of the reversing process look remarkably similar to the cleanup of a normal gouge described on the sharpening page.  The only difference, really, is that everything is done to a tip that is angled differently.

As mentioned above, you need to continue the grinding until the shiny area forms a complete V.  Don't go overboard and try to make it a pretty or uniform V, only go far enough that there are no gaps in the V.  It will probably look something like this:

Shiny spot on tip after 1st grind

Now, for Step 2 you will grind the outside along one side of that V parallel to the inside surface of the tip:

Grinding one side of V

You need to know more than this illustration shows, though; you need to know how steep to make that cut.  The best way I can describe it is:  With the side of the tip against the grinding surface, the butt end of the handle should be about 2" to 2-1/2" above the grinding surface.  This is presuming a Staedtler handle, which is about 6" long overall.

Don't try to grind the side of the gouge all the way to a sharp edge just yet.  For one thing, if you're using a powered grinder, you'll probably burn the metal; the thinner the edge gets, the easier it is to overheat it.  For now, just put a nice bevel on the outside surface of the gouge while leaving a narrow band of the original shiny surface remaining.

Now, obviously, flip it over and do the other side the same way:

Grind the second side of the V

When you're done with these flats, the gouge viewed from the side should have a flat that looks like this:

Side view of reversed gouge after grinding sides

Note that if the ground surface isn't shaped pretty much like that, you probably did something wrong.

Next, hold the gouge right side up with the bottom of the nib against the grinding surface, with the end of the gouge almost flat against the surface -- just slightly nose-down, so the tip contacts first.

Grinding the bottom of the reversed gouge

While holding this position, grind just enough to create a flat on the bottom that is shaped like an elongated diamond.  Do not, repeat DO NOT grind enough that you break through to the inside of the V at the tip!  You want to grind until the elongated diamond you are creating extends right up to the front of the nib, though, where the two sides you ground meet at the bottom of the V.  This grind is more critical on a reversed gouge than on a regular gouge because the point of that V is the only reason a reversed gouge can cut at all.  If it doesn't cut right when done, an inspection with a 10X magnifier usually reveals that the tip comes to a point below the bottom of the V rather than right at it.  Grind a bit more, preferably by hand, bringing the end of that elongated diamond right up close to the inside surface at the bottom of the V without breaking into it.  If you break into the inside surface, you'll have to grind the tip back to clean up the break and start over with the grinding and sharpening.

Note:  Both Staedtler and Speedball nibs come with the bottom ground to a rounded shape.  I have tried both ways, with a flat bottom and with a rounded bottom, and in my opinion the flat bottom works as well or even slightly better; the gouge has less tendency to fall into the groove you just cut.  It's also much easier to grind a flat than a curved surface.  You may, however, opt to roll the gouge side-to-side during this step to round the bottom if you prefer.

SHARPENING:  Hold the gouge with the tip against the surface of the hone and rolled onto one side, so that one side of the V is flat against the hone.  The tip of the handle should be perhaps 2-1/2" to 3" above the honing surface, which you'll note is a bit higher than it was held in the grinding steps described above.  This will have you honing just at the cutting edge rather that trying to move the entire bevelled surface.

The trick here is to have good light and good magnification to see what you're doing, and hold the gouge in one hand and the hone in the other.  Firmly establish the position that you will be holding both.  Bring them together and begin a honing motion (back and forth, circles, doesn't matter much) without changing those positions.  Periodically stop and look at the polished area you have created, making sure that it is uniform along the edge and not concentrating too much at one corner or the other.  If you find you've been leaning a bit crooked one way or the other, adjust and continue.

Now is the time to bring that bevelled surface all the way to meet the inside surface of the V.  Note that as you get close to the inside surface of the V you need to be applying only very light pressure on the hone.  Too much pressure will push the thin edge right over.  Even if it doesn't permanently deform it, it can bend it enough that the hone isn't creating the edge you're looking for; it's not polishing the edge itself because the edge has moved out of the way.  Very light pressure is the secret to success here; let the hone and the motion do the work, don't try to rush it or force it.

Note:  If you have experience sharpening knives, you're probably alarmed at how steep these angles are.  If you honed a knife at similar angles, it would end up with a pretty blunt edge indeed and wouldn't cut well at all.  If you try to use the shallow angles commonly used in knife sharpening on a gouge, you'd end up with a very sharp gouge -- and you'd bend the edge over as soon as you tried to carve with it.  The cutting edge on a gouge nib needs to have comparatively blunt angles to be strong enough to push into rubber and pry pieces out without getting damaged.  The fact that the tip doesn't have that razor sharpness you get from honing at shallow angles isn't a problem because it's not difficult to push a gouge through rubber anyway.

Obviously, once done with one side of the V, roll the gouge the other way and do the other side.

Once you have both sides honed to form an actual cutting edge at the face of the V, you will know perfectly well how to hold the gouge with one side or the other against the hone while rubbing.  Now do one more trick:  While holding one side of the gouge against the hone and rubbing, slowly roll the gouge over to the other side, continuing the honing motion all the way.  Keep the handle at about the same height through this process.  When honing a Staedtler, the entire roll should take no more than a few seconds; it takes a bit longer on a Speedball because the bottom of the V isn't as crisply formed.  When done, you can look at the bottom of the V and see what you've done.  This step will round the corners where the flats on the sides and the elongated diamond flat on the bottom meet.

This is a more critical step on a reversed gouge than on a regular gouge.  If the gouge doesn't want to cut when done, the first step might be to repeat this process while watching the point with a 10X magnifier.  Ideally, the gouge should have a sharp cutting edge all the way around the inner surface of the V and all metal should angle back toward the handle from there.  If there is any metal that juts out forward of the inner edge of the tip, it needs to be ground off.

The next step is to take your ceramic knife and position the edge of the knife down in the bottom of the V.  The tip of the knife should be pointing toward the handle of the gouge.  With the ceramic knife held in this position, roll it until one side of the knife is sitting flat against one side of the V of the gouge.  Slide the knife in and out of the tip of the gouge a couple of times; the blade will probably come close to contacting the handle of the gouge.  You may notice a gray smudge appearing on the white ceramic knife; that's metal particles being rubbed away.  Roll the knife over the other way and polish the other side of the V the same way.  And, just for good measure, stand the ceramic knife up straight, centered between the two sides of the V, and make a few more in-and-out sliding motions with the sharp edge of the knife working on the bottom of the V only.

This treatment with the ceramic knife only takes ten seconds or so.  Two or three slides each way is plenty.  It absolutely must be the last thing done to the cutting edge of the gouge, though.  If you decide the work on the outside isn't quite right and you want to go back and hit it some more, be sure to repeat the inside honing with the ceramic knife when you're done.

At this point on the sharpening of a regular or miniaturized 1V it was suggested to make a "minor gouge modification" that involved grinding the sides off the tip to improve visibility.  That same modification would be pointless on a reversed gouge, as the entire tip is out of your line of vision.  Just go ahead and try it out, you're done.