Category Archives: Just Carving

Carving basics and small projects.

Twin Hearts

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted an article mainly because of being mentally drained from excessive driving on one of the most congestive motorway systems in the world, Los Angeles, but that’s really no excuse, so having said that, I just need to dig in and post!

One of the latest carvings that I’ve embarked upon was a combination of designs that I had made for various people. I wanted to reuse some of the elements to provide the basis of this new lovespoon. In this particular design I had previously developed a twenty fifth wedding anniversary lovespoon that also had roses and hearts surrounding the pair of hearts. The center heart had the number twenty five carved internally so with that basic image I decided to eliminate quite a few of the elements to get back to basics to provide the foundation for this lovespoon.

Twin heart lovespoon.

One of the favorite elements for my lovespoons is a flame design that adorns the top, this adds an attractive end to the carving and also provides a way of displaying the carving by way of hanging it on the wall or in a cabinet, so with that in mind that was where I would start, that was a given.

The spoon end would be in a heart shape as this always carves nicely and gives a good balance to the flame at the opposite end. The Celtic theme would be displayed by the Celtic knotwork that would extend from the spoon bowl, leaving just the pair of hearts to nestle between the flame and the Celtic knotwork.

With the theme completely worked out, the tracing was transfered to the basswood blank ready to embark on carving out the shape. My first job is to drill each corner with a 1/16 inch drill bit so as to be able to fit the blade of my fret saw and to create a clean cut in those awkward areas.

I had given up with using a power fret saw a long time ago, much of the time was wasted on breaking blades and continually threading the blade into small areas. Most of my designs would amount to little sawing in a lot of areas so I’ve opted to using a manual fret saw. I find that during the process of cutting out the design I can work out in my mind how I will carve certain areas and how I will resolve any mishaps if they should occur.

With the blank set up in the woodworkers vise a steady sawing motion eventually cuts out the excess stock leaving just the outside shape to be cut on the bandsaw. With all the profile cut, now was the time to get comfortable and sit with carving gouges, chisels and sanding blocks around my oversize bench hook and carve away at the spoon bowl. Next would be the back of the spoon and then onto the Celtic knotwork. A methodical process that eventually takes that flat piece of timber and turns it into a three dimensional, visually pleasing piece of art.

The final process is to sand out as many imperfections as I can. This stage of the process equates to 50% of the time starting with coarse sandpaper and working through the different grits until the superfine paper is vitually polishing the wood. Continue reading Twin Hearts

Having Faith in Your Carving Ability

Mahogany Lovespoon representing Love and Faith

Over the past few weeks I have been busy working on establishing some new themes for my carvings but I have also been researching other people websites. My conclusion was that I found many Lovespoon carvings would follow a similiar theme regardless of where you look on the World Wide Web and I have looked at many websites for inspiration but I find many to be repeats of the same but with different levels of carving ability.

There are many that are only carved or have relief on the front face with the back face flat or only have the corners taken off to give some dimension. These Lovespoons I felt would look often mass produced but the prices are so reasonable that it would be very easy for the enthusiast to start a collection but is this a course that I would want to take.

Close-up of the cross set within the heart

For me to try and establish myself as a carver of some sort, especially with Welsh Lovespoons most of the carvings that I make end up on eBay for auction and it is there that I try to gauge the feeling of how the design is perceived.

The amount of traffic or should I say small amount of traffic for this sort of carving is primarily from enthusiasts who are looking for a bargain and will frequently stop by. If the design is a success I would find six to eight watchers over the course of the auction and maybe six to eight bids at the end of the day, giving me a good sense of achievement. I like to think it is the quality of the carving and the unique design that sells the item and not purely the price but as we all know eBay is the site for bargains.

When I first started this type of carving I decided that both sides would have to have the same amount of detail so that the Lovespoon could be handled and not just be displayed on a board. It is only when it is handled that the true appreciation for the craftsmanship can be determined and the fact that it is hand carved, saying that it also brings the flaws closer to hand.

To determine the themes I have tried to align them with special holidays or occasions during the year such as Valentines Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter and so on, that way I can focus on those particular elements that are relevant and meaningful. Continue reading Having Faith in Your Carving Ability

Home Made Cabinet Scraper

Way back in October of 2006 I wrote about the heavy Santa Ana winds felling one of the Californian Pepper trees at my place of work and how I would take a section of that timber and air dry it to use at a later date for a small project. Since then it has been drying for a period of fourteen months and I have split a section of that limb to be used in producing a cabinet scraper. This cabinet scraper design is from an article produced by Fine Woodworking and I thought it would be a small enough project to see how the grain of the timber would carve and how it would look when waxed and also it wouldn’t be too much of a loss if it didn’t pan out at the end of the day.

I had noticed during the drying process that the end of the log had started to split and by that time it was too late to think about coating the end to stop the quick evaporation. What I should have done in the first place was to coat both ends of the sawn log with some spare latex paint to even out the evaporation and this may have reduced the amount of cracking. I would estimate that the cracks had penetrated a full one inch into the log at this time. The project that I wanted to do called for a piece eleven inches long by three inches by two and a half inches which would be marginal with what I had to work with. With the hardness of the timber unknown to me I had decided to use a base made from one inch thick figured oak that had been lying around and I knew this material would give a base that would be hard and durable. Continue reading Home Made Cabinet Scraper

Readily Available Wood For The Carving Enthusiast

I’ve had several requests as of late from the few visitors that I have and their main question is; “What type of timber would I recommend for carving?” This leads me to think of all the exotic timbers that are available, then again, most of the people who are asking are novices starting out themselves. Exotic timbers always spring to mind as you dream of all the cool carvings that you can do, the various streaks of color and unique colors that adorn the more expensive woods, but getting back to reality, why spend hard earned cash on a timber that is more than likely to be difficult to carve. Sure this type of wood will produce memorable and eye-catching carvings but why place additional pressure on yourself when first starting out.

To me the most important aspect of carving is to first learn the tools that you have chosen to be your companion and the easiest way is to use a timber that can be readily purchased at a Home Depot, Lowes or a DIY store. There you can get good quality lumber without it being limited in availability, for instance, Select Pine is knot free, soft enough so that it carves like butter with a sharp tool and priced so that it doesn’t matter if the carving is not quite up to speed. With this type of wood you are not struggling with a hardness issue and can concentrate on the design and the carving, knowing that you can control the tool without excess pressure. Yes, I know this is a soft timber but to gain experience with sharp carving chisels and gouges the last thing needed is an extremely hard timber like Walnut to debut your carving skills!

With the Select Pine, care still has to be taken so that it doesn’t tear when excessive amounts of material are taken away. It will split, so carve with the grain when you can and use fine sandpaper to finalize. What can be better for your self esteem than a successful first carving. Continue reading Readily Available Wood For The Carving Enthusiast

How to Start Carving

Here we are in March and a post has been a long time a coming and I thought I would start off again with the basic conception on how would you start carving. Many people like the idea or the romance of producing their own carved forms be it for display in their own home or as a gift, but where do you start and what on, especially when you are a complete novice. Many of the carving books that you buy are filled with generic shapes, or projects, that will leave you with very little satisfaction after going through the process, a meaningless exercise. The anticipation of producing a good carved piece for the person who is new to this form of expression often betters their skill level, meaning, the project taken on is often far too complex, so it is doubly important to start off on the right path. The energy is there in the first instance so we don’t want to burst that initial enthusiasm with choosing the wrong project.

A meaningful project will stimulate the mind and keep the interest there even when the going gets tough, whereas if it were only an exercise it is so easy to move on to the next topic.

I know you’re eager to get started and you have already purchased the carving book, wanting to tear into the first design offered but sit back and think. Carvings are not just about trinkets that adorn your curio cabinet, they can be functional objects like cabinet handles or wardrobe handles. I know most people have walk-in closets these days but children rooms often still have the free standing cabinets and many of these handles can be replaced with a more organic shape than the regular round knob or the u shaped handle. Kitchen cabinet handles lend theirselves to be replaced with carved handles of fruit, vegetables or flowers to give a more country feel. These are small carvings that are functional and will give you self satisfaction on an everyday basis plus a learning curve into the durability of your carving. A reminder of how to better it the next time. Continue reading How to Start Carving