Notes from the Net

by F. Pierce Pratt

Woodcarver Ezine
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"Notes from the Net" is a column compiled from a few of the email messages posted to the WoodCarver listserver.

There are many good messages to choose from. So many, that is hard to choose which messages to include in this column.

Some editorial changes were necessary, but, for the most part, each message appears as originally posted and attributed to sender. If you have a favorite post or subject that you would like to appear in this column, please email me directly


From: Willis (Bill) Sharp <>

Try to buy wood that has not been sanded. Sanding leaves little particles of sanding material that is hard on those tools you have just sharpened.


From: Jim Lauritsen <>

After purchasing my first strop several years ago I realized that future strops would be home made. They are a lot less expensive. I have several hand made strops charged with different grits of compound. For the inside edges of v-tools and small gouges I made a strop with one edge cut at an acute angle. I allowed the leather to overhang the edge slightly. This way I can get into the inside edge of v-tools to take off the burr.

From: John Guerin <>

I make a sharpener/strop with aluminum oxide paper. You can use silicone carbide paper but the silicone carbide cuts the metal faster than the aluminum oxide. Faster isn't always better.

I go to a paint store and buy a paint stirring stick made for 5 gallon cans. It is about 21 inches long by 1 1/2 inches wide and 1/4 inch thick. I cut about 5 inches off the end which leaves a 12 inch surface for the aluminum oxide paper strip. I glue a leather strip on the opposite side for a strop. Use a piece of split cowhide with the rough side up. The split cowhide has a little bit of "give" to it that a harder piece of tanned leather would not have. This leaves your stropped knife edge with a very slight convex shape that will hold up better while carving.

One of the advantages to using the aluminum oxide paper over a India Stone is that you don't have to put honing oil on it. For sharpening, I like about a 600 grit surface. If you start out with a 600 grit it wears down too fast. I start out with 220 and after a couple of sharpenings it wears down to about 500 or 600 and lasts longer. The first couple of sharpenings you just have to strop a little longer.


From: Ron Wiener <>

To explain pinching the edge - if you take a sharp, shiny gouge and hold it at a 90 degree angle to a piece of hardwood and turn it round, it will soon become so clean that it stalls. But, if you then take the tool out of the wood and put the shiny cutting edge between your thumb and index finger and pinch it, pulling it away, you will deposit a coat of body oil on the cutting edge. Then put the tool back in the same place in the wood and see how easy it cuts. Pinching won't last long, but it may save a few seconds at the buffing wheel. And, you can use the time while you're pinching to consider your next cut.


From: Willis (Bill) Sharp <>

When you carve eyes, carve the right eye first if you are right-handed (left as you look into the face), that way you can use this eye as a carving guide to a good, matching, left eye without your carving hand getting in the way.


From: Jo Craemer <>

I learned this technique from the great Ernie Muehlmatt, and it is sinfully easy. Take the rockhard water putty. Instead of "stirring," find an old coffee can with a lid. In it, mix the powder with water to the consistency of biscuit dough. Put the lid on and shake the can. The more you shake, the smaller the "rocks" that will be formed. If your arms hold out, you can get the texture down to aquarium size gravel and coarse sand. Experiment with the ratio of water:powder for different effects. A dryer mix makes really nifty pebbles and rocks - complete with fine "cracks" that really look great when painted with a thin wash of darker color, which looks like age-old dirt in the cracks. A wetter mix makes smooth pebbles. This stuff dries to the color of pale cream colored sand. It's actually a kind of a "plastic" plaster. Handy stuff.


From: Willis (Bill) Sharp <>

For painting fine details, use the tip of a toothpick. When you do pupils, you can paint a perfect circle: Just dip and touch. You can vary the size by cutting off more of the toothpick tip. Try this method when you put that small reflection spot in your carving's eyes. This tip is also useful when you are decorating neckerchiefs around a cowboy's neck.


From: George Farrell <>

When I carve, it is usually in my rocking chair in the evening while watching TV. In my lap I have a large kitty litter tray, and on my chest I have the back of a sweat shirt with the fuzzy side up. The tray holds my tools and pattern, and catches the big chips. The fuzzy side of the sweat shirt catches the little stuff. I generally sit leaning back with my arms on the armrests and my hands in the middle of my chest. There is no stress on my hands or arms due to holding them up.


From: Russell Hansen <>

Is there any way of holding small (2-3 inch square) carvings without holding it in your hand? A vise wouldn't last too long without getting in the road, and a carver's screw would make too big a hole.

From: Richard J. Allen <>

A holder for small items can be made from a dowel about five to six inches long with screw inserted into one end. Remove the head from a sheet-rock or decking screw. Drill a small hole into the dowel. Use a pair of pliers to hold the screw and twist it into the hole filled with some glue. After the glue has set you should be able to insert the screw into the bottom of the small carving and have a handle to hold onto. This works very well when doing heads for caricatures.

From: Dave Andreychek <>

Almost all of my carvings are less than 3". I carve small cowboys, hillbillies, boots, etc. I carve the hands and heads separately. The hands are a bit larger than 1/4". The way I do it is to use a strip of wood 3" to 4" longer than the hand that is used to hold the carving. I suggest using a 4" to 6" piece of wood, even if you must taper it at one end so you can hold it.


From: George Farrell <>

Question: Is it best to carve walking sticks green or wait till they are dry? If so, how long do I let them dry?

Answer: If the stick is a hardwood like maple and you carve with a knife then carve the stick while it is green. At the end of each session paint with shellac. When finished, the shellac will wash off with alcohol. If carving with power, it is probably best to wait until the stick is dry because the wood will fuzz. It takes from 6 months to a year to dry. In any case, if green, paint the ends immediately with shellac, molten canning wax, latex paint, etc. Expect to cut off about 1/2 inch from each end.


Drawing courtesy of Mike Parker

From: Pat Meehan <>

What a response... WOW!!! Thanks to all who have responded. I heard about two 'simple' methods to hold a relief carving...

1) A rubber mat specifically made to hold wood while working on it. I have seen this type of mat for holding wood while doing some router work as well as sanding. I suspect that some chiseling (hammer or hand) would cause the wood or the mat to move.

2) A bench hook. A piece of thin board (3/4 plywood is good) about 12" by 12". With a thin strip of wood attached to each

This is placed on the edge of your work bench or table. You cut or carve away from yourself into the top edge of the bench hook.



From: Graeme Vaughan <>

Ingredients: 1 cup of salt; half a cup of dry starch; three-quarters of a cup of cold water Mix the materials with a spoon in a small saucepan, Place in a larger saucepan with water in it or use a double boiler. Heat on top of the stove, stirring all the time. In a few minutes the mix becomes very thick like bread dough. Place in a plastic bag until cool. Knead it. The mix will keep soft if stored in an air-tight bag.

The mix air-hardens. When dry it is as hard as stone. It doesn't shrink or crack, but it will rust steel armatures.


From: QDRAW <>

I've carved about 200 golf balls. The best way I have found to remove the cover is to take 2 pieces of wood and drill a 3/4" hole in each. Find the seam on the ball. It's a line that goes around the ball without hitting a dimple. Darken the line with a pencil. Put the ball between the 2 pieces of wood and insert in a vice. Turn the vice until the pressure just stops the ball from turning. Take a coping saw and cut along the line. You can tell when you are through the cover when you hear the difference and see the color of the ball. Once you have cut around the ball take a small screwdriver and pry the cover off. Pry a little at a time, turning the ball as you go. Some covers pry off easier than others. For carving the ball you will need a V tool. If you cut straight into the ball with a knife, you cannot see the cut. The rubber seals the cut.


From: Marcel Lamarche <>

If you consult Paul Gerhard's "The Business of Marketing Crafts" (Stackpole Books - 1990), you'll find that consignment was introduced as a way to market one-of-a kind items which a business might not normally stock. The incentive for the craftsperson was that you were getting a margin of profit higher than you would if you were wholesaling - i.e. 70/30 versus 50/50 which you might expect on a wholesale transaction. Over time that margin in some markets has eroded to the point I've heard you have craftspeople accepting a 40/60 split (the artist gets 40%).

According to Gerhard, the craftsperson must look at it from the perspective of "making an unsecured loan to the store with the hope of high return." Gerhard recommends a consignment agreement contain the following - 1) a description and quantity of each product, 2) retail price and percentage split arrangement to either the consignee (retailer) or the consignor (craftsperson) 3) manner in which payment is to be made (immediately upon sale, or within 30 days or whatever other arrangement you've worked out) 4) identify responsibility in the event of loss or damage - and he suggests that you inquire as to whether the store's insurance policy will cover consigned items.

If considering entering the marketplace, consider getting this book as well as "Start and Run a Profitable Craft Business" by William G. Hynes (Self Counsel Press - 1990).

Thank you,

Pierce Pratt

Phone: (918)661-9703, fax: (918)661-0243


F.P. Pratt,
1290G Plaza Office Bldg.,
Bartlesville, OK 74004