Volume3 Issue1, January, 1999

Woodcarver Ezine
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Nuts and Bolts

Day 15

by Will Sharp <bsharp@gvn.net>

 kallison wrote:
> Will
> Have followed your very informative "Nuts and Bolts". However, have not
> located Day 15, seems I found Day 14 then Day 16 that recently came out.
> If there was a Day 15 where can I find it.
> Please keep up this type of information, this is just what I was looking
> for when I joined the Woodc@rvers Mailing List.
> Karl Allison

Day 15
Transfer Please!

Well children, it is, once again, time for another great literary piece to come to you from cyberspace. Welcome to this one-sided conversation that comes across this site once in a while as the "Nuts and Bolts" series.

As some of you will remember, when I finished my series of "Nuts and Bolts" carving pages, I had promised to pass on any new ideas or thoughts that I felt might be of interest to you on this wood carving page. I know it's been quite awhile, but, frankly, the questions that have come up most generally exist in pages Day 1 through Day 14. However, recently, a question has come up that I thought might fit into the series. For those of you that feel this is so much verbal diarrhea,
the delete key is close at hand and its use will not offend me in any

Now we can talk about "transfer". The question came about, when asked by my grandson, how to transfer that which I see and like to something I can carve. The problem, usually, is due to size, proportion, and/or memory in making a transfer of what I see to what I am about to carve. Every day each of us (carvers) see something we would like to duplicate in a carving. The problem is how do we carry what we see to a piece of wood at home. Here is how I do it.

If we could carry a camera with us everywhere we go, it would simplify the problem considerably. Transferring the image from a photograph to a piece of wood is simplified. However, carrying a camera everyday, everywhere we go, is just not practical. With or without a picture, we can still transfer that which we see to a piece of wood and with the proper proportions.

I carry with me everyday, everywhere I go, a small spiral notebook (shirt pocket size), a pencil, and a very small tape measure (about one inch in diameter - $1.98 at ACE hardware). With these tools I can collect proportions and form relationships to transfer later to a piece of wood.

If the piece we want to remember is from about three inches to three feet, all we do is measure with our tape the relative positions with respect to a prominent point on the piece. If it is a figure, I will usually use the top of the head. If it is a thing, I will use the center or a very obvious spot on the piece. What I write down is the measurements to and from that point of reference. In other words, distance from top of head to nose: the distance from the top of the head to the feet: the distance from the between the eyes, and maybe the distance from the elbow to the wrist and so on. I will even annotate such things as a slight bend to the arm at the elbow or a turn of the head from dead on. What I am trying to convey to you is that I take down all of the dry and clinical aspects of the piece so that I can later reconstruct on my piece of wood and the carving to be.

You should describe as much of the details as possible: color, shape, flow of material and anything else you can think of to describe what you will later recall to wood. You can make it as complex or as simple depending on how well you will be able to recall all of it at a later date. As far as looks you can use phrases such as young, old, wrinkled, bearded, thin, fat, short, tall, hair color, etc., or even the general mood of the piece. Even if you happen to have a camera with you, you should be as descriptive as possible for later recall.

Now if the piece happens to be something huge, say thirty or forty feet or larger and you want to carve the same thing in miniature, do not despair. You do exactly the same thing, but use your tape measure as a sighting guide (with a camera, just take a picture). Here's what I mean: Stand back to a comfortable distance and extend your arm out to its maximum with the tape held extended up so you can sight from it to the piece being measured. When you sight along side the tape you can describe the same measurements in inches or fractions of inches if you stand back far enough. What is actually thirty feet tall from its' base will appear to be inches as you sight along the tape from a distance. I did this to a statue of a Union soldier on horseback that stood about eighteen feet from its' base to a carving that was six inches in its' finished form.

To visualize what I am trying to tell you: stand up close to a window and measure from the top of the window to the bottom. Now stand back a few feet and sight the window along side your tape measure. What you measured in feet at the window will now appear to be in inches when
viewed at a distance. In other words, a window measuring two feet will appear to be three inches when about six or seven yards from it. Now that you have all of this down, we can go home and transfer it to the wood we intend to use.

The process is quite simple and can be used for all measurements. Here's how you do it.

Let's say, for example, that the piece you measured was, in reality, twenty feet tall, six and one half feet wide and you measured it in inches and marked it in your book. For the sake of this example lets say your measurements (viewing along side your tape at a distance) where thirty-six inches tall and twelve inches wide. You want to transfer all your measurements and comments to a six inch carving.

Here's the conversion:

36 = 6, 36/12 = 6/w, w = 6 x 12 divided by 36, w = 2 inches. The basic ratio that is the base for all of this is the two known quantities. In other words, the height of the original measurement and the height of the carving desired; 36 inches and 6 inches. We can use the ration of these two numbers to transfer all of the measurements to the carving block. Let's say the measurement you for the distance between the eyes was three inches: 36 =6, 36/3 = 6/e, e = 6 x 3 divided by 36 or 12 inch. You can do this on and on until you have converted all of your measurements to block size.

If you are out and about, and you don't have a tape measure, you can use any convenient measuring tool and call the measurements units instead of inches. It works just as well. Here's what I mean: using the lines on one of your notebook pages you can measure in number of lines up, down, across, etc. I have even used my fingernail as a rough measuring stick. Whatever you use just call it units of measure. The inches above could just as well been 36 units (or fingernails) tall and 12 units wide. You see what I mean?

Now that you have all of this down, we can do the same thing with a photograph or a picture in a magazine. For example: lets say we have a female head in a cosmetic ad we would like to carve. We use our trusty measuring device (whatever it may be) to take down as many measurements as we can describe. Let's say we don't have a ruler or tape measure, but we do have a toothpick. Ok, here is how it goes: the head measures three toothpicks, the eyes are one toothpick from iris to iris, and the mouth is two toothpicks down from the top of the head and one toothpick wide, etc., etc., etc. To this notation we add hair color, eye color, shape of the mouth, the lip color, and general shape of the head. Make as many general notes that you need to transfer to your carving.

To convert the toothpick units to inches on our carving block we simply apply the same rules as before. Let us say we want to carve this head twelve inches high. The relationship we use is height of the head equals 3 toothpicks and the height of the block equals 12 inches: therefor 3 = 12. If three equals twelve and we want the distance between the eyes then 3 = 12, 3/1 = 12/d, d = 1 x 12 divided by 3 which equals 4 which is the distance between the eyes. You can use this same mathematical relationship with any unit of measurement you want, small or large.

That's all there is to it, boys and girls. Now all you have to do is remove all the excess wood that is not your carving and "poof" you've got it!

Will Sharp
Capital Woodcarvers Association
Sacramento, California
"The Nuts and Bolts Guy"