As always, it becomes more difficult to narrow down the number of good carving tips that come over the Woodcarvers List each day to a few to be included in my article for the Ezine. We had many excellent tips come in over the last couple of months and if I missed something that was sent in I must apologize in advance. However, there simply isn't room to post everything to my article. If you are not a member of the Woodcarvers List why not come on down and check out the hints for yourself at http://wwwoodcarver.com/WWWList/WWWlist.html
One of the carvers sent a thread to the list asking for advice from the teachers concerning subjects that should be covered in his next carving class adventure. Many carver commented about the direction of wood grain. Robyn Edward Trudel wrote that the direction of wood grain is a mystery to beginners but how many of us who have been carving for more than a few months even think about grain when we are carving? It quickly becomes quite natural to carve in the right direction.
Robyn further stated that carving in the right direction can be taught quickly and easily before the knife ever touches the wood. He illustrated with the following:
Question: You have a pristine log. Which way do you cut to be with the grain, from top of the tree to the base or from the base to the top of the tree?
Answer: From the base to the top of the tree.
Most people incorrectly assume that a tree is composed of concentric cylinders of wood. This assumption is wrong. A tree is composed of concentric cones. The base of the cone is at the bottom of the tree and the tip is at the top of the tree. Cutting with the grain is easier because of this structure. If you try cutting against the grain, you are trying to remove a parabolic section, which wants to extend all the way to the bottom of the tree.
Knots and branches change the direction as do many other things including the shapes you have carved already, but this basic concept once understood can help a lot of beginning carvers leap frog over the grain issue.
Jerry Polan expanded the topic of grain direction by comparing your carving block to the earth. He stated that you need to make your cuts from the widest point on your carving, in this case the Equator and make your cuts from the Equator to the north and from the Equator to the south. You should not make your cuts from south of the Equator line and go north because you will be carving against the grain.
In a final statement about carving with the grain let me pass along a clue from Vic Kirkman. If your blade tends to turn into and down as you cut you are carving into the grain. If your blade wants to come up and out of the wood as you cut, then you are carving with the grain.
Now that we know about cutting with the grain lets talk about a different carving wood. One of the carvers indicated that one of his neighborhood had given him a piece of Alder wood that measured 4 x 12 x 20 to do something with. He wrote to the list asking if Alder carved good. There were many answers to his question, some of which were as follows:
Barney Ekling stated that Alder was a pretty good carving wood but that it needed to be dried correctly. He further stated that Native Americans carved it green. He like to carve air dried Alder better than kiln dried Alder wood.
Dan Kersey went on to state that Alder is a very nice wood to carve. He indicated that it held detail well.
As a final to this thread, Ivan Whillock wrote that Emil Janel did many of his carvings in Alder. Apparently, Emil carved it wet and kept his carving in a bucket of water between carving sessions. He likes Alder because it had a natural flesh color. Emil used very thin aniline dyes on the non-flesh portions of his carvings.
I for one had never though about carving Alder. After this thread I think I will be giving it a try.
We had a great deal of talk concerning a couple of different hand made tools over the last couple of months. One of the threads concerned the use of different abrasives for carving work. Dan Giles wrote that he was sanding a difficult area in one of his carvings with a folded up piece of sandpaper when one of his daughters wandered in filing her nails. She commented, "Wouldn't it be neat if you could carve wood lake a fingernail? And threw her nearly new disposable "Emory board in the waste basket. Post haste, Dan retrieved the nail file from the trash receptacle and trimmed it to a point with an old pair of scissors and proceeded to finish his carving with it. The tight nooks that he had been trying to carve were finished quite nicely by the discarded Emory board. Dan stated that since that time he buys them in bulk for the discount stores.
To further this conversation, Robin Edward Trudel talked of using double sided tape and taping small pieces of abrasive to very thin hardwoods and then cutting them with an old band saw blade to shape. Also, Bonnie Grasser talked of attaching small sheets of abrasives to hardwood dowels and to items as small as a tooth pick. Now I'm not a sander but there have been time when I could have used some of these hints.
Joe Brott talked of making his own Pop Rivet Pads. It seems that "Old Joe cuts has squares of abrasive pads and uses rivets to hold them together. Several wrote in taking about using small washers on either side of the pads to keep them from turning and John Groom indicated that instead of using washers he dips the end of the pop rivet in some epoxy glue, adds the pad and then squeezes the rivet gently, being careful not to pop the rivet and then dabs another touch of glue onto the end of the rivet. He indicated that this worked better for him that the washers to secure the buffing pad. In either case, many indicated that they made up several of the buffing pads in advance and simply tossed them into the garbage when they wore out.
In my opinion, the ultimate had made tool was presented to the Woodcarver List by David E. Lavoie. Dave has a superb little apparatus that he made for cutting the outer layer off of a golf ball. Dave has done an excellent job of taking us through the steps of making his golf ball cutter so I will simply attached Dave's instructions to my article as follows:
There has been quite a lot of talk concerning new page construction that will give carvers some basic instruction of the web. While the pages are not complete, to my knowledge, Gordon Peterson did point out several such sites on the web that offer some good carving instruction. He stated that Bill Judt had an excellent article on relief carving in the last issue of the Ezine. It can be found at http://wwwoodcarver.com/WWWEzine/WWWEzine.html
In addition, Bill has numerous other how-to hints on his home pages at http://wwwoodcarver.com/AssortedWebPages/myhome.html
In addition to Bill Judt's pages Gordon reminds us about Vic Kirkman's online carving instruction on decoy carving. Vic pages can be found at http://www.wildfowlart.com/
Susan Irish has an excellent site for carving patterns, she offers a free pattern with several changes throughout the year and some fine carving instruction at http://www.carvingpatterns.com
Mac Profitt has some good instructional information on his Smokey Mountain Woodcarver Supply pages at http://www.woodcarvers.com/ concerning sharpening basics.
In my opinion, some of the best on-line instructional information to be found is right here in the pages of the World Wide Woodcarver Ezine. So take your time and read the archived articles, as well as the future articles to be found here.
I certainly hope that you have found something in this article that will be of use to you in your carving endeavors. Take time to drop me a note and let me know what you would like to see in future articles. Remember, my article consists of threads that are sent in to the different carving lists. Therefore, if you want an early preview of an upcoming article consider joining the Woodcarver's List, the Woodcarver's Porch, the Stickmaker's list and the Fishcarver's list. Until the next issue, take care and enjoy your carving. -Loren Woodard
For information regarding the various email lists for woodcarvers, visit The Carvers' Companion Links Page, or click the links below.
Woodcarver's List - Woodcarvers' Porch - American Stickmaker's - Fishcarver's List