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Chip Carving Corner....

by Jeff Fleisher


 "Keep on Turning"

No, I haven't become a woodturner!  The title for this article is "Keep on Turning" and it is very applicable for chip carving.  I'd like to discuss the technique of cutting along a curve without falling off your chair.  

When I get to the lesson on rosettes in my chip carving classes, I am amazed at the various positions people can get into when trying to cut along a curve.  Seems like the golden rule of 'keep your elbow tucked in' goes out the window and the elbows, shoulder, feet, legs, body and head all seem to be going in different directions all at the same time.  I'm going to explain here how to get the most power into your carving and at the same time, keeping you, the knife, and the board under control.


swirl.gif (17471 bytes)

Let's pretend that you want to carve this swirl pattern .   Each chip has three curved sides.  I'm going to focus on only one side but the approach is valid for all sides, and for all designs with large curves.


The key concept is that a knife can cut along a curve in two ways.

Understand?  The second approach is the one that gives you the most power and control.  I will try to explain this using the following figures.

 knifeturn.gif (24255 bytes)

The First Approach:


Many people believe that you put the board in your lap and there it stays without moving.  If you insert the knife at the top of the curve at the correct angle, your elbow is probably sticking out and your shoulder turned.  As you draw the knife along the line you move your arm in an arc towards your body.  The problem here is that you cannot get any power into your cut.  You are trying to push with your hand and wrist and there is no way you can generate enough power for a deep cut.  After an hour of this you will be sore and frustrated.

There must be a better way!

 boardturn.gif (19771 bytes)

The Second Approach:

As you can see in my crude drawing, the second approach moves the knife in a straight line.  The knife is drawn towards you and your arm and shoulder can provide leverage into the cut.  The board is pivoted about the knife so the knife is cutting as you move the board. 

(If you have ever used a bandsaw, it is the same idea.  You move the board around the blade.  You don't keep the board still and move the bandsaw!)

This technique gives you the most power for carving wide (deep) chips, and the most control over the knife.  For this design, it is important to have control when all the swirl chips meet at the center of the design.


Ok, that is all there is to it!  You can try the design at the beginning of this article or you can make up your own design.  I have a good one for you... Try the letter  'S'.  With the second approach, the board is twirling in your lap but it is very easy to cut the letter.   The secret:


Just keep the board turning!!

Jeff :-)