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Notes From the Net

By Loren K. Woodard
Email Loren at woodcarver@socket.net or visit his web site at www.natures naturals.net

Welcome once again to Notes From The Net, a compilation of tips and techniques that were shared on the several wood carving Listserves on the Internet. As is the case every month, the topics are varied and many.

With this article, it is my intention of sharing information obtained from several of the Woodcarving lists on the Internet. In the first couple of article I have included both the e-mail that got the thread started and an answer to the thread. It is my intention to show how things are generally done on most of the woodcarving list serves.


Relief Panels (wood stabilization?)

This thread was taken from Bill Judt's Woodcarving List.

Tom N. asks:

So, another question comes to my curious mind; are there any recommended methods for stabilizing "smaller scale" solid one piece panels and is it even necessary to be concerned about warping, with such panels.

Bill Judt answers:

Yes, you need to plan for SOME cupping to the carved side. Every panel cups to the carved side. Initial camber techniques work here too, but that would mean ripping the small board into smaller widths for laminating. But with panels less than 8" wide, the cupping can be disguised by planning the BACK of the panel flat after carving is completed.

Tom N. asks:

Would hollowing out back of "solid one piece panel" be advisable and/or would shallow depth plunged curves/cuts in "tic tac toe" formation on back of panel help counteract potential future warping?

Bill Judt replied:

Yuck!!!! That's nothing but hard work!!!! Small panels only cup a LITTLE... Planning the back will eliminate (read: disguise) this cupping. If your carving design has high borders, borders that are at TOP level, the cupping will be more noticeable, however...

Tom N. continued:

Two more questions that come to mind concerning use of alcohol/water mix for softening up wood for carving: will the alcohol/water spray effect the glue bond used in lamination of relief panels? Also, doesn't proper all-round sealing of wood/carving, help avoid the effects of moisture/weather?

Bill Judt answers:

Yellow glues are affected adversely by water, and may also be affected by the alcohol. I have never needed to "soften" the wood I use in order to carve it, and I carve in red oak, white oak, hickory and hard maple. Sharp tools are the answer here, and a mallet to drive them. When not using a mallet, I put my BODY behind my arms and push hard when I carve, so that my body weight pushes the tools through the hard wood. This affords control.

Regarding Bill's answer to the second part of the question: You cannot seal a relief carving against weather in any permanent (or in MHO, effective) manner. Weather is brutal on relief carvings. Relief panels intended for the outdoors should be left unfinished (if in cedar or redwood) or finished in a manner that allows one to RE-FINISH them every couple of years.

Tom N. states:

I like the idea of starting/practice with smaller panels before investing in necessary equipment/time for construction of larger laminated relief panels.

Bill Judt responded:

Initial camber can be built into small panels even without the use of an expensive jointer. A well-honed hand plane, with the aid of support blocks, on either side of the board, which is being planed, help keep the plane under control.

Tom N then said: Thanks again for advise concerning relief panel warping, I cannot measure the value of knowledge and inspiration I have gained from being a member of this fine and talented List community and there's always something new to learn.

Shaping Cutting Edges

The following conversation was taken from the Knotholes List, another on-line carving community.

Jake Jacobsen posted the following to the Knotholes list one cold winter day: "It seems the winter doldrums have set in and brought the Porch and Knotholes to a virtual stand still!!!!"

Joe Dillett takes this opportunity to start another learning experience on the list. Joe wrote:

You may be correct about the winter doldrums so let's get a discussion started. Let's talk about our preferences in shaping the cutting edges of our tools. Not the method used in sharpening but the shape of your cutting edge. Through my years of carving and teaching, I've learned that every carver has different preferences for the shapes of their cutting edges. I would be interested in hearing about how the end of your tools are shaped and why.

How mine are shaped and why:

I work mostly in hard woods and love to hit my chisels hard so I have a very strong angle on my chisels. I never knew the exact angle of the cutting edge so I though I would take out my protractor and measure it. I might also add that I prefer a rounded bevel rather than a straight bevel. My angle starts rounding at the cutting edge and continues rounding to the full width of the bevel. Another thing I found is even though I don't use any guide for getting my angle they are all very similar no matter the size of the tool.

The reason I prefer a rounded bevel is because it is easier for me to control the depth of the cut. The roundness of the bevel works as a fulcrum (pivot point) of a lever. So, by lowering the tool it pivots on the rounded bevel raising the cutting edge resulting in a shallower cut. Also, by raising the tool it will allow the tool to cut deeper. If the bevel is straight the pivot point is at the top of the bevel much further away from the cutting edge resulting is less control. The closer this pivot point is to the cutting edge the finer the control over the cutting depth. Just a side note, a rounded bevel is easier to maintain.

My findings are, by using a protractor I find that my cutting edge is a 35-degree angle. It rounds to a 25-degree angle when it meets the back of the chisel. For my #3, 20mm chisel with a metal thickness of .125 inch, my bevel is about .250 inch long.

I also like making very strong cuts with my knife so my knife needs a strong angle as well. The angle at the cutting edge of my knife is 25 degrees. The bevels are also rounded on my knives.

There you have it folks! One man's preferences for shaping his tool's cutting edge and the reason why.

Improving My Carving?

The following is another juicy tidbit that I picked up off of the Knotholes list.

Maricha Oxley is from Australia and is a wonderful carver. She posted a note to the web talking about the carving that she was working on. While her note asked for some suggestions about what she could do to enhance her carving, the following are some very helpful tidbits that I picked up from her e-mail.

Maricha wrote that she was just about to finish a carving, which was inspired by the torchbearer of the Olympics, using a bit of scrap wood. She said, "just before I call it quits, I ask myself what can I do to improve this carving? I go through a few points, such as:"

You can see some of Maricha's fine work in WOM Vol 3, Issue 5.

Painting Tip

Have you ever tried to paint vermicular on a duck, painted scale tipping on a fish, or how about a narrow black line around the outside of the iris of the eye on one of your carved faces? Sometimes it gets real tough with a brush, unless you are one heck of a good artist. Well, Ed Walicki, owner of the Fishcarver's list posted this nifty little squib one evening.

I found most art stores sell a pen used for calligraphy with a split tip, sort of like the old fountain style pens. I buy the ones you can refill yourself and use paint or some of the new inks they have in silver or gold. Works well, lots of control and best of all you can use the color you need, and have, instead of using what is available. This is a lot easier than a brush and you can load it once and go. The key is to use thin colors so it doesn't plug up.

After you finish, soak it a solvent or Windex for water based paints and blow it out with air. They will be ruined if the paint is allowed to dry inside.

The following dialog was taken from the Fishcarver's list concerning the deletion of fuzzies on carvings.

Larry Goldman stated:

After carving and initial sanding, have any of you ever sprayed your work with a mist of water to bring up the fuzzies, then sanding again after the wood is dry?

Dick Kahle answers:

Larry, I use a mix of 75% alcohol and 25% Shellac to do the same job. Whenever I finish with a grade of sandpaper, for example 00 grit, I brush this mix on and let it dry overnight. Then sand with a 120-grit paper etc. By the time I am down to 240 grit, the surface is smooth as a babies behind." If the carving is textured then I use steel wool to shave off the fuzzies, it destroys less texturing.

Clet Wallace stated:

I think alcohol works better than water. It evaporates quickly and you can begin sanding after a short period to let the alcohol evaporate. It produces a super smooth finish.

Woodcarver Resource Files

Matt Kelley, the owner of The Carver's Companion Web Site has some great information that is helpful to a carver needing a specific topic addressed. Point your browser to The Carver's Companion (carverscompanion.com) and check out the Woodcarver Resources Files. The Resource Files are still very much a work-in-progress, and while you'll find that some areas have relatively little information, there is a lot of useful information available for the reading. If you have suggestions for additions to the Resource Files, contact Matt at files@carverscompanion.com.

Reshaping Slip Stones

To end this edition let's take a moment and talk about reshaping slip stones. Both Ivan Whillock and Sharon M's mentor and carving instructor, David Reilly share their tips.

David Reilly uses a 1/4" piece of glass about 12"x12". If the glass is not readily available, you can also use a similar sized piece of metal. However, the metal needs to be truly flat. Use the valve grinding compound found in an auto parts store, about a 1/2" to 1" worm of it out of the tube. Add a little WD40 to the compound, mix it a little and then just begin to rub the stone in a figure 8 or circle. If the compound gets a bit thick and gooey just add a little more WD40.

Ivan Whillock wrote:

My mentor, Eduardo Gutierrez, had odd shaped pieces of broken Arkansas stone that he reshaped to fit his gouges and V tools. I've followed his lead and have done the same myself. You don't need a big stone for a slip stone, so the smaller broken stones were recycled. Also, if a new stone needs reshaping to fit your V tool or gouge, you can do that as well.

Start with a coarse grit on a very flat surface. Cloth backed sandpaper works fine. Hold the stone the angle you want and have at it. Work the stone back and forth on the sandpaper, replacing the sandpaper as the grit wears out. The grit clogs quickly, so keep the sandpaper fresh. I don't take nearly as long as you might expect, because, after all, the stone is small to begin with. You're not trying to grind away tons of material, just put an edge on a broken slip stone. Work from coarse to medium to fine to get the shape you want. Try it. Just don't let the stone get hot--like on a grinder.

Well that just about wraps up this issue of "Notes From the Net". May you always strive to reach the next level with your carving efforts.

Loren Woodard

Please take some time and check out the wood carving lists on the Internet. There is a lot of knowledge free for the asking on all of the list serves.

For information regarding the various email lists for woodcarvers, visit The Carvers' Companion Resource Files, or click the links below.

Woodcarver's List - Woodcarvers' Porch - American Stickmaker's - Knotholes List - Fishcarver's List