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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.


Advice on Tools:

There was a question ask on the Fish Carver's List recently that I have seen asked on the list several times. Since this topic seems to be of interest, I thought that we would start this issue of Notes From the Net with a question and answers concerning power carving:

I'm a new carver, new to the Fish Carver's List, but a longtime fisherman and aquarist. I am looking for some helpful advice on tools. I currently have been using a "Xacto" knife with multiple blades, gouges and a Black and Decker rotary tool. Not ideal, I know, but this is what I had/got for Christmas. I'm looking to get good basic general- purpose tools that will get me through most projects and not end up buying 1 of everything. What knives (brands and blade types) are considered essential? What rotary tool and bit shapes are considered essential?

Glenn Butlers answers this question with some sound advice that he gives to beginning carvers in his carving classes. Glen wrote:

Large grinder (buy one)
1. Foredom
2. Pfingst

Small Grinder (buy one)
1. Gesswein
2. Brasseler
3. Ram
4. NSK Electer GX
5. Micromoter (Foredom)
6. Optima Micro- motor
7. Dremel

Wood Burner
1. Buy Ed's (Ed Walicki's) kit to make your own burning pens & tips.
2. Colwood Detailer kit (replaceable tip handle, skew tip)and buy a tip puller

Bits (make sure to buy shanks that will fit your grinder)
1. 3 sizes of carbide balls and medium diamond ball
2. A white, green and pink cylindrical stone.
3. Two sizes of pear shaped diamond bits.
4. Two sizes of teardrop shaped diamond bits.
5. Typhoon carbide (or Kutzall) bits - cone, cylinder and ball shapes.
6. Several pointed (spear shaped) diamond bits
7. Several stump cutters for the large grinder (1/4" shank)

Air Brush Equipment (need regulator on compressor)
1. Badger SG 100 (for detail work)
2. Pasche D500 air compressor
3. Iwata HP-A or B
4. Badger 11 air compressor (has automatic shut off)
5. Aztec double action - 400 series

1. Optivision
2. Kolinski sable brushes (0, 2, round; liner; filbert
3. Mend-all woodworking plastic (buy some acetone for smoothing)
4. Magic-sculp - (two part epoxy)
5. Cushioned slotted sanding cylinders (1/4" and 1/8 " shank)
6. Dust masks
7. Carving knifes and/or chisels
8. Sanding sticks (like fingernail files)

Gary "Doc" Fenwick answered this same question with the following information.

I would say that the first thing I would look for is some type of rotary tool that will take a 1/4" shank. This will probably be a flexible shaft unit with a foot speed control. Then, pick up some heavy-duty 1/4" tungsten carbide bits, such as Typhoon from Foredom. This will allow you to do the heavy roughing out. The foot speed control is real nice for this, and is a great safety feature. If the piece you are working on gets away from you, and it will happen, all you have to do is lift your foot from the pedal to avoid a very nasty wound. Believe me, the burrs cut flesh faster then wood!

Gary stated that he would also look into getting a smaller set of bits, in 1/8" and 3/32" for the Black and Decker, along with the collets necessary to hold them. Also, a small set of diamond bits in various sizes and shapes are great for adding detail. He continued;

You should also look into some type of dust collection system, or a good respirator air mask. The rotary bits throw a lot of wood dust into the air and some of them are toxic. All can cause severe lung problems. The idea is to protect yourself and don't let your hobby incapacitate you.

After that, as you grow, you will learn what tools you like to use, and can begin to decide what you want to purchase.


Power Carver for Detail Work?

Along these same lines, another power carvers asked, "I would like to get some input and opinions on what type of power carver is best for detail work? I have been using a Dremel tools with a flex shaft. But the finish is not smooth and that leaves a lot of sanding to do."

Dick Kahle answered,

I use a Ram Products Microtourqe mini grinder that has a wire connection to the control box and not a flex shaft. They are a little more expensive than the flex shaft tools but in general have a broader rpm range with much higher top end range. This can give much smoother finishes when matched with the right grinding tool. With some of the newer finer fluted stump cutters, the only finishing you need do is a little final polish with a diamond bit or a ceramic blue stone. The grinder is only the first part, you must match it with the correct cutting bit and rpm range to get the best results. Only time and experimentation with show you which bits are the best for you.


Painting Instruction:

My good friend, Greg Wilkerson, a professional woodcarver, was kind enough to put his painting instructions on his web site at www.wilkersonwoodcarving.bizland.com. I thank him for giving me permission to share his painting techniques with our readers. Greg's painting techniques are as follows;

There are as many ways to finish and paint woodcarvings as there are woodcarvers. The following tips seem to work for me, I hope you will find them helpful:

1. After all the carving is done on a project, I sand it using very fine - almost worn out - sandpaper. I am only wanting to smooth the carving up before staining it, not to remove burs or shape the wood as this should be done with your carving tools.

2. Wipe off sanding dust and apply the stain of your choice. I use Minwax Golden Oak Wood Finish, which both stains and seals the wood. You may apply using either brush or rag, wipe off the excess.

3. Spray with Deft Clear Gloss Wood Finish. I prefer the gloss as it seems to be a harder finish and I am going to use steel wool, which will take the shine off anyway. Allow the finish to dry at least 1 hour.

4. Lightly rub all over the carving with #0000 steel wool. If the stain and the Deft have raised the grain, the steel wool will leave the carving smooth again.

5. Spray with the Deft again, allow to dry. If the carving is smooth feeling, you are ready to apply the paint. If not repeat step 4 until the carving is smooth.

6. Apply oil paint with a dry artists brush. When I dip the brush in the paint I "dob" it on the pallet until all globs of paint are gone and there is only a hint of color on the brush (dob & glob may not be the technical terms for what I am describing but I hope you know what I mean). Applying the oil paint over the stain and finish with a dry brush will allow the grain of the wood to show thru; if you wipe off the painted areas as you go, you can always apply more paint if you desire a deeper color.

7. (Optional): After the painting is complete you may want to shade in various areas. I use burnt umber to shade, again using a dry brush.

8. After all painting and shading is done I again spray the carving with the Deft; you may use either gloss or semi-gloss depending on your preference.

This completes Greg's painting techniques. Check out Greg's web pages. There are plenty of photographs of his finished carving to show what his painting techniques will do for your carving.

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