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.
Lori Corbett on Tupelo
Lori Corbett, a professional carver, was kind enough to share some of her wisdom with the carving list recently. Some of you have probably seen Lori's wood carving articles in Wood Carving Illustrated; well here is some information she shared concerning Tupelo Wood.
The Tupelo wood for carving comes mainly from the bell (or bole) at the bottom of the tree. This is the lightest & softest part of the tree, and tends to have fewer hard & soft spots than the wood from farther up the tree. The bole is anywhere from 4 to 8 feet in height. The best carving wood from the bell is the sapwood - the wood found on the outside part of the bell nearest the bark. Because the bell can reach such large sizes, it can be cut in larger blocks, making it ideal for bird sculptors who want to make large pieces without having to glue up a block.
Lori noted she had a piece in her studio that was 4 feet long and 14 inches square. She said she carves tupelo exclusively for here birds, has been working with it for years, and loves it!
Lori told of some of the things she has found while working with Tupelo.
Tupelo is a VERY THIRSTY wood. I wouldn't recommend you putting ANY finish on it until you've sealed it well. There is a great sealer especially for tupelo called "Curt's Tee-Kay's Rapid-Dri" available from Curt's Waterfowl Corner 1-800-523-8474. It is lacquer-based and extremely thin & takes about 20 minutes to dry between coats. Tupelo really sucks this stuff up it gets deep into the pores. You can tell when the wood has had enough when it quits taking the sealer quickly.
Another product that I've heard good things about is called (this is confusing) K-T Sealer. Many bird sculptors who use this particular brand paint with oils (I paint in acrylics). You can order it from Vic Kirkman's Wildlife Art Shop & Gallery http://www.wildfowlart.com/
There were some comments on the Internet about carving wet Tupelo. Lori answered as follows:
As to carving the Tupelo wet, I wouldn't recommend it. Some of the Cajun carvers used to and then they would put their bird in the freezer when the day was done but there are some major problems showing up now, such as cracking.
Someone talked about tupelo wood shredding and chunks or pockets of wood falling out when carving Tupelo. Lori answered those concerns as follows:
A dull knife will certainly tear your wood fibers. A special knife developed by the Cajuns for hand carving tupelo is available from the sources listed above. It has an extremely long, extremely sharp blade. Tupelo needs a very sharp knife. That being said, tupelo is typically used for power carving.
Lori gave us some pointers for picking out a nice piece of Tupelo Wood.
Choose a piece of tupelo that shows no heartwood (grayish-green streaks). Heartwood will have a more pronounced grain and be very difficult to carve, having hard and soft spots. You'll end up with "rolling hills" on your carving. Avoid tupelo that has yellow streaks, as this wood is in the first stages of decay. It will be soft and spongy and will deteriorate under your tools. Find a reputable supplier if you can't choose the wood yourself.
The suppliers listed above are the two that Lori uses.
Tupelo is the wood of choice for many power carvers. Thanks Lori, your information about Tupelo Wood answered many questions. The next time I purchase Tupelo I feel that I will be in a position to make a more informed decision.
Skew Chistels: Single or Double Bevel?
A reader on the Woodcarver's list asked; "What are the opinions of this group on the use of either single or double bevels on skewed palm chisels?"
Rip Stangroom answered as follows:
Although I have both single and double bevel skew chisels, I prefer the double bevel. I find it to be more flexible when carving in the round, I can go left or right with no problem.
As some of you may know, Ed Walicki was having some major computer problems with the Fishcarver's List. In an effort to keep a fishcarving list serve going Keith Clements has formed a new fish carving list serve. The address of the new fishcarving list is firstname.lastname@example.org. I would like to invite our readers to subscribe to Keith's list. Like the other carving list serves on the Internet, this one has both professional and amateur carvers. Some samples of some of the information being shared on the new list follows.
Keith tells us about an office supply product that Danny Patterson uses as an eye protector during his painting process. Danny uses a product called "Post It". "Post It" is a clay material used to temporarily stick posters or other items to a wall. Danny kneads the product a little and covers the eye with it. After his carving is painted, he just removes the "Post It" material from the eye. Keith stated that he had seen this product at the Dollar Stores, and found that it works great.
Keith also passed along another great tidbit of information that was originally posted to the old fish carvers list by Ted Richmond, who in turn received the information at a taxidermy seminar at the World Taxidermy and Fish Carving seminars in 1999. Rick Kinnear was the instructor. This information tells how to do a water splash for your aquatic carving.
Ted uses cracked ice acrylic fluorescent light panels. These acrylic panels can be found at most building supply stores, and cost about $3.00 for a 2 ft. X 4 ft panel.
Ted cuts the panel into small rectangles about 4 inches X 5 inches, or 3 inches X 6 inches with tin snips. As you cut the rectangles, it will fracture at the edges. He then puts a piece into a vice and heats the top half with a heat gun. As he heats the piece, it will start to droop. He stops at that point, takes a pair of needle nose pliers, and reheats that area with the heat gun. As it starts to melt, he pulls and twists the area with the pliers to shape it into the fingers of the splash. Ted then continues doing this along the edge of piece to create the splash look he likes. He then heats and twists the next piece until he has a number of pieces completed. He then takes the pieces and anchors them into his recessed base with a two-part epoxy. Ted points out that it is important to have reference photos of fish jumping, to create a realistic water splash.
I watched Ted create a water splash at a woodcarving show in Mountain Home Arkansas a couple of years ago using this method. It created a great looking water splash and appeared to be easy to do.
Ed Walicki talks about stumbling onto another easy water splash method. He said he accidentally pointed a heat gun at a plastic drop cloth, and noticed that the heat caused the plastic to shrink and turn into swirls. He found that by heating the plastic with a heat gun (a hair dryer will not work) he could create a realistic water splash mold. He then mixes a batch of clear resin and pours it over the mold. The plastic does not stick to the resin, so he just pulls the plastic out the next day after it has dried. Ed says he uses these molds repeatedly.
It seems like the topic of carving eyes is always a good one. There are many different methods and Wade Faries shared one of his methods with the Knotholes group. Wade stated:
I think that EYE creation has been well covered, but I do it slightly different, as everyone does. I find a gouge that has the radius that I wish the eye to have. Very carefully, I position the gouge and then roll it around to cut a full circle. I then carve, with a knife to round the eye and shape the lids. For my process, the eyes do not have to be extremely smooth. Small facets are OK. I then apply 5-minute epoxy to the surface of the eyeball only, using a round toothpick or stick sharpened to a very small chisel shape. After one coat of epoxy, I paint the color on the eyeball. When the paint, (I use acrylic), is dry, I apply another coat of epoxy. The epoxy flows very smoothly around the surface, giving a very glossy look to the eye. Also, the highlights are exactly where they should be, without even painting them on. They look like glass eyes.
My final note for this issue deals with sharpening. I do not feel that we ever learn all there is to know about sharpening. I am constantly searching for new ways to do things. Thomas Horton got my inquiring mind going with the following information.
Joe Dillet stated, "Practice, practice, practice, there are no short cuts to learning sharpening"
You are so right Joe. In the past year, I have done more sharpening than I think I did in the last 10. However, with all the years of practice, I now sharpen much better using practically the same techniques than I did even two years ago. I have been to two sharpening classes years ago and they helped a lot, but in only the last 12 months have I really achieved the sharp edges that I saw on Dave Hardy's tools and now have on mine. Dave is a well-known wood turner and an excellent woodcarver. He used to teach a one-day course in sharpening that was one of the best around. He still has carvers over one morning a week and they all sit around and carve.
One trick I learned in recent months came from reading the directions for the Koch wheels in which it says hold the cutting edge to the honing wheel till the compound melts over the edge of the tool. A club member brought his Koch wheels over to show them to me. On a Koch, the melting may take 10 to 15 seconds. So I tried this technique on my paper wheel (acquired from Woodcraft years ago) with green rouge on it. I kept honing the edge until I saw melted rouge coming over it. Took maybe a few seconds longer but it did melt. Yep, was a little bit sharper after than it was before.
As to stones, I love my translucent stone. That is my favorite for hand sharpening after leaving the medium stone or if I need a touch up that requires more than the honing wheel.
Before I used power honing, and even now when I am out of the shop, I use a bass board and rub the green rouge on it. I also have a leather strop on a board and it seems to work about as well, but is more apt to roll an edge.
With the bass board, I can cut a U right side up or upside down on the edge of the board with the tool to be honed and use that carved edge with compound to hone the tool.
That covers NFTN for this issue. I thank all of the folks who unselfishly provide information concerning carving on the internet. I constantly see list members commenting on the knowledge they have gained from reading the different list serves. The Internet is a very valuable learning tool!
As always, I hope that you have found something in this information that will be useful to you in your carving endeavors. One of the best places to find additional information concerning woodcarving is the archives found on The Carvers' Companion. Take some time and browse these web pages. I'm certain that you will find them more that just worthwhile. (WOM back issue HERE: Woodcarver Resource Files HERE)
Until the next issue, keep carving and strive
to make each carving your best one yet!
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.