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 normally the case, chattering chippers have been more than willing to share their knowledge on the Internet once again.
What Is Relief Carving?
As many of you probably know, Bill Judt, owner of the Woodcarvier's List, has recently published his new book on relief carving. Many of the members of the Woodcarver's List purchased the book. Bill's third volume presents quite an array of different relief carvings. The new book resulted in a unique question that turned out to be quite thought provoking.
One of several folks that shared their thoughts on relief carving was Bill's wife, who provided her humorous response to the question, "What is a relief carving?" If I recall correctly, her response was something like, "When any carving is completed it is a relief".
In answering the question, Ivan Whillock quoted an on-line sculpture glossary at Bronz-Busts.com
In sculpture, any work that projects from the background. Relief carvings are classified by degree of projection. Relief sculpture is distinguished from sculpture in the round. In a bas relief (low relief or basso-relievo in Italian), the figures project only slightly and no part is entirely detached from the background (as in medals, coins, or areas of large relief carving in which the chief effect is produced by the play of light and shadow). In a haut relief sculpture (high relief or alto-rilievo), the figures project at least half of their natural circumference from the background. Between these two is the demi relief (half-relief or mezzo-relievo). The lowest degree of relief in which the projection barely exceeds the thickness of a sheet of paper is called a crushed relief (relievo sticciato or schiacciato). There is also a relief in reverse, called hollow relief, in which all the carving lies within a hollowed-out area below the surface plane, and which, through an illusion of depth and roundness, looks like raised relief. Hollow relief, also called sunk or concave relief (cavo-relievo), incised relief (intaglio-rilievato) are the kind of carving done on gems by the Greeks and Romans. Reliefs may be carved from hard materials or modelled in wet clay, softened wax, or plaster.
Ivan added, "I would add pierced relief, in which the background is entirely removed."
Ivan Whillock Studio
122 NE 1st Avenue
Faribault, MN 55021
Visit Ivan's website at http://www.whillock.com or his Picturetrail album at http://www.picturetrail.com/gallery/view?username=ivancarve
Router Bit for Relief?
While we are discussing relief carving, a member of the Woodcarver's List asked what type of bit to use in a plunge router for removing the background. Bill Judt answered as follows.
I prefer to use a 5/16" straight router bit, with 1/4" shank, single or double fluted.
The 1/4" bits get into tighter spaces, but they tend to have shorter working lives because the bits eventually twist off at the shank: too much flexing.
A 3/8" bit will hog off more wood more quickly because of the greater speed of the cutting edge, but it will not get into tight spaces as easily.
A 5/16" bit seems to be the compromise.
FWIW, I use a flat diamond file to dress the cutting edges of my bits from time to time. This keeps them sharp so there is less strain on the shanks as the bit is dragged through the wood. I regularly have bits that do six months/30-carvings duty for me. That's a LOT of routering.
A plunge router is essential!!!!!!!!!
Changing A Pattern?
One of the members of the fish carving list asked, how do you change a pattern to enable the fish to be carved in a different position? Several folks offered their opinions. Frank Adamo offered one of several answers:
Changing fish patterns is a piece of cake! Here's why; the most interesting part of a fish is the head and no matter what pose the fish is in, the head doesn't change. Swimming, turning, leaping, sleeping, "standing on its tail", the head remains the same (of course the eyes and mouth may vary, but the basic shape and details are pretty much unchanged. So, pick a fish, any fish, and just "play" with the "TOP VIEW". Draw it in all kinds of GENTLE bends. Start with just one and NEVER MORE THAN two gentle "C" or gentle "S" curves. A "turning" fish looks great! Now take that SAME fish shaped in a gentle "C" and stand it on its tail so that the tail itself is fairly flat on the surface, and you have a leaping fish. Just experiment with a pattern, pencil, paper and cardboard.
Edwin Barrett also offered some advice on the topic:
It is important to know what range of movement the fish can demonstrate and not to create animation that isn't realistic. For a trout I will create a top profile that is turning left or right in an area that begins prior to the dorsal fin and ends at the adipose fin. To do this I will make three or four cuts in the pattern opening the outside radius while keeping the line on the inside radius together. This allows you to make gradual bend that can give a carving great looking animation. The length of your top profile should fit the side profile; if not then make adjustments accordingly. In the latest Breakthrough Magazine, winter 2003 Issue 70, there will be an excellent article written by Mr. Clark Schreibeis that describes to problems and solutions of, "Carving a Radically Curved Fish" part one.
One of the ladies on the list asked a double question. First, she ask how best to hone her carving tools with the stones, strop, etc that she had on hand. Second, she wanted advice on pricing a commission she had been asked to do. While she got several good answers to her question on honing, Susan Irish brought up four more additional points that bear repeating. They were;
1. Always work from coarse to fine grade stones then onto the strop. This way you slowly develop that wonderful sharp edge a little at a time.
2. Always work the tool at the same angle. Whether you are on a coarse stone or on the strop keep the angle the same. I like a slightly wide angle for chisels but a tight angle for my bench knives. In fact I had an instructor tell me that my bench knife should be just high enough off the strop to slide three sheets of paper under the back side unsharpened side - of the bench knife and about 6 to 8 sheets for a chisel edge. This has worked very well for me.
3. What ever style of sharpening you chose - circular - always pulling away from the edge - back and forth - keep that style throughout the sharpening process. That way you are developing your edge not removing and destroying what you have already done by changing in the middle of the stream.
4. Hone often and hone frequently. Once you have the edge angle and sharpness developed you will only use the strop to freshen the tool. You return to the stones only if you have neglected the tool or abused the tool.
I will lay my knife across the strop anytime I take a break in the carving which could mean four or five times during a work session. I am constantly refreshening that edge.
With the sharpening stones you will create the edge, with the strop you dress that edge until there are no grooves or nicks left from the stones.
Now what happens during the sharpening process is that a very fine sliver of metal develops along the edge of the tool. It is too small to see but you can feel it if you run your finger from the unsharpened side to the edge ... you will be able to feel a very fine burr at the edge. This is called a tin edge. That tin edge floats back and forth, it is very flexible and must be removed. That's why we go to the strop over and over again. So if the tool looks sharp, has no shiny spots or nicks when you look directly down along the cutting edge but still is not cutting properly ... you still have the tin edge and need to return to your strop!
Pricing a Commission?
Next, Susan addressed the question concerning the commission price. Susan indicated that she was not a commission carver but she is a business owner and is an excellent supplier of carving patterns. Even though Susan may not be a commission carver, I feel that here statements were right on and have presented them here for your consideration.
What I would, in my opinion, do is first estimate how long one rose pattern will take you. Multiply that by what you think you can charge per hour. Then multiply that by number of patterns to do plus two more - yes, two more.... one extra for cussing, fussing, figuring out, and just plain oops ... then you add one more to that for their input into the project which will cause more cussing, fussing, figuring out, and oopses!
Now if you think this amount appears too high then you can 'give them a courtesy discount on the work which would come off of their one part. In my experience with the few pieces I have done for someone else the less input they offer the better the carving goes as usually their input means trying to change the unchangeable. Example, I have a rose with one leaf stem of five leaflets ... it's already carved ... they look at it and suddenly decide that maybe the patterns needs more leaves or even needs the leaves going in the other direction ... AHHH!
I believe that the other consideration to commission work is how much work do you want, is this going to be a main part of your business? If so you may want to start at a lower price to create customer referrals. Not too low as this is hand work, hand crafted, and art. But low enough that it is just below someone's' choking price as we say here in the studio.
If I were doing this commission the other thing I would do is work all of the rose patterns at the same time. Say tracing all of the patterns first, then set my background on all of the patterns, and then do some of the leaves on all of the patterns. That way, for me, I could more easily copy each carving stroke so that the entire design holds together and I would not run into the trap of "I've done three roses and tired of this project, but still have three more #$^^@! roses to do!" situation.
As a final note ... because I really do have to go and pack the orders.
Mike and I were watching Antique Road Show the other night. A man had purchased a box full of old folk art cane handle topper carvings done by an unknown artist around the 1930's. That artist's daughter sold the box full to the man for $52.50 at a yard sale. The appraisal came in at between $3500 to $4500. So don't under estimate the worth of your work.
Carving Patterns Online
Classic Carving Patterns By L.S.Irish
http://www.CarvingPatterns.com or http://www.WoodCarvingPatterns.com
Finally, have you ever wondered how to get make a copyright sign on your computer. Dick Carter posted the following on the Knotholes list.
Hold down the 'ALT' key & type 0169 to get ©
Hold down the 'ALT' key & type 0174 to get ®
Hold down the 'ALT' key & type 0153 to get T
(You have to use the numerical keyboard, the one @ the right on the keyboard)
On a Mac:
© Hold down Alt/Option key and type "g"
® Hold down Alt/Option key and type "r"
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.
Editor's Note: Disclaimers and Cautions