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Notes From the Net

By Loren K. Woodard
Email Loren at woodcarver@midmo.com or visit his web site at http://www.woodcarvers-gallery.com/

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 usual, things are hopping on the Internet. There has been considerable help passed along to fellow carvers and in addition, some good general chat. I'm happy to pass along some of what I considered must have information. If you missed it before, now is your chance to grab some tips. If you didn't miss this information before maybe this will give you a chance to give it some second thoughts. Should you have a tip that you learned on one of the woodcarving lists that you have seen discussed within this article, please feel free to email it to me. I would be happy to consider it for a future article.



The Fishcarver List

Have you wondered what happed to the Fishcarver's List. Well you don't have to wonder any longer. It is now on the Internet at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Fishcarving2/. The list is well and strong with over 80 members at present. We are doing our best to make sure every potential fish carver knows where to find us. In addition, we are trying our best to make sure that past members know where we are now located. Drop in, give us a look, and be come one of us. I believe you will like what you find. There are several world class fish carvers on the list who are more than willing to offer help when it is ask for.


Fish Scale Tipping

Talk about the Fishcarver2 list, here is a bit of good information shared by Dan Blair, the new list owner. This information talks about scale tipping done for a carving project on the original Fishcarver List.

There are more than a few ways to scale tip a fish, whether it be a wood carving, synthetic reproduction, or an actual skin mounted fish. Some of these methods work best before a fish is painted, and still others may produce more satisfactory results if applied after the fish has been painted and clear coated. Since the wooden fish in this group project arrived already primed and painted in its base colors, I decided to combine two scale tipping methods to achieve the results I preferred.

Because I like to finish my fish paintings with transparent colors, I knew my scale tipping would show through the paint, so I opted to lay down a random pattern of silver scales from above and behind the head back to the base of the tail. On some Trout, silver or gold scales do not show as much over the back, so I avoided those areas. And I made a point to remember that scales are smaller toward the tail.

To do the scales showing UNDER paint, I use Sharpie's new metallic ink marking pens in Silver. The tips have a tendency to swell under repeated tapping, so I recommend starting with the smaller scales near the tail and then work forward toward the larger scales near the head. I do NOT tip every scale but rather randomly scatter the silver tips. The voids left by this method look more natural than an even "flawless" pattern.

After the scales have been silver tipped, I "finish" my painting as I normally would using my airbrush and Polytranspar Paints from WASCO or her many distributors. (In the case of the project trout, I painted only the lateral stripe, cheeks, Medium Bass/Trout Transparent Green back, a few shimmering colors, pearled the belly and lower face, and then spotted the carving. All else had been painted when I received it.)

Whether you finish scale tipping before or after you clear coat the final painting is a matter of personal preference and I still do it both ways from time to time. A few years ago, I devised a method of rubber-stamping scale tips and spots which I call ST-inkers which stands for Scale Tipping Inkers. I made these stamps by using my Dremel and various burrs to shape appropriate sizes and shapes into the eraser end of pencils. "IMPRINTZ" is a rubber stamp pad with metallic inks of silver, gold and bronze all in one pad. For Trout, I prefer the silver, gold and bronze in that order. I use very few of the bronze, but adding a few randomly here and there does add interest to the over all effect. And after I dip the "inker" to the pad, I stamp at least 4 or 5 times before re-inking. This changes the intensity of the scale tipping and again creates a random and very natural looking arrangement. Look at a fresh trout up close and you will see the similarities.

If additional scale tipping is required to brighten certain areas or touch up details, I use the silver, gold, or bronze JIMNIE GEL pens made by a company called ZEBRA.

To avoid smearing or smudging your tipped scales, be sure to handle the fish ONLY in areas where there are no scales such as the head or tail. I also work only one side at a time. When I am satisfied with the results there, I aerosol clear coat it to seal in my efforts and let it dry for a couple hours before proceeding to the opposite side of the fish.

These methods add a considerable amount of realistic detail to your fish carvings, and the
"ST-inkers" and pens will keep the time involved in what used to be a time consuming operation down to a much more acceptable minimum. I recommend giving them a try. I think you'll be glad you did.

In another posting concerning scale tipping of fish Dan added the following information to his original posting.

One more thing I should point out as a plus factor in favor of the Sharpie metallic silver pens is that a lot of times, when we paint metallics and then clear coat them, the solvent in the clear coat changes the polarization of the pigments in gold or silver paint, causing them to lay down on their side and become dull and considerably less appealing. As an example, chrome may look like polished silver until you clear it and then it becomes dull gray. In comparison, bright gold falls apart in the clear coat and becomes dull, very tarnished brass.

You will notice the silver spots from the Sharpie stay brighter and more silver. (I wonder if they have plans to bring those pens out in gold???)


Relief Carving Layout

I thought that the following question was excellent and warrants inclusion into Notes From the Net. A list member writes:

I am about to begin a new carving and the same old question is back again. I spent last evening reading thru Lora's, Bill's, David's, Ivan's books AGAIN about the initial layout of the work. I tend to have a problem with needing to re-carve elements of the carving to get things right. I have no trouble with the foreground and the back ground but the mid-foreground and the mid-background or the multiple levels in between cause me problems.

The carving should be carved from back to front, I think, but I have an easier time carving front to back. How do you establish the levels with certainty? Besides color coding levels, some of you then number the elements to be carved first, second, etc. Bill's (Bill Judt) patterns show actual depth measurements. How do you establish this information with such certainty?

Relief carving without such a definite plan is probably accomplished much in the same manner but in a less organized manner of deciding as you go. This leads to constant re-evaluation and thus recarving. Is there a formula, procedure or is it just the eye of an artist or engineer that can quickly know what goes where?

This is probably basic and not of interest to a broad segment of the lists so I would be delighted to hear from anyone directly into my mailbox if that works out better.

There were several great responses to this quest which will be shared. By-the-way, I, for one, did not think this is basic issue and I thought that there was considerable information to be stored away in the answers. I have included answers from several of the many good responses presented.

Bill Judt, a master relief carver and author of three great books on relief carving, answered the question as follows:

After routering a carving - a process whereby I accurately set depths - I remove the islands of waste wood from back to front. After that, I work front to back, so that I can start with the topmost layer - the only layer with original lines still intact - and carve the perimeter of objects to the pencil lines. When the topmost layer is "taken to the line" I then cut the topmost layer out of my pattern (hopefully a COPY of my pattern) so that the remainder of the pattern rests on the NEXT LOWEST LAYER on the wood. Trace the pattern onto that layer, trim it "to the line" and repeat this process for EACH of the remaining layers in the carving.

You are ready to model the carving ONLY after having taken EACH layer "to the line".

BTW, in order to decide which objects are in the foreground, the middle ground and the background layers, I simply have to ask myself the question "What is in front of what, here?" Typically I divide my carving layers into 1/8" increments, for routering purposes. Smaller increments offer no extra benefit.

BTW, again... if you study the step-by-step project in my book "Inspirational Relief Carving" you will see how this process works. (If you do not have a copy, email Bill for an autographed copy. I have it and feel it is a great bargain for the low cost. Bill's email address is included below.)

W.F. Judt,
46 Harvard Cres
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan,
PH: 306-373-6649
Email: bjudt@sasktel.net
Website: http://www.wwwoodcarver.com


In addition to Bills answer, I have selected another answer from one of the list members. Marshall Larson answered the question as follows.

Your question about layering a relief carving is interesting to me because I've never tried to explain how I determine the depth of each level or how I minimize recarving. So maybe we'll both learn something. :-) I've never read any books or taken any lessons so my way may not be the right way. I guess you could say I'm an uneducated carver. He He

Anyway after I've made a sketch of the carving I determine how many true levels the carving is going to have. A true level is one that is deeper in the carving than the one in front of it. A false level is no deeper than the one in front of it but because of undercutting the bottom of the false level where it meets the top of the one in front it looks as though it's deeper or further back. After determining how many levels there are I figure out how thick each will be by how outstanding the elements in each level are, grass = thin, house = thick, etc. There is no set value to go by as long as the total is less than the thickness of the wood you're using. If a level is going to be less than 1/8 inch I use a false layer. I always leave at least 1/8 inch at the bottom level. After routing out the levels I sketch the carving and rough it out. This is where any changes can be made easily and any recarving in the detailing stage is held to a minimum. I carve from back to front especially when I'm using rotary tools so when I screw up and nick the foreground I don't grind out a detail that can't be replaced and also I not resting my hands on a detail that could be broken.

Check out Marshall's work at http://www.mantelsandcustomcarving.com/


Another great answer the relief carving question came from professional carver Joe Dillett.

The answers you have been getting are great advice. Relief carving is generally layered from the back toward the front and divided up into the background, foreground, and a middle ground. The middle ground may have more than one layer. Most of mine, even on the deep relief, have one layer in the middle ground.

The initial step, after drawing on the pattern, is to remove the deepest area in the background. Than cut in each of the layers. When I do this I have the outline of my shapes pretty well defined. After the layers are defined I begin contouring the objects in each layer, generally working from the front toward the back. Before I go into the next step, detailing, I make sure all the surfacing is reflecting the light properly, giving me the proper perspective, and I have an overall satisfaction before I begin the time-consuming detailing process.

It is only when I begin the detailing process, before I have a general overall satisfaction with the layering and contouring, that need to reshape some of the surfaces already detailed making the time spent on those details wasted.

Finishing each of the 4 steps before going on to the next step is one way of keeping from re-carving. Those 4 steps are grounding out the background, layering, contouring and detailing.


Joe Dillett
The Carving Shop
645 E. LaSalle St. Suite 3
Somonauk, IL. 60552
(815) 498-9290 phone
(815) 498-9249 fax

Until the next issue, keep carving and strive to make each carving your best one yet!

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 - Fishcarving List2

Editor's Note: Disclaimers and Cautions