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Carving tools, books and carving woods discussion


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This book Complete Guide to Woodcarving is the book I used to teach myself woodcarving about 8 years ago now. It is a  step by step guide to everything from knife selection, sharpening, layout, even step-by-step carving projects. It is available thru Barnes & Noble. Ellenwood's book is consider by many carvers to be an excellent beginners book.

 

Another excellent book are the many books by Harley Refsal, while not nautical in nature, he teaches the Scandinavian Flat Plane style of carving. This book Art & Technique of Scandinavian Style Woodcarving and Woodcarving in the Scandinavian Style both contain excellent step-by-step instructions for the beginning carver. Both are available thru Barnes and Noble and I have used both books to teach myself carving.

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I carved my pieces using only a #11 blade.

 

xacto.jpg

 

I also tried a few micro chisels from Flexcut.  They worked really well.  I only really used the "v" shaped one.  The important thing is to keep them very sharp.....as soon as the #11 blades got a little dull I threw it away and got a new one.

 

chisels.jpg

 

I havent done any rotary carving because I dont like the look of the pieces after using the bits. Too rounded for my tastes but only probably because I dont know how to do it correctly.   I also like the feel of the blade vs. the rotary tool.

 

But guys,  please discuss your tools and approaches here and hopefully we will have a few that will try rotary carving.

 

Chuck

 

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For those who have interest, there is a free book in PDF form written by a retired fighter jet pilot about Netsuke, which is miniature carving fairly close to our scales. Click on the link below:

 

http://sterlingsculptures.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Carving_Netsuke.pdf

 

Jim

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I havent used them much yet.....but flexcut has a special shaped "whatcha-ma-bob" to sharpen them.  See below.

 

http://www.flexcut.com/pw12-flexcut-slipstrop/

 

 

They also have a great how to video showing how to sharpen the chisels.  Cant say much else because I barely used mine.....havent tried it yet.  I mostly used a #11 blade.

 

Chuck

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I have not tried Chuck's #11 knife blade for carving (yet); mainly because the type of carving I do - figures and caricatures - would probably snap the blade on the first cut. Haven't tried the new Flexcut micro gouges either; I recently got a set of the now discontinued DockSide micro chisels.  I am looking forward to trying my hand at Chuck's miniature carving project.

 

I am a self taught woodcarver. Picked up a book (see my post here)  and started reading and practicing. My first knife was the "bench" knife shown on the extreme left in photo below: I found this knife very frustrating to use and after joining a woodcarving club and consulting with some of their experienced carvers and trying out some of their knives, I switched to a style made by Dave Lyons called the Lyons knife (naturally) shown in the 2nd and 3rd photos. The design of the handle is more ergonomic and fits a lot nicer in the palm of your hand without fatiguing your hand after hours of carving. I might add that Dave's knives came razor sharp right out of the box and required no additional honing on my part - something I spent hours doing with the bench knife. Oh, the 2 knives to the right of the bench knife in photo #1 are chip carving knifes.

 

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For finger protection I recommend the finger guards shown in the photos below. They are leather on the bottom and an elastic material on the top and come in small, medium and large sizes to fit all finger sizes. The one on the right in the photo fits over the thumb while the one on the left  fits over the forefinger

 

post-13502-0-81869200-1476733287.jpgpost-13502-0-78992100-1476733286.jpg

 

And finally I constructed a bench hook as shown in these photos, the design is shown in Ellenwood's book referenced above. The notch in the back allows the piece to be placed in a diagonal position against the side stop. The gap between the side stop and the back is to allow chips to be removed more easily.

 

post-13502-0-45222000-1476733492.jpgpost-13502-0-78721400-1476733492.jpgpost-13502-0-98914800-1476733491.jpg

 

I can get into a discussion of chisels and gouges at a later time as interest dictates.

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I actually still use the #11 blades even though I have a whole set of chesels.  They just get into the nooks better in my opinion.  I am no authority on the subject though.   I did use the "v" shaped groove chisel to make the veins in the leaves which was easier than making "chip cuts" with a #11 blade.  So I guess it depends on what you are carving at the moment.  And what you are more comfortable with.

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I havent used them much yet.....but flexcut has a special shaped "whatcha-ma-bob" to sharpen them.  See below.

 

http://www.flexcut.com/pw12-flexcut-slipstrop/

 

 

They also have a great how to video showing how to sharpen the chisels.  Cant say much else because I barely used mine.....havent tried it yet.  I mostly used a #11 blade.

 

Chuck

 

I have that "whatcah-ma-bob" ;) Chuck and have used it a lot. Works better on the V and U shaped gouges. For my knives I prefer a long stick with a piece of old leather glued to it and some sharping rouge (like chalk dust) dusted into the leather - use the back side (rough) for stropping. The flat surface area on the Flexcut strop is too small for me.

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The issue with chisels for me is the actual size and delicate nature of the parts we are carving.  I just cant use the chisels with the same control as a #11 blade.  A scalpel blade would be good also.   Remember...these are tiny thin pieces of wood.   Using a #11 blade you are just using the very tip.   The last 1/32" portion of the very tip.....no more.   Until you get a chance to try them all it would be hard for anyone to describe it.  

 

That was one of the benefits of getting everyone together at my shop so we could all try each others chisels and blades.   Its the only way to tell.  In fact, it wasnt until I tried a good quality chisel that I decided to buy them.  They are expensive.

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I actually still use the #11 blades even though I have a whole set of chesels.  They just get into the nooks better in my opinion.  I am no authority on the subject though.   I did use the "v" shaped groove chisel to make the veins in the leaves which was easier than making "chip cuts" with a #11 blade.  So I guess it depends on what you are carving at the moment.  And what you are more comfortable with.

 

I'm interested in seeing how the large Lyons knives work on your small carving. I plan on trying both the #11 and the Lyons. The two on the extreme right and left in the above photos are for fine detail. 

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I agree Chuck. My Pfeil chisels would be extreme overkill on this. The DockSide micros would be more appropriate. In fact I think I use my knives a lot more that I use the chisels/gouges. You're right about the control with the knife. With the knife you are using your fingers and wrist more for "power" while with the chisels it's more the forearm muscles.

Edited by Jack12477
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I anybody wants to get some of the discontinued Dockyard Micro Chisels I saw a bunch at a wood show this past weekend from a shop in Bettendorph, IA.  I bought a bunch of rotary carving bits from them at very reasonable prices.   They had the Dockyard tools on display and they are still shown on their web site.  http://www.thewoodcraftshop.com

There is also a nice dedicated strop for sharpening these tools with all of the curves and angles.

Kurt

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I have a set of Flexcut chisels. They are very nice for small work, but not too useful for figure carving, which I normally hold in my hand while carving. I always use a protective glove on my holding hand and a thumb guard on my knife hand. I normally use basswood because It's very nice to work with. It cuts easily and holds even the smallest details quite sharply.

 

The first thing to learn for anyone wanting to get into wood carving is how to properly sharpen and hone their carving tools, as a razor sharp edge is essential for success. As for the kind of scroll work relief type carvings seen on the stern of larger ships,  these can just be cut from a pattern on the scroll saw and detail added with carving chisels afterward.  The Flexcut chisels would work really well for that kind of work. This method might not appeal to someone who wants to carve the scroll work directly into ships planking, but personally I could live with just gluing it on.

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Linden, Lime and Basswood are members of the same tree species, Tilia. They were the favorite wood for carving used by Grinling Gibbons who's work, though on a larger scale, was breathtaking. See http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O59271/carving-gibbons-grinling/ 

for example.

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They are fine woods for carving in large scale but I wouldnt think it a good choice for the smaller carving we do.  For many reasons.   Its hard to get basswood to hold a hard edge when carving that tiny...it has a tendency to split and break as well.  Just too fuzzy. In some cases on the design we will be carving pieces that have areas that are just 1/32" x 1/32" and this could fall in area where the grain runs in a less than optimal direction.   So it would be tough to keep the integrity of the small pieces using any soft wood.  I have carved some areas down to 1/64" x 1/64".  Very fragile.

 

If you have spent three hours carving a piece the last thing you want to happen is to get a break on a very thin area because the wood is too soft.   Best to stick with woods that are much harder and stronger.  I carved the crown cipher in cherry just to test it out...it was much more difficult to do and you had to be so much more careful and gentle with it. Even slightly dull blades will pull and split small areas of the design.  And Cherry is much harder than Linden or Bass.  It is possible but why not just use a harder wood to start with to make the process less problematic.  Its fine for carving larger...but when you get these blanks you will understand how basswood or even Linden would just not work that well.

 

Chuck

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I agree with what Chuck is saying. I've carved basswood in larger scales (starting with a block 2" x 2" x 6" or 3" x 3" x 6") and carved it down into a large figure.  For the type of carving I've been doing basswood is the wood of choice, an example is here . But I have not tried carving anything in basswood (/limewood/linden wood) as small as what Chuck's describing. I'm waiting for the kits to become available so I can experiment with his design.

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Linden was used for shields in Anglo-Saxon times, and it's possible that this was because it was soft enough to receive a blow with an edged weapon without splitting, and perhaps (if you were lucky) trap it in your shield so you could have an uninterrupted 'go' at your opponent.

 

I swear by pear wood for carving, ever since I was given some when I was a teenager. I haven't tried other fruit woods, but I find the fine grain of pear suits my purposes very well, (though carving the faces of 1:50 scale figures is pushing the outside of the envelope a bit, even for pear wood).

 

By the way, is it just me, or do other people have trouble with the screw thread continually coming loose on craft knives like the one at the bottom of Chuck's post of 19 October? I've found it so annoying I got a proper surgical scalpel. The No. 11 blade is the same shape as on the craft knives, and a scalpel works much better for me. Only problem is the occasional broken blade (I'm pretty hard on them).

 

Steven

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  • 2 weeks later...

Chuck, like you I use a No 11 blade for nearly all tasks.

However you might find some of the other blades available may be worth exploring.

Very occasionally I use a 12D blade.

 

The nice thing about these is that they have a cutting edge both sides.

You can then alternate the side to better suit the shape you are dealing with.

They also seem to have a tighter / sharper angle at the very end allowing better angles of approach.

 

Nick

post-4201-0-46638200-1478871244.jpg

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