Last week I taught a 5 day Fundamentals of Woodcarving class at Marc Adams School of Woodworking in Indianapolis, Indiana. A great group of people. Here are some of the wonderful accomplishments of the students. Congratulations everyone! Great job!
Have you ever had trouble seeing the lines of your design on the wood? Often with lighter colored wood such as basswood, pencil lines show up clearly. If you have transferred a template to your wood with carbon paper, this also shows up well on lighter colored wood. The carbon paper can be purchased at office supply stores.
However, when using darker woods, such as mahogany or walnut, I often use what is called “transfer paper” instead of carbon paper to transfer on designs. This paper comes in a variety of colors – white, red, yellow in addition to darker colors. It can usually be found in craft supply stores such as Michaels or Hobby Lobby. The lines also erase easily with a standard pencil eraser.
I just place the transfer paper between my template and wood and trace over the design from the template. I have accidentally had the transfer paper laying the wrong side up several times, so a warning… make sure the right side is down! It makes a really nice pattern on the back of your template if not
Another good trick for darker wood is to use white gel pens or colored pencils when you trace around a cut-out template or pattern.
I have a video on youtube that goes into more techniques of transferring designs to wood. Enjoy!
You know these very interesting electric gadgets that are found in most workshops called an “iron”? They have a flat surface, and are pointed at one end. They get really hot too. These unique implements have great uses in the woodworking shop:
Make a good photocopy of your design with a photocopier that uses toner (ink jet printers do not work). Turn your template over, and run the iron over your design and the ink from the paper should transfer to your wood. This is a great way to make a very accurate transfer if you have a complicated design.
Taking minor dents out of wood:
Take a damp cloth, lay it over the dented wood, place the iron on top and let it steam for a second or two. The steam causes the wood grain to expand and the dent is magically removed.
Bending thin pieces of wood:
Take a damp cloth, lay it over a thin piece of wood, place the iron over this and you can bend the wood.
Run a hot iron gently across veneer and the adhesive should heat and release old veneer.
Ironing those wrinkly shop aprons
What?? Who would have thunk?
And the book writing continues…
Here is a sneak preview of the first acanthus leaf project for my book. It is going to be a very basic leaf – showing certain aspects that are seen in most acanthus leaves (eyes, pipes, flowing vein lines, overlapping leaf sections). The projects and chapters following this first leaf will have some similarities, but will evolve into a variety of historical styles and get more advanced in detail.
In each chapter of my book, I will show a step-by-step method of how to draw this leaf so that you will be able to understand the technique of creating the “flow” of the leaf. This way you won’t have to be dependent on using someone else’s drawings, but you can design your own leaf, keeping with the “traditional” design aspects.
I will then show you step by step process of carving the leaf. There will be anywhere from 1 to 3 photographs per step to explain that particular step as clearly as possible. In addition, I will be adding drawings to clarify each step.
The following is an example of showing how to make the small “notch” cuts along the leaf serrations (my favorite cut!)
In addition to the “printed book”, I will also have online videos showing how to draw the leaf and also how to carve the complete leaf. There will also be templates that will be accessible online.
This book is going to be as thorough as it can be. It will be the next best thing to actually being in a classroom!
Follow along as I write my first book.
I will be sending newsletters where I walk people through my experience with this book writing process. Those on the list will get VIP treatment such as opportunities for free things (everybody like FREE things), previews or snippets of part of the book, and opportunities to become involved in the book writing process. Come join in the fun!
I recently had a client who asked me to help complete 3 traditional flame finials that he had started for a reproduction of a 1760’s secretary.
I received one finial that was laid out and partially carved, one that was just turned, and a block of wood to be turned into the third finial.
When I began looking at the finial that was partially carved, it took me over an hour of staring at it to try and figure out what the “formula” was of laying out the lines for the flames. I knew there was a pattern, but it was a real brain tease to figure it out. I even looked at several articles in books and magazines on how to lay out these lines, and that just tied my brain in more knots.
I finally figured it out – dividing the lower edge into 6 equal segments, and the upper edge into 9 equal segments. From there I think it is best to show a visual (see image to the right).
The best way I found to show to lay out the lines was to take a piece of paper, wrap it around a finished finial, and press it against the sharp edges of the flames. A wonderful impression of the sharp lines of the flames was pressed into the paper. Next, I took this paper and cut out sections of it so that it is sort of like a globe on a flat surface. After cutting out this template, it can then be taped around a turned finial with carbon paper under it and the lines transferred. The “globe” technique allows the paper to bend and shape along the curve of the finial. The left side of the template goes to the bottom of the finial and the right aligns with the top. It’s not a perfect technique, but it is a good start at getting the lines laid out.
Since this particular design was based on my client’s partially carved finial, it is “loosely based” on traditional flame finials. It is close, and has the same “feel” but I have not been able to find others that match this design exactly. And there are so many different styles out there – some very exact in their dimensions, curves and symmetry, some more free flowing, and some with completely wild flames.
But the most critical aspect of all flame finials seems to be that wonderful “S” curve. All lines, whether they go from the base all the way to the top, or only go a third of the way up, should have a gentle “S” curve. If this curve flattens, or if corners appear along the edge, the flame illusion is lost.
I had to turn the 3rd finial before carving it. It has been a long time since I have turned something this delicate, and I am definitely not an experienced wood turner. I resorted to using rasps to defining some of the base details (I am so ashamed).
I filmed this lesson and it is scheduled be be added in April to my online school and will also be available for individual purchase at that time also. You’ve got to try this. Especially for you engineers and those who love math!
To this date, all of my video lessons that I have made for my online school have been filmed with just little ol’ me carving away and talking through the carving process.
And now on to the next evolution – a guest artist! Several students have asked how to finish carvings on soft wood. Since I don’t feel that I am very knowledgeable in this area, I decided to invite someone who is skilled in finishing techniques. Tonight’s video that has been added to my online school will have Dan Hamilton as a guest. Dan is great friend and fellow woodworker and also a highly skilled furniture maker and restorer from Okatie, SC – just about 1 hour south of Charleston. On this video he shows me (and you) how to do some basic finishing techniques on 2 different basswood carvings using simple products that are probably lying around in the cupboard somewhere.
I’ve already talked to Dan about doing another video on more advanced finishing techniques. Who knows where this will lead?