I spent quite a long time cleaning up the outside edges of the dragon carving, so minimal saw marks were left on the edges. I also did a lot of undercutting on the edges to really give the leaves and dragon a more 3-dimensional appearance when you look at it straight on.
I used foam padding to protect the carving when I held it in the vise, and also when I clamped it to the bench-top. You don’t want too much padding, or the wood will flex when you carve it, but you want enough so when you clamp it tight, it won’t damage the surface of the carving.
I really enjoyed carving this walnut. It was just standard kiln-dried wood from a local lumber yard. Nothing special. But it is a beautiful wood to carve – not the easiest, because it is quite hard and will not let you carve against the grain. But if you have really sharp tools, the surface is almost burnished, and you can get some beautifully crisp detail. And I did not sand any of it! I just left what tool marks were on it – it actually kept it lively that way.
The 3 wise men photo has an interesting story behind it. A dear friend of mine who passed away a little over a year ago, Normal Landry, was in the middle of working on this carving project, when he became ill. He was able to complete them about 3/4 of the way through – finished all the faces, and the clothing shapes. His wife, Betty, asked me several months ago if I would be interested in finishing them, and I told her it would be an honor to work on one of his projects. I spent the past few days finishing the details on the carving, and having a friend from the local carving club, Bill Fourniea, teach me about painting on wood – the kind of painting where you can still see the grain through the paint. It was a lot of fun, but I was up late last night getting the painting finished so I could mail it in time for her to receive it before Christmas (as long as UPS behaves). It was a refreshing and new experience to step away from the decorative carving that I normally work on, and do something that was a little more folk-art style.
And I’d love to see Betty’s face when she opens the package, because I haven’t told her that I have finished them. UPS, you better pull through!