Chip Carving Class - Quilt Squares #3: Lesson 1: Surface preparation

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Blog entry by MyChipCarving posted 03-07-2011 10:45 PM 7682 reads 3 times favorited 24 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: Supplies Part 3 of Chip Carving Class - Quilt Squares series Part 4: Lesson 1, Part 2 - Knife Sharpening »

Chip carving quilt squares, lesson 1

I have a couple of items to cover before we get started with the first lesson.

How many quilt squares should I complete?
This is completely up to you! I hope that everyone will be able to complete one square to send to
me for our LumberJocks Class Quilt. If you would like to send me more, that would be fantastic.

How many quilts will we make?
I will assemble as many chip carved quilts as possible depending on how many squares you send me.
From the looks of class attendance, I’m confident that I should be able to make more than one quilt.

I’ve got an idea on how I’ll assemble these quilts that will allow for varying thicknesses of
squares. So if you’re making your own squares, just make them square and close to 3-3/4” and/or
5-3/4” square.

Questions: feel free to post your questions. I’ll reply promptly. If I don’t know the answer I’ll
make something up :-)

LESSON 1: Surface Preparation

Proper surface prep is important when getting ready to chip carve for a few reasons.

First, a glassy smooth surface allows the pattern to be applied clearly and accurately. A rough
and uneven surface makes it difficult to get clear pattern lines when using any of the pattern
application methods I’ll be showing you.

Second, you will get better results when chip carving a properly prepared surface. Your knife will
get a cleaner start when it begins in the exact spot you desire. Even small, uneven ridges caused
by a rough surface will have you guessing where to start your cut. Also, during the cut, a smooth
surface will yield crisp edges on the surface of your board. When chips are back-to-back this is
even more important.

Finally, when you have removed all the chips in your pattern, you will only sand the surface very
lightly. Get the surface ready now because you won’t be able to when you are done carving. I’ll explain why in an upcoming lesson.

How to prepare the surface
Method 1 – Abrasive paper

Using abrasive paper is the easiest and most common method of surface preparation. Be sure to sand
with the grain using straight strokes. I encourage you to wrap your sandpaper around a block of
wood or fastened to a commercial sanding block (pictured) to avoid rounding over the edges on your quilt square.

But even with a sanding block, the 4×4 is quite small and the sanding block may go over the edges
and cause them to round over slightly. To avoid this you can attach a piece of abrasive paper to a
flat surface (3/4” MDF or particle board is good) using double-sided tape.

Move your square over the abrasive paper rather than moving the sanding block over the square.

Work you way through the grits as needed all the way to 220 grit or finer. Some carvers like to
sand through 400 grit. I’ve not seen the need for this but I’ll leave that decision up to you.
When done, vacuum the surface to remove dust and any leftover abrasive particles.

Method 2 – Scraper
A cabinet / card scraper will yield the absolute best surface for carving (and woodworking, for
that matter). A scraper will create a hard and flat surface perfect for pattern application and
carving. Scraping is also easier on your lungs and shop as no dust is created.

For your quilt squares, the surface would need to be scraped prior to cutting. The squares are
just too small to scrape after cutting to size.
I’ve created a video lesson demonstrating how to sharpen and use a scraper. For our purposes I’ve
edited the full length lesson to include abrasive paper and scraper use only.

If you’d like to learn how to sharpen a scraper and see the full length lesson, sign up to become a My Chip Carving Platinum Member.

I’ll give everyone a few days to read this first lesson, cut out their squares, and prepare the
surface. If you need some basswood practice boards and/or squares, please contact me with your
address and quantity of each size desired. or 866-444-6996
4×4 square – 1.00/ea
6×6 square – 1.50/ea
5×12 practice board – 2.80/ea

Next lesson: Pattern Design

-- Marty,, 866-444-6996

24 comments so far

View Rustic's profile


3253 posts in 3566 days

#1 posted 03-07-2011 11:45 PM

looking forward to getting started

--, Rick Kruse, Grand Rapids, MI

View Cubie's profile


16 posts in 2607 days

#2 posted 03-07-2011 11:51 PM

I’ve been using the sandpaper technique for the stuff I’ve been carving recently. It works well and makes pattern transfer with the hot iron a cinch. I’m also looking forward to making some chips.

-- Cubie

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4130 days

#3 posted 03-07-2011 11:55 PM

it’s on my “to do” list for this week. perhaps Wednesday.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4130 days

#4 posted 03-07-2011 11:56 PM

it’s on my “to do” list for this week. perhaps Wednesday.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View Russell T Wilson's profile

Russell T Wilson

16 posts in 2609 days

#5 posted 03-08-2011 12:20 AM


I will start as soon as my wood arrives!

-- Russ

View Chipaway's profile


23 posts in 2610 days

#6 posted 03-08-2011 02:19 AM

Got my wood today, will hit it with the paper tomorrow.

-- Ron, Gainesville, Georgia,

View Dave's profile


11429 posts in 2809 days

#7 posted 03-08-2011 04:58 AM

Done. Do they stitch you up for sandpaper burns? We are staining these red aren’t we?

-- Superdav "No matter where you go - there you are."

View DavidBass's profile


12 posts in 2610 days

#8 posted 03-08-2011 05:03 AM

I guess doing this would be a good idea for our practice boards as well, yes?

View Rustic's profile


3253 posts in 3566 days

#9 posted 03-08-2011 05:10 AM

Got my stuff today Thanks a bunch Marty

--, Rick Kruse, Grand Rapids, MI

View MyChipCarving's profile


604 posts in 3094 days

#10 posted 03-08-2011 05:30 AM

David, you’re right. Preparing the surface of your practice boards is a good idea too. That way you really know how you’re doing rather than being frustrated during your practice while battling a poor surface.

-- Marty,, 866-444-6996

View Dandog's profile


250 posts in 2744 days

#11 posted 03-08-2011 08:18 AM

I have to find the base wood but I’m following your blogs and videos. I’m really looking forward to it.

-- life an woodworking is one big experiment

View Gregn's profile


1642 posts in 2953 days

#12 posted 03-08-2011 07:01 PM

My wood arrived this morning. Now where did I put that sand paper hmm?

-- I don't make mistakes, I have great learning lessons, Greg

View stefang's profile


15881 posts in 3304 days

#13 posted 03-09-2011 08:03 PM

Hi Marty. Good start on the course. I finally figured out why some do the cutting in before removing chips. It has to be because of using harder woods than basswood. Here in Norway we call it Linden. It is almost impossible get hold of Linden here, but it is without a doubt a fantastic wood to carve. Most other woods aren’t as soft and close grained at the same time and so require that vertical cut before the chip cut.

I think the LJ members are lucky to get your expertise. Carving in my opinion is one of the top woodworker skills and a very satisfying pastime as well. Good luck with your course, they will be learning from a master. I’ll be following the course with great interest.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View MyChipCarving's profile


604 posts in 3094 days

#14 posted 03-09-2011 11:18 PM

Right! Linden – limewood – basswood = top-notch carving!
Thank you for your kind and encouraging words.
I hope everyone finds they come true in this class.

-- Marty,, 866-444-6996

View rich2008's profile


23 posts in 2609 days

#15 posted 03-10-2011 08:25 PM


I got my squares (3 3/4 X 3 3/4) card scraped, cut, and ready for patterns. Will you post some patterns for us when everyone is ready?


-- Rich, Mississippi Gulf Coast

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