My carving adventure begins!

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Blog entry by RaggedKerf posted 12-21-2012 02:51 AM 1141 reads 0 times favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch

My lovely bride got me a book and two chip carving knives for my birthday on Tuesday. I have to say, I’m pretty darn excited. She got me Wayne Barton’s Complete Guide to Chip Carving have read it cover to cover already and today made my first cuts!

First up, I found a piece of basswood I bought at Michael’s for another project and never used. Perfect. It’s only 3” x 3/8” x 24” so not exactly an ideal size, but I figured for the first go, why not.

I drew out a pattern, based off what I saw in the book.

Then I started to cut out the triangles, one at a time. The first few were a little rough because the angle that Wayne instructs you to hold the knife at seems awkward at first…but by the time I got half way through I was thinking it wasn’t so bad.

Then I finished up and decided to try going the other way…

There’s a few good cuts in there….somewhere….it’s great because you can really tell instantly when you made a good cut. I heard that nice “snap” sound and saw the little pyramid chip pop out 3 times on this first trial run. I’m hooked!

So then I thought, let’s try a border. I drew two parallel lines on either side of the triangles/zig zag and took my time keeping the same angle, same pressure and moved it right across the grain…

Not bad, I think. Next I tried to push myself and see what free form curves I could do. I drew some random curves and decided to give it a whirl, making some nice shallow cuts.

I discovered a few things, most notably: curves are NOT as easy as little triangles. But they are a bit more fun because of that challenge. I’m thinking also that the wood is too dry. I’m going to try and rehydrate it a little and see if that helps because I got a lot of chatter and rough cuts with the curves.

It doesn’t help that I haven’t initially sharpened the blades on the knives yet—-just using the factory edge. Heh heh…I know, I’m a sinner. I just couldn’t wait to try….

Finally, I decided to try letters, so I found a cool looking V in Wayne’s book and copied it by eye to the wood. This was easier for some reason than the curves. I did a better job of keeping the angle on the blade steady and took my time. I like it!

So. No world class carving. Yet. But, these are the first cuts I’ve ever made as far as carving is concerned (except for my initials carved into my workbench leg vise chop…lol) and I am really happy and excited to continue to learn this aspect of woodworking!

I’ll try again after I sharpen the knives and rehydrate the wood. I’m hoping for better results. It was kind of hard to get the knife to do what I wanted—-my shoulder was burning by the time I finished (oh, all the above work took about 30 minutes) so I’m not sure if I’m doing everything right just yet…

-- Steve

3 comments so far

View ksSlim's profile


1275 posts in 2884 days

#1 posted 12-21-2012 03:44 AM

I’ve not heard of rehydrating wood. After 40 years of practice, I’m still learning.
Sharpen your knife and give it another try. Depending on angles and the precision the cuts meet, many time chips are “self clearing”. They actually jump from the cut. Ask Dr. Google about Chris Pye. Chris has a web site with carving videos. He teaches some in this country but I believe his studio is in England.

-- Sawdust and shavings are therapeutic

View doordude's profile


1085 posts in 2977 days

#2 posted 12-21-2012 04:16 AM

it’s a great start, and very addicting. happy chipping

View RaggedKerf's profile


425 posts in 2115 days

#3 posted 12-21-2012 10:25 AM

KsSlim, I’ve never heard of Chris Pye, but I’ll check it out! Thanks! I seem to remember reading about people saying if you get the wood slightly more moisture (like in a humidor or something) the chip carving (and carving in general) is easier than in dry wood. It kind of makes sense to me but I’m struggling with the details…last thing I want is a piece of wood that spits at me as I (try to) carve.


-- Steve

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