Stefangs Woodcarving - Practice Session #1: -

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Blog entry by stefang posted 05-08-2011 09:19 PM 3146 reads 0 times favorited 17 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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This is not a tutorial blog My woodcarving skills are very limited (a nice word for non-existent). I thought it might be fun for others to see a wannabe woodcarver struggling to learn the basics. I plan to show you the results of each practice session to illustrate my progression of skill (if there is any) and to discuss problems encountered/solved, tools, wood types, and anything else that is related to the subject.

If you want an excellent tutorial on chip carving then I suggest you join Chip’s class. I’m not intending to practice only chip carving. At some point I will eventually be trying other types of carving such as; relief carving (acanthus for example) and maybe even figure carving eventually. I will never be very good at any of these, but I like to explore and so I hope you will look in on occasion with some constructive/destructive criticism, or any comments you might have.

I’ve been practicing for a week or so. I have done some chip carving, but nothing very interesting. Today’s practice session was fun. I had a pattern from a carving book which was a bit more interesting than the usual stars and triangles I’ve done in the past. Here’s a photo of the result together with my shop made carving knife. I have one other chip carving knife made by Pfeil, a Swiss company. It is good, but this one with a sharp point is better for small details, at least for myself.

As you see, I couldn’t get the whole pattern on the board I was using. I’m not too worried about that because this just practice. My knife is made from an old hacksaw blade and some Birch. The handle is hollowed to accept the blade shaft and just glued together with epoxy glue. I made it in 2006. This is the only tool I used for this session.

Wood of the day
The wood is Sycamore which is a kind of Maple. It is fairly hard and dense wood, but I wanted to try it out. It comes from one of the logs I bandsawed recently. My hand is still swollen and hurts, so I’ll be using my Juniper wood for the next session.

Carving technique
The pattern is actually a chip carving pattern, but the wood was too hard to use Chip’s technique, so Instead of taking chips out I had to carve down to a 90 degree cut between the ornament lines dfrom each side in stages, ergo, the reason why the carving lacks the beautiful cuts that Chip does. It is also pretty obvious that the two halves are not altogether symmetrical. This is mainly due to my bad left eye which resulted carving the pattern slightly different from one side to the other and mistakes.

How I practice
Right now I am recuperating from dental surgery done on Friday, so I have plenty of time on my hands. The weather has been real nice so I’ve been doing my carving while sitting on the terrace with my wife (social woodworking). When I get better I will be working for my wife doing a lot of other things, but I will then practice during my rest breaks. Very relaxing work.

Practical Tips
If you want to do your carving the same way, but if you or your wife are worried about messy wood chips/shavings, then you might consider taking a dustbuster vacuum with you. I just let them collect on my shirt and I brush them off over a flower bed occasionally.

While carving, I have my diamond honing stone, a water spray bottle to wet the stone, some tissue to dry/clean the stone, which I use every 10-15 minutes just to keep a sharp edge on my carving knife. I also have some other stuff like a steel rule, pencil, eraser, etc. I keep all this in a wooden box (my wife’s idea) so I can take everything I need with me without doing a juggling act.

Thanks for reading this and please don’t hesitate to come with advice or criticism. I have no ego problems with either.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

17 comments so far

View degoose's profile


7233 posts in 3354 days

#1 posted 05-08-2011 09:29 PM

You are far advanced on my lowly carving skills… they are really non existent… I will stick to boards…LOL
I can’t wait to see how you advance with more practice… looks ok to me so far…

-- Don't drink and use power tools @

View Tim Dahn's profile

Tim Dahn

1567 posts in 3565 days

#2 posted 05-08-2011 09:36 PM

I’m interested in the knife handle, would a larger diameter be better or is the the size you have better? your hands being sore made me curious. The practice carving is looking good, that seems like a hard wood to carve.

-- Good judgement comes from experience and experience comes from poor judgement.

View stefang's profile


15881 posts in 3334 days

#3 posted 05-08-2011 09:58 PM

Thanks Larry.

A good point Tim. I have in fact been considering making larger handles for both of my chip carving knives. I have arthritis, so carving isn’t really good for me, but I want to do it anyway.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4174 posts in 3164 days

#4 posted 05-08-2011 11:21 PM

Very interesting Mike, I especially like the simple knife idea. Tim’s idea of a bigger handle seems appropriate…........

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View Dave's profile


11429 posts in 2840 days

#5 posted 05-08-2011 11:39 PM

Mike I have 2 knives. A 2cherry and a hand made one that has a very small blade. I prefer the hand made one. The handle has almost a banana shape, its curved and round. I like it for two reasons. One it does not hurt my thumb and two the small blade is much better on details. And yes a box for caring the carving tools is very nice. I keep a few pieces of basswood in mine and take it to family events. It helps past the time and the young children love to watch Uncle Dave carve. To me that gives them some interest in something other than a video game.
Very nice practice board. Can you give a little more on the making of you knife blade.

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

View mafe's profile


11725 posts in 3089 days

#6 posted 05-08-2011 11:59 PM

It sound like a life I like!
In the wonderful weather on the prrch with the wife, coffee and wood carving. A bird passing the sky so blue ohhh stop me life can be sweet even with a tooth that are healing.
I’m really impressed with your carvings, and that is a wonderful and personal knife.
Best thoughts,

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

View patron's profile


13604 posts in 3341 days

#7 posted 05-09-2011 12:18 AM

another wonderful adventure

i can only marvel at this kind of work
but i never have just sat and whittled

i do learn so much from your blogs mike

the one i cherish the most
to be happy with the life i have
and not worry about things that don’t matter

thank you for that

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View MyChipCarving's profile


604 posts in 3124 days

#8 posted 05-09-2011 04:29 AM

Way to go, Mike.
I’ll look forward to see where your carving takes off from here!

-- Marty,, 866-444-6996

View Schwieb's profile


1857 posts in 3461 days

#9 posted 05-09-2011 12:28 PM

Mike, Hope you are recovering quickly. I whittled a lot when I was a boy and later always admired nice carving but I have been stuck on flat work and turning and just haven’t explored that aspect of woodworking at all. Thanks for the inspiration.

-- Dr. Ken, Florida - Durch harte arbeit werden Träume wahr.

View stefang's profile


15881 posts in 3334 days

#10 posted 05-09-2011 08:55 PM

Thanks for looking in and joining me on my carving journey Mads, David, Marty and Ken.

Yes David, I am just going to take one day at a time until I drop. I’m not making any big plans, just everyday micro living and spending some quality time with all the great people here on LJ.

I’m off to make today’s blog.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View helluvawreck's profile


31096 posts in 2866 days

#11 posted 05-09-2011 09:28 PM

Mike, since I’ve been carving for a couple of months on the weekends I will be watching with interest. Like you have said I am making a lot of “practice boards” – another name for mine might be strangely decorated fire wood. The carving that you have posted here is very clean especially since you say it was a very hard wood. It’s ok if my carvings are not great because I enjoy it and I’m going to stick with it this time. I have often found that my patterns are too large for the wood that I have on hand at a given time but I’ll just modify the pattern and make it work. I haven’t burnt any of mine yet and plan on maybe doing a similar blog on my progress. Believe it or not, I have not cut my table saw on in these past 8 weeks. I think the only machines that I’ve used are my miter saw and band saw. As a matter of fact right now my table saw is covered with my carvings. I do sand my blanks with my orbital sander. I wish you the best of luck with your carving adventure.

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View stefang's profile


15881 posts in 3334 days

#12 posted 05-10-2011 12:15 PM

Hi Charles. I do hope you will also blog your progress as you mentioned. I think it would be inspiring for both of us. I would love to see your work and maybe we can share some tips or at least get some ideas from each other.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Brit's profile


7376 posts in 2842 days

#13 posted 05-14-2011 11:24 AM

Chip carving is on my to do list too, so I’ll be watching with interest. Thanks for posting this Mike.

-- - Andy - Old Chinese proverb says: "If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it."

View stefang's profile


15881 posts in 3334 days

#14 posted 05-14-2011 12:35 PM

Thanks for your comment Andy. Woodcarving is fun and I hope you will give it a try. I suggest you start out with chip carving which only requires one knife and is an excellent introduction to carving before making a heavy investment in an arsenal of carving tools.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View mafe's profile


11725 posts in 3089 days

#15 posted 05-14-2011 12:57 PM

That sounds boring Mike!
One one knife!
What can I restore then?
Now you are really selfish.
No it sounds wonderful and simple.
Good luck Andy.
Best thoughts,

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

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