carving criticism requested....

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Forum topic by realcowtown_eric posted 02-19-2014 06:39 AM 1395 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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608 posts in 1900 days

02-19-2014 06:39 AM

Topic tags/keywords: carving alder sharpening criticism requested

For years, wood carving has been on my list of things to do, and this is the second project I’ve delved into.

This project involves an applique for a base for a religious statue.

The wood is alder, I know- a rather offbeat wood as far as I could determine, none of the local woodcarving sources I’ve touched base with have ever used it- but I used it for the last project -massive corbels- and it worked fine.

I’m a beginner when it comes to carving, but that doesn’t mean you have to be gentle with me, I’d rather get the blunt truth rather than polite platitudes.Fell free to comment in whatever way you wish. Constructive criticism would be appreciated too!

The carving is an applique, to be finished in a gold finish on a dark stained oak ground. , intended for a base for a religious statue.

The last project saw me spending days spent sharpening up the carving tools I had accumulated over the years to the point of usability. Only then did I begin to appreciate the OCD aspect of sharpness, and the endeavours folks go to protect that time investment.

Looking forward to the comments…


-- Real_cowtown_eric

6 replies so far

View koraile's profile


98 posts in 1625 days

#1 posted 02-19-2014 09:27 AM

Good Morning Eric.

I cant remember anyone asking me abouth alder In 24 years, Or as we Call it “or” or “√¶rder”, √¶rder is what my grandfather and his fahter used to Call it. Few use it, but im quite fond of it. With the right treatment it can get some wery Nice patterns and colours in it, at least the types we have here. Grey alder and black alder.
I use the grey alder, both for turning and some carvings. Its not the material id usualy advice for woodcarving for beginners,like most hard Birch types its more unforgiving in the way that errors show if the irons have smal notches when they are not wery sharp or have weak Points in the metal, witch some irons might have, not many, but a couple in a houndred irons might have weak points in their structure.

(somethimes you can grind off 1 mm and the spott is gone, other times it can follow the metal bacwards and you might have to take off 5mm, this is a bit tricky to see and recognice, id advise you to ask someone experience that can have a look at them if you ever feel you have this problem, because normaly when you have a iron With good metal, those you can have for 10 years, even With daily use, i even have some that is 30, that my grandfather made and im still using.)

You asked at a good time, im having morning coffe :)

For woodturning id happily advice you to Experiment With the material and try out fermentation metods for the colouring.

But for woodcarving id advice you to start With a softer material like slow growing pine, Birch is also a more unforgiving material to start With, id say Birch is a good nr 2 type of material to start experimenting With.

The main reason for this is the hardness of the material, i can see its dry, witch means its brittle, any scratch from the irons show wery well, meaning you will use longer time on Projects and have more troubble getting it Nice. If you start With a easyer material to form, you have more time to focus on Learning to use the irons in stead of struggling With a to hard material, With experience alder can give beutifull resoults.

But Since it seems to be Your flawor il give you some tips that will make it easyer for you. With gold do you mean a gold Paint?

If you want to Paint it id say it need a easy rubbing With a high grade sandingpaper, not mutch just a little, to make the Paint stick better. ( if not it might start flaking some time in the future, depending on how fatt/oily the Wood is.) if Your not a handtool only man id almost advice you to sand all convex surfaces and use irons only on the concave ones.

Well thats one way, the other i use is buy a can of cerosene (thats whats used in lamps right the old type in cabins?) the ordinary one for lamps, smell free and without any colour. Use a spounge and wet the material properly 20 mins before you start carving. This will make the fibers stick together, the irons will slide better and if you have sharpened them properly you should have a mutch easyer time getting it Nice. And the Oils will vaporize mostly out of the Wood without making stains. The problem is if you want to Paint it the Oils prevents the Paint from sticking properly. So you have to wash the Wood With turpentine/or something that removes the Wood and cerosene Oils. let it vaporice and dry and then apply the Paint.

Or you dont worry to mutch about this at all, carve it like normaly and start thinking abouth it afther You have done more Projects.

But besides from alder being a bit more tricy material, dont worry to mutch abouth it. The most important thing for you is to carve :) as mutch as you can, the more you carve, the easyer it comes to you. Have fun wile doing it, dont look to hard at Your errors in the beginning, it always takes time and patience, but in the end you will be rewarded. Im turning 40 this year, and i have carved since i was 3. The most important lesson i have ever learned abouth woodcarving is this: Even With a Lifetime of woodcarving i can never truly master the Craft, there will always be more to learn.

On the carving itself there isent mutch errors id point out for a beginner, Your lines are not bad at all. With practice you should get pretty good at it.
Always look for angels and breaks in all curved lines, they are something the eye automaticaly spott. Think always of where the Project will be placed, from what angle do the light come? Where do the shadows fall? probably from above, that means all Sharp angled lines on all sides facing the floorwill give a shadow and be sharper than any angle facing towars the light, so look at the left leafwork, where it turns and goes upwards. the first curved leaf that turns out and Points Down and a bit back inn. on the inside of this curve, Place a u shaped cutt, With the most curved u-shape iron you have, starting in nothingness at the tipp, and 1/3 of the With of the leaf at the point is starts turning downwards, from there it should decrease into nothingness at the point where the leaf starts going towards the center again.

And to get more life in the carving id use the thicness of the plate and work more in the dept, this is something most if not all beginners struggle With. Like the tipps on the leafwork, you have 6 tipps on eatch side, 2 cm from the tipp start curving it Down, not mutch just use a flat iron and curve it Down 0,5 cm, then reshape it, it will give it more life.

He he, i think i have rambeled enaugh now, that espresso was good.

OK, one more thing, below the Crown, where the branches start, on both sides the Weight is wrong, meaning the tikkest point is placed 5 cm to low, move it up to where the flower toutches the branch, take of some of the inner side of the branch to adjust this and you have to adjust a bit on the utter side of the brach to, but its not so mutch. its hard to explain some of this, i could show you in 5 mins in real life. And i feel my English is lacking a bit somethimes :) id also putt a ushaped cutt on the inside of the branch, starting in nothingness where the topp center flower dont tutch the branch anymore and stopp in nothingness at the point thats 90degrees from the center oval to the branch. deepest where the branchis thickest.

But now i think i have to work, good Luck, hope i didnt confuse you more than help in theese morning hours and coffe dissines i always use Oils or wax on most Things i have made in alder, but i have always preffered that where i want Depth in the material.

Have a Nice day!

-- Bard son of iver

View realcowtown_eric's profile


608 posts in 1900 days

#2 posted 02-20-2014 01:20 AM

Thanks so much for the comments. I printed them out and will review them in the morning at the workshop.

The pieces are actually individual, so I can adjust placement.

My clumsiness is probably due to my javelacrit Swedish ancestory!! I think they kicked my gradfather out of Sweden cause he couldn’t carve!

Thanks again.

Eric in Calgary

-- Real_cowtown_eric

View EPJartisan's profile


1118 posts in 3088 days

#3 posted 02-26-2014 06:44 AM

I agree with Koraile above… You need more depth. This is because we are used to watching TV … We perceive objects as flat in our memory, so often people tend to be shy about bringing their work into the 3D. Use at least 1/2 the thickness of your material… At least. Bring those leaves to points and give them some under-cuts. Fear is the anti-carving. And yes also watch he balance of the pieces. Most humans can notice an 1/8” of variance from 5 ft away… Many will not acknowledge this, but we all FEEL it. Symmetry= beauty and we look for it in faces, clothing and our home furnishing. Look forward to seeing the final piece. :)

-- " 'Truth' is like a beautiful flower, unique to each plant and to the season it blossoms ... 'Fact' is the root and leaf, allowing the plant grow and bloom again."

View realcowtown_eric's profile


608 posts in 1900 days

#4 posted 02-28-2014 04:32 AM

Thanks Eric, and Koraile

After Korailles post, went back and revisited carving, made a few changes.I hope I understood what he meant for the most part.

The outline was from a pattern they provided, so I guess I duplicated the errors in the orignal,The carving photo as posted was approved by the client, I have faith (as does the client-literally as he’s a priest and before that he was a graphics designer!) I have total trust that he will be appreciative of the slight changes.

Thanks to both of you for your comments. They are exactly the type of comments I wanted, and are very helpful indeed.

Even just setting the carvings aside for a few days lets me look at them with fresh eyes and see defects I overlooked (some of which cannot be rectified!)

I can undercut a tad, but the carving is mounted on 1/8” baltic birch substrate, as I knew that if I carved the wood, it would likely break, and I do have to mount it…floor level….And I , do want the baltic birch to hold the fasteners….I’ll look for areas to do the undercutting in that won’t comprimise the fastening.

In case you hadn’t noticed, its a stylized “M” for Mary, it’s the base of a religious statue, so it will be at floor level.

Again, thanks very much to you both.

If I were to post my selection of carving tools, sharpening stuff, could I count on you to be equally constructively critical, maybe telling me if I’m going down the wrong path????


-- Real_cowtown_eric

View koraile's profile


98 posts in 1625 days

#5 posted 03-01-2014 03:37 AM

My explanation was fast and might have been lacking a bit :) Its hard to put in Words what you have in the hands and mind somethimes Especialy in morning coffe modus. I forgott one thing, if you do use cerosene on a dry carving, the reason i add it a good vile before is to avoid inhaling the vapors, so 30 is good, but 2 hours work fine to, and is a bit safer.

Il try to give advice when i can and on the Things im experienced in, my sharpening metods are, well pretty simple realy, i dont have mutch fancy gear, and i do the sharpening on a 600 grain white grinderstone, and i dont use any,, well the ting you steady the iron on, i pick the machine cleen so i have acces to the stone both ways and on all sides and do it by freehand. Then i have a leather plate going high speed With silver grade polishing vax
(i shape this plate in a special way to fit the irons, and i have a second leather plate mounted Next to it shaped for the v irons.) Im also shaping the whithe grindstone by hand to adapt it to my irons, but this is not the way to start sharpening irons for a beginner, its to Dangerous to, if you turn the machine the wrong way when polishing the iron will cut into the leather and you can get hurt. But if you post Your irons and sharpening gear il advice to the best of my abilities. But im pretty sure there are People here that are more into the conventional ways of sharpening who can better explain that, than me With some generations of bad habbits :)

And if you want advice on carving its easyer before you start, either With a pic of the drawing or a pic of the material ready to carve. So if you want advice on Your next Project post a pic and i can maybe make you a fast scetc that explains the Depth and shaping of the leaves in a better way than i can With Words only. That is if its classical carvings like accantus or dragon/celtic carvings.

Besides, there might be others that can contribute or are interested to, it seem to be loads of both experienced and unexperienced woodpeople in here :)

-- Bard son of iver

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

28903 posts in 2301 days

#6 posted 03-01-2014 05:35 AM

Some things for you to do, look at pieces that you like (either on this site or elsewhere). Now look at your own work. What do you see in the piece you like that you don’t see in yours. Now I don’t mean to do this to bash yourself, but to look at your piece to see the refinements that you can make. It should be a learning experience.

Most of us can make a good outline that looks decent. The true artist brings it to life in the details. Details give it depth. Brings out more of a 3D look.

Hope this doesn’t sound too rambling.

-- Mother Nature created it, I just assemble it.

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