Beginner’s Carving Tool Kit

Beginner’s Carving Tool Kit

 

Basic Carving Tools

As a beginning carver, the choice of carving tools available can be overwhelming. Which tools you really need to learn this craft and which tools you really will use can be a hard decision. There are several basic tool shapes that are standard to this hobby.  Take a quick look at the different tool profiles available for your use.

 

carving tools used to wood carve the wood spirit face

Beginner’s Whittling and relief Carving Tool Kit

A basic relief carving or whittling tool set contains far more than just your carving tools and knives. Let’s take an in-depth look at some of the common supplies you may use in your carving craft. All photos in this article are large-sized and labeled. Please click on any image to show the full-sized photo.

Carving Tools Close-Up

Here is a quick visual close-up of some of my favorite carving tools. This grouping will eventually find their way onto the work table during any carving project. The vast majority of the tools show here are between 25 and 40 years old since most are inherited from my father’s many years of wood carving. Your investment in good quality tools will last beyond your life time.

Free Doodle Pattern #046

Free Doodle Pattern #047

 

 

 

 

 

 

Free Doodle Pattern #048

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How deep do I carve a relief wood carving?

How deep do I carve a relief wood carving?

Good morning Scot and Marsha!  Thanks for the great conversation yesterday.  Here are the PDFs that will help you learn how to determine how deep each level or layer is in your relief wood carving.

Two free PDF downloads – Your First Carving and Levels in Relief – below!

While today’s blog topic is about levels and layers in relief carving, the same information can help you as a pyrographer determine the shading levels and layers in your wood burning.  So, please snatch a copy of the these free PDF files and take time to read through the linked projects here of LSIrish.com.

Free Doodle Patterns, Extra 001

How deep do I cut each level or layer in my pattern in a relief wood carving?

The depth measurement you need for each level or layer in your relief carving depends on several factors.

1. What species of wood are you carving.  Hardwoods as black walnut or maple can stand deeper carved levels than soft woods as poplar and basswood.  The hardness of the wood – how tightly packed the wood grain rings are – helps to avoid excessive cupping and warping.

2. How thick is your wood blank.  You can, of course, carve deeper into a 2″ thick wood blank than you can into a 3/4″ board.

3. How large is your carving blank.  A small blank, 8″ x 12″, is less likely to develop excessive warping than a large blank, 20″ x 32″.  The longer the grain lines in your blank the more likely they are to cup over time.

Free Doodle Patterns, Extra 004

4. What style of carving will you be doing. A simple round-over edge relief carving can be worked fairly deep into the wood, past the one-half thickness rule of thumb.  Since all of the wood grain in a round-over carving is adhered to the wood below it the chances of cupping is reduced.  If you are working an intense under-cut relief carving, you will want to stay above the one-half thickness rule of thumb.  Undercuts create free hanging shelves of wood that are easily effected by the changes in the wood grain of the entire blank.

General Layer Measurements Rule of Thumb!

In general you want to use the top one-half of the thickness of your wood for your carving area.  This leaves one-half of the thickness below the carving to stabilize the board from excessive warping and cupping.  So a board that measures a true 1″ thick can be carved to a 1/2″ depth.

In general your pattern will have three distinct layers – foreground, mid-ground, and background.  Plus it will have one main focal point – a barn, a duck, a dragon.

Free Doodle Patterns, Extra 005

1. Determine in which layer the main focal points falls as this will become your thickest layer.

2. Divide the carving thickness of the wood blank by 4.  This equates to two thickness for the layer that holds your focal point, and one each thickness for the other two layers.

3. So on a 1″ thick board, you will be carving 1/2″ deep.  Divide the 1/2″ by 4 equals 1/8″ per layer.  That’s 1/8″ for the foreground, mid-ground, and background.  Now add the extra 1/8″ to the level or layer that holds the focal point, making it a 1/4″ thick layer.

4.  An example is a barn scene where there is a fence line and mail box in t he foreground, a bank barn with silos in the mid-ground, and a tree line and second fence in the background, worked on a 1″ thick board.  The focal point of the pattern is the bank barn in the mid-ground level.  This equals 1/8″ for the foreground mail box layer, 1/4″ for the bank barn mid-layer, and 1/8″ for the background tree line.

5.  The fourth layer or level is called the sky area or sky line.  This area of carving is usually extremely shallow, a simple 1/16″ rolled-over edge for mountains and trees, and can be carved on the top surface of the remaining 1/2″ thickness of the wood.

Please learn more with these links!

Working with Levels – Simplifying a Pattern into Basic Areas

Simplifying a Pattern into Basic Areas in Relief Wood Carving

Determining The Depth Of The Levels

Levels in Relief Wood Carving

These links will add four more free Lora S Irish patterns to your Artist’s Morgue File!

 

Free Wood Carving PDFs

Your First Carving by LS Irish 
Let’s take a quick look at the carving tools, sharpening tools, general supplies, and wood that you will be using in your wood carving craft.

Working with Patterns
Band Saw cutting your wood
Five Basic Steps to relief carving
Basic Tools and Cuts
And three free patterns to get your started

 

 

 

Levels in Relief Wood Carving
Looks look at what appears to be an intrigue, complicated landscape to discover how easy it is to determine your foreground, mid-ground, background, and sky areas of the pattern.

 

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Which carving knife is right for you?

Which carving knife is right for you?

In an Amazon review a reader was distressed that I don’t teach spoon carving using a Sloyd knife, a very traditional knife used in this craft.  I believe this is a fair and honest question that I could address here.

There are many different styles and shapes for the straight cutting knife that we often group under the name of ‘bench knives’.   Some bench knives have long blades that may extend up to 4″ from the handle, others as chip knives may only have a 1″ long blade.  Some blades are flat – straight – along the cutting edge from handle to knife tip while others may have a curve at the top 1/3 of the blade.  Some are sharpened on one side only while others are sharpened on both sides.

While Sloyd knives are a traditional, Old World technique tool for spoon carving, why don’t I use or recommend them … because they don’t fit my hand!  More at the bottom of this page ….

bench knives

What is important in your choice of bench knives?

There are two specific aspects to your bench knife that determine which is best for you.

1. The quality of steel which determines the quality of the sharpened edge that you can achieve and keep during a carving session.

Cheap steep will never sharpen to a bright, clean edge and if you do achieve a usable sharpened edge that edge will not last very long during any carving session.  Be prepared to pay about the same amount for one good bench knife as you would a full 5 to 6 piece beginner’s carving set.

2. The fit of the handle inside of your hand.

No knife, no matter how wonderful the steel, who manufactured it, how sharp an edge it keeps, or how it has been traditionally used in wood carving is worth a tin dime if it doesn’t properly rest inside your hand.

Notice here that I did not mention the piece or project that you are carving or the length of the bench knife blade.  A good bench knife, one with high quality steel and a proper fit, will carve about 90% of the straight cuts that you need for any project.  While many wood carvers have a variety of bench knives in their kits, most return over and over again to just one or two favorite tools.

Wood Carving SpoonsWhat length of bench knife do you need?

For most carving projects today your bench knife only needs to make a clean slice of wood 1/2″ or less wide.  If you need to take larger slices then you most likely need to move to a draw knife.  Today’s carvers are working with milled wood that has been kiln dried.  The bark has already been removed and the heartwood cut away from the blank.  Few of us need to rough cut a split piece of bark wood that needs to be dressed down to a flat, squarish shape before we begin carving either of which could require a longer blade length.

Let’s return for a moment to the discussion about using a Sloyd knife as compared to a standard bench knife or chip carving knife.  A Sloyd knife is wonderful if you are de-barking a long walking stick that you have cut from a sapling.  The extra long blade does allow you to glide the cutting edge down the sapling, releasing very long strips of bark.  This is very important if you are removing the bark after the stick has dried.

You can also debark while the stick is green using a shorter bladed knife by lifting the top edge of the bark and pulling the bark off the stick.

If I am carving details in my work, as shaping the side of a spoon bowl or cutting the facial planes of a wood spirit that long blade on the Sloyd pushes my hand several inches away from where I am cutting.  A short blade, as a 1″ chip blade, places my hand, and therefore my control of the cut, right at the point of the cut.

wood carving the wood spirit patternDoes it fit your hand?

For me this is as important as the quality of the steel.  If a knife does not properly fit your hand I will guarantee that it will spend most of your carving life in the box of your tool kit … quietly rusting away!!

A well-fitting knife handle lays across your palm between the major fold wrinkle of the fingers and the major fold wrinkle of the thumb palm.  The fattest part of your thumb rests nicely into this space, which means that the fattest width of your thumb is an excellent gauge for the thickness of your bench knife handle.

In the photo, right, the bottom left knife handle is the most appropriate for the size of my hand.  The top right shows a handle that is too wide, and the bottom right one that is too narrow.

When you roll your hand around the handle, the tips of your long and ring finger should just lie about 1/4″ away or just against the side of the thumb palm.  This fit lets you have free motion of your fingers, your thumb, and your wrist during any cut – not too tight, and not too open.  Your fingers hold the knife handle to the palm without the need of excess pressure.

Too narrow or to thin a handle and your finger tips will need to curve into a clenched shape to hold the knife steady.   That clench causes extra tension in the hand which over time becomes tiring.

Too wide a handle and your finger tips will not touch the thumb palm area.  With this grip you need extra pressure to steady the knife through the cuts.  Again, this can cause fatigue and stress on your hands.

bench knivesLooking at the first photo on this post.

Upper left shows five different tools and knives that are commonly used in spoon carving.  From top to bottom are a FlexCut Carving Hook, a FlexCut hooked skew, a FlexCut bench knife, a wide bent round gouge, and a Moor Chip Carving knife.

1 Upper right – Shows a bull nose chisel with a narrow handle.  The handle sets forward in my hand, allowing the fingers to move the tip of the blade through detailing work.

2 Lower left – Shows a Large chip carving knife that fits my hand perfectly.  The finger roll completely around the handle without the need for extra tension to secure the handle in my palm.

3 Lower right – Shows a large handled carving hook which is too large for a good fitting grip for my hand.  The handle has been pushed into the palm area and my finger need a tighter grip to secure the handle during use.

Old World v. Modern Day

Yes, sloyd knives, carving hooks, and scoops are traditionally used in the Old World style of spoon carving. Traditionally these knives and tools have extra wide handles as shown in the top three tools in the upper left photo above.  Those wide handles were made to fit a medium to large man’s hand, because until about 100 years old traditionally woodworking and wood carving was done by men.

Today what is necessary is having and using a bench knife that fits your hand properly.  Today it is reasonable to estimate that one half of all carvers are women, with smaller hands and therefore narrower grips than men.

While writing this and talking with my husband, a long time woodworker, we did a small comparison.  His hand, a medium-sized man’s hand, measures 7 3/4″ long from the finger tip to the wrist bone of the thumb … mine measures 6 1/2″.  His hand measures 3 3/8″ wide across the knuckles, mine measures 2 7/8″.   While his hand is large enough to comfortable hold a Sloyd knife, mine simply isn’t.

Humans are a dimorphic species – males tend to be about 10% larger than females.  Therefore in general what was used for centuries by a male population of woodworkers and wood carvers may not be appropriate for today’s mix of hobby carvers.

Conclusion

It’s not what knife you use, it’s not about a particular manufacturer’ or Old World style … it’s all about whether that knife fits YOUR hand. 

PS … And that is why I never recommend ergonomic grip tool handles as they only fit one person’s hand, he who made the handle mold in the first place.

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Art of Spoon Carving

Art of Spoon Carving

Art of Spoon Carving

Please share with your family, friends, and fellow spoon carvers on reddit, facebook, and twitter.

A few simple additions to your spoon carving project will make you work stand out from the crowd.

This right-handed stirring spoon, worked from a 1″ thick, 3″ wide, 12″ long basswood blank, features a small scroll line and leave design that has been relief carved with gentle roll-over edges.

To make the relief designs snap off the spoon handle a 3/8″ round gouge was used to texture the background area behind the scroll and leaves.  Cut very shallow gouge marks that follow the grain of the handle.

Ears on either side of the top of the spoon bowl add a little extra touch to the joint area where the bowl transitions into the handle.

This wonderful Holiday present is perfect for any chief in your family and takes only one or two evenings of carving to create.

Learn more about spoon carving in the Art of Spoon Carving by Lora S. Irish.

 

 

 

The Art of Spoon CarvingWood carving is coming back into style, and making kitchen utensils is among the easiest ways to learn the craft. This beautifully illustrated guide by master woodcrafter Lora S. Irish teaches the basics of wooden spoon carving.

Perfect for beginners, the book presents 12 step-by-step projects that illustrate a variety of historic carving styles.
A selection of mix-and-match patterns offer suggestions for creating dozens of unique designs for spoons and other implements — forks, ladles, dippers, spatulas, knives, pie servers, and scoops. In addition to clear, detailed directions accompanied by helpful drawings, inspiring photographs illustrate decorative ideas for using the carved spoons in kitchen wreaths, centerpieces, and other ornaments.

A great gift for crafters seeking a new hobby, this book is loaded with stylish designs for handmade treasures.

“Incredible full color photographs detail each step in creating this classic art-form. Learn what you need to know about carving sets, knives, and what type of wood is best to start out with. You are going to love The Art of Spoon Carving. Get a copy today.” — Texas Kitchen and Garden and More”

 

Art of Spoon Carving

Click on the free image below for a full-sized printable pattern.free Lora S Irish free spoon carving pattern

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Cross-Crafting Seminar, Carving a Wooden Spoon

Cross-Crafting Seminar, Carving a Wooden Spoon

wood caving the wooden spoonThe classic wooden spoon may be the easier beginner’s wood carving project there is.  During this session of our free, summer cross-crafting seminar we will work through the wood carving steps to shape the handle and bowl of a wooden fork.

Cross-Crafting Seminar Introduction
Cross-Crafting Seminar Supply List
Cross-Crafting Seminar Free Patterns
Cross-Crafting Seminar, Scroll Saw Basics
Cross-Crafting Seminar, Setting Up Your Scroll Saw
Cross-Crafting Seminar, Scroll Sawing the Wood Spirit Face
Cross-Crafting Seminar, Wood Burning the Wood Spirit Face
Cross-Crafting Seminar, Colored Pencils for the Wood Spirit Face
Cross-Crafting Seminar, Cutting a Wooden Spoon

Cross-Crafting Seminar, Carving a Wooden Spoon

Supplies:

1 – scroll saw cut wooden spoon, slotted spoon, or fork blank
wide sweep round gouge
narrow, half-circle, bent round gouge
bench knife or chip carving knife
carving gloves, thumb guard, or heavy terry cloth towel
150-, 220-grit sandpaper
6″ or large square of brown paper bag

wood carving a wooden spoon

Note: Working with the wood grain

 

wood caving the wooden spoon
As you work through the carving steps for this wooden fork you will need to pay close attention to the wood grain direction in each area of your work.  Both the handle and bowl of your wooden spoon are curve-shaped.  This means that at the widest point in the curve the direction of your cutting strokes must be reversed to work the knife or gouge blade with the grain. The grain direction of your wooden spoon blank determines the directions of your bench knife and gouge strokes.  You want to move the knife so that it runs with the open fiber ends of the wood grain, not into those open fibers.

Step 1: Rough-cut the edges of the handle along the back of the spoon.

wood carving a wooden spoon

Begin with your bench knife and using a paring stroke, pulling the knife blade towards you, round over the back edge of the lower section of the spoon bowl.  I am using carving gloves in these photos.  Gloves are cut resistant not cut proof!  So, please, watch carefully how you are holding your knife and where the knife blade will go if the knife slips out of the cut.  Often, I carve using thumb guards instead of gloves as they give me more movement in my hands.  If you have neither, use a thick terry-cloth towel in your holding hand as protection.

Step 2:  Rolling small cut strokes along the edge of the handle.

wood carving a wooden spoon
The sides are round by making many, small paring strokes, worked from the inside area of the handle, moving each new cut slowly towards the edge of the handle.  This first series of rounding paring cuts is worked from the center point of the handle towards the top edge of the handle.

wood carving a wooden spoonYou can see the progression of small cuts in this photo. Using a series of small cuts, worked from the center back towards the spoon’s edge creates a true curved edge instead of a lightly rounded sharp corner.

Step 3: Round over the second lower edge of the back of the handle.

wood carving a wooden spoon

Continue working the lower edge of the back of the handle by moving your cutting strokes to the second side of the spoon.  The smaller your cutting strokes the smoother the finished edge will be.

Step 4: Work the back handle edge towards the fork’s bowl area with your bench knife.

wood carving a wooden spoon

This rounding process is moved to the front portion of the back of the handle.  To work with the grain line of the wood, these cuts are made using a push stroke – pushing the knife blade away from you.

Step 5: Change the direction of your bench knife cuts to match the change in grain direction at the narrow joint between the handle and bowl.

wood carving a wooden spoon

Use a series of short, small bench knife cuts, worked from the center area of the handle towards its outer edge to round over the handle.  Stop your cuts where the handle narrows into the fork’s bowl area, as your wood grain direction will change at this point in the blank.

Step 6: Free the cutting strokes at the narrow joint.

wood carving a wooden spoon
Flip your spoon blank in your hand so that you are working the knife from the fork’s bowl area into the narrow joint with the handle.  This will bring the cuts from step 6 to meet the cuts you are making now, and free those cuts from the narrow area.

Step 7: Finish rounding over the edge of the back by working the fork’s bowl area.

wood carving a wooden spoon
Continue rounding over the back edge of the fork by working the bowl area with your bench knife.

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