Basic carving decoration / decorative carving

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Basic carving decoration / decorative carving

Postby ToneWood » Fri Jul 13, 2012 1:07 pm

This has come up on several different threads recently. It's something I will need to spend some time on soon. I'm rather torn as to which approach to concentrate on (or start with). The techniques I've come across so far boil down (I think) to:

  • Chip carving (carving lines, triangles and curves - mainly as v-grooves)
  • Kohlrosing (carving then staining v-grooves)
  • pyrgraphy (branding/burning)

I'm assuming the Swedish-style of decorative carving demonstrated by Jogge on his DVD is a type of chip-carving(?).

There is also the highly involved, elaborate decorative carving of highly skilled folk like Grinling Gibbons & Peter Follansbee - which likely require lots of special tools & techniques and is, perhaps, beyond the scope this thread.

I'm wondering what tools and techniques forum members use?
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Chip carving / Swedish decorative carving

Postby ToneWood » Fri Jul 13, 2012 1:54 pm

Bulldawg explained wood chip carving to us previously and this American on-line video seems like an excellent introduction/tutorial: http://www.youtube.com/user/VillageCarp ... ature=mhum
2 special knives are used: the "primary" chip carving knife & a more limited/specialised "stab" knife. There are several different brands here: http://www.chippingaway.com/woodcarving ... Knives.htm

I was just coming around to the idea of getting a couple of these knives (reluctantly, as I seem to have acquired a lot of tools in the last 6 months and would rather use what I already have, rather than buy 2 - or 3 - more highly specialized tools). Perhaps the inexpensive but probably very good American made Flexcut knives, rather than the fancier Wayne Barton models, in this image, previously posted by Bulldawg:
Image
I also wondered if any of the British craft tool makers might offer something suitable?
I see that Ben Orford offers a couple of small bladed "pick" knives that appear intended for this sort of use but which are not chip knives as such: http://www.benorford.com/CarvingTools.aspx
Image
Oh, and our own Nic Westermann has a whole page of blades for them: http://www.nicwestermann.co.uk/detail-c ... at_11.html Looks nice doesn't it:
Image


Then I noticed in Wille Sundqvist's "Schwedische Snitzschule; Arbeiten mit Axt und Messer", that Wille appears to use a regular Mora carving knife (probably a 106 or 120), held by the blade. Now, my German is not that great, so if there were a lot of warnings, caveats & advice, I didn't see them. However, I gave it a go and it worked but I felt quite ..."ill at ease"... holding such a sharp knife by the blade like this, I felt quite vulnerable. You certainly wouldn't want somebody to walk in and slap you on the back while doing this. I used a Mora 106 but made a mental note to try it with the shorter Mora 120 next time - for improved balanced/smaller collateral damage risk.

I notice Wille's son, Jogge, used a similar approach but a different type of knife in his DVD - a specialised, short bladed, handcrafted knife/tool. The design of which was not at all clear to me but may have had a short, slanting chisel-style end blade - perhaps with only the corner sharpened? So I'm wondering what other forum members use/recommend? (I tried a regular full-size Stanley knife with a regular blade - it worked fine for straight lines but not so well for anything else.) How about a small penknife blade (e.g. one of the smaller Swiss army knife type blades)?
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Re: Basic carving decoration / decorative carving

Postby woodchubber » Fri Jul 13, 2012 2:29 pm

Yes you can just use a normal knife: if you don't feel comfortable just wrap a bit of masking tape around the blade just leaving the tip exposed. I think the Sunqvists refer to it as engraved decoration or something. As you say its a V line carved from either side at a fairly steep angle. When I do it I stain the channel with coffee.
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Re: Basic carving decoration / decorative carving

Postby bulldawg_65 » Fri Jul 13, 2012 3:04 pm

Tonewood,

Those Ben Orford Pick knives look well suited to the purpose and inexpensive as well. I don't own any of Ben's blades so I cannot talk about how good they are (I will get one or two eventually.) I can however talk about Nic's knives as I own or have used just about every blade he makes, that being said, Nic's blade is my favorite so far. Combine this blade with his Stab knife and you've got a nice pair of chip carvers. Right now I am trimming the handles I put on the blades because what initially feels good isn't always best for getting the job done. The Wayne Barton Blades tend to be expensive but they are very good for doing Swiss style chip carving and hold their edge nicely. Fair warning though, you'll have to alter the bevel and sharpen the chip knife right out of the box. Another really nice chip knife is Del Stubbs' from Pinewood Forge Detail knive. The tiny blade allows for detail cutting not available in any other knife I have used.

I prefer these styles of knives for doing the chip carving because they have been adapted to the purpose and I have much better control over them grasping them by the handle as opposed to grasping the blade. One word of advice... practice a thousand cuts on scrap wood before putting the knife to one of your prized spoons or bowls, one bad cut can destroy all that hard work.
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Re: Basic carving decoration / decorative carving

Postby ToneWood » Mon Jul 16, 2012 1:20 pm

I practiced a little at the weekend, using the shorter Mora 120 sloyd knife. I was planning to wrap the blade with electrician's tape, as suggest above, but in the end did not find it necessary. Holding the Mora 120 like a pen, as shown in Wille's book, is less daunting than doing the same with the longer Mora 106 sloyd knife. I also tried using my father's old army pen-knife, which has an unusual blade shape, similar but not identical to this (the knife blade, not the can opener):
Image
It was quite good for stab cuts, producing a wider triangle than the Mora 120 - although I'm assuming a proper "stab" knife has a thick blade in order to product a broader, more distinct triangle.

[I was going to criticize the knife design chosen by the MOD (the blades don't even lock) then realized that it is probably 60 years old and still in working order (except for the marlin spike, which has been missing since I've known it). I notice a local "army surplus" store (which sells mainly new stuff to service men) sells a huge tanto-tipped, serrated lock knife as an alternative pocket knife, for under £10.]
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Re: Basic carving decoration / decorative carving

Postby robin wood » Mon Jul 16, 2012 3:02 pm

You can make perfect knives for this work from old hacksaw blades, just file or grind them down to shape, sharpen, fit handle and away you go.
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Re: Basic carving decoration / decorative carving

Postby DavidFisher » Mon Jul 16, 2012 3:28 pm

Tone,
I do my V-incised engraving with the small pen blade of my pocket knife. Your favorite will probably end up being whichever one you use the most and become comfortable with.

Grinling Gibbons probably didn't decorate many spoons, but if you are interested in that field of carving, I would recommend all of Chris Pye's books http://www.chrispye-woodcarving.com/home/books. They are excellent.
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Re: Basic carving decoration / decorative carving

Postby ToneWood » Sun Jul 22, 2012 8:33 pm

Hi Dave, I have/had a little metal handled Swiss army pen knife with just 2 blades, which I carried on my climbing harness after reading "Touching the Void". I could never see any use for the little blade ...until now, I think it might be perfect. However, I can't find it :(. I took it off my harness "for safe keeping" several years ago and have no idea where I put now. That model is no longer available but I spotted a similar one on ebay abroad but ebay blocked my bid as I am in the UK :x - our last government persuaded ebay to ban knife all knife sales. Pointless really as huge kitchen knives and garden tools are readily available everywhere, including everybody's Gran's kitchen draw.

So, after looking for that, I tried making a hack saw knife, as Robin suggested. I have several broken blades readily available in my scrap metal can - broken when I cleaned up my splitting wedges recently:D. I managed to get decent edge on one quite quickly with my little wet wheel and put it in a split piece of ash. I worked very well, except that my implementation had a few problems: (1) I wasn't readily able to remove the saw teeth from the back of the blade (no bench/angle grinder/linisher), so it is not practical to push down on the back of the blade, (2) the open slot & wood glue did not hold the blade securely - probably need to drill a hole & fill with epoxy resin (but I used up all my remaining epoxy supplies fixing the mower last week - hadn't used any for years but used 3 sets this year already). I couldn't find anymore of the cheap £1 epoxy resin sets - I'm not paying £7 for brand name glue, cheaper to buy a new tool. On the plus side, I was quickly able to add grips & facets to suit my hand and preferred grips, including a pen grip which I was hoping would help with carving curves.

BTW I came across this web page, it shows a different Ben Orford pick knife (the small curved one on the right, in the image below), that is unlike those shown on his website. It looks a lot like that use by Jogge Sundqvist in his DVD - perhaps that was the inspiration. As it does not appear on Ben's website, perhaps he has abandoned this type of knife?

Image
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Re: Basic carving decoration / decorative carving

Postby jrccaim » Tue Jul 24, 2012 5:33 am

robin wood wrote:You can make perfect knives for this work from old hacksaw blades, just file or grind them down to shape, sharpen, fit handle and away you go.


Yes indeed. I started out with a commercial chip-carving knife; soon found it inadequate. Made another (smaller) out of a piece of spring steel and use both happily ever after. May make another one soon, intermediate. Hacksaw blades are great knife sources. I have found it very useful to go through the hardening/tempering process with them. Makes them much easier to sharpen on my Japanese waterstones.

The tricks to chip carving are (1) hold the proper angle and (2) turn the wood, don't turn the knife. I have been reading Chris Pye's Wood Carving book (highly recommended) and am amazed to find that "regular" wood carving is not all that different. So as to (1) make a guide block at 62 deg. (a simple right triangular block, one angle 62 deg.) Apparently the 62 deg gives you the best facets. Once you have a guide block you can hold the knife at the proper angle. Thereafter do not move the knife. Rotate the wood instead. Best thing to practice is equilateral triangles. Lay out guidelines, say with a marking gauge. Step off the length of the side with dividers. May help you to pencil in the sides of the triangle. I started with 6mm equilaterals. It is three cuts to make a "pyramid." Leave the knife where it is; rotate the wood 120 deg! (you will soon see which way you do this rotation). Your knife hand does not move. If you did it right the pyramid will pop right out. A lovely triangle (anti-pyramid?) in the wood. One of the cuts will be along grain. Easy. The cross-grain cuts need more pressure. From there you can go to lozenge cuts. Hard part is making the elliptical cuts. Again at 62 deg. I do this in two passes, one to score and the next to actually cut. Obviously rotate 180 deg.

Invariably in practice something will hang up. This is because you didn't go deep enough. Some uncut fibers. So, play it again. Repeat the cut with more pressure untill the cut part pops out. Be careful not to start a fresh cut. And make sure your knife is sharp!

Some people "doodle" on paper. I confess to cutting triangles out of odd pieces of wood as amusement :)
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Re: Basic carving decoration / decorative carving

Postby ToneWood » Tue Jul 24, 2012 1:38 pm

Yes, I've been practicing on hammer handles that I made sometime ago - my family thought I was decorating my hammers, which I guess I am, unintentionally.

Tempering the hacksaw blade makes sense. I already snapped my first attempt off - the metal is very brittle. I've just started my second pack of 10 Toolzone cheap hacksaw blades (I bought the first pack maybe 7 years ago). I notice that Toolzone also offer a single hacksaw blade for the same price as a pack of 10 cheapies -- I wonder how that single blade is better to justify the 10x price difference? Perhaps less brittle?

I'm still not sure what design of knife & blade to use. Currently I'm using the army pen knife above as my stab knife & the Mora 120 for cutting V-groove lines. I'm thinking something akin to a pen in design might give me good control for curves - I believe Pine Forge offer some knives like that.
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Re: Basic carving decoration / decorative carving

Postby ToneWood » Tue Jul 24, 2012 1:55 pm

DavidFisher wrote:...Grinling Gibbons probably didn't decorate many spoons, but if you are interested in that field of carving, I would recommend all of Chris Pye's books http://www.chrispye-woodcarving.com/home/books. They are excellent.
I thought I wasn't interested in that type of carving - but I guess I must be as I have reference Grinling several times on this forum. I am hugely impressed by it, it just seems so implausibly complex. I don't really ever expect to be able to carve at anywhere near that level - and, really, I don't have a use for that level of carving ability. That said, the mouse (dor mouse?) that you carved on the side of one of your bowls has stuck firmly in my mind - it's a masterful flourish. (Did you keep that bowl?)

I guess my fish ladle might be a rather crude step in that direction (my recent tweaks put a rather pleasing curve into the back of the fish but it is essentially flat).

Can you imagine what sort of spoon Grinling Gibbons might carve?! :D Perhaps something not unlike the rather 3-D Welsh love spoons that a couple of us own (c. pre. 1920?).
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Re: Basic carving decoration / decorative carving

Postby jrccaim » Wed Jul 25, 2012 4:04 am

ToneWood wrote:Yes, I've been practicing on hammer handles that I made sometime ago - my family thought I was decorating my hammers, which I guess I am, unintentionally.

Tempering the hacksaw blade makes sense. I already snapped my first attempt off - the metal is very brittle. I've just started my second pack of 10 Toolzone cheap hacksaw blades ...Perhaps less brittle?

I'm still not sure what design of knife & blade to use. ...


Lots of stuff on the web, of course. Here's a sample.
chipcarve.jpg
chipcarve.jpg (6.17 KiB) Viewed 14733 times


Of the two shown I would go for the lower one. Nice straight edge, good for triangles. Not sure about the top one. The bottom guy closely resembles the Pfeil knife I use for largish stuff, 6mm or so.

Now, hacksaw blades. Real strong opinions here. Avoid the bimetal blades. They are very good hacksaw blades but the bimetal bit makes them very hard to make into knives. Too much Tungsten. Tempering very difficult if not impossible. Get a POS (plain old steel) blade. People throw these things out all the time. Rust is no problem. In fact it lowers the price! Anneal before you do any grinding. Heat it red hot, let it cool. Then grind. Harden and temper per 1,005 posts in this forum. Oh yes. First thing you do with an (annealed) hacksaw blade is to thoroughly grind off the teeth, because if you don't the thing will fracture. Right where the notch of a tooth was. Bitter experience! Get rid of all traces of teeth.
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Re: Basic carving decoration / decorative carving

Postby nic » Wed Jul 25, 2012 10:47 pm

If you want to make a perfect knife out of a Hacksaw blade don't discount Bimetalic / Hi speed steel blades. in the UK they are a plain carbon steel with just a tiny strip of HSS welded on for the teeth, once you grind this off the remainder is good. If you watch the sparks carefully you will see when this happens. If you want to file the blade to shape you obviously need to anneal it first.
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Re: Basic carving decoration / decorative carving

Postby jrccaim » Thu Jul 26, 2012 3:27 am

Nice tip, nic. You have just expanded my stock of old hacksaw blades by about 100%. Thanks! Got to grind off the teeth in all cases. It just occured to me that if you put the cutting edge on the "back" side of the blade, which is POS, it doesen't much matter anyway. So you can use bimetal blades after all. And I would add always anneal the blade, even if you are grinding it. Much easier to grind or file. Got to heat-treat it no matter what you do. I use a propane torch for this.

I have read, however, that in the US at least "bimetal" blades contain a Tungsten carbide compound, which is why they are so effective as hacksaw blades. This does not alter your basic premise at all; just be sure you grind those teeth away. And a little more to be sure.
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Re: Basic carving decoration / decorative carving

Postby bulldawg_65 » Thu Jul 26, 2012 6:39 am

Tone,

The type of decorative carving we do is called "free hand" chip carving by Dennis Moor in his book The Chip Carver's Workbook. I use a variety of chip knives depending on what is working for me that day. The two that I find I use most often is the "detail knife" sold at pinewood forge and Nic's chip carver. I made my own handle for Nic's blade out of figured maple and I've modified it to fit in my hand like a pen or pencil. Also I would put in for a stab knife as well as they are wonderful for making decorative triangular impressions to enhance your carving. One word of advice, keep those knives sharp and I mean sharp. The sharper the knife the cleaner the decorative carving. ATB

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