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Beginning Carving

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JAW911

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I want to try carving, having never tried it, as I can see how it may be another string to my bow in my woodworking. I want to carve patterns, letters, rope borders, etc. but not carving figures. I would like to start in a small way in terms of hand-tools, starting with the basic essentials and building up as required. I see there are carving knives such as Flexcut and palm-held knives as well as chisel-style tools. Is anyone experienced enough to advise me of the best way to go please? ....and what would be a basic starter set.
 

Blister

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Do you want to try hand carving or using a power tool like a Dremel , Lots use the power tool method now
100's of different bits available
 

Jacob

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Start with what you've got? Lots of decorative stuff done with straight chisels - don't have to be 'carving'. You've got the basics already.
Need to be sharp and polished a few mm face and bevel near the edge, especially if hand held and not hit. This reduces friction
 
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Argus

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I've been carving on-and-off-and-on-again for 30 odd years along with everything else that I do...... here's a few considered pointers.

I can't stress enough that to dive in with a ‘set’ of tools, not knowing what you are carving, is not the way to go. Whole sets tend to consist of a couple of items that get used regularly and the rest gather dust. Besides, starting out you don’t really know what to buy yet....

Decide what you are going to do – start simple – and just obtain what you need. But as well as tools you’ll need sharpening kit, and again, start simple and build up. All up, getting the kit and the bits to sharpen it all can be expensive, so don’t buy what you don’t need. However, buy well, buy quality and buy once.

Second, is tuition. I guess one-to-one teaching is out the window nowadays, the way things are. I suppose that guidance is the best thing to get initially.

When I started, I spent some money on a course with Chris Pye, when he still did course at his home near Hereford. He doesn’t do that anymore, but he does do some very good on-line tuition, from very basic introductions to more advanced stuff. Have a look at his site:

Woodcarving Workshops | Learn to carve online

You may consider signing up to see how he handles the basics. It’s worth it.

The first thing he stressed with me, after tools, was sharpening. We spent the most of day one going through sharpening. That is ESSENTIAL. Both the technique and the bit you'll need. There is nothing that will turn you off the craft quicker than fighting blunt tools.

After that, what would I start with?

Perhaps I’d try some simple lettering. That way you can start with some basic tools that you’ll need for general carving anyway and build from there.
Next, use some sympathetic wood that's not going to fight you all the way. It may be expensive, but the best carving wood is Lime, by a country mile. It cuts clean, doesn't split and is the best to learn with because it is plaint. AVOID Oak and similar fast-grown woods. Oak, or similar woods won't take detail and will give you a real headache unless you know how to handle it. Brilliant for bookcases - terrible for learning to carve!

Good luck and let us know how you get on.
 

JAW911

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Thank you guys. Definitely don’t want to go down the Dremel route. Great advice given.....good idea to start with lettering as plenty of fonts on my computer that I can enlarge and print out. I will take a look at Chris Pye thank you. Good advice to polish bevel etc to make for smoother progress.
 

Argus

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Fonts from your computer area good idea insofar as it avoids all the traditional (and sometimes tedious, if you want to get carving) layout procedures.

You simply print your script, then literally cut and paste onto your wood, cutting around the shapes.

It's interesting to note that the origins of fonts with a serif go back to Greek times when it was used to inscribe outdoor script, the serifs enhance natural light/shadow. The Romans took it a step further- best existing example is Trajan's column.......


.
 

stuckinthemud

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You need a v-tool, a shallow gouge (number 2 or 3) and a deep gouge (number 8). Buy them off somewhere like The Tool Box in Colyton. Buy pre 1940 tools, you can see the octagonal tangs (drop forged) not round tangs (pressed bar). The old tools were from carbon steel of the correct grade for carving. Restore those and you'll need very few other gouges. Once you have learned a little you can develop your interests in carving. I've been a carver 40 years but still normally only use about 5 of my gouges. By carvers' standards, I own few gouges, just 15 or 20. I only buy what I actually need and pay about £7 per gouge.
 

stuckinthemud

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You might find some useful stuff in my blog but be aware I'm too tight to pay a monthly fee to go add free. Feel free to pm me any questions you may have

 
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Lons

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You've got some good advice which I mostly agree with but will add my twopennerth, I'm an intermittent carver, self taught though I did work often with a mate who was semi pro, and helped him out when he held nightclasses. in fact I bought some of his chisels after he passed away, I've been carving for over 40 years mostly in the round work.

Very sharp tools are absolute key, sharpen properly and hone often as you work makes life easy, I never put a secondary bevel on the tool btw and if carving letters you will need gouges as well as straight chisels. Bevel angles depend on the wood, different for oak than lime but I don't woory too much about angles personally.

I also agree, have a go first with what you have then buy individual chisels as you need them, sets are a complete waste of time, likewise I only use 5 or 6 regularly though I own quite a few. I have a mixture of new and very old, any of the well known old brands are good, my personal new ones are Pfeil, especially a couple of the fishtails. If you ask 100 carvers you'll get 100 different opinions on tools. Palm chisels are nice to use on fine work.

Also agree about lime but if you want to learn about how sharp your chisels really are and how they cut try them on pine, if you manage that then lime is easy. Oak definitely more difficult but can get crisp edges if done properly, most of the fruit woods carve well, basswood a bit softer than lime, walnut carves beautifully and my all time favourite boxwood is a joy to use.
 

xy mosian

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This was done with a 3/4" Stanley bevel edge chisel and, I think, a Stanley knife. The knife could have been a marples chip carving knife, sadly no longer available.
Chez-Carroux-3.jpg

Go for it with what ever you have. That will give you a feel for carving and a better idea of just what you actually need.
xy.
 

JAW911

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Thank you everyone. Plenty of info and advice. Something to practice in lockdown!
 

Doris

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This was done with a 3/4" Stanley bevel edge chisel and, I think, a Stanley knife. The knife could have been a marples chip carving knife, sadly no longer available.
View attachment 101125
Go for it with what ever you have. That will give you a feel for carving and a better idea of just what you actually need.
xy.
I couldn't agree more. Use what you have to see if you have the ability. Lots of people can spend a lot of money on the right tools only to find they haven't got the natural ability.

Very nice carving btw.
 

Jacob

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I couldn't agree more. Use what you have to see if you have the ability. Lots of people can spend a lot of money on the right tools only to find they haven't got the natural ability.

Very nice carving btw.
Agree.
Except I tend not to believe in "natural ability". I think most people can do most things moderately well, if they have a go.
Getting "all the right kit" together can be discouraging if it doesn't produce quick results, and generally it won't.
 

stuckinthemud

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They'll clean up no problem, Marples are pretty decent, price'd need to be right though, there's a few in that set you'll very rarely find a use for.
 

xy mosian

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I couldn't agree more. Use what you have to see if you have the ability. Lots of people can spend a lot of money on the right tools only to find they haven't got the natural ability.

Very nice carving btw.
Thank you Doris.
 
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