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Beginning Carving

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Jacob

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Doris

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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.
I suppose I meant the word knack rather than natural ability.
 

xraymtb

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I've just started learning to carve myself using a Chris Pye book and the free videos from Chris and Mary May also.

I perhaps went a bit against the advice and bought a set (Ashley Iles York Set). After watching a few videos and reading books, I had a list of tools that I wanted to have to hand to work on a few projects, try different techniques and learn different cuts. I might not use them all long term but at the moment I don't know if I want to carve letters, do deep relief carving, carve ball and claw feet etc. In time, I guess I'll work it out but only by doing it and seeing what I enjoy.

The set I have in the end closely matched what I though I wanted (close enough that I can substitute the sweep recommended for the one I now have) and I also got to buy it locally and at a good price.
 

stuckinthemud

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The author you really need is Tangerman. Not glossy just brilliant, and, yes, I have Chris Pye's books and many others. But if you are serious about learning to carve, then The Manual of Traditional Carving Techniques by Paul Hasluck is essential reading, I've had a copy forever and have read it so many times its held together by celotape.
 
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donwatson

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I've just started learning to carve myself using a Chris Pye book and the free videos from Chris and Mary May also.

+1 for that. I am awaiting tools and wood to try and start the Mary May lessons. It has been a struggle to get the basic tools recommended, I have used 3 suppliers for 6 tools and 1 tool is not exactly what I wanted but will have to do. Should get the wood today, Lime wood from G & S Timber.
Don W
 

Tuna808

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Hi,just joined this community of woodworkers and have been trying to catch up with the numerous post.
I have done a fair amount of carving over the years and agree with the advice offered by the contributors.
If I could offer some reinforcements to the advices I would list the following as pointer to help the beginner.
As already stressed it is crucial that the tools are sharpened to the best of your ability and if your ability does not sharpen the tools to perfection.......spend some time learning how to sharpen ,and invest in good quality slips and stones,no false economy,quality sharpening gear will outlast you.
Invest wisely and purchase the tools that you think you need for the work in hand,I say think because sometimes the tools you think are going to be useful are not.But that unfortunately will be part of the ever learning curve.
Don't dismiss the idea of using a dremel or similar power tools to help you remove bulk,I use a miniature router adapter which i made which is very simple yet very effective and useful.It can save you hours of work and in my opinion it does not in anyway devalues the final outcome which ultimately will reflect your artistic and technical abilities.
I use dental drills which are both strong and sharp,your dentist would probably be happy to give you the discarded ones which are still good enough for wood.
I have a selection of surgical blades which i use extensively to carve fine detail,these I find invaluable.
Get to know your woods......and how they react with different tools and cut direction.
As suggested if you can practice in pine and get good results you will find most other woods a blessing,there are exceptions of course.
Plan your approach and visualize the operation before you dig into the material.Visualizing 2D to 3 D is half the battle won.
Be ambitious ......go for it.....don’t carve anything you will not want to keep yourself.The challenge is a primary motivator.
There is a transfer of skill in all processes,dig into your library of skills to acquire and develop further skill in the art of carving.
good luck!
 

stuckinthemud

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Hogging off waste is always contentious and while I agree with everything above, the correct use for small rotary tools is very fine detail in complex grain. I had a lovely class, before funding was stopped, mixed ages and genders, hot coffee, Welsh cakes, good conversation, lots of great carving. One of the boys decided to bring a rotary power tool "cuz its faster for cutting lovespoon bowls" but the noise and dust were causing complaints. The students asked me to have a word. I challenged him to a race, if he cut a spoon bowl quicker than me he would prove his point and could keep using the power tool. 4 cuts with a 1inch number 8 gouge and a medium weight mallet and I had finished before he had tightened the burr in the chuck. Power has its place but use what you have and only buy what you hope you'll need. My dremel got given away, I rough out with axe, medium gouges and rasps if appropriate, fast, efficient, little dust to breath in, no annoying power tool noise. Work the way that suits you and most of all have fun. Remember, wood does grow on trees.
 

Tuna808

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Yes I agree ,I do use the dremel for fine detail as most of the work I do requires fine detail.
It is more efficient and quicker to use the gouges and other hand tools to remove waste as required by the design in hand.
 

stuckinthemud

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Incidentally, British hardwoods are great for carving, green oak is amazing (though its horrible once its dry), lime is fab but hawthorn is way better, any fruit wood should be hoarded, all domestic maples are really really good, sycamore is good while green but very hard once dry, as is birch but they hold fabulous detail. Hazel carves surprisingly well, holly is fabulous. Yew is an interesting challenge but the colour is just so nice. Larch is not great for hand carving but chainsaw carvers seem to like it. Best thing is these timbers, and others, are abundant and close to being free, which allows you to practice without worrying you are ruining a horrifically expensive piece of timber. Green wood is way easier to work with than dry, and that's a nice bonus.
 

xraymtb

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Incidentally, British hardwoods are great for carving, green oak is amazing (though its horrible once its dry), lime is fab but hawthorn is way better, any fruit wood should be hoarded, all domestic maples are really really good, sycamore is good while green but very hard once dry, as is birch but they hold fabulous detail. Hazel carves surprisingly well, holly is fabulous. Yew is an interesting challenge but the colour is just so nice. Larch is not great for hand carving but chainsaw carvers seem to like it. Best thing is these timbers, and others, are abundant and close to being free, which allows you to practice without worrying you are ruining a horrifically expensive piece of timber. Green wood is way easier to work with than dry, and that's a nice bonus.
This should be saved somewhere - most advice on carving woods is US-centric and it's good to get a view on which UK woods are good to use.
 

Awac

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Can I suggest you try spoon carving?

My reasons, offcuts are normally free, you get experience with a range of wood at no cost, understand what you like to carve. The "spoon shape" is familiar to your brain (first tool you hold as a child, apart from a chisel of course, messy business that, but character building...🤣), teaches you grain direction, surface finishing, safe finishes etc. A spoon is also deceptively simple, the curves are quite complex to get perfect (you never will 😤).

You can start with a few tools, and a reason to buy an axe, what's not to like? You will be surprised what you can do with an axe, it can be quite delicate.

I also found that when I started carving spoons I thought my grip was quite good! Your wrists and hands will ache when you start, but it soon improves and strengthens you which will help you in later carving. Your sense of touch improves finding blemishes, you don't make much in woodwork that goes into your mouth, it has to be right!

As others have pointed out, "sharp". If the tools are not sharp you will not enjoy, and in the effort of pushing a blunt tool too hard you will (not if) have an injury.

If this sounds like something you want to do I suggest:

  1. Swedish Carving Techniques by Wille Sundqvist (This is THE man for spoon carving). It covers all you need, sharpening and techniques etc.
  2. Mora knife 120 and/or 106 (laminated high carbon steel for under £20 each, amazing value).
  3. Axe. Gränsfors Bruk if you have no budget limits or buy a used axe, have fun with making a new handle fit and sharpen it to your tastes (oh yes, asymmetrical grinds) .
  4. Small folding pocket saw (Bahco laplander).
  5. Hook knife, or gouge to shape internal bowl.
  6. Chopping block, like a tree stump.
  7. The cut proof gloves like "site cutmaster" are very good, and recommended especially on the non dominant hand.
  8. Various you tube videos-just put "spoon carving".
Before you buy any tools, buy the book by Wille, it will cover everything you need to know in order to start. I have no idea why I enjoy carving spoons so much, I can not explain it, and neither will you if you get into it.

All the best.
 

Jacob

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Or start really simple - cut a v shaped groove around the edge of a breadboard with one ordinary straight chisel and a mallet.
It's a useful thing to have around a bread/chopping board - I've just been chopping seville orange skins for marmalade and it catches the juice.
PS and a marking gauge!
 
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Awac

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Or start really simple - cut a v shaped groove around the edge of a breadboard with one ordinary straight chisel and a mallet.
It's a useful thing to have around a bread/chopping board - I've just been chopping seville orange skins for marmalade and it catches the juice.
PS and a marking gauge!
I hope you have a patent on that.......now you have given the details away...;)
 

Jacob

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I hope you have a patent on that.......now you have given the details away...;)
I claim no copyrights! It's just that it's nice to find something vaguely useful to do with your carving practice, on a board you might already have.
 

JAW911

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Well I bought a selection of Ashley Iles and Ray Iles carving tools in the end and this is one of the first carvings I tried. Wasn’t really sure what i wanted to end up with! Started as a relief carving and ended up as a stand-alone sculpture I guess. I am really enjoying carving caricature little guys too. This carving is really enjoyable.
 

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Argus

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If that was from a standing start at your first post about carving in January, then it is excellent, well done.
 

xy mosian

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I'll bet you are chuffed with that, and really enjoyed making it. Well done.
If you are interested in hearing from other, perhaps more experienced carvers, you might like to try "International Association of Woodcarvers" on Facebook. Thay have a no cost meetings on Saturday evenings at 8:00 pm. The videos of previous meetings are available on both Facebook and Youtube. Mostly figures but other work as well, by American carvers.
Keep on it, xy.
 

JAW911

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If you look carefully you can see my attempt at carving a head from ’memory’ - can’t believe I think people look like that!! Practice needed I think! Thanks for the comments though; very pleased with the flower. I started with a circle divided into ten equal sections and added a central circle. The rest I winged.....
 

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