Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Progress Report

At The End of the Day

    Like the caption says, this is what is done at the end of the day on the carved panel.  Measurements are about 23" wide by 16" high or there about.  The wood is Basswood and the design is the very classical Aganthus Leaf.  Besides sharing the progress of my work, I enjoy writing my blogs to solidify the decisions I made during the day in the shop.  Woodworking is pretty much a solitary endeavor which is one of the reasons it's so appealing to me.  However; sometimes you work through problems and may or may not hit the right solutions.  Luckily, a friend of mine is a fantastic carver so I can see him for help.  I showed this to Dennis today and he told me that it looks as if I'm on the right track.  Of course I knew that I could have used a router to remove the bulk of the waste but the quietness of carving and not having any type of deadline trumped that.  Besides, Basswood carves pretty easily so the hands on exercise will increase my skill level.
     The panel is about 3/4" thick and I've set the background a quarter of an inch deep.  This will give me (hopefully) enough thickness to model the wood and make it all look believable.  The eventual, over-all texture I'd like to achieve is on the section to the right of the leaf to be.  Here's the basic process required to get to this point.
     First, the pattern was drawn onto the board with graphite paper.

Various Gouges and Sweeps

     Now comes the step referred to as "grounding in" which is where the outline of the design is chiseled and the background is eventually removed.  Here's when you understand why carvers can have hundreds of chisels.  They are categorized by what's called Sweep.  A flat chisel  would be a #1 sweep while one that is almost U-shaped would be a #11.  To that you add the width in millimeters so the combinations become staggering!  Needless to say, I fall far short of the hundreds of chisel owner so have to make do with what I currently have.  Eventually I'll learn how to design my work around the chisels I own.
     Once the basic design is "ground in" the background needs to be removed.

#3 Sweep vs. #11 Sweep

     I took this photograph to illustrate the sweep differences.  Removing the background can be done in stages.  After going around the design I first used the #11 (right in picture) to waste away the wood.  You can see that it makes furrows because of it's shape but these are easier to cut or gouge out.  After that, the #3 (left in picture) is used to level out the furrows and achieve the texture I'd like to have.
     The outside of the panel presented a problem.  First off, even if I had a chisel of the proper sweep to match the curvature, beating on it with a mallet that close to the edge would more than likely break the edge off.  That didn't seem like a wise thing to do!  Another option would be to use a V-tool but that can be difficult to control and I wanted a 90 degree cut at that point.
     After experimenting with a couple of ways I thought may work this is what actually worked for this area.

Skew to Ground In the Border

     By holding a skew upright and very carefully controlling it with both hands I was able to follow the lay out line pretty closely.  This was also used on the long curve of the Acanthus.  This was followed with the #2 chisel you see laying on the leaf.

Close up of #2 at Work

     After using the skew, the #2 is used to lift out a small chip.  The skew may have gone in 1/32" or so, especially on the first pass.  Taking out the chip gives a shoulder to guide the skew against so subsequent cuts can be made deeper.  Trying to achieve a uniform depth of 1/4" all the way around.
     I'm almost to that point so the first thing tomorrow will be to work the background to how I'd like it to be and then begin the actual carving of the leaf.  Probably be dreaming on how to do that tonight!

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