Saturday, February 28, 2009

Lovespoon Angst, Part Two

Welcome back, friends and neighbors! Take a look at the photo of the lovespoon in this post and compare it to the one in the last post. What you see is the result of approximately six hours of carving!

When last we talked, I hadn't yet decided what I was going to do with the birds at the top of the spoon. Originally I had intended to either kolross or chip carve them. At the last minute I decided to throw caution to the winds and carve them in the round. Fine.

I wish I had made that decision earlier. If I thought the flying heart knot was too small . . . . .  I had no idea what I was getting into. I first started by cutting shallow ramps in the "neck knot" to delineate which strands pass over and which pass under. Because when I laid out the pattern originally I intended to carve only one side of the birds, I didn't mirror the pattern on the back side of the spoon. No big deal. I can free-hand the pattern on the back as I carve. Rrrriiiight!

So I started at the bottom of the neck knot and started working my way up the edges of the spoon. I worked the bottom loops around to the back and drew and cut freehand where I thought the strands were going. I worked about a quarter of the way up the back. Then I moved around to the front of the spoon and started work on the piercings. I was using the knife you see on the left of the spoon, made by Carl, the Carver/TurnerFromNoWhere. The blade is tiny (14 mm long, 4 mm wide at the handle, 2 mm wide at the tip), sharp as sin and twice as dangerous. A beautiful knife and the perfect tool for working on small knots. In spite of that, I quickly discovered, while trying to relieve the piercings with the knife, that they were so small that I could only do it by drilling. A 1/16th inch drill bit took 99% of the wood out of the piercings leaving me with only squaring up the insides of the holes with the knife, something emminently do-able.

Only one problem. Because I free-handed and carved the bottom strands of the knot on the back of the spoon, before I drilled the holes, two of the holes went directly through the middle of the strands I had already carved. OK, how does that go? Proper Prior Planning . . . . .

No problem! I had, from the beginning, only intended to finish the front of the spoon. What does it matter if the back of the spoon looks like a dog's dinner? The front looks halfway decent, even though I'm still having trouble keeping the thickness of the strands consistent.

BTW, when carving strands this small with those tight turns, cutting against the grain, unless done VERY carefully, tends to break out relatively large sections of wood, making it even more difficult to keep the strands consistent.

This week I only had two breaks (literally). The first was the crest of the bird's head on the right. When undercutting the front of the crest, I wound up levering the knife blade and snapping off the entire crest. Super Glue to the rescue!

The second break was on the left wing of the flying heart, caused by holding the spoon wrong while carving. Same thing I did to break off the right wing. This time I didn't break it off totally. In any case, back to the Super Glue. David Western gave me some excellent advice: Do the delicate parts LAST! One day I'll learn to listen.

I think I've rambled enough for this week. Next week I think I'll talk about Santa. That'll give me enough time to slow down on the lovespoon so I don't fly into a fit of frustration.

As you can see on the right, I've begun Twittering. Don't know how that's going to work out, but if you want to follow me, just click on the link.

Until next time, let the chips fly!

Monday, February 23, 2009

New Look

Several people mentioned that they had trouble reading the white-on-black layout, so I changed it to this. Hope this makes it easier for those with "old eyes". :)

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Comments and Critiques

I am always pleased to get comments on my work and constructive critiques. Don't be shy. I have a very thick skin!


Lovespoon Angst

Welcome to my new blog. I'm going to be talking about my journey through the world of woodcarving, good and less-than-good. I've been carving most of my almost six decades on this planet although most of it has been in fits and starts. I guess if you put all my carving experience end-to-end you would come up with about 3 years of carving. I started carving consistently and seriously in the latter part of 2008. Since then I have progressed much further than I would have thought.

I'm going to try to publish at least once a week, and I would appreciate it, if you like what you see, if you would "follow" me by clicking on the Followers gadget on the sidebar. If nothing else, it will make me feel better to know that my posts are not disappearing into the Great Bit-Bucket In The Sky without being read.

Now, to business! I'm going to start off this journey by talking about a work-in-progress (WIP). This is my latest attempt at a lovespoon of my own design. If you are not familiar with lovespoons, the best place to learn about them is David Western's site. He is a master of the form and has been of great help to me.

Most carving blogs and websites tell you how to do things after the author has worked out all the details and made his mistakes. He tells you the right way, bypassing the mistake phase. I think that is incomplete information. My blog will expose all the mistakes I make along the way to getting a good end product. Mistakes are learning opportunities, and I want my readers to get as much information as I can give them, so let's start.

This lovespoon is my own design, as I mentioned earlier. I LIKE this design. The problem is that it basically outstripped my current level of skill. It is a complex design, and, thus, there are a lot of things to keep in mind as you carve it. Too many things, as it turns out, for my feeble mind to follow just now. One of the first "uff-da" mistakes I made was in drawing the patterns for the knots in the tails of the fish and the "flying heart". The strands of the knots are supposed to alternate over-and-under, so that you don't have two or more consecutive overs or unders. This was my first effort at drawing knots, and I was too excited and anxious to get started carving that I didn't pay attention. Because I drew the knots wrong, I carved them wrong even after having read David's book, FINE ART OF CARVING LOVESPOONS, and reading his blog which warns of this very thing. So, Caveat Number One: draw your design and check it, line by line, before you start carving it.

Another item about carving knots. Most people cut them out on a scroll saw before carving. I don't. I don't have a scroll saw, nor do I want one. I used a drill, the only power tool I use in my carving, to drill holes in the pierced areas to give me a starting point for my knife. I used a coping saw in some of the piercings, but not many. This leads me to my second mistake regarding knots: making them too small for a knife. The fish tail knot was fine, but the flying heart knot was too small for the knives I had. This was dealing me fits until I got a mini detail knife from my friend Carl, the Carver/TurnerfromNowhere. His tiny blade has made carving that knot immensely easier. Not faster, mind you, just easier and less frustrating. Just like a scroll saw would for those of you who don't mind using power tools. So, Caveat Number Two: make your design appropriate for the tools you have.

A further item about carving knots: as you are carving the strands, pay attention to BOTH sides of the knot. Unless you do this with every cut, it will be difficult or even impossible to keep the size of the strands consistent. I have made several cuts trying to smooth or even up one side of a strand where the other end of the knife blade, the end I wasn't paying attention to, cut too far into the far side of the strand, making it too narrow or cutting a step into the strand. Caveat Number Three: be aware of the entire length of your knife blade. While the base of the blade may be doing exactly what you want it to, the tip could be cutting into something you don't want to cut.

BTW, those shiny sections of wood on the right wing of the flying heart are caused by super glue. While carving another part of the spoon, I broke that wing off. Inherent hazard! I glued it back on with super glue and soaked the area around the break to toughen up the wood. Not twenty minutes after this photo was taken I broke off the same piece AGAIN! Back to the super glue, The Carver's Secret Weapon! Duct tape for carvers!

I'm going to end this for now. Next time I'm going to be talking about the twin birds at the top of the spoon. I haven't totally decided how I'm going to do them. I originally started out thinking I was going to kolross them or chip carve them, but I'm leaning toward doing them in the round. We'll see.

Before I go, I'm going to address a question that I'm sure will come up: If you made so many mistakes in this carving, why are you still working on it instead of tossing it out and starting a new one? I believe that every carving I do has something to teach me. If I don't finish the carving I'll be missing some of that instruction. I've learned a lot doing this carving, making mistakes and figuring out how to correct them as best I can. I've learned these lessons a lot better and a lot faster than I would have just reading how to do it right the first time. So I try to finish every carving I start, for good or ill.

Until next time, let the chips fly!