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This blog features the current woodcraft, Art and Graphic work of David Stanley.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Cutting Outline for 'Cariad' Welsh Lovespoon

Ripping Down the Block on the Band Saw

With the piece of european cherry sawn to the right dimensions, it is time to cut the outline on the scroll saw. A hand fret saw could be used but even with a scroll saw it would be heavy going with a piece of cherry nearly an inch and a half thick.

Heavier going than I thought, because ripping down the block to a thickness the scroll saw could manage and yet still have it thick enough for carving options, resulted in a slightly curved cut from the band saw that I couldn't afford to level without losing desired thickness.

The surface that I attached the pattern to, with spray adhesive, had been planed smooth and straight. The sides were also dressed square with the face. This is worth doing if possible for
a deeply layered carving like this, because it can make some things easier. The uneven face off the band saw, that would now rest on the scroll saw table however, was now not going to make cutting easy.

The one side of the outline was cut successfully even though with less ease than could have been. Surprisingly it only took three blades and only one of those was an actual breakage. During the next session cutting the other side of the outline, I replaced the blade, that I thought would be very dull by now, and started cutting.

Progress was incredibly slow... Could it be that the cherry was even denser in this area of the board ? Or is there a variation in the cutting effectiveness from one blade to another, even of the same type ?.. No and yes... (sort of). The blade you put in back to front, does in fact cut less efficiently than another of the same type!

Another tip is; don't mistake persistence with
sheer unthinking stubbornness, there might be a reason why things don't go as expected other than 'the tools or materials have somehow changed'.

The blade, with brutal force, was made to 'cut' through nearly an inch of, and inch and a half thick board of cherry, with no more teeth available than a rooster, before I decided to change the blade.

Well change it around anyway. I reinserted the now banana shaped blade and continued to cut about half the other side before the 'Flying Dutchman' brand penguin silver#5 blade finally broke. – Are these blades tough or what ? – The rest of the cutting went well.

Half the Outline Cut and the Spoon Profile Marked Out

Having squared the sides, facilitated the laying out the profile of the spoon on one side, which could then be cut off in one piece and used, both as reference and for reassembling the block, prior to cutting and shaping the profile of the spoon. Squaring the sides also makes it easy to gauge lines parallel to the edge, just by gripping a pencil tightly a certain distance from the edge and spacing it with the position of other fingers sliding against the other face as you slide your hand along. Not a lot of layout is always necessary with lovespoons and most of the work is intuitive, with at least some of the planning evolving as the work proceeds. It's still a good idea to plan as much as possible and include as many guides as possible... just expect the unexpected.

With both sides of the outline cut and the profile marked out it's time to reassemble the block with clear packing tape and begin shaping the profile on the band saw. It might have been a good time to drill for all the inside cuts at this point but some of these areas are quite small and I don't trust my drill press to drill accurately to a great depth with a fine bit.

I also want to reduce the thickness of the blank in some places to make cutting easier on the scroll saw, especially if finer blades are used and possibly if a hand fret saw or even piercing saw is needed for tricky spots.

shaping the profile will remove much of the pattern but I'm expecting to do this often, as I go, any way and I can always cut pieces as templates from any extra prints of the pattern
I make along the way ... I don't find re-drawing too much a problem though and If I did, then I would find a way to avoid it.

The reassembled block can be worked on with a hand saw making intersecting straight cuts to remove large volumes of timber in shaping the rough form of the spoon's profile but things are much quicker using the band saw. The band saw makes it easier, not just because it can make curving cuts, but also because it can produce fairly accurate vertical cuts quickly, where you can observe them approaching your marked lines, to be stopped just where you want.

I used a 3 tpi half inch blade, the aggressive cut of which, enabled a nibbling away, by straight cuts, of many of the tightly curved areas. I had a 3mm blade that might have navigated many of the curves but I wasn't sure of cutting four inches of cherry, without a breakage, if a tight spot eventuated.

By taking it slowly and carefully with the large blade, easing the passage of the blade with multiple straight cuts and sometimes cutting a half inch space to allow entry for the blade to make rip cuts, parallel to the long edge, I was able to effectively, if not prettily, shape the profile.

Shaping the Profile on the Band Saw

Shaping the Profile on the Band Saw

The blank roughly shaped

The next step will be back to the scroll saw after some pattern cutting and pasting and or re-drawing – plus drilling. The thinner timber to scroll of course comes with the severe under cutting of just that part of the blank, that rests on the scroll saw table. To remedy this I will have to set up a temporary false table on the scroll saw and then, there should be no problem. This could have made things a bit easier cutting out the outline... If i'd thought of it at the time.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Back to 'Cariad' Lovespoon

'Cariad' welsh lovespoon

At last it's time to get back to the 'Cariad' welsh lovespoon. We had been considering walnut as the timber to carve from and the rich dark colour of the walnut would have suited the design well. However on examining a couple of pieces of walnut that I already had, I was concerned that the grain was a little too open and coarse to carry the intended detail, especially with the canadian geese and the Mt Tryfan Gate.

One of the pieces of walnut was european walnut and the other black walnut, comparing the two I thought that the slightly finer grain of the european walnut might have been suitable but it would have been very tricky for it to hold the amount of detail that would be an important part of this design. Also both boards were barely one inch thick and I felt I would need at least an inch and a quarter and possibly a bit more to be safe with what is to be be a multi-layered carving.

My consequent search for another suitable piece of european walnut only turned up more black walnut (certainly a beautiful timber but not for this project). During the search I found a nice piece of european cherry, almost as dark as walnut but with a more golden hue. The cherry also had the other attributes I was looking for – so far as you can tell by just looking. Subsequent slicing cuts across the grain, which I could do after purchase, tell the story I think.

cherry / walnut comparison

I purchased the, cherry and Dawn and James, my clients who requested the lovespoon, were happy with cherry as a choice. Because my experience is limited, in that I've only used rock maple and walnut for carving lovespoons before, I sort some advice on the use of cherry for carving welsh lovespoons.

I have David Western's Book 'The Fine Art of Carving Lovespoons', am an admirer of the innovative directions David has taken the art in his long experience as a professional carver and I have been following his blog
( www.davidwestern.blogspot.com ) which shows the progress of a lovespoon he is jointly designing and carving, by correspondence and by sending the work piece back and forth, with Laura Gorun
( www.BlakesPA.com ), another talented carver of finely delicate lovespoons, in America. So I emailed a request to David, to advise on the choice of cherry in the light of his experience.

David Western kindly shared his knowledge and experience on the use of american cherry, though he hadn't done anything with european cherry. David confirmed my thought that cherry would hold the necessary detail well and added the interesting information that cherry darkens considerably on exposure to light to a rich and mellow tone and takes a beautiful oiled finish. I also seem to remember that walnut actually fades a little on exposure to light .

the selected piece

So I am feeling happy about the choice of the cherry. The next step after timber selection is to bring this board to the appropriate dimensions and then attach the pattern for cutting the outline. In order to arrive at the thickness necessary however, I will first have to place the pattern on top and visualise – even roughly sketch out the possible profile of the whole spoon on the edge of the board to see how much depth is required and also consider how much thickness I am willing to tackle with the scroll saw in a hard wood like cherry . Sometimes however, not everything can be planned beforehand, instead the continuing design process has to be taken by the hand and led by some bold steps into the actual work before a way ahead can be seen. So I will see what lies ahead when I've made a start with the selected piece of timber.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Iron Fence with Sparrows pyrography

'Iron Fence with Sparrows' is now complete. It only remains to construct a suitable frame.

'Iron Fence with Sparrows' Detail.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Iron fence with Sparrows pyrography

'Iron fence with Sparrows' is now nearing completion, just a few leaves to finish rendering and some tones to adjust in some areas of the background. Overall there are several aspects that could have been much better and I think that the process of completing this piece has taught me some things that I should be able, to use to do better work next time.

Without enlightening those that don't see the various problems that are apparent to me now, and without goading those that might see them but graciously choose to overlook them, I will mention a few generalities that I am continuing to learn in the process of completing pieces of work and would recommend by way of advice.

1. Apart from starting again, which is sometimes necessary (but also necessarily at an early stage of work) make sure you complete what you are doing to the best of your ability at the time, not the ability you think you have.

2. Don't be tempted to point out to others the faults you see in your work. Just about everyone who makes something does this. I remember reading about a professional painter who talked an otherwise eager customer out of buying one of his works using this tendency.

3. Take note and learn what the medium can and can't do well, design and choose designs that can be rendered well in the medium, pyrography on hoop pine ply in this case.

4. Don't rush thinking things through, you'll end up painting yourself into a corner.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

'Iron fence with Sparrows' Pyrography

Still working on the background with the larger shading nib. I will need to go back in with the finer pointed nib to modify some of the background an unify the textures with some stippling work.