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

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Cherry Blossom (Wedding) Lovespoon Finished

The Cherry Blossom Lovespoon Has now been completed and awaits the return of my daughter, Jessica and her husband Brad from their honeymoon. This spoon was carved from a single piece of english cherry and finished with danish oil and wax.

Lovespoon Front
in frame
Lovespoon Back
in frame

The spoon is about 380 mm long, 125 mm wide and 22 mm deep. It is panel like in form but heavily pierced and multi-layered. There is a swivel at the top of the panel which encloses a heart-shaped area with under-cut initials of the couple on the front and an inlaid contrasting timber heart on the back awaiting a suitable inscription.
The sides of the panel continue down enclosing some celtic knot-work and join with the cherry blossom branches that form a wide flat cage with a carved loose heart inside.

There were some tricky aspects and difficulties to overcome in carving, not to mention finishing, some of these features which I have already mentioned in the earlier posts about carving this particular spoon. Just a side note – it is a curious expression we have in english 'not to mention' and it's always used when it is precisely our intention to mention the thing. You see the finishing could have gone on forever and as I had a deadline I had to just let things be in some areas.

Cherry Blossom Lovespoon Back

As is often the case, the wise thing is to try and surpass what the viewer expects by way of workmanship and the finish, wherever it is conspicuous and also provide some little 'going of the extra mile' for them to find for themselves in the work but somehow to still also observe an economy of means in the whole work.

I'm still trying to learn this wisdom, there is only so much time available for the task and you need to make effort count. I have tended to attack my carving work in the same way I ran a 440 yards race back in high school days, I had to use my speed early so I would go out fast for the first 250 coast a little when I had no choice but to and finish as best I could.

Cherry Blossom Lovespoon Front

Finishing is all important in woodcrafts though, it's the first noticed when a close view is taken (doesn't digital photography take you disconcertingly close though!) and it's the last thing remembered. Though the finish has this prime importance so does planning have it's own special importance. How an extra few millimetres would have helped in the thickness of the timber if I'd had it.

Cherry Blossom Lovespoon Top Back
with heart inlay and swivel

Cherry Blossom Lovespoon Front Detail Knot-work and cage

Cherry Blossom Lovespoon Front Detail Knot-work and cage

Cherry Blossom Lovespoon Back Detail Knot-work and cage with captured Heart

Back Detail, Knot-work and Caged Heart
Back Detail, cage
Back Detail, cage

Back Detail, Knot-work and Caged Heart

Front Detail, Knot-work and Caged Heart

Front Detail, Under-cut initials of couple on Heart

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Cherry Blossom Lovespoon Continuing

With most of the main carving complete I am now at the stage where the sanding will begin. I will avoid the use of abrasive grits on areas that I know will still need further carving work and will use needle files instead but a stage has now been reached where the sanding can begin in earnest.

The greater part of the sanding time will be with the coarser grits around 180 and 240 and then up through the finer grits to around 2000 and the onto micro mesh before the oil finish is applied. 

Inevitably there will be instances where I will do some work with edge tools even after some sanding has been done but as a general rule this will be avoided. The sort of instances that may lead to caving after sanding would be where some shaping needs to be done that will require a relatively large amount of material to be removed. This sort of necessity is sometimes only made apparent when the texture of a surface is removed and the curve of a surface is revealed to be less fair than it ought to be.

 This is also the reason why so much time needs to be spent with the coarser grits so that smooth flowing shapes and surfaces result rather than polished irregularities. With all this sanding there will be some softening of edges that would appear more attractive if sharp. So the rule of not risking blunted tools by post-sanding-carving, must be overruled so that the quality of the work will not suffer.

The cherry blossoms have been carved now and touched up with needle files. I had intended to use the ukibori method to render the small dimples, representing stamen, that surround the blossom centres but I thought it too risky after the whole cage area had been hollowed out . So I used the safer but more tedious method of carving each one onto the thin petal surface.

Here the home made micro carving tools were useful for restoring sharpness and definition to the blossoms after they had been smoothed with the needle files.

The images below show the commencement of the carving on the back of the spoon. All of the carving work has been completed on this area now, except for the large heart area at the top of the spoon . i am still intending to inlay this area with a contrasting timber, though, I ought to have done this at a much earlier stage.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Cherry blossom Lovespoon and Home-made Tools

I have now continued with carving the front the celtic knot section and some more of the cherry branch above the cherry branch cage. I will have to decide on the thickness and three dimensional form of this section as I approach work on the back of the spoon.

Likewise it will be necessary to make a number of other decisions about where the connecting parts of the cherry branch that form the cage will be located, as carving proceeds. This is always an intuitive process and involves sketching in in ideas on the carving and sometimes taking up the suggestions that occur from those incidental forms that occur as waste is removed.

Whereas the shallow depth of timber to carve, was a problem with the stems and leaves forming the front surface of the cage, the massive thickness of the other leaf shapes poses the opposite problem, where a delicate look needs to be presented from each view but something believable and different in shape has to be indicated on the other side.

Every now and then I will return to tidy up the hollowed-bowl area behind the initials to get nice fair curves where the forms intersect. It is a good idea to swing the light source into various oblique positions from time to time to get a raking light that will show the true nature of the forms viewed from a variety of angles. This will also show up any unattractive surface irregularities that need to be gently carved away.

Here is an account of the rough method I use to make the small chisels from piano wire.

I use various thicknesses of piano or music wire to make the tools. The one and a half millimetre size seems to be the most useful diameter. The wire is worked cold, on a small anvil (any reasonable steel surface), with a ball-pane hammer. this produces a fishtail shape and has the added advantage of work hardening what will be the cutting edge of the chisel.

The result of all this hammering will be a ragged fishtail shaped end on the wire, I have made no attempt to be neat with my hammering here.

The ragged edge can then be gently ground away or sanded away to a straight, skewed or rounded edge.  I prefer a rounded edge as this way the chisel functions as a gouge.
It is a little more difficult to grind or sand a cutting edge on the curved shape but it is worth the effort. Straight chisels are still useful though.

I use wet and dry sand paper to 'grind' the cutting edge on the tool as it doesn't take long at this size and there is then no risk of drawing the temper on the tool.

The next step is to use increasingly finer grits to hone the edge and finally polish with stropping compound. The whole process is very easy, very cheap and you can therefore afford to experiment with different shapes and you can bend the wire into a variety of cranked patterns.

Small allen keys can also be used to make miniature chisels. However the hammering will not work as these tools are already hardened. Allen Keys cannot be bent safely either, as they will snap and flying pieces can endanger you. To break off the right-angled section use two pair of pliers and take the precaution of covering the whole operation with a cloth to stop any flying bits.  

Here is the tool I made for this demonstration, being used on a small piece of holly. The rounded-hooked-fishtail shape will make a useful tool for 'walking' heel and toe fashion to make a stop cut along a path.

The small chisel from an allen key will make a good miniature mortise chisel.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Wedding Lovespoon and Workspace

After seeing Laura Jenkins' blog entry showing her work space for love spoon carving I thought that I would show my very similar setup for anyone interested. I do most of my lovespoon carving seated in an armchair with a lap bench/tool holder on which I do the work.

The lap bench sits across my lap as I sit in the chair.
Old towels placed over the work board are used to protect the work and to collect chips. 

The lap board itself has a part circle cut-out in the front and a purpose-shaped section added to the back acting as a shelf to hold some folding tool racks.

Some small cup hooks allow restraining rubber bands to secure the tool racks to the work board. The rubber bands attach over the back to a hinged section which holds the tool racks in place. 

The rubber bands and the hinged section prevent the tool racks from falling off the board when it is moved.

A towel with a clipped on neck-strap lays over the work board surface and is pinned in place with drawing pins when in use.

Carving work is carried out on the towel surface and the neck strap and towel can be folded forward after work is finished thus protecting the work and capturing all the chips an other carving debris. 

Some of my tools are kept in  small tool rolls sewn together from some scraps of leather that I'd collected from a throw-out years ago. Some of the tools shown here include a number of home made tools from music wire which can be bent into any needed shape and held in small chucked tool holder.

These home-made tools are very easy to make, very cheap and mostly, extremely useful, because they were made for a specific purpose.

I have been working on this love spoon for a little while now. It is intended for my daughter's wedding coming up soon. The spoon is being carved in English Cherry and features a swivel at the top and a loose heart captured  by a cherry blossom cage leading to the stem and bowl. Towards the top of the spoon are the couples initials ( Brad and Jessica ). Under the initials is a single strand celtic knot.

The initials are set above a heart shape and are entirely under-cut except where they attach to the outer rim of the hollowed heart shape. It was this under cutting which necessitated the making of some heavily cranked mini chisels to reach into the more restricted areas.

There were some even more restricted areas to carve with the cherry blossom cage with the loose heart.

I worked on the initials first to solve some of the problems to be encountered reaching those difficult to get at areas that i knew would be even more critical when I attempted the cage area.

The initials had some sections where they would pierce one another and I will be spending some time on these later to achieve nice transitions and fair curves in an area likely to attract more close scrutiny and so finicky attention to detail will pay off.

One of the difficulties in the cage section would be the lack of depth in the blank. I could have used a bit more thickness here to get some more depth and robustness to the leaves and flowers not to mention space to free the heart shape within.

As it turned out it these elements are about as thin and delicate as I dare make them and the upper flowers will be a little flatter than I'd like.

It is this sort of situation where the cranked chisel bits are at their most useful in paring the waste from under overlapping elements that need complete separation.