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

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Carved Lettering for Whimsical Wood Title

Here are the first steps in carving the 'yellow walnut' timber for the whimsicalwood website title lettering. Yellow walnut, a native Queensland timber, has not been as easy to carve as true walnut or black walnut, but it does have an attractive colour and takes a fine finish. A pattern printed from the black line version of the lettering is first pasted onto the timber, holes drilled for most of the pierced areas and then cut on the scroll saw ready for carving.

Not all the pierced apatures have been drilled and sawn out as they may be be carved just to a suitable level but not all the way through.

The next step is to set in shallow stop cuts following prominent lines on parts that I envisage being at the uppermost levels of the carving. A lot of the dimensional aspects of the carving have been worked out in the rendered drawing done earlier, but as the carving proceeds some changes might be made.

When a few key shapes are outlined with these shallow stop cuts, shallow so as not to prise the fibres of the wood away from the intended line with the wedge of the cutting edge. The surface fibres are sliced back to the stop cut forming a little ledge. The little ledge then allows a deeper stop cut to be made safely with a more firmly made cuts. Then a greater depth of wood surface is removed back to the stop cut. Repeated outlining with stop cuts and slicing back back to them gradually reveals the form.

Making these cuts that create the form of the carving require either different tools for different parts of a line or a different way of using one tool or another for the different aspects of the carving. Stop cuts along the outline of forms can be followed with the natural curved edge of a variety of gouges or with a series of narrow shallow-curved or straight stabbing cuts made incrementally along the line.

Apart from from some well defined fast or tight curves, where I have a gouge that fits it exactly, I have tended to use either a small very shallow gouge or flat chisel to make the stop cuts along lines. But mostly I have used a small round-nosed straight chisel made from piano wire to 'walk' the cutting edge along a line of any shape safely and accurately.

In larger scale carving, using both hands with clamped work at a bench, a vee tool might be best for outlining the forms. Or if using a knife, cutting along the line following the curves. In miniature carving,like this lettering, a knife-cut swerving along the outline, could be swift and accurate if you are skilled at it., and lucky!

With the right kind of knife or knives a lot of the carving of this lettering could be set in with stop cuts and the forms shaped. A rounded tip on a knife blade would function just like a round nose chisel and bent or hooked knives could form various concave and convex surfaces on the slicing cuts back to the stop cuts. To carve these curved surfaces, particularly the concave I have always used gouges because bent knives don't seem to be readily available in Australia.

Now while I agree with the wise notion people often express about tools, that is; always purchase the best you can afford. Experimenting with cheap options has provided me with some of my favourite, most used tools.

So it was that I found, by disregarding the appropriateness of steel types and 'best you can afford' advice, an eventual swag of useful tools that I used extensively on this project. To find the source of raw material for making these tools (little experience required) go to the fourth drawer in the kitchen, gravitated to the bottom of the drawer are the no-longer-Tele-marketer-offered stainless steel.., steak knives.

With shortened blades roughly ground to shapes of various geometry and then sharpened on various abrasive papers and finally honed and polished they can then be, a bit randomly, wrapped in a cloth for safety and bent with round-nosed pliers to a variety of sweeps.

With these knives being as cheap as they are, apart from the time spent preparing them, you can experiment with all kinds of shapes for specialised tasks and utility compound shapes that can do most things.

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