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

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Big Dragon Lovespoon WIP

The Big Dragon Lovespoon has been restarted in curly cherry, finished and posted to its destination. The setback led to a concentrated effort, that together with other regular commitments, left no time for the blog posts that I had hoped to keep up with.

Montage of finished 'Big Dragon Lovespoon'

What follows in the next few posts will be a step by step account of the carving and finishing of this lovespoon using the progress photos I was able to take. I will begin with the carving of the chain links at the top of the love spoon that I recorded during the failed NSW rosewood version. Then I will continue with a step by step showing of the final cherry version. 

Plan view of links marked out

The plan view of the love spoon’s chain links, is generally set out on the original design pattern as shown here. Or it can be added to the top hanging loop on the spoon later, if the carving blank is long enough to accommodate this feature. 

The main reason I have for adding chain links is often because useable timber ‘is simply there to use’… And, to be honest.., I think I have an irrational, almost-surfacing, but largely subconscious, feeling, that lovespoons have to include something in the nature of; chains, swivels or caged balls – They don’t! And some of the best designs will stand boldly apart ‘sans-tricks’, having beauty consisting in an essential integrity of design as their only credential. 

However chains etc are often requested, I have a deliberate, conscious, child-like fascination for them (just kind of like the look of them), and they usually do no harm to a design. Be warned however lest chain links, swivels and cages fetter you, the carver, to a bondage and self-conscious manoeuvring conformity that, just has to, render payment due, to self-invented rules! 

The plan view of the links is laid out to accommodate removal of the waste with as much room as you can get for the tools you will use. The size and shape of the links will determine this and the thickness of the timber blank will in turn determine limits for the shape, proportion and wall thickness of the links. 

This particular carving blank was a generous, one inch plus thickness and you will see a difference in the final finished lovespoon, carved from the thinner three quarter inch cherry blank.

Interior cuts made

The interior spaces are then next to attend and are sawn out if you are using a scroll saw or fret saw or cut away gradually, if chisel or knife is used. The advantage of a scrollsaw over a hand held fret saw is a more readily made vertical cut. In this thickness of timber I think cutting a deep mortise all the way through in careful increments with a knife or chisel, would be the safer, though time consuming, option apart from using a scroll saw. Because a wandering-from-vertical fret saw cut, could cost you in terms of wall thickness. Even with the scroll saw I have cut just outside the line, to keep as much material as possible for finishing finely at the end.

Horizontal links wall thickness and surrounding waste marked out

Now that the top view of the links have been cut, the centre line and thickness of the horizontal links can be marked in. The waste is indicated with hatched lines before removal after which the marking out of the joining links' shape and thickness can be done .

Waste cut away

Here the waste has been removed, revealing the solid rectangles of timber that will be the joining links when their interior spaces are ‘mortised’ out. Mark the wall thickness from the outside edge on these links, leaving as much material as possible, while still allowing tool access between the inner wall face of these links and the outer face of the horizontal links. These joining links will be shaped to fit within the rectangles of timber. 

The original thickness of the timber blank and the wall thickness of the links will determine how far from rectangle to circle or eclipse you can go when shaping the links. The closer to round, the thinner the walls must be. There are gains and losses to be had in the decisions made about the various chain-link attributes. Thin walls mean you can go ‘rounder’ and you have more tool-room to manoeuvre within. But with thin walls the links will be more delicate, have more short grain areas in need of delicate, careful working and they have a greater risk of breakage. 

This more delicate love spoon design has thinner walled links but the joining links are still fairly rectangular

Some Timbers will be strong enough to enable delicate design and delicacy could be a feature worth striving for, but I have opted for, as robust a design as can be had, in this instance and that means difficulties will tend toward getting sufficient tool access and the joining links will be rounded rectangles in shape. Having limited tool access can also ironically, end in thinner walled links, as the walls are in risk of being scarified by tools plied in tight recesses and they have to be cleaned up by removing material, making them thinner. So it is a matter of walking a carefully considered path around; visual design, mechanical design, material, tools and ease of working.

Remaining waste being removed

When there is not much room to move with your regular tools it is often necessary to fashion your own purpose made tools to make the job easier. I have written up the simple process for making such tools from cheap materials like music wire, in earlier posts. With whatever small chisels, knives and scalpels will get the work done remove all the waste carefully and gradually, trying to leave as thick an unmarred wall on the links as possible.

The joining remnants of waste material should be left strategically as you fashion the links, to keep them steady and more easily worked upon, until the last moment before they are released. Choose according to your working sequence when you will cut the final connecting fibres right through to leave a freely moving piece which is difficult to work on. 

It is tempting to get the links free as soon as possible but a long game is best for getting to smooth, fair shaped, nicely finished links that aren’ a pain to keep effective hold of. For this reason also avoid snapping the last fibres at each final separation aiming instead at cleanly cutting each link free.

Shaped links

When all the waste has been removed the links can be refined in shape with needle files and abrasives until a smooth fair shape and surface is ready for preparatory and final finishing.

The work shown here was carried out on the NSW Rosewood version of the lovespoon carving before a large unsound portion of the carving blank meant starting again. The next posts will continue with the final curly cherry version of this Lovespoon.