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One of my favorite pieces Ive carved to date


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kia ora everybody this Is a Maori Manaia Pendant with paua shell inserts for the eyes

A Manaia symbolises the wind with the head of a bird (note the beak)

the earth with nthe arm of a man ( the three fingers symbolise 3 baskets of knowledge)

the Sea with the tail of a fish (this is a very stylised tail)


A Manaia represents good luck and a safe journey

this is beef bone and it has not ben bleached it measures 170mm long and about 55mm at widest point


Kia ora and live well



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Hello Maha,


You have created a piece with delicate areas from a stubborn material. I would like to make some constructive criticism comments, if you are willing to let me make them.


What tools are you using when carving and finishing?


Sure if you have any advice to help me on my journey that would be of help

I used a coping saw a dremel and an orbital sander to make this peice.


I finished it with wet and dry sand paper 400-800-1200

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The first thing that stands out to my eyes when viewing anyone's work is the quality of the line that defines the form. What I see with this piece is a line that wavers or makes slight direction changes where my eye expects it to be flowing and smooth.


Where the line is hidden by another part of the form as it passes behind or through the other part, my eye expects to see a continuous line from where it enters the other part of the form and where it exits or continues on.


When using only mechanical tools it is difficult to have absolute control on the outcome of the actions of the tool. As you progress with your work, learning to use a variety of tools, especially hand tools, to achieve the final form and details should be satisfying and exciting for you.


The tool concept that Stephen Myhre presents in his book is endlessly adaptable in size and in configuration. Small files, sandpaper adhered to thin strips of wood or tiny pieces glued to the angle-cut ends of toothpicks, various grits of fingernail sanding boards from the makeup area of stores, are a few tool ideas for use with surface definition. Files or stiff sanding boards will help to clean up a line or tame a lumpy surface.


Transitions between design elements that are one on top of another, can be treated in many ways ranging from smooth indistinct curves to an elegantly diminishing undercut that is much like what one sees in life. For example, put a finger on the back of your other hand and look at how the round fingertip is rounded and how your hand is fairly flat. That point of contact represents three different kinds of lines intersecting, enhanced with depth and with a shadow. The form of the area of contact creates the third line, in this case a round or oval shape that is smooth and clearly defined.


With the kind of carvings such as this one, another sort of transition may be what carvers are after. I have not had the opportunity to hold carvings inspired by your culture and history, so I will make the next statement out of an assumption. Other carvers should comment if you wish to help me understand more about it. In the line of transition between one design element and the next, is good to make a certain ending and beginning, and to make that line decisive and straight or curved without irregularity. It may be found in a 90° angle, or another angle that is greater or lesser between the two parts. I cannot see this aspect of your piece very well, so the above is made as more of a general concept that can be helpful with all kinds of carving.


Cutting a line with a motor tool is difficult to control to make it a smooth and straightly flowing line. It also leaves a rounded transition between design elements. In addition, when punching through to open a hole, the tool bit makes a strong circular hole. Making a clean and convincing line of distinction requires hand tools to take away the little arc of material that motor tools leave behind. Hand tools can remove or modify the obvious mark of the power tool, which leaves a perfect circle or arc, that may be too strong for its neighboring design elements.


Perfect circles can be powerful elements in a design. An imperfect circle can diminish the impact of a composition when the intention may rather have been to add a perfect circle.


Power tools have a useful role to play with carving in this century. For taking the step towards exquisite results, learning to use hand tools with the detail work will set one's work apart from work that is rapidly completed with motor tools alone.


It is good that the delicate points in this Manaia are connected to or surrounded by the stronger body of the design. I also like how the beak and tail direct the eye around the piece, such as the beak to the lower outer curve that then brings the eye to the shell element and tail. The tail sends the eye up towards the arm and then the movement begins again with the head and beak. In planning a design, it is good to be aware of how various parts can be very influential in directing the eye towards or away from elements of the design. Movement within the piece is one aspect of planning a composition.


In this Manaia, the placement of the arm seems disconnected from the flowing movement of the rest of the composition. It sticks out and seems incongruent with the rest of the design. I wonder if in another rendition of this theme the arm could be more in harmony with the style of the other elements, which are curvaceous and direct one's eye back into the movement of the whole piece, or placed more within the flow of the other elements.


Or conversely, consider the muscular look of the arm and make a design to be more masculine overall. To me, now that I look again at the various parts of this piece, the main form has a feminine shape, and the arm looks masculine, with abrupt fingers that look like a trident rather than fingers. There are so many ways to express ideas. There are other things that I could write about, but this is enough for now.


Thank you for being willing to let me make mention of my observations.


Kindest regards,



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Thank you very much for your valuble advice I will definitely Keep a closer eye on my lines and circles and the depth of shadow from now on.

I would like to learn the art of chiseling on bone and wonder if any one out there can tell me what I need and how to do it perhaps that may help me fine up my lines and help me with my transitions and definnig depth and undercut

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Hello Maha,


I must confess that I have not carved bone with my tools. The following video shows some tools being used on boxwood. Most of the carving action on very dense woods, tusk and perhaps bone is more of a scraping action rather than carving with chisel or gouge.


Tool use video from Getting Started And Resources forum area on TCP


I did this video in 2007, as a way to show a little bit of how I use Stephen Myhre style tools. As I watched it again this evening, I am reminded that the carving demo includes other tools as well. Overall it now seems like an awkward little video, but it was my first one. I promise that if I do another demo video, it will be better and more to the point. We learn with everything that we do.




P.S. Stephen M.'s tools were designed by a bone carver with using bone in mind. I use my left hand thumb as a fulcrum with many of the sorts of cutting motions. This is also a technique that Japanese carvers use. It is a very natural technique to use.

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