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ScottRoush

From Northern Wisconsin... And Stuck.

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Hi folks.. I'm a swordsmith and I've been utilizing this forum on and off for years but have hesitated to contribute as I haven't been certain as to whether or not I want to commit to carving. Well I'm now getting to a point in which the carving is all I really want to do. :-) The works of Janel Jacobsen, Natasha Popova, Jim Kelso and Jake Powning keep me up at night. Right now I feel like I'm at a sort of turning point.. but am stuck with my current methods. I feel like I'm lacking the 'cleanliness' that I love in the folks that I just listed. Intuitively... I feel like my original 'plan' may be lacking.. which gets me off on the wrong foot. And then I get confronted with what seems like an endless finishing process.. where I'm always finding something 'wrong'.. and then addressing it and causing a cascade of issues. I'm also really frustrated with making thin, clean, curvy lines!

 

My main tools are small Sloyd type knives, chisels, scapers (one style I learned from Tom Sterling) and the hisage scraper used in Japanese metal work. I use very fine burrs on my rotary tools for some tasks.. but at this point... those things get me in trouble.

 

Here are some things that show where I'm at right now. The first is a current project in which I'm stuck. Not happy with the cleanliness of the lines.

 

12193658_974655495909205_6056067916381318201_n.jpg?oh=b6af41d760dcab87d0527e0a27f7f5d1&oe=56F7EABB

 

SAR0034.jpg

 

20150929_100217-2.jpg

 

Anyway... I have pretty high aspirations for this endeavor and am hoping this forum can help point me to the next level....

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Oh I should include this boxwood treefrog... very much inspired by Janel. :-)

 

port1.jpg

 

And also.. my first serious attempt at carving.... an attempt at an utsushi of a classic netsuke. Looking this now... I realize it's lacking in life and I should dig it out and work with it again:

 

IMG_5694.jpg

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Hi Scott,

 

Thank you for posting and for describing the work that you admire, and for illuminating the frustrations you have encountered.

 

Tools can be freeing and limiting, as can the choice of wood or other materials for carving. Clean lines and fine details are not easy or possible to achieve when using an uneven or open grained wood. Power tools have their place in this modern world, but not for detail and straight lines on small pieces. My aversion to them for those things might change if I spent a long time trying to understand what might be possible. There is very little room for error, and error happens very quickly with power. I prefer hand tools for many reasons.

 

Keeping tools well sharp is important. Learning to choose the right tool for the intended purpose, and working with the grain is a balancing act for sure.

 

[The recently completed piece on my bench was a constant reminder of that. For half of the carving I felt like I was trying to carve while standing on my head (different story for another time).]

 

So far your work you have has not included such hard to reach places as mentioned above. For you, trying to carve parallel and curving lines and hoping for perfection has been the challenge if I infer that from your posts. I would choose a wood with an even, closed grain and then test scraps to see how it responds to the tools that you use. After shaping the piece being carved to your satisfaction I would then draw the lines on the wood and make the initial line cuts carefully with an appropriately sized and angled, and very well sharpened V tool. I would be watchful to sense the grain and cut only with the grain, turning the piece when the tool reaches the change in grain point. Setting out with clean straight lines makes a great difference to the outcome. Rounding the edges of the raised area between the groves would be done carefully as well, by using a scraper of one sort or another, very sharp and done with the grain. Scraping, not cutting, producing fine shavings. Patience is necessary. Fine sanding may be all that is needed to complete the work, although with the sharpest scrapers, 400 or 600 grit would be reasonable choices for the slight need for evening the surface a bit more. The scraper technique can be quite a successful surface finisher, using a very sharp and fine edge with very light strokes with the grain.

 

If I could look over your shoulder while you are carving, or vice-versa, there could be lots of unspoken knowledge exchanged.

 

Janel

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Thank you very much Janel... I agree that part of my issue might be the very first lines that I put down. When I first started the work in the first image.. I used a tiny straight chisel using downward pressure to l lay out. But I've since bought a 1/16" v-tool (from Hida Tools) that might end up being a big help. However... I think part of my issue might be the conceptualization of the theme BEFORE putting the lines down. That is something that is probably not easy to get help with. I think that now that I'm planning to participate in this forum... that maybe the design sub-forum might be a good place to bounce ideas before I commit things to wood?

 

Also.. I'm very much learning the lessons on the wood choice. This current project necessitated the use of ancient bog yew.. and past projects keep involving a Lake Superior salvaged white oak that is very much like bog oak. These woods have an appeal due to their history.. but .. now that I've tasted boxwood... well, they don't carve easy. This bog yew for example.. I've never met a wood that is more finicky with regards to tooling and grain direction.

 

I also suspect that since many of my tools I make myself... that the edge geometries might not be optimal and most likely not sharp enough.

 

Anyway.. thank for the note.. and I'm looking forward to better utilizing this amazing resource you have here. As I alluded to above.. my aspirations are starting to shoot higher and higher. Likely I need some help. :-)

 

 

Hi Scott,

 

Thank you for posting and for describing the work that you admire, and for illuminating the frustrations you have encountered.

 

Tools can be freeing and limiting, as can the choice of wood or other materials for carving. Clean lines and fine details are not easy or possible to achieve when using an uneven or open grained wood. Power tools have their place in this modern world, but not for detail and straight lines on small pieces. My aversion to them for those things might change if I spent a long time trying to understand what might be possible. There is very little room for error, and error happens very quickly with power. I prefer hand tools for many reasons.

 

Keeping tools well sharp is important. Learning to choose the right tool for the intended purpose, and working with the grain is a balancing act for sure.

 

[The recently completed piece on my bench was a constant reminder of that. For half of the carving I felt like I was trying to carve while standing on my head (different story for another time).]

 

So far your work you have has not included such hard to reach places as mentioned above. For you, trying to carve parallel and curving lines and hoping for perfection has been the challenge if I infer that from your posts. I would choose a wood with an even, closed grain and then test scraps to see how it responds to the tools that you use. After shaping the piece being carved to your satisfaction I would then draw the lines on the wood and make the initial line cuts carefully with an appropriately sized and angled, and very well sharpened V tool. I would be watchful to sense the grain and cut only with the grain, turning the piece when the tool reaches the change in grain point. Setting out with clean straight lines makes a great difference to the outcome. Rounding the edges of the raised area between the groves would be done carefully as well, by using a scraper of one sort or another, very sharp and done with the grain. Scraping, not cutting, producing fine shavings. Patience is necessary. Fine sanding may be all that is needed to complete the work, although with the sharpest scrapers, 400 or 600 grit would be reasonable choices for the slight need for evening the surface a bit more. The scraper technique can be quite a successful surface finisher, using a very sharp and fine edge with very light strokes with the grain.

 

If I could look over your shoulder while you are carving, or vice-versa, there could be lots of unspoken knowledge exchanged.

 

Janel

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