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Matt O

How do you hold your work while roughing?

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I'm wondering how people secure their work during the roughing stage (starting from raw block)? I don't have access to power tools (other than a Dremel), so I'll be using hand saws. Is a bench vise the best way to go? On Janel's website, I see pictures of her using a bench vise while using a coping saw. Are there other options I should consider?

I poked around the archives using the search feature, but the threads about holding work all seemed to be with regard to later detail stages. I'm wondering specifically about initial roughing.

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Hi Matt

I am 73 and am careful about my back, so I want work at the right height.    I use a square garden fence post that goes into the vice on the bench.    In uk and i am sure else where, there are metal post holders see http://www.diy.com/departments/blooma-galvanised-steel-post-plate-support-l45mm-w45mm/1628530_BQ.prd?FPG_LHN_FPS_TL

I use this to the top of the fence post, and attaché the work to it directly through the holes provided if the work is big enough.     If the work is smaller, I use a piece of scrap wood screwed into the base of the work and then bolt the scrap wood to the metal post holder.    As the fence post is square, you can turn the post round in the vice easily, and approach the work from a different angle.

See my work on www.jawoodsculptor.co.uk

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Hi John,

Thanks for the info! That post holder is pretty clever. So your setup ends up looking something like this - - http://woodarchivist.com/569-carving-vise-plans/? Do you use an end vise like in that picture or a bench vise mounted to the top of your work surface? Do you think it would make a difference?

With that kind of setup, I'm wondering how to deal with small works that don't have a defined base area big enough to accomodate a screw, like a typical netsuke piece that's meant to be held and seen from all angles?

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I use poster-tacky stuff, the white kind, pressed onto the carving peg on my bench.  Other times, I use a leather, sand-filled bag.  Both methods require holding on to the piece while carving.  The carving peg alone, or the tacky stuff or the sand bag each backs up the piece so that one can push the tools without doing complete isometric exercises. 

Hope these help:

Old photo of poster tacky stuff in use:

horiz_jj_carving.jpg

 

Against a sand bag:

Janel Jacobson - Wood Carving

 

Bench support:

Janel Jacobson at the bench

 

Janel

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Janel,

Thanks for the info! That looks great for detail work but does that provide enough support when sawing? It seems like the piece might not be stable enough. On your website there are a couple of pictures of you sawing with the piece in a bench vise. Do you still use that in the early stages of roughing?

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Hi Matt,

Yes, a bench vise is useful when first sawing.  I also was eventually convinced to purchase a band saw.  It scares me, which is a good thing, but it also saves time and muscle fatigue when trying to cut a 4" diameter boxwood hunk into netsuke sized pieces.  Rough on the blade, but it has been helpful.  ALWAYS remember to keep your fingers away from the blade space.  I have a zone that is about four inches on either side of the blade that has broad diagonal lines (marker needs re-doing at times) to remind me of the zone.  I have a notched 1x2 length of wood that is used for pushing the wood, and I also have wood clamps when a piece needs to be grasped instead of just pushed through the cut.  It takes planning but I still have all of my fingers intact.

Janel

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A ‘new’ holding tool for the studio.  
About twenty years ago I was given a brand new tool (first image - manufactured circa mid-1960′s) still in the original cardboard box but without any paperwork. I had seen one of these holding devices when I was an undergraduate and put it on my maybe-someday (when I have lots of money) list of tools to buy. So when I was given a thirty-year-old but never-been-used Pow-R-Arm I was excited.  I went out and bought some hydraulic oil to fill the piston chamber and then discovered the two rubber seals were dry-rotted and the piston would not hold pressure. After checking the local hardware and plumbing stores for replacement seals to no avail I sent a letter with a drawing of the seals to Wilton asking for replacement parts for the #303 and never got a reply. Shortly after I packed the tool up put it on a bottom shelf in the studio and forgot about it.  

Twenty years later dealing with a small termite infestation in the studio I had to take out some old wooden shelves and rediscovered the tool under about a half-inch of dust. After taking care of the termite problem I decided I might try to re-engineer the Pow-R-Arm tool and make it work with some machined clamping since the hydraulic was not workable, and added a couple of mechanical screw locks on the pivoting ball. But I also decided to try for replacement parts from Wilton again, but this time on the internet — a resource which I had not had twenty years ago.  Sure enough, I was able to find the tool (current price brand new a bit over $430) and the page indicated replacement parts were available but the parts web-links on the Wilton site did not work.  I called their customer service department up and a very patient and diligent employee spent about 45 minutes while I was on the phone to figure out what was wrong with their website and help me. He couldn’t fix the website, but he did finally dig out a paper copy of the parts-list (last printed in 1973) to get the part number for the replacement seals so I could order them.  The parts with shipping and handling charges included were about $70.  Pretty steep, but after all the time invested on the phone I figured if I could get my ‘free’ $430 tool working it would be worth it, so I ordered the parts and waited for them to arrive. 

Meanwhile, as the tool comes from the factory ‘as-is’ it is not usable as a holding device — no sort of clamping jaws or brackets included except for the two threaded holes in the pivoting bracket to accept a pair of 5/16″ bolts. These two bolts are intended to attach user-made custom-fabricated brackets to hold to the workpiece. The brackets are custom-made to suit the specific holding needs of the end user of the tool — some users attach a small machinist’s vise, others attach a wooden-jawed handscrew, or others weld-up custom brackets with holes for attaching the work piece with screws. As I planned on using the tool to hold a variety of small sculptural workpieces (from netsuke-sized carvings to full-size wearable wooden masks with weights less than 10 lbs. each) I did all of above, as well as made a ten-inch extension arm for use with the three screw-on brackets I’d made to hold wood for carving. The netsuke-carving bracket was made from an old chrome-plated zinc-alloy plumbing fitting.  I also made a larger/heavier base (laminated a 2-inch thick marble slab between sheets of plywood, with 2x4 feet) to increase the overall tool weight by 25 lbs. so the tool would be stable even if not screwed down to the benchtop (I have three worktables in my studio so I wanted it portable).  After using it a couple of times I modified the handscrew so it could be inserted into the vise without slipping by cutting a groove in the butt end to fit over the vise jaw slide -- this allowed for quick changes between soft jaw work or using the steel vise jaws. I also glued some leather tips on the handscrew jaws to soften the clamp for when working delicate materials — like the alabaster rabbit.  Fabricated as well was a bracket similar to the netsuke bracket but with a larger faceplate. Designing and fabricating the parts out of material already in the studio took me about three days, and by the time I’d finished the modifications the seals arrived. Installed them and I had a great new piece of studio equipment.  Sure wish I had it to use twenty years ago …

Pow-R-Arm303_specs_474.jpg

Pow-R-Arm_large bracket.jpg

Pow-R-Arm with handscrew.jpg

tumblr_inline_ootlritMV91qcaqys_500.jpg

modified handscrew in vise_550.jpg

alabaster_leather-jaws_mod_500.jpg

DiskAttachment_500.jpg

tumblr_inline_ootkhk1Jzg1qcaqys_500.jpg

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By the way; I came across a number of these tools posted on the internet — mostly to show the user-crafted attachments they had made, but a few used ones were listed as for sale on ebay for half of the list price or less  -- but usually over $100 US.  I think Wilton started making these back in the 1940s.  Many of the postings were from gunsmiths and they all have the Pow-R-Arm permanently attached to their workbenches.  In addition to the hydraulic version Wilton makes (or made) a slightly less-expensive version with a lever-arm mechanical locking device. There are also similar tools made by other manufacturers, generally somewhat smaller in scale, mechanically locked, and supplied with a ready-to-use bracket for attaching your wood carving block (seems to be aimed at the duck decoy carver market).   

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