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How do you hold your carving?


kwinn

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I'm fascinated to see how other carvers organize their workspace. Specifically, when you are carving a small piece, how do you hold or support the carving?

 

Janel - I've noticed in pictures on your website (like this one) that you seem to have a large block of wood topped with a big glob of white stuff. Is that some kind of clay? Can you tell us more about it?

 

I've developed my own style in this regard as well, and that is to use a car-washing sponge. I use the kind that has one flat side, and the other side tapers down on both ends from a peak in the middle. This makes a very comfortable rest for both wrists with the work positioned in the middle. For small pieces, I usually add a second sponge underneath to raise the work and avoid back strain. The sponge is flexible so It tends to help hold the piece once you push down a little. This setup has worked well for me, but I'm thinking I want something that is a little firmer for doing small work on very hard material.

 

So everyone, let's hear what you use to hold your work in progress.

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Thanks for the topic and for asking! I wondered when this question would be raised :lol:

 

In office/school supplies you might find yellow, blue or white poster tacky sticky stuff. I use the white stuff and did finally remember to notice the brand name: Elmer's. It is handy for quite a while, until it dries out and/or too much of the sawdusts are kneaded in.

 

It is handy in various ways. I put a little bit on the end of a short skewer stick to hold tiny inlay pieces, that gets set into a smaller blob back on the carving peg, for one instance.

 

Nice frog! What is the material? Aren't they fun?!

 

Janel

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I hold carvings in my hand when I work on them with knife and chisels. I've found that often, especially with fine line engraving and gouge work, it is actually the left hand (holding the carving) that moves and rotates while the right hand with the tool stays rigid.

Wood engravers (for printing) use a similar technique where the boxwood endgrain rotates beneath a rigidly held burin. Maybe some of the metal engravers can comment if this manner is used in their work. You can get much smoother curves this way.

 

I've tried resting/bracing the piece both in a vise and on a block of wood and I fine myself still turning the piece so often that it's a hassle to loosen and tighten the vise.

 

When I need a bit more support I'll brace my left hand against my left knee- I sit cross legged on the floor, so this isn't too much of a stretch. Speaking of stretching, I once was polishing a piece with a cord covered in abrasive powder- needing a third hand (one to hold the piece, two to grasp the cord and run it back and forth through the hollow) I realized I could hold the carving with my toes :lol:

My wife walked in and now I'm sure she thinks I'm completely nuts -looking like a circus contortionist :D

 

-Doug

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Thanks Janel for the info on the "poster tacky sticky stuff". I'm going to go find some today, and then I'll find a wood block to plop it on.

 

The frog is carved in Cherry -- my first time using Cherry. It is a pretty wood and fairly hard, but it splinters too willingly. I'm going to polish and wax it, and I think it'll give quite a nice finish. I'll post pictures when its done, but at the rate I work, that won't be for several more weeks at least.

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This is interesting!

 

I have seen photographs in books about contemporary Japanese netsuke-shi sitting on the floor also. I recall seeing a heavy block of wood as a base, with a peg affixed to it for pressing against. It is interesting to see your confessions about sitting on the floor! What fun!

 

The cedar 4 x 4 is screwed to the table top from underneath the table. I sit on an office chair that is adjustable, and never considered sitting on the floor for real. I looked at the photographs and acknowledged the difference. My furniture for tools needed while carving are all up at chair height.

 

Bravo for standing! Some potters stand while throwing, and I did while throwing tall pots, but only my old workbench is tall enough for standing at. I have succombed to the existing furniture to choose the way I work at carving!

 

I am quite interested in going to the studio and trying the holding in hand, turning the wood while holding the tool stationary.

 

There are so many things to learn, even still! Thanks!

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As Katfen suggests, hand-holding can take some strength. If there are periods where I don't carve much (a month of so) , my hands feel tight and cramped the next day after strarting up again. As for sitting on the floor- I've notice that when I'm in a chair, I get fatigued faster- maybe for me, I can put more leverage into things, or move and twist my back more (when cross legged) which keeps things revitalized. I don't seem to wound myself too often.. :lol:

 

It does take some getting used to, as well as flexibility in the hips. Oh- and my work bench is about 12" high... I'll use the bench of course for things like sawing, cutting inlays, scribing, some engraving, etc.

I get the feeling I use a knife more than others- this way I can get away with hand holding for a lot longer than if you switch to saws, files or big gouges (1/2"+) right away.

 

Doug

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I have that vise, tried it, it's good, but I can't work that way.  I gave it to my husband for his work.  I need to have the mobility of constantly changing the position of the carving.  There's still a problem of clamping and unclamping with the pin vise.  Although, if one is doing small relief carvings, or jewelery pieces, this vise would be very good for that.  It's a quality tool, but it's always a matter of how one likes to work.

 

Kathleen

I also carve in my hand as I am constantly moving and rotating carving. working from spot to spot, looking at it keeping it balanced. Even large antler pieces. and small soapstone etc. I will clamp them in a workmate bench for roughing out. Of course I can be quite manic when I am working. Never stay still. Its bad enough having to stop and change bits.

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  • 4 months later...

Hey there!

I just joined the forum so I'm browsing through the topics to see what I can learn, or add to. This is one I can talk to. My husband gave me the Lee Valley pin vise for Christmas, a lovely thought, but I've never used it. I have to move the work too much. I sit at a desk, regular height, and support the work (mostly small antler and bone jewelry) on a post stand of wood that I stole from our cabinetry shop. We called it a "horse", but I don't know if that applies anywhere else. This stand brings the work to about nose height, and I rest my elbows on the desk. It's been interesting to read about how other carvers work!

Lana Klassen

Bonewalk

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...... I have to move the work too much. I sit at a desk, regular height, and support the work (mostly small antler and bone jewelry) on a post stand of wood that I stole from our cabinetry shop. We called it a "horse", but I don't know if that applies anywhere else. This stand brings the work to about nose height, and I rest my elbows on the desk. ....

 

 

Hi Lana

Any chance of a pic of your set-up?

 

Cheers

Mike

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I see that I only gave part of the description. I've answered it elsewhere, but it is good to know...

 

Elmer's brand Tac and Stick ( something like that ) a white putty-like material. I take half or the whole package, knead the wad, then stick it to the end of the cedar carving peg described in the above post. Keeps the little darlings from slipping away when I am carving.

 

Janel

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Hi, Mike

Sorry, am currently not digital photo capable. And I've never had a reason to take a regular pic of my work set-up. I'm pretty isolated here in Manitoba, center of Canada, and there are no other carvers in my medium that I know of close by. I'm looking to get a digital camera, and will post work set-up and finished work pics when I can. Thanks for the interest!

Lana

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Janel,

 

Just wanted to follow up with a thank-you for sharing the idea of using the tacky putty to hold small work. I used some of this tacky-stuff when I was was shaping the Ebony eye pegs for a frog I carved recently (pics posted a while back on this forum). This stuff really works!

 

Kelly

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I got some of the poster tacky stuff too and it does hold stuff well. It was a bit of a problem getting it all off when I turned the piece over. It didn't stick permanently, but it took some time.

 

Unable to leave well enough alone, I kneaded in some Sculpty polymer clay to the tacky. It blends nicely and did reduce the tendancy to stick as much. I am still playing with the ratios. It is helpful to use different colors so you can see how well it is blended.

 

Great idea Janel.

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:lol: Yours must be really new! I find it looses some tack and knead-ability with age sitting in the drawer (I buy several and use them over time). It also looses those qualities as it is used, that is if you let it receive some carving debris as you work.

 

Mean while, your solution is a new one to me, and is very interesting! Sounds fun.

 

Janel

 

 

PS kwinn, I just realized that I didn't compliment you on your dust collector, I have one like it as well. Not perfection, but does work at variable speeds and will be a quiet negative breeze when I am sanding and want the dust to go sideways instead of up. I have just used up the last of the expensive filters that are made for the unit. I purchase others at a large everything hardware store, and put multiple filters in the front and tape them onto the back, hoping to catch as many particles as possible.

 

I have seen images of other kinds of dust collectors, and some day might make a move to acquiring one that does not sit on the bench top, just the end of a flexible hose trap... $$$ later.

 

J

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  • 5 months later...
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Lee Valley tools sells a pin vise (tagua nut optional  :) )  I've never tried one myself, but perhaps someone on the forum has...

 

Doug

 

I have a Peg Vice. It is usful for some work. The wodden handel can be removed and there is a small square plate on the bottom of the clamp which can be held in a small vice ( I hope the attached picture is correct size and shows this plate). The result is a poor man's engravers block.

 

I made "bumpers" for the pegs out of high molecular weight plastic that I purchased from Woodcraft. I find that it holds the piece better. You could make bumpers out of Neopreme (spelling ?) tubing or rubber.

 

E. George

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I would imagine holding your work in one hand and the tool in the other would invite disaster if/when the tool/piece were to slip :blink:;) . While at the Campbell Folk Arts school last year, I noticed they had a Kevlar glove (right or left handed) for carvers. For folks who hand-hold, I should think these bulletproof gloves would be just the thing.

 

Ralph

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  • 2 years later...
  • 1 month later...

I either hold my piece in hand, or I use a sandbag I made.

My sandbag is made from deerskin suede, smooth side out on one side, suede side out on the other. It's double sewn and filled about halfway with fine white beach sand. Works really well and was easy to make.

 

I'll try to take some pics of it later.

 

LJ

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That sandbag sounds like a very good idea! Photos would be good. Thanks for the tip.

 

Janel

 

Here ya go:

 

(Disclaimer- these pics are quick. The bed of my papercutter was used to give an idea of scale.)

 

 

Here it is in action. (The little pendant is reconstituted plum sugalite. A travel protection amulet. I'll probably post pics when it's done.)

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Here it is laid out flat. You can see that it's not very thick this way, and that I sometimes use it to support stuff that's being buffed with the dremel, thus the black marks.

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I stood it up with the sand to one end to give you a better idea of how it's filled. If it was totally full, you wouldn't be able to adjust the firmness, and it would be very easy to break, which would get sand EVERYWHERE.

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Here it is folded the way I use it. How tightly it's folded controls firmness, so that a small piece can have a firmer base, and a larger piece a softer, more cradling base to work on. This also lets you see how the one side is smooth and the other is sueded. It could be made with suede out on both sides just as easily.

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If someone wants me to make them a bag like this, PM me. I'd be willing to either trade for materials or do it for just my materials cost. They're pretty easy to make for yourself, however. Just be careful not to use leather that's too thin. For chisel work, I'd suggest fairly thick suede as insurance against slips.

 

Hope this sheds some light on it,

LJ

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