Letter wood carving
The design of the layout has to be created and drawn out carefully to size. Spacing between the letters is critical with most letter fonts and with some, more than spacing is involved. A balance between letters whose shape and size vary has to be considered and arranged. Then there is also the addition of carved images to decorate and to enhance or emphasize the message.
Writing the lettering to size can work, however, the photocopier will enlarge the writing to suit your particular project.
- Maintain V-tools at peak sharpness—slicing easily through newspaper is a good test.
- Don’t use timber which is too hard—the more force you need to use, the more likely you are to slip into an overrun.
- Practise first. This applies to all the techniques described here. Use a board of the same timber you will be using and execute a range of straight lines, and shallow and tight curves.
- To maintain control it’s important to keep your hand in very firm contact with the surface of the wood while gripping the chisel close to the blade.
- Keep the V-tool vertical taking care with curves and not leaning like a motor bike around a speedway corner. The V-tool will crush the outer curve on tight corners if care is not taken to keep it from leaning into the curve.
- Cut smoothly and avoid rocking horse cuts.
- It is fine to cut the tight corners lightly then go over them, in fact you can do this all along if you like to be sure. Use the wider angle of the palm tool to open up cuts where appropriate.
- The path of a letter will lead the V-tool into changes of grain direction. Pre-plan your cuts so letters may be completed with a number of cuts in opposing directions to counter the effect of an edge cutting against the grain.
- Prepare the background before carving lettering.
Knife work tips
- Once again keep tools extremely sharp.
- I generally use knives of the kind shown above left with shortish blades that are slightly angled.
- Basically, I use two positions depending on the grain direction. When cutting towards oneself the knife is gripped with the thumb beside the blade and in firm contact with the surface of the wood. When cutting curves the blade pivots on the side of the thumb which is pressed into the wood. When cutting away the hand is still pressed to the surface of the wood and both thumbs are behind the blade powering the cut.
- Cut the centre line of letters first, then slice into the centre line from both edges or walls of the letter to form an incised V.
- Good lighting is critical.
- It’s important to mount projects so they can be readily swivelled so each cut can be made from a favourable position. In some cases the project can be hand held.
Letter carving tools
- Bent skew chisels and grounders for carving the interior of the letters.
- Flat chisels for straight line cutting.
- Tools at hand for incised carving.
- Chisels are good for carving the curves of incised letters.