In this blog we want to share with you about tips every woodcarver should know. For you to be more effective in your work. But in process you will have your own tips in this art.
Tips every woodcarver should know
1. Don’t carve away large chunks of wood at once
Regardless of what you’re working on, start carving carefully.
When we say don’t carve away large chunks of wood at wood, we don’t mean the additional wood surrounding your figure drawing. For example, if you’re working on a spoon, go ahead and get rid of the additional wood surrounding the sketch of the spoon you’ve drawn on your wood blank.
That said, once you’ve gotten rid of the excess and are starting with the actual carving, it’s always best to start small. This applies no matter whether you’re a beginner at carving or have been carving for decades, this piece of advice holds true.
If you’re a beginner, you may have been told there’s no such thing as taking off too much wood. However, logic should tell you that’s not the case – if you take off too much wood, you’ll soon find you don’t have enough material left to complete your piece. By starting small, you reduce this from happening.
Additionally, carving small slices reduces the risk of mistakes that will lead to you scrapping the entire project. You’re unlikely to push your knife in too deep or accidentally cut off a section of your sketch that you didn’t intend to.
So, while taking your time and staying slow and steady may lead to your project taking longer to complete, the math shows that it’s worth it – you won’t have to spend additional time redoing it because you made a mistake that could not be fixed.
2. Learn proportions
This piece of advice holds no matter whether you want to specialize in carving humans, animals, or objects.
Getting your proportions right helps make your projects more believable. This doesn’t just apply to carvers who want to work on realistic pieces but also to those who are working on a more unique style.
For example, if you watch an animated television show or movie, you’ll notice the characters – though often utterly unrealistic – are usually proportionate. Their eyes are lined up, their arms are the same length, and so on.
This is because proportion helps things look more attractive to our eyes. This is true no matter whether we’re looking at another person or simply a random object in the room.
Consider a baseball, for example. When you picture a baseball, you likely instinctively know what the proportions of the red stitching are. You know where it needs to be placed, roughly how thick it should be, and so on.
If someone hands you a baseball that’s clearly off-proportion, you’ll notice – and you’ll almost certainly find that the replacement is not as aesthetic as the original. Again, this is because of how our mind sees proportions.
3. Start with the largest chip when chip carving
When you’re working on a chip carving project, you should ideally sketch your design our first – freehanding chip carving can be extremely challenging, even for experienced carvers.
Once you’re done with the sketch, it’s time to move on to the actual carving. For best results, start with cutting out the largest chip first. This is because smaller chips are easier to mess up – by the time you’ve worked on the biggest piece, you’ll have a feel for how deep you’re carving the piece, and it will be easier to keep things uniform when you get to the more challenging areas.
Another thing to keep in mind when chip carving is that your hand will need to be in contact with the piece at all times while you’re working. Make sure you’re seated comfortably, and if the piece is small enough, consider placing it on your lap while working to make carving easier.
4. Don’t shy away from the mallet
One of the biggest challenges carvers have with their tools is with using their mallets. Tons of woodcarvers are concerned about using their mallets and worried that they will swing it with too much force and damage their projects.
The fact is, mallets are a necessary part of every carver’s arsenal, especially if they’re using hand tools. Certain hardwoods, like oak and cherry, will take forever to work on without effective use of the mallet. If the wood you’re working on is even harder than those, mallets will be a lifesaver.
Before you start working on a new type of wood, always order a bit of scrap along with your main blanks. That scrap will essentially function as your tester – you can experiment with using your mallet to determine how much strength you need to put into it.
Remember, mallets are also used on softwoods, so getting a sense of how much of the mallet each type of wood needs will help prevent any unsalvageable mishaps.
5. Know how hard your wood is
Here’s the thing about wood – the harder it is, the more challenging it is to work with, especially for novice woodworkers.
Knowing how hard a given species of wood is (or should be) will make it easy for you to decide which wood you should be working with. Novice woodworkers won’t make the mistake of ordering something like Australian Buloke (the hardest wood in the world), and more experienced woodworkers will be able to determine which wood is right for their next project.
The best way of knowing the hardness of a wood is by looking at its Janka rating. The Janka scale is the most commonly accepted measure of the hardness of wood – the higher the Janka rating, the harder the wood.
As you can see, the hardness varies a lot from the lower end to the higher end. The relative softness of the wood is why it’s recommended that beginners start with basswood or butternut, rather than something like black walnut and apple – while the latter two have a deeper color, they’re also much more challenging to work with.
6. Find your style
Wood carving is not a single, homogenous style of art. In fact, there are four major subcategories of wood carving – chip carving, carving in the round, whittling, and relief carving.
Chip Carving: Essentially involves chipping away at the wood blank to create a pattern. It can also be used to create statues and is often used to enhance other objects, like boxes and plates.
Carving in the Round: This is the style that most carvers use. Though it says “in the round,” it’s essentially anything that is carved in three dimensions, from object to humans and realistic to abstract.
Whittling: Likely the oldest type of wood carving, this style involves making sharp, texture cuts in a wood blank. The strokes are often visible on the final product, and whittling is generally done with a whittling knife (though some carvers may use something as simple as a pocket knife very effectively).
Relief Carving: In which the design is carved into the wood, usually on only one side of the blank. The design is usually carved so that it looks like it’s emerging from the wood, and the carver plays with perspective to try and fool the viewer that the wood has more depth than it actually has in reality. Some reliefs may also be carved to appear like they are sunken into the wood instead of emerging from it.
When choosing your carving style, it’s also important to think about what tools you want to use. If you prefer using hand tools, there’s no need to worry, and you’re free to choose as you like. However, not all carving styles are compatible with power tools – some are usually done using only hand tools.