This was a gift for my daughter’s art teacher as he is moving on at the end of this term. I call it keeper of the pearl; if you look really close you might spot the ‘pearl’. There’s a tiny ball that is completely free moving carved inside the dragon’s mouth. I was really pleased with this one; only about 12″ long, it was quite a challenging carve, especially the head, where the eyes are only 3mm long and 2mm high, but it came together very nicely.
This is a little acanthus scroll trailboard for a Victorian launch restoration, currently at the tweak and finish stage. The turn at the bow end is a little too oval, but otherwise it’s coming together nicely. The thing that really makes a deep relief like this ‘pop’ is to undercut it. Undercutting is done to take the sides of the design out of sight. It is important that this is not overdone or the edges will be weakened. It is also important the back of the carving keeps in contact with the hull; if it is raised it will be susceptible to breaking off when the carving gets knocked. The thing to bear in mind is to avoid pockets for water to collect in.
The first picture shows a vertical view but even here some of the sides of the carving are visible.
Whereas this image is only slightly off-vertical and the sides are clear to see.
This little distraction occupied much of my spare time from the end of November to late January, and now it has been delivered I can post about it. The lovespoon was completely hand-carved, using a coping-saw to rough it out, then whittled with a knife and a very small shallow gouge; a tiny spoon-bent gouge was used to cut through the links(the heart is completely free to move around but the intertwining knot-work stops it from falling out). The only other tool used was a medium spoon-bent gouge for the bowl. I hate sanding and put it off until there is no alternative – the tool marks were smoothed down by scraping with the knife-edge held vertically – any remaining marks were smoothed off with a 400-grit abrasive mesh. Ironically, the wood was almost too smooth and the paraffin-wax finish needed warming up gently to make it more sticky as it just slipped off the wood in some places.
Things are progressing, slowly, but I am still more-or-less on schedule, having managed to cobble together somewhere near 20 hours carving on the tiller in between and around other work. I know I felt I would leave the rope-work until the whole thing was roughed out but in the end I have concentrated on getting it done and now the ropework is nearing completion; I think about 5 more hours should see it done.
Hopefully you can see that the work is much deeper and more fully rounded. You might also see where I have started some fancy ‘whipping’ on the one end: more of that in a later post. Incidentally the only tool I am using at the moment is a 10mm skew-chisel – the pointed end is essential for getting into the tiny spaces
The tiller is coming along, the pictures say it better than my words – about half the length of the knotwork is roughed out, progress is working out at just over an inch an hour – so 12 more hours carving will finish this stage, then I guess about another 15 hours to refine the carving.
The first picture shows the whole length, the spiral roughed out to the left, the pattern marked out and the roughed-out knots in the second, and the third shows the depth of carving the whole length will be carved to eventually. The only tools needed are a small chisel and a v-tool (aka parting tool)
The Brest International Maritime Festival, 2016, is one of the biggest in the world (https://www.brest2016.fr/en) and they have invited craftsmen from all over the world to demonstrate in the international craft village, including a contingent from the UK. Unfortunately I can’t go due to work commitments but the team have agreed to take some of my work to display in the British Craft Village.
The schedule is a little tight, at six weeks, but I am going to try and carve an elaborate tiller, about 48 inches long covered all over with decorative knot-work and with a lion-headed handle I carved a few years ago – about time it was mounted on something. Current estimate for the work is about 200 hours, plus the time already spent on the lion-head!
So, here is the tiller roughed out from a hawthorn log, you can see the other half of the log beneath it to show how the curve is natural not steam-bent. Time taken at this point was about 4 hours working with a hatchet, hand-planes and Shinto rasp – no power tools in this project!
If you’re completely new to figure carving then you need to know that carving a bearded male with a hat on is the easiest type of face to carve, followed by androgonous (neither male nor female) followed by young male, and finally female – old is easier than young – beautiful female is the hardest of all – its all to do with a perfection of symmetry and no imperfections – lines, creases, sags, folds, wrinkles; all distract the viewer to some extent – you read the character of the face rather than its perfect structure.
The bearded male face, at its simplest, is really quick to carve as only the area around the eyes and the ridge of the nose are there to carve, the rest is hidden under beard, moustache and shaggy eyebrows – woodspirits and father Christmasses are a good way into this.
One thing to make sure you always do is to carve stroke for stroke each side of the face – it is really tempting to carve one side of the face and then try to replicate that on the other side but this approach never works as you will not remember what you did well enough to replicate your approach and the symmetry will suffer. This applies to errors too. If you make a mistake on the left side you have to deliberately make the same mistake on the right and then correct the left and then correct the right. Every cut on one side should be repeated on the other and that way the symmetry of the face will be maintained.