TLC Arts, Woodworking & Engraving

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How To Use Tools For Carving Wood

To carve well, you need very sharp tools. When they cut through wood, there shouldn’t be any white marks that show a nick in the blade. Look at the long cell fibers to determine the grain’s direction. The darker lines in the annual rings can help you figure out the way the grain goes. Wood is made up of long cells next to each other and runs roughly straight from the tree’s roots to its leaves.

Carve into the parallel lines of grain in a downward direction. Note that you probably go in the wrong direction if the wood is tearing and your tools are sharp. Turn around and start carving in the other direction. You also can carve diagonally across the grain or parallel to it, but carving upwards against it will only tear and splinter the wood.

Note that grain in the board doesn’t always run along its parallel sides. It often tilts a little up or down, and sometimes it dips and curves in unexpected ways.

Knife Skills

If you are right-handed, hold the wood in your left hand and the knife in your right when you are carving a small piece that you can hold in your hand. Keep your left hand behind the knife, and you should use the left thumb on the blunt side of the blade as a lever to control the cut. Keep your thumb still and turn your right hand and wrist to cut. If the knife slips in this position, you won’t get hurt. The knife shouldn’t ever fly off the block. You can also hold the knife like you would an apple peel. Just watch out that you don’t cut your thumb.

Using Gouges

You should hold the handle in the palm of your right hand to move the gouge. Use your left hand to guide the cut by holding the metal shaft. If you hold the metal shaft of the gouge firmly with your left hand and rest it on the wood, it can act as a brake so that the tool doesn’t go flying when you push it forward. Use the weight of your body to help push the tool.

Roughing It

Use a band saw, or chain saw to eliminate as much scrap wood as possible. The most common mistake made by people who have never carved before is not taking off enough material. They always get bigger than the square shape of the first block. Feel free to make the basic shapes more rounded. Start with big U-shaped cuts to get rid of the most material. Start by making big shapes. One way to do this is to define the major planes of the carved object. Work from the big shapes to the little ones. If you don’t start with the big shapes, it doesn’t matter how many beautiful details you add on top.

Putting the Finishing Touches On

Once the structure is done, you can use the smaller U-gouges to fill in the details. You can define smaller shapes with V-gouges and veneers, which are small U-gouges. At this point, it’s important to keep your tools as sharp as possible if you want to remove the tool marks as the final texture. Any nicks in the tool’s edge will appear as white lines in the cut.