Wood Selection and Layout
1 carve primarily in basswood or butternut. Although both woods hold detail nicely, I highly rccommend basswood for beginners becausc it's easier to cut. I sand the wood to 100 grit in preparation for layout and carving.
To lay out the design shown on the box lid. enlarge the pattern in Fig. 1 to match the size of your workpiece. (A photocopier works well for this.) Transfer the design to your sanded workpiece. I use graphite paper (available from ari supply stores) rather than carbon paper bccausc graphite paper cleans off much more easily.
To lay out the caning pattern, simply draw a diagonal grid of-Vl6-in. squares onto your workpiece as shown in the photos on page 49. I use a soft, grade UB" lead pencil when drawing directly onto wood. A narrow border around the caning frames it nicely.
Of the two knives used in chip carving, the cutting knife is the workhorse. On this box, I use it almost exclusively. I only use the stab knife to create the wedge-shaped impressions at the ends of the flower veins in the rosette. (See Fig. I.)
Keep your carving knives razor-sharp. Accuracy, enjoyment and safety are all compromised if your edges are dull. 1 know it's time 10 hone a knife (see photo, below) when carving starts to require more effort or when the wood isn't cutting cleanly.
For chip carving, I like to sit in a comfortable chair with the workpiece on my lap. This gives me good cutting leverage and allows me to turn the work easily. Good lighting is also important. I suggest placing an incandescent light below eye level, to prevent glare on your workpiece.
Staying sharp. Barton likes to sharpen on ceramic stones because they stay flat, don't require lubrication, and clean up easily. A dime provides a reliable angle gauge for sharpening.
To hold the cutting knife, wrap your index finger around the handle at the base of the blade, gripping the knife handle firmly with your remaining three fingers. (Sec photos, next page.) Lean the knife sideways, at about 65" to the work surface. Plant your thumb solidly, splaying its tip outward and pressing its inner knuckle against the knife handle. When cutting, maintain this fixed relationship between your thumb and index finger; never pull the knife toward your thumb as if you're peeling potatoes. The idea here is to guide the knife with your entire hand without changing the position of your fingers. Power the knife-mainly with the grip of your back three fingers; don't pinch the handle unnecessarily hard between your index finger and thumb knuckle. Cut like this and you'll have safe, positive control.
Curvy designs like the flowers and leaves on this box look challenging, but they're all made with just a few elementary cuts.
Two-sided cuts—First, practice cutting out the two-sided waste sections as shown in the top photo on the next page. The trick is to gradually plunge the knife deeper as you pull it along. When you reach the widest part of the section, start pulling the knife out of the
AMERICAN WOODWORKER ▲ DICE MB ER I rl 0 6 -47
Making a two-sided chip. Leaning the knife at 65*, make two opposing cuts that meet at the bottom, to create a V-shaped chip that lifts from the wood.
wood as you approach the end of the cut. With a little practice, you'll learn how deep to cut. Use the width of the section as a guide; the wider the section, the deeper the cut. By maintaining a consistent 65° knife angle for all cuts, the walls of a section will always meet in the center at the bottom.
Thrcc-sidcd cuts—Next, practice three-sided cuts, such as the one in the photos below. Note that I'm left-handed; right-handers will need to reverse the cut direction shown. To follow a cutline, look at the line just in front of the cutting edge, not at the blade itself. Your eye will pull the knife along nicely.
There's a trick to getting the knife around tight curves: While maintaining its 65" lean to the side, stand the knife up. This minimizes the amount of blade trying to turn the corner. The tighter the curve, the higher you'll need to stand the knife.
When you're removing smaller waste sections, you will find that one pass of the knife on each cutline will usually remove a chip cleanly. When you're making deeper cuts—particularly if they're across the grain—you may have to make multiple passes. If so, be sure to maintain the 65* knife angle on all subsequent passes. Beginners often tend to increase the angle of the blade, creating too deep of a cut.
Sometimes, larger chips don't lift out cleanly, but leave bits of wood clinging to the bottom. No problem. Just go back in with the knife and cut them out, cleaning up the walls of the scction afterward if ncccssary.
Chip-carving designs are usually based on two-, three- or four-sided waste sections. This is because cuts from these sections will all meet nicely at the bottom, creating chips that lift neatly from the wood.
But in free-form chip-carving designs such as this, you can also link sections at narrow points. This allows greater design flexibility.
Linked sections often include projecting areas that contain short grain. When this occurs, make your first cuts around the dclicatc short-grain area. Otherwise, it may snap off if the chip prematurely breaks free from the pressure of an adjacent cut. (Sec Fig. 2.)
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