Carving a Wooden Thread Spool

I’ve been carving thread spools since the early 1980’s. I can’t recall how many I’ve done but they’ve been great for practice. I’ve done two chess sets. One went to a set collector in Australia. I used to carve a spool in exchange for more spools. After friends passed the word, I now have a lifetime supply. I like to carve them for families that have some of grandma’s spools. Grandchildren can have a memory trigger.

The most common question is about the kind of wood. My research has found that white birch was commonly used. I’ve found some too hard to carve but also, some too soft. Toss the hard ones you find. They’re rough on knife points. I’ve found some with grain blemishes but never with knots. Thread doesn’t work well with sap. The grain is usually pretty straight and sometimes is hard to locate. Manufacture of wooden spools stopped in the mid 1970’s. Of course modern spools are not made of wood so you’ll have to find yours at flea markets, antique stores, or EBAY. You may have friends that never throw anything away and still have a bag of them. You can also use what I call counterfeit spools. They’re made for crafting and have never had thread on them. Some of those are basswood. I like the old ones and like to keep the original labels on them.

Spools come in many sizes and shapes. The one I used for this project is 2 1/8 inches tall and 1 3/16 in diameter. Try to find one a couple of inches tall for your first attempt unless you’re also a watchmaker. The shape may offer special challenges to your creativity. Some spools have a thin waist to allow for more thread. Some are shaped like a barrel. Some are only a half inch tall. My goal is to make the spool into a head rather than a relief carving of a face. There’s more wood available than you think so go deep. Of course a cylinder of wood is just a cylinder and not the proportion of a skull and neck. Space is limited and ears end up close to the eyes or the hair takes up the space for the ear. On most of mine, the edges of the carving just blend into the rest of the spool. Due to poor planning, I sometimes run out of space to develop a chin. Except for long whiskers, walking stick faces can be carved into spools.

Antique bobbins from weaving looms can also be carved. They’re the taller cousins of thread spools. Most of those I’ve found are oak or maple. I like the oak bobbins that have absorbed lots of natural lanolin from wool yarn. The lanolin softens the wood. Otherwise the wood is hard and was chosen because it can take a beating.

I always wear a carving glove to hold the spool. I’ve been told about devices to clamp the spool and allow a better grip. I still recommend a carving glove. After carving and signing the spool, I use Howard’s Feed-n-Wax to completely cover the wood. Buff with an old toothbrush. The tools I used for this project are: 2mm and 4mm V-tools, 8mm and 10mm #11 gouges, 2mm and 3mm #9 gouges, and a knife.

Tools

Tools used for this spool. Knife not shown.

The following description appeared in Carving Magazine issue #31. The publisher is now out of business but you may be able to locate a copy somewhere in the woodcarving universe.

Draw a center line and add lines for the hair. The ends of the hair line just fade into and around the spool. Place the part in the hair to the side of the centerline to add interest. Notice I added a line for the eyes and the bottom of the nose.

Draw a center line and add lines for the hair. The ends of the hair line just fade into and around the spool. Place the part in the hair to the side of the centerline to add interest. Notice I added a line for the eyes and the bottom of the nose.

Use a 4mm V-tool to cut below the hair line. Using a knife, begin to reduce the forehead {continuing the work done with the V-tool.)

Use a 4mm V-tool to cut below the hair line. Using a knife, begin to reduce the forehead {continuing the work done with the V-tool.)

Use an 11 mm #11 gouge to cut the eye line. I used the same tool to reduce the forehead more to allow room for the gouge to deepen the eye line. Check the profile occasionally to gauge the relative depth of the forehead, eyes and nose tip.

Use an 10 mm #11 gouge to cut the eye line. I used the same tool to reduce the forehead more to allow room for the gouge to deepen the eye line. Check the profile occasionally to gauge the relative depth of the forehead, eyes and nose tip.

Cut below the nose at the line. Just use a knife. Make sure the cut deep enough to expose the width of the nose.

Cut below the nose at the line. Just use a knife. Make sure the cut deep enough to expose the width of the nose.

Use an 8mm #11 gouge to define the width of the nose. I like to draw lines before I use the gouge to make sure the nose will be symmetrical. Pencil lines are easily adjusted.

Use an 8mm #11 gouge to define the width of the nose. I like to draw lines before I use the gouge to make sure the nose will be symmetrical. Pencil lines are easily adjusted.

Use a knife to raise the wings of the nose.

Use a knife to raise the wings of the nose.

I taper the nose to resemble a tent. Notice in the picture the bridge of the nose retains a flat area. The nose is small and could break easily, so I carefully use a knife. For a nose this size, I used a 3mm #9 gouge to remove wood from the front of the wings continuing up the sides of the nose into the corner of the eye.

I taper the nose to resemble a tent. Notice in the picture the bridge of the nose retains a flat area. The nose is small and could break easily, so I carefully use a knife. For a nose this size, I used a 3mm #9 gouge to remove wood from the front of the wings continuing up the sides of the nose into the corner of the eye.

I use the 3mm #9 again to form the outside edge of the wings. Make a stop cut by pushing the gouge in at an angle that causes the tool handle to extend across the center line. This way you avoid cutting behind the wing. With the same tool, make the removal cut by cutting into the cheek.

I use the 3mm #9 again to form the outside edge of the wings. Make a stop cut by pushing the gouge in at an angle that causes the tool handle to extend across the center line. This way you avoid cutting behind the wing. With the same tool, make the removal cut by cutting into the cheek.

Use an 8mm #11 to develop the eye area. Be sure to reserve space between the eyes at the top of the nose to be able to start working in the eyebrows.

Use an 8mm #11 to develop the eye area. Be sure to reserve space between the eyes at the top of the nose to be able to start working in the eyebrows.

Use the 10mm #11 to narrow the face at the eye line and a knife to smooth the ridges at the temple.

Use the 10mm #11 to narrow the face at the eye line and a knife to smooth the ridges at the temple.

Use a #9 gouge to separate the eyebrows. I used a 3mm. The forehead was not recessed enough so I used a knife to push it back. Using the area near the tip of the blade, roll the brow up to the hair line, leaving the brow area for some eyebrow hair later.

Use a #9 gouge to separate the eyebrows. I used a 3mm. The forehead was not recessed enough so I used a knife to push it back. Using the area near the tip of the blade, roll the brow up to the hair line, leaving the brow area for some eyebrow hair later.

t helps to redraw the eye line and upper eyelid line. Using a very sharp 2mm V-tool, cut the upper eyelid line. Notice this cut dips slightly below the eye line and continues around the head.

It helps to redraw the eye line and upper eyelid line. Using a very sharp 2mm V-tool, cut the upper eyelid line. Notice this cut dips slightly below the eye line and continues around the head.With the knife tip, lightly trace the lid cuts to make a stop-cut. Still using the knife, remove a tiny amount of wood below the stop-cut. Using the V-tool again, make a cut parallel and slightly below the lid line. This cut makes the lower edge of the upper lid. Again use the knife tip to trace the new cut and remove wood while shaping what will become the eye ball.

Here is another view of the eye cuts.

Here is another view of the eye cuts.

With the knife tip, lightly trace the lid cuts to make a stop-cut. Still using the knife, remove a tiny amount of wood below the stop-cut. Using the 2mm V-tool, make a cut parallel and slightly below the lid line. This cut makes the lower edge of the upper lid. Again use the knife tip to trace the new cut and remove wood while shaping what will become the eye ball.

 

Use the V-tool again to define the upper edge of the lower lid. Because space is limited, I start these cuts in the middle and toward the corners. Remember the lower lid is shorter than the upper lid.

Use the V-tool again to define the upper edge of the lower lid. Because space is limited, I start these cuts in the middle and toward the corners. Remember the lower lid is shorter than the upper lid.

 

Trace the v-cut and use the knife tip to clean and shape the eyeball. Remember to remove a little triangle from each corner of the eye to create the impression of a ball. Try to eliminate flat spots on the exposed ball. I like to mark the iris/pupil location with a pencil before committing to the cut. To make him look more interesting, I’ll have him look to his left.

Trace the v-cut and use the knife tip to clean and shape the eyeball. Remember to remove a little triangle from each corner of the eye to create the impression of a ball. Try to eliminate flat spots on the exposed ball. I like to mark the iris/pupil location with a pencil before committing to the cut. To make him look more interesting, I’ll have him look to his left.

 

I take the easy way out on these tiny eyes by just making a negative space for the iris/pupil. For this face, a 2mm #9 just fits between the upper and lower lids. Push straight in and avoid nicking the lids. I use the point of my knife and sometimes a 1.5 mm #9 to remove the wood and create the shadow.

I take the easy way out on these tiny eyes by just making a negative space for the iris/pupil. For this face, a 2mm #9 just fits between the upper and lower lids. Push straight in and avoid nicking the lids. I use the point of my knife and sometimes a 1.5 mm #9 to remove the wood and create the shadow.

 

Now for a few last details around the eyes. Reduce the outside end of the lower lid to create a tiny shadow that suggests the lower lid is covered by the upper one. Use the small V-tool to cut a lower lid line curving like a reclining “S”. With a knife, round over any ridges and blend the brow with the rest of the face. While you’re rounding and shaping, work on the cheek mounds. Use the small V-tool to add a few eyebrow hairs. Don’t get carried away. A few will do.

Now for a few last details around the eyes. Reduce the outside end of the lower lid to create a tiny shadow that suggests the lower lid is covered by the upper one. Use the small V-tool to cut a lower lid line curving like a reclining “S”. With a knife, round over any ridges and blend the brow with the rest of the face. While you’re rounding and shaping, work on the cheek mounds. Use the small V-tool to add a few eyebrow hairs. Don’t get carried away. A few will do.

 

We can finish the hair now. Use a knife to remove ridges and taper both sides toward the part. I use either of the V-tools to add random hair lines (sometimes both). The hair lines shouldn’t be cut completely from end to end - they should be carved to suggest they’re going to meet at the part. Just blend them into the spool as they disappear around the sides. Don’t go around too far or the viewer will expect as much detail on the rest of the head. You can cut up into the flared part of the spool to round the top of the hair and get a few more strands. Remember the cuts will be across the grain so have a sharp tool. Notice the extension of the smile lines.

We can finish the hair now. Use a knife to remove ridges and taper both sides toward the part. I use either of the V-tools to add random hair lines (sometimes both). The hair lines shouldn’t be cut completely from end to end – they should be carved to suggest they’re going to meet at the part. Just blend them into the spool as they disappear around the sides. Don’t go around too far or the viewer will expect as much detail on the rest of the head. You can cut up into the flared part of the spool to round the top of the hair and get a few more strands. Remember the cuts will be across the grain so have a sharp tool. Notice the extension of the smile lines.

 

Even though the spool is round, the mouth and teeth must fit the head. Remember grandpa’s dentures were not as wide as his head. We’re going to concentrate on the dental mound. Use an 10mm #11gouge to deepen the area under each cheek. Because the muscles stretch the mouth a little, the mouth will be a little wider than the distance between the center points of the eyes. Use a knife to shape the upper lip back into the area prepared under the cheeks. Draw the lip line. Notice the ends do not touch the expression lines that form the cheeks.

Even though the spool is round, the mouth and teeth must fit the head. Remember grandpa’s dentures were not as wide as his head. We’re going to concentrate on the dental mound. Use an 10mm #11gouge to deepen the area under each cheek. Because the muscles stretch the mouth a little, the mouth will be a little wider than the distance between the center points of the eyes. Use a knife to shape the upper lip back into the area prepared under the cheeks. Draw the lip line. Notice the ends do not touch the expression lines that form the cheeks.

Read above.

 

Use a V-tool to remove wood under the lip line. Use a knife to trace a stop cut into the v-cut and continue removing more wood below the lip.

Use a V-tool to remove wood under the lip line. Use a knife to trace a stop cut into the v-cut and continue removing more wood below the lip.

 

Draw the upper edge of the lower lip and cut above it with the V-tool. Once again trace the cut and begin removing wood to shape the teeth. Keep in mind the teeth should appear to protrude from behind the upper lip and tuck behind the lower lip. The curve of the teeth should be the same on both sides of the center line. Invert the spool to double check the balance. Because the lower lip dips below the upper teeth on the right side, mark a line for the lower edge of the teeth. I use a knife to create the negative space between the teeth and the lower lip. Rest the blade on the lip as a guide. This will make the lip disappear into the mouth. A variation of this face could show a lower tooth (or two) instead of the opening.

Draw the upper edge of the lower lip and cut above it with the V-tool. Once again trace the cut and begin removing wood to shape the teeth. Keep in mind the teeth should appear to protrude from behind the upper lip and tuck behind the lower lip. The curve of the teeth should be the same on both sides of the center line. Invert the spool to double check the balance. Because the lower lip dips below the upper teeth on the right side, mark a line for the lower edge of the teeth. I use a knife to create the negative space between the teeth and the lower lip. Rest the blade on the lip as a guide. This will make the lip disappear into the mouth. A variation of this face could show a lower tooth (or two) instead of the opening.

 

Lay out the teeth with a pencil. Start with the center teeth. They should be the same width. The teeth on the left side are easy because they just get tiny cuts to create a shadow between them. Because the right side of the mouth exposes more of each tooth, and maybe one more than on the left, most of the work is done there. Remember the curve has already been established so avoid changing it as the teeth are defined. Note how I have created a shadow inside the mouth at the back tooth. Remove wood from inside the cheek, not the tooth, to achieve this effect.

Lay out the teeth with a pencil. Start with the center teeth. They should be the same width. The teeth on the left side are easy because they just get tiny cuts to create a shadow between them. Because the right side of the mouth exposes more of each tooth, and maybe one more than on the left, most of the work is done there. Remember the curve has already been established so avoid changing it as the teeth are defined. Note how I have created a shadow inside the mouth at the back tooth. Remove wood from inside the cheek, not the tooth, to achieve this effect.

 

I use a knife tip to divide and shape the teeth. If you need to expose more tooth area, you can do this by lowering the lip line. This will be more difficult after the bottom of the lip is carved. Each tooth on the right side should be shortened a bit as they continue toward the back of the mouth. Think of stair steps.

I use a knife tip to divide and shape the teeth. If you need to expose more tooth area, you can do this by lowering the lip line. This will be more difficult after the bottom of the lip is carved. Each tooth on the right side should be shortened a bit as they continue toward the back of the mouth. Think of stair steps.

 

We move to the lower lip. Use the 8mm #11 gouge to cut below a line drawn parallel to the upper edge. This cut will create the bottom edge of the lower lip.

We move to the lower lip. Use the 8mm #11 gouge to cut below a line drawn parallel to the upper edge. This cut will create the bottom edge of the lower lip.

 

Shape the corners of the mouth and lip with the 10mm #11 gouge. The lower lip tapers as it approaches the corners, both from both the bottom and the side. Notice the vertical opening that connects the upper and lower lips. Leave a little mound of wood on the cheek side of the vertical cut. Continue smoothing the area under the lip toward the sides of the spool. Also notice I used a 2mm #9 gouge to create nostril openings.

Shape the corners of the mouth and lip with the 10mm #11 gouge. The lower lip tapers as it approaches the corners, both from both the bottom and the side. Notice the vertical opening that connects the upper and lower lips. Leave a little mound of wood on the cheek side of the vertical cut. Continue smoothing the area under the lip toward the sides of the spool. Also notice I used a 2mm #9 gouge to create nostril openings.

Another view.

Another view.

Finished view.

Finished view.

Finished view.

Finished view.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more carved spools, click on the GALLERY tab at the top of the home page.

 

 

 

Another Potatowood Carving

Earlier this year I received a box of potatowood samples. I’ve shared several with friends to get their evaluations of the material. Only one person has gotten back to me and that was with positive comments. I finally found the time to use a block of it to carve my second potatowood piece. My inspiration came from our vacation trip this summer. We spent several days in Rome so I wanted to carve a Roman solider. I purchased a figurine while in Rome but an exact duplicate in potatowood was not possible because my samples were too small. I made a pattern and reduced it to fit. Because of the smaller size and the nature of the material, I was forced to omit some of the fine details from the original. Even so, I think the resulting piece satisfies the intent. Here are my pictures of the progress.

Original block

Here’s the original block of potatowood. It is orange and actually smells like an orange. I resisted the temptation to eat the chips.

IMG_5634

I made front and side view patterns to fit the block.

IMG_5636

After cutting the side view

After the pattern was transferred, I used the bandsaw to cut the side view. The back of the side view retained the original surface at the bottom (where the cape would fall behind the feet) and near the top at the helmet crest. This allowed the block to remain flat on the bandsaw table while I cut the front view. Note that I retained the original front surface scrap of the block so I could replace it for cutting the front view. I used a small piece of double-sided tape to hold the scrap in place while cutting.

Finished bandsaw blank

This is the “blank” after cutting the front and side views.

Finished bansaw blank

This is the “blank” after cutting the front and side views. The second piece is the scrap.

Here I've added some lines for "landmarks" and removed some corners.

Here I’ve added some lines for “landmarks” and removed some corners.

Just another view of the "landmarks".

Just another view of the “landmarks”.

More blocking according the the lines.

More blocking according the the lines.

More blocking.

More blocking.

Blocking toward a point for details.

Blocking toward a point for details.

Blocking

More blocking.

More blocking

Getting closer to details.

Adding details.

Face, hand and breastplate details.

Details in face, breastplate and hand.

Details in face, breastplate and hand.

Finished

All finished. I changed the White Balance setting on my camera so the real color of the material would show.

IMG_5653IMG_5654 IMG_5655 IMG_5656

PotatoWood

A week ago I received a padded envelope in the mail. It contained a white block 2 inches wide, 3 1/4 inches high and 2 1/4 inches thick. This was my first encounter with potatowood. It had made the trip from Germany to Cartersville, Georgia to Verona, PA thanks to a carving friend in Georgia and a stranger in Germany. Since then I have carved the block and corresponded with Steve, a stranger no more. Steve moved from Minnesota to Germany where he carves miniatures. You can see his work at MiniSteve.com. Steve has an acquaintance that has developed a material called potatowood. I can’t report on the ingredients or the manufacturing process, but from its name, I suspect there are potatoes or at least the starch from potatoes. I’m pretty sure there’s no wood involved. One of it’s properties is it can be glued together with water. Wetting both surfaces to be joined will produce a slurry that will harden to form a bond. I tried it with some scraps and it works. I’ve been told it comes in a denser version and as you’ll see from the manufacturer’s website, it’s available in colors. See more at carving-colors.com. It’s a German site but the pictures are worth thousands of words in English.

After seeing pictures on-line of animals, I decided to give it a try. I wanted to use as much of the block as I could so I began by sketching a human character on the block. Using a knife and a few carving gouges, I made quite a pile of chips. I guess you could call them potato chips. I had no trouble cutting the material but I did find layers that resembled wood grain. Removing larger chips caused the layers to separate so I switched to smaller chips. I think the details on my project pushed the limits of a project this size. I was forced to use the tip of my knife and re-carve some details. I think it’s a good material for a carver just learning to use a knife and a few gouges. It could be the next step after carving soap. It does require sharp tools. I used my knife for most of the work and stropped it a couple of times during the process.

I’m glad I was able try this material and be somewhat on the “cutting edge” of a new product. Friends know I try materials other than wood, namely golf balls and softballs so I had to try potatowood when it was offered. I understand it’s only available in Germany for now or if you know someone who knows someone. Keep your eyes open and give it a try when it makes it to our shore.

For those who have been curious enough to read this far, I’ll give some info on the painting process I used. Before painting I chose several of the largest chips and sealed the surfaces with various products. I was concerned about the reaction of the material to water because I use acrylic paints. Remember the gluing process. I tried water based polyurethane, petroleum based polyurethane and Deft brand satin spray. I also added some untreated scraps to the test. The paint seemed to work best on the petroleum based poly. After the paint on the figure had thoroughly dried, I added a coat of liquid wax.

Here’s what you’ve been waiting for.
IMG_1496IMG_1491 IMG_1492 IMG_1493 IMG_1498IMG_1494 IMG_1495  IMG_1497

Golf Ball Carving

The following text and photos were created for an article in Carving Magazine. It was published in the Spring edition of 2010 which was numbered Issue 29. If you are interested in having a copy of that issue, you can order one by going to http://www.carvingmagazine.com.

Click on the pictures to enlarge them.

Tools for this project

Tools for this project

I use a carving glove that has rubber dots which ensure a good grip on the ball. I used a carving knife with a straight cutting edge.  #11-9mm and 7mm gouges.  A #5-7mm gouge.   #9-3mm and 6mm gouges.  A #3-2mm shallow gouge.  A 3mm V-Tool.

Depending on the project, I add or substitute other tools.

Step 1

Step 1

Step 1.  I always start with a center line.
I use a compass with a ballpoint pen.
Notice the lines to mark the top and bottom of the ear, also done with the compass.

Step 2

Step 2

Step 2.  The eye line is cut with a #11  9mm gouge.

Also remove material in front of the ears

Front view

Front view

Step 3

Step 3

Step 3.  Use a knife to cut above and below the ears. This process will be used several times for this project and I’ll refer to it as a shadow-cut.  The cut is perpendicular to the surface and extends back under the ball cover. The cover is not cut. The ear cut is about 1/16 of an inch deep and serves as a stop cut.  The relief or removal cut will produce a triangle shaped wedge with the inside of the cover forming the third side.  Sometimes all cuts meet and the wedge will come out with the blade.  The knife should never be used to pry the wedge loose. The tip could break off.  I have a 2mm shallow gouge that’s too small for carving but it’s great to remove material from shadow-cuts.

Step 3bStep 3c

Step 4

Step 4

Step 4.  Use a #11  4mm gouge on the forehead to define space for a little hair and the top of the eyebrows.

Step 5

Step 5

Step 5.  Use a #11  9mm gouge to establish the bottom of the nose.

Notice the shadow cuts below the ears.

Step 6

Step 6

Step 6.  Mark the width of the nose and use a knife to raise the wings.

Note the small space marked near the center line to reserve space for the septum.

Step 7

Step 7

Step 7.  Use the #11  4mm gouge to define the sides at the top of the nose.

Reserve space between the eyes for the bridge of the nose.

Step 8

Step 8

Step 8.  Using an inverted #5  7mm gouge, shape the wings of the nose. Use the first cut as a stop cut and the second cut to remove some of the cheek as the gouge meets the stop cut.

Use the #11  9mm to shape the nose above the wing.

Step 9

Step 9

Step 9. Use the #11  9mm to prepare the area for the eyes and reduce the cheek material.

The cheeks will continue to be shaped as adjacent areas are developed.

Use a knife to smooth the nose.

Don’t for get to reserve that space between the eyes.

Step 10

Step 10

Step 10.  Make a stop cut to form the outside mustache line from the corner of the nose wing.

Remove material from the face to make the mustache protrude.

Use the point of a knife to extend the wing line up onto the nose.

Remove a tiny sliver of material to create the shadow.

Step 11

Step 11

Step 11. Better view of previous step.

Step 12

Step 12

Step 12. Front view of Step 10.

Step 13

Step 13

Step 13. Use a knife to round the tops and bottom of the ears.

Use a #9  3mm micro tool to form the inside of the ear.

When using this tool, do not pry or twist. Straight in and out will do the job.

Use the 2mm shallow gouge to remove the material if it remains inside the ear.  This can also be considered a shadow-cut.

Leave space between the cuts for the small flap of skin that protects the opening of the ear.

Step 14

Step 14

Step 14.  Remove the ridges on the ears with small knife cuts.

Use the knife to make a stop cut behind the flap and remove the material with the 2mm gouge.

Step 15

Step 15

Step 15.  Begin the eyes with a 3mm v-tool making “S” shaped cuts that will form the top edges of the upper eyelids.

Trace the cuts with the point of a knife to make a stop cut.

Remove a slight bit of material above the lid to deepen the shadow.

Step 16

Step 16

Step 16.  Follow the first V-cuts with parallel cuts below to form the bottom edge of the upper lid.

Once again trace this cut with the point of a knife for a stop cut.

This time remove material below the stop cut.  This will begin to form the eye ball.

Step 17

Step 17

Step 17.  Use the same 3mm V-tool to establish the top of the lower lid.  Don’t make the cut connect with the outside end of the upper lid.   To remove the flat area on the eyeball, make a similar stop cut along the lower lid line.  Round the eyeball into the stop cut.  Remember to remove more in the corners of the eye to make the eyeball look like the surface of a ball.

Step 18

Step 18

Step 18.  Use the 3mm V-tool to add lower lid lines, bags, eyebrows and a little hair.  Use a knife to make a tiny shadow-cut at the top end of the hair.  This will also form the top of the head that has no hair.

Step 19

Step 19

Step 19.  To create an iris/pupil “suggestion”, I use the #9  3mm micro gouge.  Remember it’s fragile.  I usually have my heads looking to the side. I place the gouge on the eyeball so it touches, but doesn’t cut, the lids.  This will be a stop cut.  Straight in and straight out.  This is the first side of a three-sided chip.  The other two sides are made with the point of a knife inserted along the lid lies and meet at the corner.  I resort to my 2mm shallow gouge to remove the chip in pieces.

Step 20

Step 20

Step 20.  Draw the line for the lower edge of the mustache.

Step 21

Step 21

Step 21.  Cut a fairly deep stop cut angled slightly behind the front of the mustache.  Remove material below the mustache.  Leave a flat area in the center to provide for the lower lip.

Step 22

Step 22.

Step 22.  Use the #5  7mm gouge to open the mouth.  If the stop cut was deep enough, the chip will fall out.  Otherwise, repeat the cut.

Step 23

Step 23

Step 23.  Use the #11 4mm to shape the lower edge of the lip. Continue this cut to the stop cut at the mustache.

Step 24

Step 24

Step 24.  Using a knife, remove the sharp ridges and shape the lip.  Scoop out the area below the ends of the lip using a knife point that reaches the stop cut.  A similar cut would be made with the #5 gouge.  This is done to begin shaping the chin.

Step 25

Step 25

Step 25.  Continue rounding the chin between the ends of the mustache.

Step 26

Step 26

Step 26.  Considering the previous shadow-cuts were practice, you may choose to add a shadow-cut between the jowl and chin. This is a larger cut and is done with a single arch, not two stop cuts.  Work carefully.  Don’t use the knife to pry.

Step 27

Step 27

Step 27.  Add hairs in the mustache with the 3mm V-tool, making short random strokes. The hair that hangs over the mouth should have an uneven (nibbled) look.

Step 28

Step 28

Step 28.  I used a #9  6mm gouge to cut the nostrils.  I could have used the #5 gouge but, in this case, I liked the #9 better.  The important thing is to make both cuts symmetrical.  I use the V-tool to cut my initials and date in the back cover.

 

Here are some pictures of the finished carving.

Completed view 1 Completed view 2 Completed view 3 Completed view 4 Completed view 5 Completed view 6

Knife cover

Swedish Mora Knife

Swedish Mora Knife

I just purchased a knife that comes from Sweden. A Mora. It’s blade is 3 1/8 inches (80 mm) long. I first saw this knife in use when I took a one week class in March led by Harley Refsal, a CCA member. During that week Harley showed us how he uses it for a special purpose, which isn’t carving. Actually he doesn’t cut with it at all. You’ll have to ask Harley if you want to know more. Anyway, being a person who always needs a new tool, I ordered two. One for myself and one for a friend.

To my surprise, it arrived with an extremely sharp edge. Considering my friend’s safety, I  decided to make a blade cover for him. There have been several articles in carving magazines for making wooden covers and then cleverly carving them into keepsakes. In case you missed the articles, here are the steps I used to make the cover.

I started with two scraps of basswood 2 1/4 by 5 3/4 inches (58mm by 122mm). The pieces were about 3/8 inches (9mm) thick. Because the blade was extra large, the wood was large, too. I added the extra inches to the length to allow more room for creativity. The surfaces that will be glued should be smooth and flat so no gaps occur.

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I traced the profile of the blade onto the middle of one piece of wood. Then I used a carving knife to make a “stop” cut just inside the profile lines. A #3 gouge was perfect for relieving the wood inside the “stop” cuts. I tapered the area so the “cutting edge” side was very shallow and the depth of the other side matched the thickness of the back of the blade.

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Many test fittings were made before the recess was perfect. Test the progress by placing the blade into the recess and covering it with the second piece of wood. If the second piece rocks on the blade, more wood must be removed. The goal is to have the blade squeezed slightly between the two pieces of wood, specifically at the thickest part of the blade. The final test should be made by clamping the pieces together as if they were glued. Insert the blade into the opening; too tight and the force required to remove the blade may cause an accident, too loose and the cover could fall off or become loose after sharpening several times.
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Carefully spread a thin coat of wood glue on the surface with the recess. Because the glue may squeeze into the recessed area, don’t spread glue too close to it. Clamp the two pieces. Before the glue dries, insert the blade and remove it immediately. Check for glue on the blade. CAREFULLY remove any glue and repeat this step until no glue appears on the blade. Allow the glue to dry. Do NOT leave the blade in the cover while the glue drys.
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Before adding your design, you have to reserve the area that contains the blade. Position the blade on the outside surface of the wood by aligning it with the opening. Once again trace the blade profile onto the wood. Because my design was the same on both sides of the cover, I just did my sketch on one side. Make sure your design does not come too close the the profile line. You can remove the scrap with a scroll saw, band saw or simply carve it away. Please don’t leave the knife in the cover while you shape the cover.

I’ll point out a couple of design considerations I used for my cover. I wanted a “push point” in my design so it was more natural to hold the knife with the sharp edge downward and the thumb could push the cover to loosen it. I created this with the boot on the figure. Of course the obvious position of the figure suggests the sharp edge is toward it’s bottom. The other precaution I took was to protect the hat on the figure. Because of it’s shape, and it’s location at the end of the cover, I wanted to add some protection. I used the extra length of the wood to carve some stones that would more than likely receive the impact from a fall.

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Someone asked me why the figure is lying on stones. Must be for drainage.

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Here are a few more examples of wooden knife covers.

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I hope you understood this and are able to put it to good use.

Dim Bulbs

A friend of mine, Rod Beamish from Indiana, showed a bunch of really cute carved ornaments to me a few years ago. I’ve carved a couple dozen of them myself since then and thought I would pass along some tips to encourage others to try carving “Dim Bulbs”.

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The following description will not be carving instructions as much as tips and shortcuts for those who already know how to carve a corner face. Most corner faces are done for practice or demonstration. When finished, you just have a face on the corner of a scrap of wood. This project will allow you to practice and have something “useful” when you’re done. I’m going to describe the process to prepare the wood and offer some tips to shape the wood before actually carving a face.

I used Rod’s blank to create my own cardboard pattern. The pattern is for 4 ornaments. That’s done to allow more wood to grasp while working on each small ornament. You could increase the number of ornaments on the blank but at some point you’ll cause a problem for yourself. If you have ever carved a walking stick or cane, you know how unwieldy a long stick can be.  Click here to link to a PDF for Dim Bulb Pattern.

Cardboard pattern

Cardboard pattern

Take special care when making this pattern so each ornament is the same width and the edges fall in straight line. This will help when it’s time to draw a center line. Trace the pattern onto two adjacent sides of a piece of wood. Allow about a quarter of an inch of scrap wood on both sides of the pattern. Make sure the pattern is centered on both sides of the wood.

Pattern on one side

Pattern on one side

Pattern on adjacent sides

Use a band saw or scroll saw to cut the pattern on one side of the wood. Make one cut on each side of the pattern so you have three pieces of wood after this step.

First side after cutting

First side after cutting

Some people will leave a small section of the line uncut on each side of the blank. That way the scrap will remain attached to the blank for cutting the adjacent side. I prefer to use a one-inch piece of double-sided carpet tape to hold each scrap piece onto the blank while I cut the adjacent side.

After first cut on adjacent side

After first cut on adjacent side

Making the cuts on the adjacent side will produce the completed blank. If you used the “incomplete cut” method on the first side, return to the that side and carefully finish removing the scrap pieces. If you use the tape method, pull the scrap from the original side and remove any tape still sticking to the blank. You will have a blank with 4 corners.

Blank with all scrap pieces

Now is the time to mark a center line on all four sides of the blank. I have a useful tool made by Dave Rushlo. It holds a pencil and is adjustable. It’s great for drawing a center line on blocks of wood or anything where you need a line drawn parallel to a flat surface.

Blank with center line

Blank with center line

The center line defines the widest point of each ornament so as you round three of the four corners to form the back, you’ll leave the line and follow the directions below. The center lines, to the left and right of the fourth corner, define the boundaries for the face. The center line also helps when transforming the square area at the top of each ornament into a cylinder in preparation for the “threads”.

A line should also be drawn between each ornament. This serves as a reminder to reserve enough wood for the “threaded” cylinder as you form the bottom of the ornament above it.

Line at top of each ornament. Bottom of ornament drawn for visual aid

You can start with any of the ornaments but I recommend shaping the backs and tops of all of them before carving the faces.  I choose a corner of the blank that I think has the strongest grain for the noses or a corner free from blemishes. I like to remove some wood from each of the three corners I intend to round over. That way I don’t remove a nose by mistake.

Another tip I can offer is when rounding a corner, remove the center third of the area between it’s left and right center lines.  Note the red lines in the photo. Then remove the ridges (the red lines) formed by those cuts trying to use the “thirds” method again.

Using the “thirds” method to help with symmetry.

This should create a balanced and more rounded area. You’ll still need to make many more smaller cuts to smooth the rounded quarter before repeating the process on the other corners.

Back corner rounded.

Top view of back corner rounded.

You’ll have to carefully cut off the center lines on the back of each ornament to remove the original saw cuts and make the adjacent quarters blend. Remember, the center lines are located on the widest dimension of the ornament so the more wood you remove at that line, the thinner your ornament will become.

Front view of top ornament after rounding back three corners.

Front view after rounding back three corners.

The area for the “threads” should just be roughed out. Remember there is a small bit of wood in the center of the top of each ornament. It represents the contact point between the ornament and the circuit in a real light socket.

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Faces and cylinders carved

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Adding “contact” point to top of cylinder

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Lines drawn for “threads”

Add the “threads” after the ornaments have been separated. To do this, I draw a lite pencil line for guidance.  I like to start at the top of the cylinder above the center of the face. It would be great to finish the thread-cut right below the starting point but that doesn’t always happen. The threads would never work for real but the suggestion of real threads is more convincing if you see the beginning and the end of them as you view the face.  On the back my threads are almost horizontal. I use a 3mm # 11 or  #9 to cut the threads. I have a Dockyard brand tool that size.

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Cutting the "threads"

Cutting the “threads”

After painting, use a small awl or large needle to make a pilot hole in the center of the contact point.

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Add a small screw eye to allow hanging.

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I hope this provides enough detail to get your creative juices flowing. Happy carving.