Saturday, May 2, 2015

Knifespeak...

Blade Terminology

Knife tuning...

Case Polishing cloth, DMT Diamond Sharpener, Strop, Denny
knife, and DMT diamond sharpening card.
As with most Caricature carvers my primary woodcarving tool is a knife and as I have said on many occasions it should be a 'proper' caricature carving knife that enables its user to create the best carving possible.  You probably have also heard me state that if I had to have a single knife it would be the former Denny (now OCC Tools) 1 7/8" Straight knife.  It is an excellent all around knife and it usually can be purchased for < $25.
To be clear...for Caricature carving I do not recommend in any shape or form razor blade cutters as they are not reliable and their use often leads to choppy carvings and increased risk of injury.
I also do not recommend bench knives for this style only because of the thickness of their blades.  These type of knives are not by any means deficient, they are just not proper for this style of carving.
Now I do understand that not everyone has an extensive carving budget, but we do not have to be extravagant in our purchases to maintain a knife.  At a minimum a carver should have a strop, strop compound (I use aluminum oxide), and a sharpener of their choosing.
  To be fair I do own an Ultimate Sharpener which is kept close to my carving area for quick touch-ups and a Burke Sharpener for more serious gouge sharpening.  For knives though I do recommend you avoid these as much as possible and take the time to strop and sharpen by hand.  The reason...its our bread and butter and extra time and care should be taken.
  Now I am not an expert sharpener by any means, however I do get the desired result...a "slick" knife.  What that means is that my knife is not only extremely sharp it is also polished.  Now I know there is a debate on whether the inside channels of gouges or the sides of knives should be polished but I would say definitely yes to this as it reduces the drag when making a cut.  Allowing the user greater precision with less fatigue and frustration.
  How do achieve the polish...simple...after stropping the cutting edge...strop the sides of the blade...over time you will be rewarded with a mirror finish and beautiful cuts (better than sandpaper).
  One shape consideration...I was lucky to hear Marv Kaisersatt speak on woodcarving about 10 years ago and he showed us his preferred knife profile.  Of note was his rounding of the knifes spine.  He felt this allowed him greater ability to make curling cuts.  I too round the spine of my knifes as not only does it allow for curling cuts but also eliminates knife drag and wood breaks (i.e.unclean cuts).  I would note that the rounding of the spine changes the knifes rigidity make the blade more flexible which also can mean it more subject to knife tip snapping.
  Take some time to examine your knives and their shapes.  In the case of the pictured knife it had started to develop a tip-up at the tip of the knife and also an negative arc at the center of the cutting surface (interpret this as my knifes cutting edge was not straight).  These developments had come from years of use and stropping (some on the Ultimate Sharpener strop).  As such I needed to bring the knife back into "tune". 
  Tuning a knife depending on the situation takes time and patience and should not be rushed.  Trust me the effort and result are well worth it.  The first step I take when tuning a knife is to reshape the blade bringing the spine and cutting edge to the desired shape, once I have that it is a matter of sharpening the blade.   The length of the sharpening process will depend on the extent of the modifications required to reshape the blade and its condition when starting this process.  The key is to know what you desire and then put forth the effort to achieve this.
  If you are new to sharpening I would recommend getting/borrowing a copy of the video  "Sharpening Simplified" by Everett Ellenwood.  It is a good place to start.  Also if you have a limit I would look into DMTs Diamond Sharpening Cards (about $10 each, 3 different grit levels) which can be found at Woodcraft and other stores.
  Spring is here and I've given you something to contemplate...why not strop up your tools while your at it??

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Good stuff...

Basswood bundle from Wilcox Wood Works
While visiting the Charlotte show I took time to peruse the vendors displaying their wares.  Two of these suppliers are a wonderful addition to the knowledge base.
The first being a little outfit out of Stanley, NC...Southern Carving & Leather.  These folks were displaying an array of leather items of particular interest were their strops.  one of which truly stood above the rest.  The single handed strop is two sided having both cow & pig leather strops firmly adhered to a healthy block of wood.  The strop was extremely reasonably priced at $10 and I would highly recommend this product.  (actually thinking of adding a few to my stockpile).  While I found no website the product can be obtained by contacting them at 704-215-9955 (number found on strop).

AUTHOR'S NOTE:  I prefer the tighter grain of pig leather used in combination with Aluminum Oxide powder...this combination keeps my knives highly tuned.

The second vendor is another fine addition as well....Wilcox Wood Works.  I met Rod & Muriel and at the show and Rod was kind enough to answer a question regarding basswood coloring and whether or not the clearer wood was from the interior of the log...the answer is that the color is not a true measure of where a particular block of wood has come from in a log.  This company is located out of Minong, WI and sells basswood, butternut, and pine.  For me the basswood is of high quality and comes in a variety of sizes which also includes board sizes of all starting at 1/4".  This supplier is another worth a look (my order was as expected and delivered in a timely fashion) and can be checked out online via the link posted on this site.
Having all this fine wood and supplies it is a day to be filled with carving.  C'mon get that lawn work done and whittle something while waiting on that grill!!

Friday, March 27, 2015

What a little color will do...

Best of Imtermediate Tom Wolfe Category by J. Butlin (2015)
For a little over a year now I have been coaching a couple of carvers and helping them through the steps necessary to advance their caricature carving skills.  One of whom is my friend Jim.  Jim has been carving for several years now and has taken quite a few carving classes with a variety of instructors.  These classes were on a range of topics and not limited to carving caricatures.  That actually has served Jim well when it came to finishing one of his latest pieces for the Charlotte show.  In the case of the dog in question I had provided guidance on a couple of recipes I learned, one in a standard style and one developed by Mitch Cartledge.  With the recipe and a little encouragement Jim was able to create an award winning piece (he won a Tom Wolfe carving) that has a tremendous finish.  Not surprising in this is that Jim has in the past carved and painted duck decoys and that skill served him well when it came to having the patience to apply the finish in the correct fashion. 
These days more often than not you will here carvers state that they either hate painting or do not want to paint at all.  That being the case I believe us experienced carvers need to start providing better guidance and instruction. 
For most carvers learning the art and attending classes the painting instruction most often does not involve the student selecting and preparing their paint.  This has lead to far too many carvings being covered with excessive amounts of paint with no wood grain being shown.  You might ask why having the wood grain showing is important...well it simply is to show that it is a woodcarving and not a piece of resin

A long standing finishing recipe for caricature carving is:
  1. Ensure carving is free of dust and grime and all cuts are clean cuts with a sharp tool - no shredded wheat(this will help ensure uniform absorbing of the paint colors)
  2. Wet carving-some folks will scrub with Simple Green (this step is optional however carving must be completely painted while carving is still wet)
  3. Paint complete carving with thinned acrylics (depending on the color being used paints are thinned at different rates with reds being the most thinned and white being the least)
  4. Antique the carving (tinted boiled linseed oil...per one gallon of oil add a one inch strip of Burnt Umber oil paint)
  5. Sealant - matte finish (Deft spray lacquer is tried and true but can be hard to locate)
  6. Wax - Feed-N-Wax provides the right amount of sheen
Recommendations:
  • When applying the finish ensure you use and care for some quality brushes (round brushes are recommended)
  • For a palette I would use a Paper Palette (thanks M. Stetson) found at art and hobby stores (comes in a pad like drawing paper)
  • A helpful tool to have is a hair dryer, this can expedite the drying of the paint.
  • A test block....always have a carved scrap nearby to test your color for transparency before applying on the carving (remember tint is hard to remove but can be added gradually)
  • Have your "magic eraser" (Tom Wolfe speak for knife) on hand to eliminate bleed over should it occur.
  • Practice...Practice..Practice...AND...thin that paint...no thinner...NO REAL THIN!!!
  • Relax and enjoy your hobby (very important)

Ok so I made it sound simple...yes, but with practice and the right color selections you will advance your skills producing a nicely finished product.

My congratulations go out to my friend Jim Butlin, outstanding job my friend!!

Well, I got Jim to paint...what's your excuse??? C'mon spring might show up soon and then you will be having to mow the lawn again...carve while you still have the time!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Charlotte 2015...

Tom Wolfe Whittling Competition - Day 1
Well, the 2015 Charlotte Woodcarvers show has come and gone however its impact remains.  Folks, this crew knows how to throw a show and has an outstanding membership in support.  I have been going to their show for around 8 years and two venues.  While this competition covers the majority of carving categories it is one of the best for Caricature Carvers given the talent it draws. 
Anchoring this show is the support Tom Wolfe and Case Knives have long provided.  Tom hosts two whittling competitions, one each day, where all carvers are welcome.  In the case of 2015 one of our young talents, relief carver Dylan Goodson, swept both competitions as he applied his relief carving talent to the given block.  In these competitions, which are free, the carvers are handed a block of wood, told the rules (if there are any), and are given 1.5 hours to complete the carving.  Having sat in these competitions I can tell you it will test your mettle and through effort improve your skills.  This competition usually draws a large crowd with high interest.  For the competitors each are given a prize of sorts for use in there whittling adventures and we carvers are grateful to Case Knives, Heinecke Wood Products, and Smoky Mountain Woodcarvers for their longtime support.
It should be noted that the show is free and open to the public.  For competing carvers there is a standard entry fee for the competition which offsets the costs, but in return there are many carving forums held throughout the weekend on a wide range of carving topics and styles.
All in all a great show... and my thanks to a great club for making all of us feel welcome.  Let's hope for many more years!!
Ok, so it's Spring...you still can't do that much outside...so get carvin'!!!!!!

Charlotte Woodcarvers Club
 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

A new recipe...


How Much?
A. Filetti - 2015
  As always I am out there ever searching for something new to learn about this art and I was fortunate to be taught a new finishing recipe.  As with all recipes you are seeking to improve your outcome and this was an experiment to do just that.
  The figure pictured here was featured in the previous post and is the completed piece.  The carving is now at home with a friend but the experience was an excellent learning experience.  During the holidays I turned to youtube.com to see what was available in helping to pick a color palette for painting the figure.  It turns out there are several videos on color theory which provide a whole range of information.  For me I tried to keep it simple using complementary colors (blue and orange) in order to create an attractive piece.
  Put the color study together with a new finishing recipe and you end with a finish as shown.
  The new recipe involves first slathering a 60/40 Mineral Spirits/Boiled Linseed Oil mixture on the entire fixture and letting it dry,  painting it with thinned Acrylics (to allow for the wood grain to show),  sealing it with Deft Spray Lacquer (I prefer Satin or Matte), and then once dry carefully applying BriWax Original (Golden Oak) with a toothbrush and then buffing.  Care should be taken when applying the wax as it will darken the finish drastically (The jeans were painted a denim blue and the shirt a light blue.)  When applied correctly the recipe seems to work well resulting in a warm and attractive finish.  It is my recommendation that if you attempt this you must first try this on a test piece to master the application of the wax.  Also, I do not believe you will get a better result with a substitution wax as the color tends to enrich the carvings shadows.
  I hope this information helps...its darn cold outside but the coffee is hot...so what are you carving???

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Ready...Set...Action!!

Line of Action
A. Filetti 2014
Instilling motion into our carvings is one way of creating greater interest.  Motion as shown in the post does not have to be dramatic but rather it must be realistic in nature.  The carving at left demonstrates the subtle line of action and the resulting pose of the carving.
While many instructors teach this method a great reference for this that is used by many carvers is the book Cartoon Animation by Preston Blair  (ISBN 1-56010-084-2).  The book teaches many of the rules of animation (motion) in an easy to understand fashion and is well worth the coin if you can obtain one for a reasonable price,  Amazon is a good place to look.
In the picture included in this post I have taken a picture of the intended line of action as indicated by the pipe cleaner and the resulting roughout.  Motion is something that requires constant attention as it can be easily corrupted resulting in a carving that is distracting rather than pleasing.
In future posts I will speak to design and how stick figures help with design and motion but for now take a look at what you are carving...does it contain motion?  or is it static and straight forward?  It is difficult to break away from static carvings and carving a head that is tilted or tipped takes practice but it is achievable and will teach you about our medium and how the grain of the wood acts in three dimensions.
The days continue to grow shorter and our chores diminish with the approaching winter, now is the time to plan your carvings and experiment with something new.  What will you do to improve your carvings?
The coffees hot and plentiful...grab a cup and start carving!!