Sunday, July 10, 2016

The littlest details...

Pirate "go-by" by C. Hammack

...have the greatest impact!

Ok, so your carving and you have done everything to make sure your figure has the proper appearance (i.e. no 3rd leg) and you're done right?? 
It has been my experience carving and collecting others works I have noticed that while ensuring your figure has the proper appearance (e.g. bone joints are in their proper locations) the carvings having the most visual impact have some of the  greatest details through some of the smallest cuts.  These cuts were created by knives some by V-gouges and yet others by veiners or u-gouges.
These cuts can have a great impact but only when done properly.  Some of the best carvings I have seen have many tiny triangle cuts and small cuts,  these must be practiced to ensure the proper result. 
Ok so what do I mean...well...there are two things that jump to mind the first of which is something all good carvers know...your tools must be at their sharpest (not just sharp but really really sharp)...the tool should glide through the wood.  The second item is the the cut should result in the proper planes being generated that will display the proper highlight or shadow.  Essentially all cuts we make create highlights and shadows which in turn gives the appearance of depth.  The use of a wide V-tool will open the resulting cut to more light than a narrow V-tool...this is why the vendors sell us multiple angle varieties of v-tools as there are uses for both styles depending on what the carver is trying to achieve.
A good example is to examine the image provided and look to the scar Chris cut on the nose of the pirate...he created steep, narrow and deep cuts to ensure when he added the strong paint tone that the scar would jump out at you (good composition).  Also note the bag under the eye and the cuts made there. 
If you move on to the mustache it has been enhanced with what appears to be a veiner/u-gouge result in a hint towards the hairs that reside there. 
Of course if you examine the image you will find other examples of this.  Having these examples for you to examine can be quite helpful in advancing your abilities and result in carvings that have a greater impact.
Just something to think about while your whittling by the camp fire or at that park.

I'm carving, are you??
 

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Ornament Demonstration

Ornament by A. Filetti (2015)
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!!

Well back in August our woodcarving clubs executive board met to set the year's meeting agendas and for the month of November we decided on ornament carving talks.  The carving at the left is a result of my presentation to our club.  It is a simple relief carving taken from a holiday card found at a local dollar store for less than the expected dollar.  I made some minor modifications to the design to make it my own and using carbon paper I transferred the pattern to a 1/4" block of basswood.  I then spent time whittling my image and painted using acrylics.  Nothing too complicated with the piece and it can be turned out with a minimal amount of effort.  So when you receive a holiday card save the ones that you might be able to use as a pattern and throw them into your Artists Morgue for later use.
I hope this message finds all of you in the carving spirit and maybe this will provide some simple inspiration.  Its cold outside...oh what a great day to carve!!  So will you carve???

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

I've got my copy...

Caricature Carvers of America's Concepts to Caricatures
...so I just learned of the CCA's new book Concepts to Caricatures and was able to obtain a copy right out of the gate.  The book gives us insight into the design efforts of 26 CCA members with the highlight being Chris Hammack's "The Pitch" (really a series of 5 carvings depicting the various stages a baseball pitcher goes through in order to deliver his specialty).  Chris's article takes you step-by-step through the creation of one of the carvings in the series, and the series is a great study of motion.  As always you get your money's worth with Chris.
While I have not perused all 160 pages of the book, it is loaded with both pictures and content that make it worth the suggested price ($25).  The both includes patterns for those who want to give a particular carving a try and there is also a bonus picture gallery of carvings by both the active and emeritus membership.  The book's ISBN:  978-0-7643-4977-5  and is available via Amazon.com which appears to be selling for as low as $20.  A worthy investment for your reference library.

We all need some inspiration...with this you should be carving!  (Time to make sure your tools are sharp...like it or not winters a comin'!)

Sunday, August 23, 2015

A good effort...

Meter Maids A Comin'
A. Filetti - 2015















  Well I hope everyone has had a good summer,  the weather here in the Northeast has been a bit weird the entire year, however the summer has been sunny with neither too little or too much precipitation.  This allowed me and the clan to carve on many occasions in the out of doors,  which is great considering that for 1/3 of the year we spend in overcast hibernation.
  As per normal I spent my time getting ready to compete in the annual Caricature Carvers of America competition...something I look forward to each year.  At the start of the summer I already had two submissions ready for travel and was working on a Mitch Cartledge roughout (Doc).  This brought me to my most recent conundrum...how to present the carving.
  It has been my experience that in the past carvings without a base do not fair well in competition an not wanting a simple pre-finished base I had an idea.  I decided to place him in a scene.  I checked the rules and the rules did not explicitly forbid placing a caricature carving in a scene and entering the carving in the roughout class.  Well of course the carving did not place in this years competition, which leaves me to ponder if the scene was the reason for it not placing.  Only the judges will know for sure.
  Having known about the competition concern going in, I just could not help myself.  The roughout was a fun one and the scene tells a story about a man seeing the meter maid coming, the parking meter has expired and all of his coins have fallen out of a hole in his jacket pocket and are resting comfortably in the storm drain.  The design was fun from the get-go, and getting the composition to gel was a challenge I sorely needed.  The carving is painted in Acrylics over a thinned coat of boiled linseed oil.  It was sealed with Deft and a coat of BriWax was applied.  Overall a fun piece that will bring a smile to my face for years to come.
  So the next time you get that itch to be creative, don't let a set of competition rules dictate your creativity but rather be as creative as you want and let the competition chips fall where they may.  I know this was the case for this carving and I absolutely have no regrets.
  Our summer days are waning,  grab a knife and a block of wood and go sit a spell under a shade tree...your soul will be better for it!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Whittling away at life's problems one shrimp at a time...

Bart holding court
  Well its been a busy first half of summer here in Western NY,  but I am happy to say that it also did include some carving and better yet it was with a cast of caricatures.
Each spring Mr. Bart Wilson, and his better half Miss Donna, host a weekend gathering of carvers where we all get to sit back and carve without a care in the world (i.e. just turn on the old black and white westerns and get to carvin').  There truly is nothing better.
  Carvers from Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee joined me there.  It truly was like a family gathering as a menagerie of hounds provided first rate comfort and entertainment.  Bart and Miss Donna are first rate in hosting and we were treated to a wonderful Low Country Boil on Saturday night...awesome!
  Now you might be asking what was carved that weekend...well it really was not of great import as we were with our carving family,  having the occasional adult beverage and regaling each other with carving tales.
  At the end we were surrounded with chips, had the opportunity to see a large carving collection,  bellies were full, and stresses relieved.  That is what carving with family is like and it is one of the best attributes of caricature carvers...fellowship.
  A hearty thank you goes out to Bart and Donna for their hospitality, they were magnificent and I hope to return for future gatherings.
  This is how carving should be...and I wish you the same.  It's a beautiful summer day, get out and carve (and carve with your family if you can)!!

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??