Chip Carving - Part 2
You can find the first part of this article here - Chip Carving - Part 1.
Sesame Street is a great kids program. I watched it as a kid and it’s still on TV from what I hear. Every show is sponsored by a letter and a number. It was a great way to teach kids. Now I’m going to try that out on you. Today’s article is brought to you by the letter Q and the number 65. Why Q? Because its round with a cute tail. Why the number 65? Well, it’s a very important number in chip carving….
The Shadow Knows
Shadows are important in all kinds of artwork. Portraying them in painting is key, photographers are very careful to preserve them, and woodcarving is no different. Proper shadows play a big role in how our eyes interpret a carving. The design and the motifs you choose are important but if you do not execute your carving properly it will not grab the viewer’s eye.
It is very important to cut the chips consistently. This will give you a proper look over the whole project. The way to accomplish this is to always work in the same physical position and hold your knives in the same manner and position every time. As we’ve already discussed most chip carvers carve in their lap. That way they can keep a consistent position no matter where there are working.
My Slant on Angles
There is one way to produce great shadows in your chips and that is to cut your chips at the correct angle. To remove a chip you must make at least two cuts. When these cuts are made you will end up with a V shape in the wood. It’s the angle of this V that is most important.
The tendency for most folks is to make a cut that is too shallow with a cutting angle of about 45 degrees. This is understandable because it allows for a shallow cut and is therefore easier to get the chip out. The correct cutting angle is 65 degrees. This angle will cause you to go deeper to get the chip out and will result in a more desirable shadow.
The knife I am using has an indention on top for the index finger and an indention for the thumb closer to the blade across from the finger. Look at the picture to get an idea of how I am holding the knife. Keep your fingers and thumb in constant contact with the wood. This will give you stability while you cut and most importantly should help keep your skin intact. If you fingers are moving with the blade they can’t be cut. As soon as you use your thumb for leverage and your knife slips you’ll be reminded why seasoned woodcarvers carry Band-Aids.
Don’t forget to hold the blade at 65 degrees. If you notice that you are not holding the knife at the proper angle do not twist your hand or wrist. This would put your hand in an unnatural position and could cause fatigue. What you want to do is loosen your grip and turn the knife in your hand until you have the correct angle. Then properly grip the knife again. Dennis Moor calls this position 1 (picture on right) and says he uses it about 95% of the time.
Position 2 (picture on left) has the blade facing away from your person rather than toward you. Notice the thumb is on the back edge of the knife and the handle. The fingers should stay in contact with the wood for stability. It is more difficult to maintain the 65 degree angle with this position but position 2 is useful in certain instances: 1) when the wood starts to split on a cut you can turn the wood around and use this position to cut back to your other cut, 2) making the second cut of the triangle chip (you’ll learn about it in a later article), 3) when working in confined spaces.
Holding the Stab Knife
The stab knife can be held with the blade facing towards you are away from you. The grip is the same. It depends on how you want the cut in the wood. Once you grip it properly, position the point of the blade on the wood and push it in. This will give you an impression in the wood. Many embellishments are done with this technique. These will be discussed in a later article.
The Gripping End
In chip carving holding the blade properly is very important. Using correct grip and correct angle consistently will give you consistently good results. Chip carving is like any other endeavor – ‘perfect practice makes perfect’. If you practice sloppily your results will show it.
My goal in these articles is to give you a taste for chip carving and I hope I am doing it well. However, I do recommend finding a good book or video on the subject. Books and videos have room to give a lot more depth on the subject. My continued thanks to Dennis Moor for helping me along in this process.
Chip Carving Materials
Dennis Moor's book is - Chip Carver's Workbook: Teach Yourself with 7 Easy and Decorative Projects
Wayne Barton Knives - SET OF W.B. CHIP CARVING KNIVES
Two Cherries - Two Cherries 515-3303 Chip Carving Knives - 3 Piece Set
Flexcut - Flexcut Chip Carving Knife