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Wood Carving for Beginners

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  #1  
Old 04-22-2012, 06:19 PM
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Default Learning to carve by using Clay

I am making satisfactory progress in learning to carve caricature figures, but sometimes seem brain dead in trying to get my brain to tell my hands exactly what to carve, and end up removing too much wood in the wrong places. I think my problem is trying to follow the design of a flat paper pattern, as copied form the carving books I have accumulated.

An idea I have is to buy some modeling clay, and mold the figure or article from the clay, thereby giving myself a 3D life size figure of exactly what I am trying to carve in the wood.

Has anyone used clay in this manner in learning to carve wood, and will the clay sold at Hobby Lobby or Walmart for children's use work for this idea?

Any suggestions appreciated, thanks,

Dude of the Desert

(The Dude Abides)
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Old 04-23-2012, 02:02 AM
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Default Re: Learning to carve by using Clay

i have. it works alright for me, especially when carving stone. i prefer the non oily clay, it's less messy, but any type of modeling clay should work.

cheers
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Old 04-23-2012, 01:07 PM
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Default Re: Learning to carve by using Clay

Hey Dude! You're on the right track. With clay, you can add and subtract.
I know that sculptors use a variety of clays and clay-like products. Kids'
plasticine is a bit messy/oily but that might be the material for the first experiment.

Right now, I'm trying to decide beak size for some 30" carvings of Ravens.
My go-to method is the messiest of all = junk styrofoam & a bread knife!

Don't feel bad = I think it is very difficult to start with a 2D picture and wrap it around a 3D form. My imagination just did not want to comprehend how the back legs would wrap around the back end of The Frog Dish. I know that they were nothing more than smooth curves. My head didn't want to go there for the longest time. I made a drawing, then a cardboard template, of a frog's back leg in side view, blissfully ignoring the back. Ooops.
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Old 04-24-2012, 12:45 PM
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Default Re: Learning to carve by using Clay

I've used clay a number of times to plan out a new carving. To see what I'm going to have to remove to rough out a figure. I think it helps you see how changes in your design can get what you want in a carved figure. When I'm through with the clay version, I squash it up and put the clay back into a plastic bag till next time.
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Old 04-27-2012, 07:17 AM
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Default Re: Learning to carve by using Clay

I tried it, doesn't work for me. I just carve and if I mess up, grab another peice of wood and start again, or change my design
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Old 04-29-2012, 12:23 AM
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Default Re: Learning to carve by using Clay

Thanks to all who answered. As a trial, I bought a $3 small container of kids play clay at Target. No good. It doesn't seem to be moldable into the shapes and details I am trying to form. I will try something at Hobby Lobby or an art supply store, may have better results. Thanks for the encouragement.

The Dude Abides
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Old 04-29-2012, 11:06 AM
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Default Re: Learning to carve by using Clay

I got a 1lb block for $4.00 at Hobby Lobby. I tried this last night for a head for a caricuture. I really liked doing it. I think I will probably do it this before ever starting to carve. I had used a patten before and had to recarve the head more than once. This way I can work out the facial features and try to recreate. Also, I don't like that head for this particular carving I can save it for later. It really didn't take very long.
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Old 05-10-2012, 10:14 PM
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Default Re: Learning to carve by using Clay

When carving a face in wood you have to pay so much attention to carving the grain in the appropriate directions, which tools to use for the different areas, and how to remove wood smoothly. Because of those technical difficulties and the amount of time carving a full size mask or face in wood can take it can be very helpful to become more comfortable and proficient in sculpting faces by carving in materials that are less difficult to model. I have always done what I call three dimensional sketches for sculpture using Plasticine clay. It allows you to quickly work out design problems before going to the wood.
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Old 05-11-2012, 02:07 PM
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Default Re: Learning to carve by using Clay

I've got a friend who has been a potter for decades, lots of sales and a potter's shop to die for.
She likes to imitate/mimic examples of prehistoric archaeological findings, decorations and all.
At present, she's carving figurines.

". . . . . you need a low fire red clay such as Plainsman L215, which holds together for very large pots. For firing, whatever you carve should be 3/4" thick or less."

She also said to play with local mud-bank clay if you can find it. Make a rolled ropy thing, thick as a pencil. If you can wrap that around your finger without too many cracks, it should be nice for carving or build-ups.
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Old 05-12-2012, 10:00 AM
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Default Re: Learning to carve by using Clay

I always make a clay model before carving in wood. The actual making of the model is not very helpful because it is an additive process, whereas carving is subtractive. It could possibly work if I started out with a block of clay similar to the one I will be carving, but the block size would be a prohibitive amount of clay.

Having the model handy as a reference when I am blocking out the carving is very useful. As DD mentioned in the initial post, it can be hard deciding what to leave and what to take. I did a simple set of wings recently, and was amazed at how easily I got 'lost'. Often it was just a matter of turning the model upside down to see how I should proceed on the workpiece.

I use a cheap off-brand Sculpey (polymer clay), and like previously mentioned store it in a ziplock between carvings. A pasta roller is invaluable for reconditioning the Sculpey when it get hard, or just to soften it for use.

Last edited by davidinsarasota; 05-12-2012 at 10:04 AM.
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