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Old 02-10-2010, 11:01 PM
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Default New to this site, grain tear out

I thought I knew how grain works in wood. I've done cabinets and finish carpentry for 25 years. Carving has me thinking that I don't know as much as I thought. I am mostly interested in archetectual pieces and have just started carving for a new career in my "non-retirement" years.
I only have about 16 years to figure this thing out, so I hope you can help me.

I bought my self a Christmas present-

a 12 piece set of Ashley Isles chisels
(Drop-Dead Gorgous)

a Jet water sharpener
(Chineese quality control problems)

I'm having grain tear-out problems.

I've used both African mohagony and sugar pine and am having problems holding any detail across grain. The grain seems to crumble but the chiseles were sharp enough to cut me twice today.

What is it?
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Old 02-11-2010, 12:07 AM
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Default Re: New to this site, grain tear out

Hello and welcome. Are you making stop cuts? I started out learning traditional furniture carving and architectural carving. That was over 30 years ago but I remeber we used stop cuts a lot for that style. I do know that just a slightly dull tool will tear out especilly V tools and parting tools and any size #11 gouge. Show us a good picture of the tear out and we may be more help. My first instinct is to say the tools are not sharp enough because the wood you are using is hard enough, I find too soft of a wood will tear and crush even with sharp tools.
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Old 02-11-2010, 01:55 PM
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Default Re: New to this site, grain tear out

The mahogany family is notorious for tearouts/split/runs with its interlocked grain pattern. Even if it lacks the famous mahogany "ribbon" it will still run and split...You almost have to line up and cut in the direction the ribbon is running and sometimes it looks like you are all of a sudden "cutting backwards"

Depending on the grain of the sugar pine, it may be difficult to get decent fine details. Suggestion....locate some basswood and get a feel for the tools carving on the basswood. Once the tools get used to the way you hold them they won't mind being used on most any other kind of wood.

If you are starting with "flat stock", a bench hook is always a good thing to have around. If you need some ideas for building one, they aren't hard, holler....plans are easy.

I always encourage folks to try different kinds of wood. Some like hardwoods, some soft (don't think I have heard anybody express joy when carving burl) Hardwoods require more tool pressure, obviously, but will hold great detail. Take small bites!!.... The softwoods yield easier under the tool, large mass removal quickly, edges of tools seem to last longer, unfortunately most of the softwoods are lousy at holding detail. Mallet...I like using a mallet for most of the stuff I do, several sizes make it very easy to drive a chisel without endangering yourself or the tools. Using a mallet also means "both hands on the tools" and I cannot hold the wood, the mallet and the chisel...which means my hands/fingers/wrists are out of harms way..... Small bites, small victories, keep the ketchup for the hot dogs!!!
"how old would you be if you didn't know how old you are??"
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Old 02-11-2010, 03:23 PM
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Default Re: New to this site, grain tear out

I have carved a lot of Honduran mahogany, but have avoided African mahogany after watching some friends struggle with it. It leaves a lot of fuzz, and splinters easily. The best tests of sharp gouges and chisels are the "line of light" concept of looking at the sharp edge to find a visible reflection, which tells you your sharp gouge isn't as sharp as it could be. The other test is to look for drag lines on your freshly carved surface, indicating a dull spot on the cutting edge. Ashley Isles tools should be sharp, but a final honing and/or stropping may be necessary to get them scary sharp.

You picked a couple of really challenging woods to carve, so I suggest trying some basswood or butternut to see if you can carve it cleanly. If you can't, your tools aren't sharp. You should be able to carve good basswood in any direction with clean cuts, no chipping, and no fuzz. Good luck. Mike
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Old 02-11-2010, 04:47 PM
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Default Re: New to this site, grain tear out

Ditto to what has been already said...

Yes, be extra-aware of the grain direction when working with something like mahogany. As soon as you feel the blade begin to dive, pull out right away and go at it from the opposite direction. And make sure your tools are _sharp_. Even a dull knife/chisel will cut flesh.

Carvito ergo sum
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Old 02-11-2010, 05:24 PM
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Default Re: New to this site, grain tear out

I experienced the same problems with grain when I switched from cabinet making to carving. In cabinet making I was mainly concerned with the affects of planing, scraping, and sanding the wood. Don't do it against the grain. The grain either went left to right or right to left. Notice the direction of the grain and plane with it. That worked! Seldom does one have plane half the board in one direction and reverse the direction for the rest of the board. Kinda different in carving isn't it.......

Tom H
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Old 02-11-2010, 07:20 PM
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Default Re: New to this site, grain tear out

Thanks for all the help, good site.

I think I need to strop more often. Going out this weekend to cut some downed Aspen. And to think I cut down 5 basswood trees last fall on my Dad's property in N Minn.

Here in New Mexico they use cottonwood roots to carve cachina dolls. Maybe I'll try some this spring.

Also we have what the locals call Box Maple (?)-really soft, weed-like.

Thanks again will send pictures when I get my camera to work

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Old 02-11-2010, 09:08 PM
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Default Re: New to this site, grain tear out

You may want to look at your bevels (degree).....

Keep 'em sharp and take your time.

Mahogony and pine WILL be harder to carve for that very reason....

Get a glove and carve safe.
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Old 02-11-2010, 09:51 PM
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Default Re: New to this site, grain tear out


Could you elaborate on bevels?

What am I missing here?
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Old 02-11-2010, 09:55 PM
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Default Re: New to this site, grain tear out

It's not fair to add new rules to the game when I've already started playing.
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