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Helvie Knives
Wood Carving Tips and Techniques

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Old 08-16-2008, 06:13 AM
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Default Visualizing the Carving Inside the Block

When we first take up carving; the old-timers enjoy torturing us with suggestions they pull out of their hats. I am sure they mean well, and I suppose they suffered the same initiation at the hands of their elders.

To avoid all that, I decided to attend carving classes with experienced; big-name carvers. My plan had one inevitable mistake that I should have expected; even these high-powered instructors were trained by old men with a sense of humor that should be considered suspect.

More often than not, the instructor suggests looking for the carving inside the block of wood. Finding a carving inside a block of bass would be a handy skill if I could only develop it. I have on occasion found driftwood that reminded me of a bird or snake; but I wanted to carve a dog or a pig

Another method that is often heard is “remove all the chips that aren’t part of the dog or pig”. I find this to be as difficult as visualizing a carving inside a block of wood.

After spending many; many years to master these skills, I believe I am really getting close. Now I can look at a block of wood and say “I see a pig in this block”. But; saying it doesn’t guarantee I can carve an actual pig from that piece of wood. Like I said; “I am getting really close”, I never said I was there yet.

I place the blame for my slow progress at the feet of my wood supplier. I buy my wood by mail-order and never see the wood until it arrives at my front door.

I buy wood from the same place as the big-shot carvers who regularly win “Best of Show” with their carvings. It’s my belief that these carvers are getting all the blocks with exceptional carvings in them.

Today I received six blocks of basswood and wouldn’t you know it, they all had poorly carved dogs and pigs in them.

Last edited by rick-in-seattle; 08-16-2008 at 06:21 AM.
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Old 08-16-2008, 07:41 AM
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Default Re: Visualizing the Carving Inside the Block

I'm right there with you Rick. I buy my wood from the same supplier too, and a lot of the time I end up with just smaller pieces of the same wood and that dang santa never does show up. I guess we can always blame it on the wood. Oh yeah, and since the price of fuel and energy is going up, at least we will never be hurting for more fire wood.

Blake Lunsford

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Old 08-16-2008, 07:58 AM
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Default Re: Visualizing the Carving Inside the Block

That's funny but true. I hadn't thought about it being an initiation
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Old 08-16-2008, 08:08 AM
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Default Re: Visualizing the Carving Inside the Block

Poor Rick ..... you'll have to change suppliers! My last batch of wood had dragons in them, so you never know what is going to be in your wood untill you release it.

Before they slip me over the standing part of the fore sheet, I'd like to pipe: "Up Spirits" or "Splice the Main Brace" .....................one more time.

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Old 08-16-2008, 08:51 AM
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Default Re: Visualizing the Carving Inside the Block

Rick, you have presented an amazing kernel of wisdom that has been hidden there in plain sight for all of us. “See what’s in the wood and carve away all that ain’t!” The basic maxim of woodcarving.

I, too, have been receiving the wrong wood. I have been forcing gentle, playful, friendly puppy dogs to become ferocious, scowling, aloof eagles. No wonder I find carving so difficult; turning the fur covered rump of a dog into the feathered tail of an eagle! I just did not understand what was wrong.

Isn’t it wonderful that woodcarvers, by and large, are such friendly folk? I’m gonna start taking several blocks of wood with me to gatherings. I’m gonna ask everyone, “What do you see in there?” I’m gonna label the blocks so that there will be no mistakes. I’m gonna…….NO! I am not gonna give up on carvin’ those birds! I’m just gonna run through a lot of wood ‘til I find them buggers.

Uh Oh! This hobby just got a lot more expensive. Maybe we could convince WCI to set up a tradin’ thread, “I gotta puppy dog-lookin’ for an eagle”.

Rick, enjoyed reading your post and your synopsis of woodcarving wisdom.
Paul Guraedy (jer-AH-dee)

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When all the trees have been cut down, when all the animals have been hunted, when all the waters are polluted, when all the air is unsafe to breathe, only then will we discover we cannot eat money.
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Old 08-16-2008, 09:08 AM
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Default Re: Visualizing the Carving Inside the Block

Idaknow....I must be doin somthin wrong....

I keep seeing wood chips......Sad

Thanks Rick...I needed something to cheer me up today...as usual, thanks to you, the WCI forum came through.

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Old 08-16-2008, 10:28 AM
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Default Re: Visualizing the Carving Inside the Block

Hi Rick,Now that is funny,never looked at it that way. Thanks for your insight. Merle
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Old 08-16-2008, 11:38 AM
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Default Re: Visualizing the Carving Inside the Block

Rick I do know, that you had to have gotten a big load of wood at one time that had some pretty fantastic Hobo's inside of them because you did a beautiful job of releasing them!


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Old 08-16-2008, 11:56 AM
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Default Re: Visualizing the Carving Inside the Block

A very humorous insight. Unfortunately none of my wood comes with anything inside of it,,,that might be helpful. My stuff comes with nothing but possibilities. Might be a blessing though,,I'd hate to start carving a Mantle of leaves and discover that there was a pig inside instead. I'd have a hard time explaining that to a client.
Plus,,imagine all the wood I'd have to carve to find the one with the leaves in it!
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Old 08-16-2008, 12:42 PM
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Default Re: Visualizing the Carving Inside the Block

Laughing, and glad I stopped in to read this thread.
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