I want to start off this week by saying I hope everyone had a Healthy and Happy Thanksgiving, and didn’t indulge in too much turkey, pie and football! And I want to wish all my Jewish readers a very Happy Hanukka!
Getting back into the groove after our holiday break I thought we would start off with one more segment on carving the human eye. There is more to carving a good human eye than just carving the eye itself. Read below for features you should be aware of when carving any eye:
Carving The Human Eye
It is vital we look at the detail of the eye within its context of the face. That is, the eyelid, the cheek, the nose, and the eyebrow – in other words everything that surrounds it. The eyeball itself doesn’t really create the character of the eye at all, except for its color and that is not a variable unless we are planning to color the wood we use for our carving.
First, let’s take the eyelids. Some questions you can ask yourself as you look at your eye in the mirror, or your friend’s eye in front of you are listed in the accompanying checklist. Each of these questions can, and should, be asked about any eye you wish to reproduce. Any one of them represent common features that are often overlooked when carving the human eye.
The study of anatomy for reproduction in art should not become a laborious pursuit. Indeed, some of us will have no interest in it at all. However, if you want to reproduce some animals, including people, then it is essential to at least have some fun and give it a go. Use the following checklist to help develop your understanding of the detail of your subject’s eye.
Eye Detail Checklist
1. This checklist is a tool to reinforce the new skill we are developing, which is really the study of the human eye.
2. What shape is it, and exactly where is it? Are the eyes close together? Is the cheek hollow?
3. Where is the tip of the nose in relation to the eye and tip of the chin?
4. Are the comers of the mouth turned up in a smile that extends to the eyes?
5. Does the top eyelid overlap the bottom at either end? Some eyes have no overlap, others do, mostly on the end nearest the ear.
6. Is the tissue at the tear duct straight (horizontal) or does it turn down?
7. How many creases are there on the eyelid? Are there a different number in the top and the bottom?
8. What is the curvature of the edge of the top and bottom eyelids? Is the bottom eyelid flatter than the top?
9. How thick is the tissue that forms the eyelid? Is it following the curve of the eyeball on both the inside (where of course it must because it touches it) and the outside?
10. What is the actual curve of the fleshy part above the eyelid (below the eyebrow)? How wide is it? On some eyes it is pronounced, for others it is narrower.
11. What is the depth, in relation to the bridge of the nose, of the corner of the eye nearest the nose? It can be quite deep, and it is often made far too shallow, thus not achieving the right roundness of the eye.
12. What is the position of the other corner of the eye? How far back toward the ear is it? If it is nor placed in the right spot, the eye will not be the correct roundness.
Questions & Comments
Our first questions this week come from Rick who is looking for information on making his own tool tote and on whether kiln dried wood loses moisture. Rick writes:
“Hi Bob Thank you so much for all you do. Attached is an unpainted carving of one of your simple Santa’s. I really like how it turned out but need to get caught up on my painting! I have a couple questions.
If it’s already kiln dried, does it matter how long you keep basswood before carving? I’ve noticed a big difference in how hard some wood is compared to others and just wondering if over time this could change- or is it just different pieces of wood? When ordering wood I have questioned whether I should only order small quantities that I would be able to carve in a reasonable amount of time, or does it make any difference, once it’s dry- it’s dry?
My second question is about storing carving tools. I have 10-12 knives and gouges and would like a stand or some way to hold them so they are easily accessible, organized, and not just laying on the table. I’ve seen a lot of totes or stands that people have built but wondered if there are any available for purchase that you are aware of or would recommend.
Thanks again, Rick Carver”
Thanks for writing in, Rick! Unfortunately, the photo of your Simple Santa didn’t come through and we’d really like to see it. Perhaps you can try sending it again. Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org
Once basswood has been kiln dried it’s rate of moister loss slows down. It will still lose moisture but because of the lower percentage of moisture left to lose the rate of loss is slower. That said, I personally wouldn’t leave my basswood out in the open air for more that about two or three years. I store much of my basswood in closed air-tight bins which help keep the wood from drying out too fast. I also buy my basswood in small quantities limiting the amount to just what I will be able to use in a short period of time. Some things to definitely consider.
Perhaps some of our readers can add some welcome input to this topic.
With regard to your second question, I have not personally seen any commercially made tool totes…only tool rolls. I know a lot of carvers make their own tool totes and if you go on Facebook you are bound to find carvers who have done it. Also, I’m sure some of our reader on this blog have made their own and would be happy to share how they made them. How about it? Anyone out there want to show us your tool totes?
Our next question comes from Bob (not me) who has a question about his tools chattering. Bob writes:
“Very nice tutorial. I would’ve to see from the beginning of the eye.how deep do you go by the nose..also question..when carving cross grain I get little chatter marks. Is it from the grain or is it cause the v tool isn,tsharp?. Thankyou”
Thank you for the compliment on the eye tutorial! When it comes to carving eyes in relation to the bridge of the nose there is no rules of thumb. You just have you eyeball it (no pun intended). It’s a feel you get from carving many eyes. Practice, so to speak.
Your chattering problem is due to dull tools. A sharp tool will cut across the grain smoothly with no chatter, leaving a perfectly smooth, shiny finish on the wood.
Our next question comes from Todd Martin from Huntington, Indiana. Todd has questions about the various oils and finishes used on wood/carvings and writes:
I’m a recent subscriber and look forward to future posts. If this is the right place to ask questions, then here is one – just when you get the chance. If not, I’ll check back on the website.
I saw a recent post on using Mineral Oil vs Boiled Linseed Oil, which focused on the coloring and, of course, to some degree, on the potential dangers of BLO. Besides Mineral Oil, you mentioned Walnut Oil. I’ve also seen Danish Oil and Tried and True, and Tung Oil, usually in relation to treating furniture – so never was sure if it would work as a base for painting basswood figures.
I wonder, then, if there is a way you could do a pros and cons for these? Are there any you would definitely rule out? I spent a fair amount of time a month or so ago trying to figure this out, because BLO worries me a bit, with its flammable nature, but I couldn’t find an alternative, so I bought some and have just been as careful as possible. And I never saw Mineral Oil as an option (until your blog), and I think the preference for BLO was drying time – is there a big difference?
Sorry, longwinded. In brief:
What are the advantages/disadvantages (or is it even an option) for BLO alternatives for treating basswood before painting:
Mineral Oil Tung Oil Walnut Oil Tried and True Dutch Oil
Hope this makes sense.
Well, Todd, welcome to Wood Chip Chatter! This is absolutely the right place to ask your woodcarving questions, in fact I encourage them!
In my opinion, there are two (2) different oils that can be used to treat basswood before painting instead of BLO.
Walnut Oil. My top choice is Walnut Oil, which I now use exclusively. It is not refined from petroleum products, has absolutely no combustibility hazard, doesn’t polymerize (dry hard) like most of the other products and won’t yellow over time like linseed oil.
Mineral Oil. My second choice would be Mineral Oil, which has no odor, dries slowly and has a very low combustibility hazard. It also will not yellow like linseed oil. Mineral Oil is thicker than Walnut Oil so it will take longer to dry, which may slow down your painting process. I can honestly say, though, I have never used Mineral Oil but based on my research I believe it would be a good option to BLO.
I don’t recommend the use of the four other products for treating basswood before painting, but if you must use one of them I would choose them in the following order:
Tried & True. It is non-toxic, food grade safe, and the label does not indicate that it’s at all combustible. My concern here is with its relation to Danish oil as a polymerized linseed oil. Because it is a polymer it will likely dry hard on your carving. Plastics are made from polymers. Not what you want as a base coat for painting but as a good final coating at the end.
Tung Oil. I don’t like Tung Oil mainly because it polymerizes (gets hard) when dry, and that’s not what you are looking for when you are painting on basswood. On the other hand, it might be a good choice as a final finish after painting, instead of polyurethane (which sometimes yellows over time), and lacquer or varnish.
Linseed Oil. I would not recommend Linseed Oil due to its odor and combustibility hazard. Linseed Oil also polymerizes when exposed to air as it dries.
Danish Oil. I would never recommend Danish Oil because of its toxic vapor, combustibility and polymerization issues.
That’s it in a nut shell, however, I feel there is so much more to know about these products that I’ve decided to go into greater detail with a more in depth explanation of each one in the next issue of Wood Chip Chatter. Once you read the details in next week’s blog post you will have a better understanding of these finishing oils and why I rank them the way I do. From that point you can make your own decision.
Our next question comes from Dean Stewart who is asking for some constructive criticism on a Santa ornament he just carved:
Here’s a pic of my latest Santa carving. Done on the corner based on a series of videos from Gary McDaniel. I want to suggest something to you. I made this same suggestion to Thom and Blake but I haven’t heard back from them. I’d like to request feedback on this piece from you and/or your readers. I think it might be interesting to see what the community might say to help me improve. Perhaps others would try it to if I break the ice. But it’s up to you. If you want to try it then feel free to use this pic. If not I won’t be offended. I appreciate all you’re doing.”
Thanks for writing and for the photo, Dean! I always appreciate getting photos of my readers’ carvings. It’s an excellent Santa ornament…one you should be proud of! First major criticism though, and I’ve done this before, myself. You forgot to do the eyebrows. I think that’s an easy fix, though. Also, next time, make the fur hat trim wider. We all tend to make it too narrow.
Carving Tip: Take photos of your work as you go, even if it’s just before and after painting. A photo will point out mistakes you don’t normally see with the naked eye. This way you can go back and correct your mistakes before finishing the carving.
Carving faces off the corner of the block is not new. I carve all of my ornaments that way and have been doing so for years. If you’re just carving a face, it’s the easiest and perhaps the best way to do it because it helps the carver to get the nose out, which is so important when carving any facc. What about some of our readers out there…does anyone else have any other suggestions to help Dean out?
Our final comment comes from Leonard along with some photos of some of the really nice Santas he’s been carving lately:
“Hello Bob, hope you and your family are having a great Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Just wondering about you simple Santa/gnome pattern. I go by your measurements and would like to try a larger one. Could I just double the measurements someway or is there a formula to go about this to keep everything in symmetry? Thanks, maybe you could comment on this in your blog next week. Have attached a couple of photos, one of a Santa head on a basswood plaque, I think I got this pattern from Wood Carving Illustrated magazine, and ones of your simple Santa pattern.
Those are some really terrific looking carvings, Leonard! They’re going to make great Christmas gifts this year! You’re doing a great job on the Simple Santas from my pattern and I especially like the way your Santa plaque turned out.
If you want to carve larger Santas just multiply the measurements you have. For example, the original pattern is made on a 1″ square block. So if you want to make a Santa on a 1 1/2″ square block, multiply your measurements by 1.5. Therefore, a 1/2″ measurement becomes 0.5″ x 1.5 = .75″ or 3/4″, and so on. If you go to a 2″ square block, just double all your measurements. So a 1/2″ measurement becomes 0.5″ x 2 = 1.0″ or 1″, and so on. I hope that helps.
Let the chips fly! Tell your wood carving friends and spread the word about Wood Chip Chatter, and don’t forget to click the ‘Comment’ button at the bottom of the page to send in your questions and comments so we can keep Wood Chip Chatter active and keep the conversations going!
And remember, we need your photos! I’m sure you all have some terrific carvings to share, and photos of your carvings will help to liven up the blog’s appearance and make it more interesting. Perhaps we can start a carvers photo section! Email your photos to email@example.com
Keep a sharp edge and keep on carvin’!