Carving Wooden Santas Elves & Gnomes

Christmas is just about two months away so ’tis the season to be doing your Christmas carving, and probably the most popular Christmas carving subjects are Santas.  I mean who doesn’t love getting a hand carved Santa as a Christmas gift?  Well to help you along with your Christmas chores I have found a book that’s chock full of Santa carving ideas just in the “Nick” of time.

Carving Wooden Santas Elves & Gnomes

By Ross Oar

A Book Review

Front Cover
Back Cover

If you love carving Santas and if you’re looking for ideas, this is the book for you!  “Carving Wooden Santas Elves & Gnomes” is a full-color 96 page book published by Fox Chapel Publishing Company, Inc. in 2008.

Ross Oar was a well-known wood carver who also designed some great hybrid carving/traditional pocket knives.  In his book Ross takes the reader step-by-step through two fun projects…a ‘Christmas Gnome’ and a ‘Wee Santa’.  Along the way, he mentions what tools he is using for each step, and also inserts little bonus carving tips between the steps which I found very helpful.

Over half of the book is dedicated to a gallery of more than 25 finished projects with patterns for each one.  The projects are separated into groups…..Beginner, Intermediate and Masterclass.

Sample Project
Sample Project
Sample Project

Pick up a copy of “Carving Wooden Santas Elves & Gnomes” while there’s still time.  I highly recommend it!  Your family and friends will be thrilled to receive any one of the Santa projects from inside.  They’re fun to carve and you’ll be proud to give them away!

Readers’ Comments

We are very short on comments today….there are only three.  I guess everyone must be busy doing their Halloween and Christmas carving.

Our first comment comes from Dean in response to our discussion on BLO vs. Mineral Oil.  Dean writes:

“Bob,
I recently switched to mineral oil from BLO. I find it does a comparable job of sealing wood prior to painting or staining. It doesn’t seem to absorb as quickly so I do give it more time dry and wipe it off some before painting. Doug Linker did a video on different sealants that is a good comparison. I recommend it.”

Thanks for the comment, Dean!  I think mineral oil is a very good alternative to BLO.  Since it is food grade safe there is practically no chance that it will yellow.  Plus it has no odor and is safer to use.

I would like to see that Doug Linker video.  If possible, can you please provide us with the link to it?  Thanks!

Our next comment comes from John Tuttle from Vancouver, WA along with a photo of the fantastic Halloween Witch he carved.   John forgot to include it with the other photos of his Halloween carvings he sent in last time:

Tall Witch carved by John Tuttle

That’s quite an awesome witch you carved, John!  Thanks for sending it in.  I always love receiving reader’s carving photos.  It looks pretty tall.  What are the dimensions?

Our last comment comes from Lawrence Varner who responds to my list of woodcarving suppliers.  Lawrence writes:

“Woodcraft is my typical go to.

Thanks for doing this.

Lawrence V”

Thank you for bringing that to my attention, Lawrence.  I have just added it to the list.  Woodcraft has stores in many locations in 35 states across the United States.  You can go online at woodcarft.com to find a store near you or shop right online from their website.

I Need Your Help!

Perhaps everyone missed my request for you all to send requests for the kind of articles and information you would like to see in future posts of Wood Chip Chatter.  Your input is so important toward helping me continue to keep things going.  So let me hear what you have to say!

In order to stir up some interest and to give me a feel for who my readers are I’m conducting a survey:  Send in a message telling me if you are a beginner or intermediate (plus) carver.  Send your name…last name not necessary, just an initial is good.  You can put where you’re from, if you like…not necessary but it will add interest to the survey.  Most importantly tell me whether you’re a beginner or intermediate carver (be honest).  I will post the results in a later blog.  This will be very helpful because it will tell me what kind of material I should be researching and posting.  Thanks in advance for your participation!

After a great deal of thought I have made the difficult decision to publish my blog just once a week.  Look for the posts to come out on Fridays.  I want to keep Wood Chip Chatter upbeat and informative and the extra time in between will allow me to do more research on woodcarving topics that are of interest to all of you.  It will also allow all of you more time to think of and send in more questions and comments each week which we desperately need.  And finally, it will allow me a little more time to get back to doing some of the other things in life that I enjoy…such as wood carving!

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 carverbobk@woodchipchatter.com

Keep a sharp edge and keep on carvin’!

Woodcarving Suppliers

Gladly we have had many new subscribers join our group over the past several weeks and to you I want to say thank you.  I am very grateful you have decided to join our Wood Chip Chatter family and hope you will find my blog informative and interesting.

About two months ago I posted a list of woodcarving suppliers  which you can find if you go back to my August 7, 2021 post.  However, for your convenience and for the benefit of others who might like to see it again I am going to re-post it here.   

This is by no means a complete list and I’m sure there are many other woodcarving suppliers that are not listed here.  If anyone knows of any other suppliers that are not on the list please send them in and I will add them.  They can even be knife makers or wood suppliers.   We would love to hear from you to make our list even longer.

In the near future I will be posting a list of all of my personal suppliers (woodcarving and otherwise).  This will be quite a comprehensive list which I’m sure everyone will find useful, so stay tuned.

Woodcarving Supplier List

SupplierWebsite or Phone #Products Supplied
Belcher Carving Supplywww.belchercarvingsupply.comTools, accessories,, turntables
Cascade Carvers Supplycascadecarvers@msn.comTools, Accessories, Books
Chipping Awaywww.chippingaway.comTools, supplies, roughouts, wood
Chris Hammack Roughoutswww.chrishammackart.com/roughoutsBarflys, Professiomal series, roughouts
Dale Green Woodcarvingwww.dalegreenwoodcarving.comRoughouts, Knives
Drake Kniveswww.drake-knives.myshopify.comKnives and Gouges
Dwayne Gosnell Woodcarvingwww.dgosnellwoodcarving.comRoughouts
Fantasy Carvingwww.fantasycarving.comCutouts, roughouts
G. & B. Sears Woodcarvingwww.gnbsearswoodcarving.comRoughouts – Cowboys, Santas, Snowmen
Greg Dorrance Co.www.gregdorrance.comBases, Supplies, Smoky Mt. roughouts
Heinecke Wood Products(715) 822-3524Northern Wisconsin Basswood
Helvie Kniveswww.helvieknives.comHelvie custom knives
Hillcrest Carving(717) 285-7117Anything you need for wood carving!
Hummul Carving Co.www.hummul.comAnything you need for wood carving!
Jon Nelson Woodcarvingwww.jonnelsonwoodcarving.comRoughouts-Santas,snowmen,gnomes
MDI Woodcarvers Supplywww.mdiwoodcarvers.comSupplies of all kinds, walnut bases
Moore Roughoutswww.roughouts.comRoughouts of all kinds, stopper corks
Mountain Woodcarverswww.mountainwoodcarvers,comTools, supplies, roughouts, books, wood
Stadtlander Carvingswww.stadtlandercarvings.comSupplies, turned wood products, Safety
Steve Brown Woodcarvingwww.sbrownwoodcarving.comRoughouts, pen blanks
Sugar Pine Woodcarving Suppwww.sugarpinewoodcarving.comSafety, Pine knots, Dremel equip.
Treelinewww.treelineusa.comWalking sticks, carving & cane supplies
Van Kellys Carvingwww.vankellycarvings.comRoughouts-hillbillies, Santas, snowman
Wetherbee Collectionwww.wetherbeecollection.comRoughouts – all kinds
Whittling Shackwww.whittlingshsck.comTools, spoon kits, cottonwood bark
Wood Carver’s Supplywww.woodcarverssupply.comTools, Safety, Books, Wood

Questions & Comments

I received a good number of questions and comments this time which I’m really pleased to see!  It’s your questions, comments and photos that make Wood Chip Chatter alive and interesting.  They are so important and I could not run this blog without them.  That said, I’m asking all of you to continue sending in your questions and comments and to also send in your requests for the kind of articles and information you would like to see in future posts of Wood Chip Chatter.  I try to make Wood Chip Chatter about you, my readers, so your input is very crucial in helping me continue to keep things going.  So let’s hear what you have to say!

 Our first question today comes from Rick Carver who has a question about using mineral oil on his carvings:

“Hi Bob,
I know that most carvers talk about using BLO or Walnut oil on their carvings before painting, but I’m wondering if you have any experience or comments about using mineral oil as an alternative. I don’t like BLO because of the yellowing issue that people talk about over time. I’ve heard mineral oil mentioned few times but that’s about it. I’ve tried mineral oil and the fact that it has no odor and is easy to clean up makes it a great option it seems. Are there any negatives to mineral oil or reasons not to use it?”

Thanks for writing in, Rick!  Very good question.  Although I do not have any personal experience with using mineral oil, I have also heard of more and more carvers using it on their carvings.  Because of the yellowing issue, as well as the odor and combustibility concern I stopped using boiled linseed oil (BLO) a couple of years ago, and have been encouraging my readers to do the same.

Unlike BLO, mineral oil is a colorless, almost tasteless, oily, water insoluble liquid used mainly as a lubricant, in the manufacture of cosmetics, and in medicine as a laxative.  By definition one would assume that mineral oil would not yellow the same way BLO does.  However, because it contains mixtures of hydrocarbons obtained from petroleum distillation I could not confidently say (although I doubt) it won’t yellow over time.

Our next comment comes from rricecarver who enjoyed reading my article on Tupelo:

“Bob,thanks again for what you do and thanks again for the free knowledge!! I liked the Tupelo article, while all this time I thought duck carvers used Tupelo.”

Thank you for your kind comment!  As you have read, although tupelo is a favorite wood of duck and bird carvers it also has many other uses.

Our next comment is actually a photo of some of John Tuttle’s fantastic Halloween carvings:

“Bob…..Wife just got all these out for the upcoming holiday so thought share”

Halloween carvings by John Tuttle

Thanks so much for the great photo, John!  Those Halloween carvings are terrific!  The witch is especially “wicked” and the spools are cool!

Our next question comes from Liam Anon from Dublin, Ireland who is looking for a good wax to finish his carvings with. Liam has also send in two photos of a great looking little Gnome he recently carved. Liam writes:

“Hi Bob,

Thanks for creating and hosting the Wood Chip Chatter blog, I’m thoroughly enjoying and learning from the various posts I’ve read so far…keep them joke cartoons coming🤣🤣

My question for you, and/or the other subscribers relates to waxing and buffing.

I enjoy carving little guys and many of these have beards. I usually brush them with walnut oil which I think improves their look, and also helps display the grain in the wood which I really like to see. However, I would like if the finish had a waxed look and feel but don’t know how to achieve this. I’ve included an example of a little guy with a beard that I would like have a waxed look and finish.

Are there wax products that can be easily brushed onto carvings, and what might some of these be?

How should one go about buffing carvings that are not smooth, and preferably buffing by hand as opposed to using a buffing wheel? How does one get into the groves when buffing? 

Thanks in advance for your answer, and for those from other subscribers on the blog, they’ll be much appreciated.

Wishing you well, and looking forward to more new posts on your blog😃

Kind regards

Liam (from Dublin, Ireland)”

Little Gnome by Liam Anon – front view
Little Gnome by Liam Anon – side view

Thanks for writing in and for the carving photos, Liam!  That’s a great little carving you’ve done.  The cuts are very crisp and clean.  To answer your question, there is a wax that I use and highly recommend called Howard FEED N WAX.  It’s a soft wax made from a mixture of beeswax and orange oil.  I apply it with a tooth brush and scrub it into all the nooks and crannies, then let it sit for about 20 minutes.  After that I wipe it down with a soft cloth (like an old tee shirt) and finally buff it with a horsehair shoe brush.  It gives my carvings a nice soft luster which I really like. I don’t know if it’s available in Ireland so you may have to buy it online.  Most woodcarving suppliers carry it.

I’m sure some of you use other wax products on your carvings and we would love to hear from you with any suggestions you may have.

Our final comment today comes from Wayne Whiting in response to my remarks the other day about giving credit where credit is due. Wayne writes:

“While I agree that credit should be given where it’s due, I disagree that I was too ashamed to admit that I copied someone’s idea. As a new carver, I was simply unaware this should be done. When posting on social media to friends who have no idea who Doug Linker is, I gave no credit. When posting to the FB page Beginners Wood Carving, I gave credit as the majority of carvers there are familiar with his work. Not an excuse, just ignorance. Moving forward I will always give credit, so thanks for bringing it to my attention!”

Thank you for your response, Wayne, your point is very well taken and I actually think you hit the nail right on the head. I may have used the wrong word, “ashamed”, in my remark about carvers copying others’ work. However, at the time I was thinking of those carvers who really should know better…and there are a lot of them out there.

I completely overlooked the thousands of totally new beginners who still need to learn so much about what the carving world is all about. The way it should work is that it doesn’t matter whether it’s Doug Linker, myself, Gene Messer or any other wood carver you imitate, or whether or not your audience is familiar with that carver, the originator of the design should always be mentioned.

I’m glad we’re both on the same page now!

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 carverbobk@woodchipchatter.com

Keep a sharp edge and keep on carvin’!

Wood Properties of Tupelo

Wood Properties of Tupelo

TUPELO, WATER Nyssa aquatica (Nyssa – a water nymph; aquatica – of the water)

This species is known by many different names, some of the most prominent being BAY POPLAR, GUM, GRAY GUM, HAZEL PINE, OLIVETREE, PAW PAW GUM, SOUR GUM, SWAMP TUPELO, TUPELO, TUPELO GUM, WHITE GUM and YELLOW GUM.

This tupelo grow in a long, narrow belt around one hundred miles wide, running down from southern Illinois through the Mississippi Valley to Texas, across the Gulf states and up along the Atlantic coast as for north as Virginia.  The name of this wood stems from the fact that it grows best in freshwater swamps, along the edges of lakes and streams.  Generally it is a fairly small tree – 50 to 75 ft. in height with an average diameter of around 2-1/2 ft.

The heartwood is a light brownish to a yellowish brown and sometimes nearly white in color.  The bark is roughened by small scales, furrowed longitudinally and of dark brown color.  This wood has to be worked with care, as it is difficult to produce lumber that will stay flat.  It has a natural tendency to twist and rquires unusual attention in drying.

Water tupelo is a weak wood, soft and light in weight.  It is a poor woo for craftsmen to work with, as it glues very poorly and has to be worked with considerable care.  This wood is used for paper pulp, caskets, cheaper furniture and veneers.  It is a favorite veneer for the manufacture of tobacco or cigar boxes, tupelo serving as a core with a thin veneer of cedar on either side.

Comments & Questions

Our first comment today comes from Alison Lamazza from Mahwah, NJ who writes:

“This is a great post, Bob! This happens all the time in the fine art world as well. Wish more people would respect others’ work enough to give them the simple courtesy of a tag – it matters! Thank you for sharing!”

Thanks for your response, Alison!  I’m sure it happens everywhere.  In my opinion, I think it’s because people are too ashamed to admit that they copied from someone else.

Alison is a free lance artist who sells her work through her Etsy shop called h2ostudio.  Check out her fantastic work, and if you like to cook you might like to follow Alison’s blog called crockpotsandcoffeecups.com.  She is a graduate of the Culinary Institute and is an amazing cook.

Our next comment comes from Dean Stewart with an answer and explanation to my question about how he makes his wood rings:

“Bob, A follow up on the rings. First credit where credit is due. The idea for these came from an instagram post by Hamed Eskandary @eskandary_wood. He is an amazing artist. Check out his work.

The rings started by drilling a 5/8 inch hole into a 1 1/4 by 1 1/4 4 inch block of wood thru the end grain. That serves as the beginning of the finger hole. Cutting end grain takes a sharp bit. Next you can cut a slice off about 1/2 thick to become a ring. For some of them, though, I started carving the top of the ring before cutting it. that way I had a “handle”. I carved the faces off the edge of one corner. After is was mostly done, I rounded the rest of the outside of the ring. To size the ring you can do a couple of things. One is trace the inside of a ring that fits and measure it. It is also possible to find conversion charts on the internet that convert ring sizes into circle diameters. Once I knew the size I used a Dremel and a sanding drum to expand the interior of the ring to size and sand it smooth at the same time. Be careful not to sand away to much and weaken the band. Larger rings may require a larger blank.

I experimenting right now with making a jig for my scroll saw to let me cut blanks in a rough ring shape before carving to save some time.

Try one Bob, they don’t take long and they will fire your imagination.”

Thanks so much, Dean, for that detailed explanation!  I really appreciate your response and I am definitely going to try making a few!

Out next question comes from Bob who is looking for a source for good basswood eggs:

“Where can I buy basswood eggs that aren’t hard? I have some but they are hard as rock.thankgou”

Bob, you need to make sure you buy good basswood eggs made from quality northern basswood. There are several woodcarving suppliers that carry good basswood eggs.  Here are just a few that I use and can recommend:

1.  Stadtlaner Carvings    http://www.stadtlandercarvings.com

2.  Hummul Carving Co.     http://www.hummul.com

3.  Greg Dorrance Co.      http://www.gregdorrance.com

Rough Outs For Sale!

Turtle rough out – $5

This is a Wayne Shinlever rough out I bought from Smoky Mountain Woodcarvers. I don’t think it’s available any longer. I’m selling it for $5 plus shipping.

Pirate rough out – $5

This is a Dwayne Gosnell rough out which is 7-1/2″ tall and sells new for $16 plus shipping. I’m selling this one for $5 plus shipping.

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 carverbobk@woodchipchatter.com

Keep a sharp edge and keep on carvin’!

Last night I slept like a baby. I woke up three times, wet myself twice and cried myself back to sleep.

Give Credit Where Credit Is Due

“Give Credit Where Credit Is Due”

It happens over and over again where a carver makes a carving from a pattern he/she got from someone else, posts it on social media and basically calls it his own.  It’s happened to me loads of times.  While I’m always flattered that someone likes my work enough to copy it, the original design is mine and I should be given credit for it.

If you bought a rough out from another carver, mention that carver who designed it.  Even if you cut someone else’s pattern out on your bandsaw, mention the person who designed the pattern.  Or if you take a class with an instructor; mention that instructor who you took the class from.  Just a simple mention of a person’s name.  It’s that easy.

I see this topic debated on social media all the time.  We all tend to borrow and mix ideas from each other, and many carvers like to take other carver’s patterns and change them up to be their own.  That’s terrific, but they should still say that their carving was “based on an original design by so and so.”

When you copy another carver’s work you are not just borrowing his design, you are using many hours of his design work, failures, frustration and experimentation.  Give a carver credit where credit is due.

“Pumpkin Mash” carved by Bob Kozakiewicz

Readers’ Comments

Our first comment today comes from Dean Stewart along with a photo of the spectacular face rings he has been carving lately:

“Here’s a pic of my recent set of wooden face rings.  All are Maple except the third one which is basswood. They were sealed with mineral oil then stained with burnt umber oil paint with a finish of clear paste wax.”

Wood rings carved by Dean Stewart

Those are magnificent, Dean!  Thanks for sharing them!  I’ve always wanted to try to make some rings.  How do you go about it?  How do you size them?  Is the finger hole drilled out or do you carve it out?  Tell us a little about your process.

Our next comment comes from Cory Rower with an explanation in response to my question last time on how he likes his BeaverCraft and Flexcut knives.  Cory writes:

“The two knives in the pictures are my two favorites that I own. The Beavercraft I had won in a giveaway and when I got it I thought I was going to hate it because of the handle but it’s actually really comfortable. I use it mainly for roughing out. The other knife is Flexcuts Detail knife. It is probably my number one favorite carving knife I own. The blade stays sharp a little longer on the Flexcut Detail knife I will say. The other thing I like about Flexcuts Detail knife is that the tip isn’t super thin so you don’t have to worry to much about the tip breaking off unless you are really hard on your tools.”

Thanks for your reply, Cory!  The Flexcut knives are very popular and I know of many carvers who use them.  The BeaverCraft knives are relatively new to the US market but seem to be gaining in popularity, possible for the low price.

I can see why you would use the BeaverCraft for rough out work and the Flexcut for your major carving work.  If you look carefully at the blades on both knives you will notice that the BeaverCraft blade has a very steep angle on its cutting edge.  The Flexcut has a shallower angle.  A steep angle blade is not designed for carving detail-type work whereas the shallow angle blade slices through the wood more easily allowing the carver to make finer cuts.

Rough Outs For Sale!

Over the years I have collected many various rough outs, most of which I will never get around to carving.  So I have decided to sell them at a discounted price to any of my woodcarving friends who are interested.  I will be listing them here, one or two at a time, on every upcoming blog post going forward.  Anyone who is interested in one (or more) can just send me a message and we will work out the details.  Rough outs will be sold on a first come basis.  I have the first two rough outs listed below:

“Santa Bust”
Santa Bust Reference Sheet

This is a Kevin Applegate rough out which originally sells for $23 plus shipping. It’s 5-1/2″ tall. I’m selling it for $12 plus shipping. Rough out comes with the above reference sheet.

Rabbit With Carrot
Rabbit Reference Sheet

This is a Bob Hershey rough out which originally sells for $25 plus shipping and is 8″ tall. I have two of these rough outs available which I’m selling for $15 each plus shipping. Each rough out comes with the above reference sheet.

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 carverbobk@woodchipchatter.com

Keep a sharp edge and keep on carvin’!

Carving A Head

Carving A Head

By Roger Stegall

Below is a short picture tutorial on how to carve a head done by my good friend Roger Stegall, which is being posted here with Roger’s gracious permission.  The tutorial does not go into much detail but the photos do give you some idea as to how Roger does it. Text explanations are provided by me.

Pattern – Side View
Pattern – Front View

Draw the front and side view patterns on two adjacent side of the blank, then cut out both side on the bandsaw.

1. Right side view cut out
2. Front view cut out
3. Left side view cut out
4. Back view cut out
5. Head shaped, nose and ears carved

Use a rough out knife and a 5/8″ (14mm) #3 gouge to round off the top of the head and the chin. Round the outer corners of the face taper the face slightly from the front of the ears to the tip of the nose.

6. Jaw, bottom of hair and sideburns cut in

Use the same tools to cut in and shape the jaw. Cut in the hairline and sideburns with the rough out knife. Taper the ears from back to front.

7. Back view progress
8. Jaw and hairline shaped. Facial detail drawn on.

Use a pencil to draw on the facial detail.

9. Finished face – front view

Use the following tools to carve the facial details:

Nose: #7 and #9 gouges

Eyes: Detail knife and micro V-tools

Eye brows: #9 gouge

Hair, sideburns and mustache: #9 gouges, various sizes

Ears: #6 gouges

Teeth: Detail knife

Beard stubble: 1/8″ (3mm) 70 degree V-tool

10. Finished face – right side view
11. Finished head – back view
12. Finished face – left side view
13. Finished face – close up

Questions & Comments

Our first question today comes from Robert Larsen in response to my book review on “EGG HEADS”.  Robert asks:

“very nice carvings. I would like to know where i can buy basswood eggs. I bought some some time back but they are so hard to carve on. any good place to buy them? thanks”

The eggs you bought a while back, Robert, were probably made of southern basswood which is very hard to carve.  You want eggs made of high-quality northern basswood which is much easier to carve.

There are several woodcarving suppliers that carry good basswood eggs.  Here are just a few that I use and can recommend:

1.  Stadtlaner Carvings    http://www.stadtlandercarvings.com

2.  Hummul Carving Co.     http://www.hummul.com

3.  Greg Dorrance Co.      http://www.gregdorrance.com

Our next comment, from Cory Rower comes with photos of the neat penguins he’s been working on:

“Here are a few carvings I have been working on. I worked on these two while on vacation last week. Definitely not perfect but two different Christmas penguins. They still need some paint but had fun making them.

Thank you again for the help about the wood and explaining it I appreciate it”

1. Penguin WIP by Cory Rower
2. Penguin WIP by Cory Rower
3. Penguin WIP by Cory Rower

Those penguins are coming along nicely, Cory.  I’d like to see them when they’re finished.  You’re welcome for the wood explanation.  I’m glad I could clear things up for you.

I noticed in your first two pictures that you were using a BeaverCraft knife and a Flexcut knife.  What differences do you find between the two and do you prefer one over the other?  Tell us a little about your experiences with them.

Rough Outs For Sale!

Over the years I have collected many various rough outs, most of which I will never get around to carving.  So I have decided to sell them at a discounted price to any of my woodcarving friends who are interested.  I will be listing them here, one or two at a time,  on every upcoming blog post going forward.  Anyone who is interested in one (or more) can just send me a message and we will work out the details.  Rough outs will be sold on a first come basis.  I have the first two rough outs listed below:

“Hugs”
“Hugs” reference sheet

“Hugs” is a Jon Nelson rough out which is 4″ tall and sells new for $11 plus shipping. The one I have is a larger version (approx. 6″ tall) and I’m selling it for $5 plus shipping. The rough out also comes with the above reference sheet.

“Po Po Panda”
“Po Po Panda” reference sheet

“Po Po Panda” is a Bishop rough out which sells through Dwayne Gosnell Woodcarving. It sells new for $22 plus shipping. I am selling this rough out for $10 plus shipping. I have two of these rough outs available and each one comes with the above reference sheet.

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 carverbobk@woodchipchatter.com

                                     

Keep a sharp edge and keep on carvin’!

My mother-in-law phoned today and said, ‘Come quick, I think I’m dying’.  I said, ‘Phone me back when you’re sure’.

Stropping Your Knife

STROPPING YOUR KNIFE

by Del Stubbs, Pinewood Forge

During this post we continue that never ending discussion on stropping.  Today, however, we learn some significant information from Del Stubbs on how to choose a strop and compound, and the correct way to strop your knife.  In this section, Del also briefly introduces us to hones and honing your knife.

Stropping

       Stropping is the  most important form of sharpening.  However, careless  stropping can easily round and ruin a tool’s edge.  The secret is careful stropping with good materials.  A standard woodcarvers leather strop with good compound and good technique is all that is needed to keep most tools working well most of the time.  We  don’t  recommend jewelers rouge (red compound) – it’s made for polishing soft metals.  We have chosen to sell a stropping compound called White Gold because it works quickly and has a good consistency for applying to a strop, but there are many good carvers stropping compounds available, learning how to use well what you have is the main idea.

How to strop:

When stropping, lay the tool flat on the leather, polishing the whole surface with solid pressure.  The tool’s edge will compress slightly into the softness of the leather – this will form the necessary microscopic bevel at the edge.  Press firmly – using a few strokes in both directions should be enough to bring a slightly dull tool back to razor sharpness.  For some people it helps to push firmly down on the tool with a finger as it is being stropped.  Many knives are slightly flexible – this means that you must raise the handle slightly toward the end of the stroke to apply pressure to the tip.  If this isn’t done to straight edge knives – they tend to get narrower in the middle – forming a convex shape.

Is your brand of stropping compound working well?

Try this: After applying a fresh coat of compound, the very first stroke of the tool should leave black streaks on the strop, and mirror polish on the tool.  If it leaves only a dull grey color on the strop, the compound is too soft (not removing enough metal).  If the tool is dull or scratchy looking, it is too course a compound.

If stropping isn’t working well for you, here are possible reasons:

     A). The tool needs honing see next section).

  • Your compound is too slow cutting.
  • You are not able to press hard enough.  In this case, raise the back edge of the tool very slightly off of the strop

– this will put all of the pressure on the edge.

  • If careful stropping rounds over the edge, then likely the strop is of too rough or too soft a material, or you’re  raising the back too much – go to a   harder or finer leather, hard cardboard (like a cereal box), or to smooth basswood as a strop.  You should be able to press quite hard while stropping, without rounding  the edge.  It’s better to take a few strong and careful strokes than a lot of light careless ones.

Power Stropping?

There are various power strops on the market – just be sure they go slow, otherwise you are likely to bum the edge – power stropping produces a surprising amount of heat right at the edge.

Honing

The tools I produce are such that they rarely need honing!  But when to hone?Hone when stropping no longer easily brings the tool back to razor sharpness, or when there is a nick to remove.  If your hone cuts too slowly, you may  raise the tool only  slightly off  the back if necessary  (not more  than half the thickness of the tool). This will help keep the edge thin.  Stop honing either side when a very tiny burr is raised on the entire edge.          Feel this burr by stropping the tool lightly backwards against a finger.  Remove this burr, with a super fine hone, or with your strop, but use the strop for the finished edge.

Which Hone?

Fine diamond, ceramic, fine India, Arkansas, can all work well.  Do not use a coarse carborundum bench stone, unless the edge is damaged badly.  Don’t use a high speed grinder.  They  are too aggressive and hot.  If your tool is  badly damaged and needs lots of metal removal, a coarse diamond hone or water cooled slow speed flat grinder is all I would recommend.  We have chosen to offer our customers a selection of fine diamond hones.  These are not the horrible and overpriced coarse hones with holes – we found a set of superfine  professional  grade hones specifically  for fine sharpening these kinds of tools.  Especially the 1200 grit –  it cuts fast yet so fine you may  go direct to the strop afterwards. Many carvers have trouble with honing because they use too coarse or too slow cutting types of hones .

Consider the “Sharpening Simplified” video we offer, its camera work is not Hollywood, but the author really knows sharpening and presents it well.

Del Stubbs is the owner of Pinewood Forge, a maker of fine Scandinavian woodcarving knives & woodcarving supplies from Leonard, MN.  Del makes some of the best woodcarving and spoon carving tools on the market, which are in very high demand.  His Fine Leather and Ash Bench Strop ($19.00) is the best cow hide strop I have found anywhere…I own 3 of them!  Check out Pinewood Forge at: http://www.pinewoodforge.com

Buffalo Skull Bolo by Bob Kozakiewicz

QUESTIONS & COMMENTS

Our first question (actually two questions) come from Cory Rower who writes:

“Hi! I just had a few questions if you don’t mind answering them. First question is where do you go to find cheap wood? I have looked all over online and eBay seems to be the cheapest route but was looking for some cottonwood bark or something different to carve.
The second question isn’t exactly carving related but thought you might know the answer or know someone that does. My family the last couple years we make home made gifts as part of our Christmas presents. I was wanting to make a cutting board but do not own and clamps. I was wondering if you knew what would be the best/cheapest clamps that would do the job.
If you don’t know that’s ok I have been doing alot of reading on it and everyone says something different about what type of clamps to use.
Thanks for any information you are able to give. And thank you for doing this blog I enjoy reading them.
-Cory Rower”

Thank you for writing in, Cory!  I always appreciate receiving questions and comments from my readers.  Your questions and comments are what help make Wood Chip Chatter informative and interesting.

To answer your first question, let me start by saying that “cheap” wood is a relative term.  What might seem cheap (or let’s say inexpensive) to me my not be to you.  I assume you’re talking about basswood so let me state, first of all that there are two types of basswood…northern basswood, and southern basswood.  If you want good quality, easy to carve basswood, you only want to buy northern basswood.  Northern basswood is cleaner, softer and easier to carve than southern basswood, which is generally cheaper in price.  In my opinion, though it is worth the extra money to pay for northern basswood.

Craft stores and ebay are definitely NOT the places to look for quality basswood because 90% of the time you will get cheap, poor quality southern basswood.  I buy all of my basswood from Heinecke Wood Products in northern Wisconsin.  Heinecke is a lumber mill that handles northern Wisconsin basswood exclusively, and for my money it’s the best basswood you can buy anywhere.  It’s the ONLY place where I will buy my basswood.  I also know of 2 or 3 other woodcarving suppliers that carry quality basswood.  Any of these suppliers will ship right to your door.  Anyone who is interested in the phone number or web address for any of these suppliers is welcome to contact me at any time.  Do any of our readers have any sources they like to use?

Now to get to your second question, Cory.  Unfortunately, clamps are something I’m not familiar with at all.  Since I only make small carvings I’ve never had any need for owning any clamps.  Perhaps some of our readers can help out with this one. Anybody?

Our next questions come from Dean Stewart who is interested in stropping gouges.  Dean writes:

“Well, Bob, Let’s keep the strop conversation going.  I’d be interested in knowing what tips and techniques folks have for stropping gouges and other non-knife blades.  Also any good thoughts on the idea of power stropping versus manual.”

Those are excellent questions, Dean, and ones I would certainly like to see some comments on.  Personally, I am fine with sharpening and stropping (by hand) knives, but when it comes to gouges, I’m a total novice.  In all the years I’ve been carving I could just never get the hang of sharpening and stropping gouges.  And it seems to me that the carvers who use power for stropping always get a razor sharp edge, although since I don’t own any power equipment I can’t really speak to that.

So let’s hear from some of our sharpening experts out there!  Can you offer us any tips and techniques?

Our next comment today comes from my friend Jakobo Santiago from the Canary Islands in response to my remarks about using old belts to make your own strops.

“Hi! I’m really surprised! It never entered my mind

“”I have been using old belts that have shrunken over the years!””
“”Old belts are great sources of leather for making your own strops. Generally the nap on the back side of belts is smooth and stiff.””

I have an old cow belt in a drawer. I’m going to try and send a photo

Thank you so much. you are fantastic”

Thank you for writing in once again, Jakob!  I’m certain your old cow belt will make some excellent strops.

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 carverbobk@woodchipchatter.com

Keep a sharp edge and keep on carvin’!

EGG HEADS & other “Eggcellent” Things

EGG HEADS

& Other “Excellent Things

by Tom Wolfe

A Book Review

Front Cover
Back Cover

If you like carving eggs you’ll be ‘eggstatic’ over the  book, EGG HEADS & Other “Eggcellent” Things written by the renowned author, wood carver and instructor, Tom Wolfe.   In this book, published in 2008 by Schiffer Publishing Ltd., Tom uses basswood and butternut goose eggs to carve ‘eggtraordinary’ caricature heads and birds. 

In this 64 page full color book Tom takes the reader from the blank egg, to drawing, carving and finishing through two different projects…a caricature head and a bird.

Sample Instruction Page

The caricature head is carved from a butternut goose egg and is just given an oil finish.  The bird project is carved from a basswood goose egg and is painted.  Start to finish step-by-step painting photos/instructions are also included as part of completing this unique carving design.

The back of the book has a 17 page Gallery of color photos showing some of Tom’s completed projects which give the reader several terrific ideas to try on their own.

Sample Ga;;ery Page

If you’re looking for something different to carve then EGG HEADS & Other “Eggcellent” Things is ‘eggcactly’ the book you need!  Get yourself a copy and start cracking some eggs!  You never know what you’ll discover inside.  Basswood eggs also lend themselves well to carving Santa faces, just in time for your Christmas carving projects!

Basswood goose eggs are available from most woodcarving suppliers.  The Greg Dorrance Co., Stadtlander Woodcarving, and The Woodcraft Shop are three just to name a few.

The following photos show my rendition of the bird project from Tom Wolfe’s book:

Hatching Bird Carved by Bob Kozakiewicz
Hatching Bird Carved by Bob Kozakiewicz

Tom Wolfe, who unfortunately passed away in September, 2020 was one of America’s most recognized and respected carvers.  A long-standing member of the Caricature Carvers of America, Tom was also a well known instructor and author who was originally from West Virginia, but was most recently living in North Carolina.

QUESTIONS & COMMENTS

Our first question today comes from Ernie Kelley in response to my post on Strops & Stropping.  Ernie asks:

“Since you brought up stropping again, what are your thoughts on stropping on wood coated with compound compared to leather?”

Thank you for writing in, Ernie!  That’s a very good question.  Many carvers use cardboard strips (like those cut from cereal boxes) coated with compound with excellent results.  Although I have never tried it personally, a nice piece of a hardwood (like walnut) should also work well.

My thinking, though is that because the wood has no ‘give’ to it you will likely have to lift up slightly on the back of the knife in order to get a micro bevel on the blade.  Because leather ‘gives’ when you press down on it, it helps to form the micro bevel more easily, even when you lay the blade flat on the strop.

As always, a little experimentation will probably be necessary until you get it just right.  I will be going into stropping and how to strop your knife in more detail in my next post.

How about some of you other readers out there?  Do you ever use cardboard or wood for stropping.  Give us your thoughts!

Our next comment comes from Dan Bennett on his favorite method of stropping:

“Hi Bob,

Stropping was so troublesome when I started. Like most, I have progressed through several methods and although I was very satisfied with leather and green compound a while back I decided to give the thin Dinkle strop and Blue powder – WOW!  It works very well and I’m pleased – seems to me I read you liked it and I took your direction.  Seems to me everyone will be happy with this method.

Dan Bennett”

Thanks so much for your valuable input, Dan!  I DO like the John Dunkle strop and his “Blue Velvet” stropping powder, and use them regularly.  The John Dunkle strop is made with pig skin which is thinner (about 1/16″) than cow hide and, therefore has less ‘give’ when you press down on it.  And his ‘Blue Velvet’ stropping powder is pure aluminum oxide powder (with no fillers or binders).  I just rub the blue powder into the strop with my finger and it works like a charm!  Both the John Dunkle strop and “Blue Velvet” powder are available through most woodcarving suppliers.

Our next comment comes from Ed Lysak along with a photo of the stunning spoon he carved from African Mahogany.  Ed writes:

“Bob,  This spoon was carved from African Mahogany.  I don’t know what the differences might be from American Mahogany but it carved nicely.

I enjoyed your blog on strops.  I have been using old belts that have shrunken over the years!

I am enjoying your blog.  Thanks,  Ed Lysak”

Spoon Carved by Ed Lysak

Thank you so much for writing in and especially for the photo of the magnificent spoon you carved, Ed!  It’s absolutely beautiful.  From what was able to research there is not much difference between African and American Mahogany.  In General, both African and American Mahogany are grown in tropical (rain forest) climates.

Genuine American Mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla) is an endangered species grown in South America, particularly Brazil.  The trees can be hundreds of years old and grow 150 ft. in height.  Genuine Mahogany has a long history of abuse and illegal logging so much that it is now protected by most governments.  The mahogany seen in today’s market is either an imitation or plantation grown. Plantation grown mahogany tree only grow to about 50 ft. in height.

Genuine American Mahogany lumber is used for the finest musical instruments, counter tops and bars, yacht decking and furniture.

Old belts are great sources of leather for making your own strops.  Generally the nap on the back side of belts is smooth and stiff.

Our next comment comes from Rick Rice in the form of a very much appreciated compliment.  Rick writes:

“Hey Bob, Rick here I’m new to the chanel. I’ve enjoyed reading what I have missed. Just for the record I am all but cyber illiterate. I was one of the old farts that thought computers would never go anywhere . Please keep the information flowing! Woodcarvers are good people and love to share but a big portion want to be paid for sharing. Thank you for what you do!”

Thank you so very much for your kind words, Rick!  It’s comments like that from folks like you that keep me going.

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 carverbobk@woodchipchatter.com

Keep a sharp edge and keep on carvin’!

Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day.  Teach a man how to fish and he’ll sit in a boat and drink beer all day.

Wood Properties of American Mahogany

Wood Properties of American Mahogany

Although American Mahogany is considered a hardwood, it carved relatively easy and has an appealing grain and finishes beautifully.  Here are the wood properties of American Mahogany:

READERS’ COMMENTS

This is going to be a very short blog post today since I have received no readers’ comments or questions this time, at which I am kind of surprised.  I thought my last post on “Strops & Stropping” would have generated more enthusiasm.

Wood Carving by Bob Kozakiewicz

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 carverbobk@woodchipchatter.com

Keep a sharp edge and keep on carvin’!

Courtesy of Wayne Smith

Strops & Stropping

Strops & Stopping

by Del Stubbs, Pinewood Forge

Strops & Stropping

A Strop for carving tools needs a very fine surface for accepting compound – yet is thin enough to not cause gross rounding of the micro bevel.  I go through lots of hides at my leather wholesaler before I choose the ones that have a knap and thickness that is ideal.

When you get a new strop it will need a bit of preparation.  Take the sharpening compound and rub it diligently into the leather – about 50 strokes around the entire surface, pushing down fairly hard, to work the compound into the leather.  Commence with stropping a few tools, watching for ‘dry’ spots that will inevitably appear.  Rub in more compound there, strop tools, repeat…..until it has an even appearance.  Before long it will need very little compound re-applied.  Long term I re-apply just a couple of strokes of compound after every 4 or 5 heavy uses.

Compound for strops is a formula of super fine abrasive powder mixed with various waxes.  Sometimes called ‘rouge’ it can be confused with jewelers’ rouge, (which is generally made of very mild abrasives good for only gold and silver, not for hard steel).                                                                                                       There are many brands of compound to choose from that can work well.  We have chosen “White Gold” to offer our customers because it is formulated specially for hand stropping – it polishes the edge while micro sharpening it.  If you have another type of compound, just check that the leather is turning black as you strop – this indicates that the compound is hard enough to be removing metal – (remember that stropping is sharpening) – but it must also leave the tool shiny (not dull) as this proves that the abrasive is a super fine ‘grit’.

When stropping, lay the tool flat on the leather and with your finger on the blade draw it backwards away from the edge.  Use a fair bit of pressure, the finger turns a little white.  This is needed because the compound is so super fine.  (Do not flip the tool up and away at the very end of the stroke – this usually means an unconscious twist of the wrist – which will blunt the edge).  All knives flex slightly towards the tip so one must slightly raise the handle as one nears the end of the stroke – to provide the same pressure to the last third of the tool as you do to the first third.  If you have a tool whose edge is not holding up as well as you’d like after honing – try adding a micro bevel to the edge by raising the back of the knife about the thickness of itself off the strop.  This will put much more pressure on the edge.  Be careful with this technique as too much pressure will round over the edge and make it cut poorly.  What you are looking for is a compromise between too fragile an edge – and too rounded an edge.  It is an important technique to learn and refine, think of it as adjusting the very edge of your tool microscopically.  When an edge gets too rounded – that’s what hones are for, a strop cannot re-flatten an edge.

Strop Maintenance

Every so often I get an inquiry about strops that have become uneven / irregular / lumpy with compound, normally occurring only after considerable service.  But the fix is easy!

Firstly, the hard wax that is the binder for the oxide polish is soften-able, so it may be softened by holding the strop – leather side down – over low heat (hair dryer, cookstove, etc.) till it is just warm to the touch.  Don’t make it hot to the touch, just warm.  This should make it easy to scrape off the old compound.

Secondly, take a knife you’re not particular about, say an old butter or paring knife, and just scrape away, going sideways, to get down to leather – holding the edge at 90o / perpendicular to the strop surface.                                                   In the future strive to apply the compound in even, long strokes and use a bit less  – properly used a strop should never get ‘lumpy’ – it means far too much compound is being applied.

Del Stubbs is the owner of Pinewood Forge, a maker of fine Scandinavian woodcarving knives & woodcarving supplies from Leonard, MN.  Del makes some of the best woodcarving and spoon carving tools on the market, which are in very high demand.  His Fine Leather and Ash Bench Strop ($19.00) is the best strop I have found anywhere…I own 3 of them!  Check out Pinewood Forge at: http://www.pinewoodforge.com

QUESTIONS & COMMENTS

First, before we get into readers’ comments I want to address Jakobo’s comments from my last post regarding a new kangaroo leather strop and the way it is used.  Although I have never used one I’m sure the kangaroo strop works well.  When properly used almost all strops will work.  The problem I have is with Tom’s explanation of the proper way to strop a knife.

First of all, the illustration Tom shows of the leather being compressed and the knife edge being rounded is grossly exaggerated (see the link provides by Jakobo).  When we talk about stropping knife blades we are talking about microscopic changes to the edge.  However, those microscopic changes can make the difference between a sharp edge and a dull one, and unless the blade edge has been extremely over rounded further proper stropping will bring it back to where it should be.

Proper stropping all comes down to a technique that you must learn and refine.  As Del Stubbs explained above you want to press down with just enough pressure to form that micro bevel on the knife edge, but not too much so as to round the edge off.  Tom neglects to address this micro bevel which is so critical to a truly sharp knife edge.

Regardless of what kind of strop you are using, as Del further states, if after repeated stropping you are still not getting that all important micro bevel you need to try lifting the back of the blade about 1/16″ (the thickness of the blade) off the strop when you strop it.  Think of it as microscopically fine tuning the edge of your knife.

Secondly, I would like to address Del’s comments on strop maintenance.  In the beginning, Del mentions strops that have become lumpy, uneven and irregular with compound.  This is caused by too much wax built up from repeated applications of the compound to the strop leather.

For this reason, I have found waxy stick compounds to be a pain to use.  They more often than not go on unevenly and build an excess amount of wax in a short amount of time.  And regardless of what compound you use (red, white, green or yellow) they all do it.

For this reason, I use aluminum oxide powder which is pure aluminum oxide with no wax binder.  My thinking is that if it’s the aluminum oxide that’s sharpening your knife why add the unnecessary waxy binder that only clogs up your leather?  With the aluminum oxide powder I have never had to perform maintenance on my strops. 

I just sprinkle a little powder along the length of the strop and work it in with my finger.  No rubbing, scrubbing or scraping!  Easy peasy!  Aluminum oxide powder is available in 2 oz. containers through numerous woodcarving suppliers.

Our first question today comes from my good friend Jim Arnold who makes the finest chess sets I have ever seen.  Jim writes:

“Bob,

Thanks for the blog…very informative, but fun too.   Doing a chess set commission and my client wants a ‘painted’ set that also has that glassy glossy shine to it.  Can I apply a gloss lacquer over acrylic paint and still make it shine?  You have any alternate suggestions for me?

Thanks, Bob, always enjoyed your painting abilities along with your carving work,

Jim Arnold”

Hi Jim,

I’ve always liked to use Deft spray lacquer.  I’ve used the semi gloss which give a shine but it’s not what you’re after.  Go with the gloss spray with two or three coats.  That should do it.  If you don’t want a spray Deft also come in a brush on form.  As usual, try it on a scrap piece first.

Thank you so much for your kind words.  I greatly appreciate them.

Our next comment is in the form of a compliment from Timothy Sisko on my posting of his method for Drying A Wood Project.  Tim said:

“Nice article Bob, you did a good job of putting the information together.”

Thanks, Tim!  Unfortunately, your diagram and the table didn’t transfer over when I put the blog post together.  I’m bummed about that but it’s a problem with the WordPress web design that I use.  Thanks for sending it in!

 Una Schlaebitz from Montana sent in a comment along with some photos of the fine Simple Santas he has been carving lately.  Una writes:

“Hi Bob!  I’m really enjoying your newsletter.  You already know I love your no-eyes Santas and I’ve made lots of them.  I make different hats with long tails and hands down so they can hold a sign or stocking or candy corn.  Most recently mine have a long braided beard and I taught a short class on the beard at the West Glacier Rendezvous last month.  The bottoms of my photos are partly cut off because I had the names below to remind me of who I sent them to.  There’s a Santa with brown coat and black fur and an unfinished sign below – – It ended up being  a “Bah-Humbug”.  I did one as a joke for myself and then during COVID it seemed appropriate for a couple people.   One with “Go Diggers” was for the A.D. of Montana Tech in Butte.  It’s fun to do team logo Santas with stickers or small pieces of logo fabric on the bases or packages.  This is a great pattern.    Una Schlaebitz”

Hi Una…I’m really happy you’re enjoying Wood Chip Chatter.  I work very hard to make it informative and interesting every time.  Your Santas are awesome!  My Simple Santa was designed to be very adaptable.  You can make unlimited changes to it and get a lot of mileage out of the pattern.  I like the way you do your braided beards…cool idea, and they look great.  I especially like the candy corn Santa!  It’s very unique.  I’ve done a few Santas with sports logos and they come out very cool looking.  Have fun making more Santas!  You’re on a roll and Christmas is right around the corner!

My Simple Santa was written up in an article by me (as the “Quick Wizard”) in the Summer 2017 #79 issue of WCI and again in their 2017 Holiday Pattern Collection.  If anyone hasn’t seen it and would like a copy of the pattern, just drop me a comment or email and I can get one out to you.

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 carverbobk@woodchipchatter.com

Keep a sharp edge and keep on carvin’!

Drying A Wood Product

Drying A Wood Product

I received a message from Tim Sisko this week with a question and comment along with some photos of the Native American masks he carved, which has opened up an intriguing topic of discussion that I’m sure you will all want to read about.  The message reads:

“Bob , I enjoyed your article on wood burning but I am curious that under the species of wood commonly carved I don’t see Alder listed. I began my journey in carving by taking classes from Jim Ploegman a Master carver who specialized in Northwest Native Carvings. Many of the projects we carved were out of Alder. We would always prize green Alder for carving of bowls and masks inspired by the carvings of the First Nation’s People.

Northwest Native American Mask
Carved by Tim Sisko
Northwest Native American Mask
Carved by Tim Sisko
Northwest Native American Mask
Carved by Tim Sisko
Northwest Native American Mask
Carved by Tim Sisko

When we get fresh cut Alder we would wet it down and bag it in plastic bags and freeze them to keep them wet between carving sessions.

Alder gets very hard when it is dry.  It grows very well around the coastal areas of the Pacific Northwest.  The other wood that is used for masks is old growth cedar.  One of my masks out of cedar had as many as 48  growth rings per inch.

This procedure of carving wet wood necessitated a method of drying the finished project. We would use the following method.”

Before I go on to show the ingenious wood drying method you have sent in, let me first answer your question about alder.  The only reason why alder was not shown on the list of carving woods I posted is simply because it wasn’t mentioned in the particular database from which I got my information.

Alder grows mainly in the Pacific Northwest of the United States.  It is a member of the birch family and can be an excellent wood for carving.  Electric guitars, most notably Fender Guitars, have been built with alder bodies since the 1950s. Alder is appreciated for its tone that is claimed to be tight and evenly balanced, especially when compared to mahogany, and has been adopted by many electric guitar manufacturers.

Drying a Wood Project

  1. Weigh the project and record the weight (”IN” weight).
  2. Heat project in microwave at full power for ½ the time it takes to do Microwave popcorn *.
  3. Rotate project in oven each heating cycle.
  4. When project comes out of oven. put on scale for 8 min. to let heat come out of wood then record the weight (“OUT” weight).
  5. Put project into cardboard box with box opening on side. Set project on sticks to allow air to circulate around piece. Put box and project into a plastic bag and let cool to room temperature before doing the next heating cycle.
  6. Turn plastic bag inside-out each heating cycle to remove moisture.
  7. When you are finished drying, put project back in the box and plastic bag. Punch holes in the top and sides of the bag and box.
  8. Let project set in the box and plastic bag until you put on a clear stain base.
Weight
INOUTINOUTINOUT
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      

When “IN” and “OUT” weights are the same for 3 cycles in a row you are finished

Jim Ploegman, Master Carver

*  A little explanation may be in order here.  The reason for testing your microwave with the popcorn is because microwave ovens vary in power so we use about 6 or7 kernels of corn to see how long it takes to pop on max power, we time this and when we put our carving in to dry it we cut the time in half.

             NOTE: The drying process is used before painting for wet or green wood.                        Some of my masks or bowls have lost as much weight as to equal almost a pint       of water.  Remember that saying “  A pint is a pound the world around “

Thank you very much, Tim, for the photos of your magnificent Native American masks.  They are bright and brilliant, and so very well done.  And thank you especially for the interesting method of drying wood (projects).

NOTE: Tim’s drying method also included a diagram and a blank “IN” and “OUT” weight table which I was unfortunately unable to transfer when I put this post together. My apologies to you, Tim. If anyone is interested in having the diagram and table just drop me a message and I will be happy to email Tim’s complete drying method with the diagram included.

Your information brought some thoughts and questions to my mind:

1. Since alder is in the birch family I imagine it’s pretty hard to carve (when dry).

2. I realize you wet it to soften it but why do you soak it so much?  Does the excess water make it that much easier to carve?

3. FOOD FOR THOUGHT: We have all heard about using 50:50 water/alcohol mixture to soften our basswood for carving.  When the wood gets dry again, you have to reapply it…or basically keep the wood wet.  Sometimes when I’m away from home and don’t have my mixture I’ll just run my carving under tap water and soak it.  The wood carves like butter after that!  I just keep the carving wet with tap water.

So my first thought is…do we really need the alcohol in the water?  Why not just use the water alone?  My second thought is…should we be carving wood with more moisture in it to begin with?

I would love to hear some readers’ comments on this subject.

QUESTIONS & COMMENTS

Our first question today comes from Jakobo Santiago with regards to knife stropping.  Jakobo writes:

 “hello everyone, hello Bob

I have a question about knife stropping and I would like your opinion. Surely someone has already heard about this, because it is generating some controversy on social networks.

I have found an account, ‘spoon carving with tom’, very interesting.

Tom claims that stropping knives on thick leather, such as cow or pig, is detrimental to the edge and does not achieve a fine finish, as the thick leather compresses and sharpens the knife blade with more angle than it should.

Tom proposes kangaroo fur as optimal option. It is only 0.6mm thick and harder and softer than cow. No compression

I let you the Instagram link

https://www.instagram.com/p/CN7Ras8jP3O/?utm_medium=copy_link

what do you think about this?”

You’ve touched on a wide open topic here, Jakobo.  The questions you raise are valid and have been discussed among carvers for many years.  First, I will say that the kangaroo hide strop sounds like an excellent idea.  In fact, I think I would like to try one out myself.  However, Tom’s theory on knife stropping, while somewhat correct has some holes in it, and I will address them in my next post when I discuss “Strops & Stropping” in more detail.  Stay tuned!

Our next comment comes from Wade Harvey regarding How To Paint Plaid, which I posted in my last blog post.  Wade writes:

“Bob, Thanks for the tutorial.  This is my one and only attempt at painting plaid (circa 2015).  I’ll save the tutorial and do some practicing.  wh”

I‘m glad you found the article helpful, Wade!  Practice, practice, practice!

Our next comment comes from Sue MacCullum regarding How To Paint Plaid.  Sue writes:

“What a helpful article.  I’m anxious to try plaids again now.  My previous attempts were pretty bad!  Thanks Bob and Mike..  I am enjoying your blog.”

I‘m glad you found the article helpful, Sue.  With just a little practice I’m sure you’ll become an expert.  And I’m pleased that you are also enjoying Wood Chip Chatter!

Connie Teeters sent in our next comment on How To Paint Plaid and says:

“Thank you so much for the instructions love them”

I‘m glad the article on How To Paint Plaid was helpful, Connie!

We received one last comment on How To Paint Plaid.  This one comes from my friend Bob Nesbit from Pennsylvania who says:

“Bob,

WOW now that was very interesting on painting the plaid shirt and the steps taken to achieve this.  Will add this to my notebook and give it a try.  Never seen this done on a carving before.

Thanks

Bob Nesbit”

I‘m glad you found it interesting, Bob, and I definitely agree with you.  I will be trying this out on my next opportunity as well.

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 carverbobk@woodchipchatter.com

Keep a sharp edge and keep on carvin’!

                             Darth Vader had a corrupt brother, Taxi Vader.