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This "aggregator" collects all of the woodworking blogs I read every day - or try to anyway!  Enjoy!

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Carving and Sculpture

Charleston Rice Bed Carving

Mary May, Woodcarver - Sat, 04/18/2015 - 1:47pm

Mary May - Woodcarver

About a month ago, Charles Neil (check out his online woodworking school), John Peckham and Jim Pell travelled down to Charleston with 4 beautifully turned bed posts in Santa Domingan Mahogany.

Feasting on local oysters.

Feasting on local oysters. Charles Neil, Jim Pell, John Peckham, and my husband, Stephen.

About 2 years ago these 3 fine oyster eating fellows (plus 4 more) spent a week learning the finer points of carving in my workshop. Fitting 7 people in my workshop was quite a challenge, but we all managed – with only a few small injuries. But nothing requiring stitches :)

On one of the days they were here several years ago, we took a little “field trip” to David Beckford’s workshop that is just a few miles down the road. David is a high-end furniture restorer who specializes in restoring period furniture. The day we stopped in, David happened to have an original Charleston Rice Bed in his shop that he was working on. Here are some of the photos of this amazingly beautiful carved bed:

photo 4
photo 1
photo 1 (1)

John Peckham was so enamored with this bed, that he commissioned Charles Neil and I to build and carve a bed similar to this style. Charles turned the posts beautifully and I am now working on carving the details.


Last month I had the honor of being invited to demonstrate how to carve several different Charleston carvings for a MESDA (Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts) Furniture Seminar and one of the pieces of furniture I showed how to carve was this rice bed (along with an acanthus leaf on a pedestal table and ball and claw foot). Here is a video on this carving.

If you have never been to MESDA in the Old Salem village in Winston-Salem, NC, you are missing an amazing experience. The MESDA museum, library and bookstore are a wealth of information, and Old Salem itself is just a wonderful opportunity to experience a historic village very close to how it was when it was originally founded by the Moravians in 1772. You will probably need to spend several days (or more) to really enjoy everything both MESDA and Old Salem have to offer.

Now I just need to finish the rice bed carving, finish several other commissions that have come in, continue to publish a video every week for my online carving school, and write a book on acanthus leaves… in my spare time…


Great class at Marc Adams!

Mary May, Woodcarver - Wed, 04/15/2015 - 10:42am

Mary May - Woodcarver

Last week I taught a 5 day Fundamentals of Woodcarving class at Marc Adams School of Woodworking in Indianapolis, Indiana. A great group of people. Here are some of the wonderful accomplishments of the students. Congratulations everyone! Great job!

Dave Reilly, my assistant and I. No we didn't carve the giant bouquet, but it is pretty awesome, eh?
Not the best position to carve in, but great for close-ups.

Resawing – Dueling Saws

Bob Easton - Wed, 04/08/2015 - 3:53am

Yet two more poor choices to learn from.

a comparison of 2 cutsWhen starting this batch of resawing, I reasoned that using the plain ole rip saw would be OK because it was lighter and easier to handle than the 24″ frame saw. At one point I did show the frame saw to a cut in process but quit because the frame saw had decidedly stronger set and I didn’t want to resaw a resawing cut. Then, along came comments from others about frame saws. So, out it came for the second half of a board.

The saws:

The plain saw is a Stanley rip saw of 1970’s vintage, 26″ long, filed at 5 ppi, sharpened just before starting this recent work. Plate thickness is 0.034 inch. Weight: 1 and 1/2 pounds.

The frame saw is one I built from a Disston 1897 saw cut down to 24″ It is filed 4 ppi and I’m not sure when last sharpened. It has an identical plate thickness of 0.034 inch, and something like 50% more set than the plain saw. (I remembered it as 5 ppi, but it really measures 4 ppi.) Weight: 5 pounds.

The lumber for this comparison is an 8/4 piece of mahogany, 7 and 1/4 inches wide and 32 inches long. The resawing line is right down the middle of its thickness.

shallow angle cut - bad ideaI sawed the first half with the plain saw (marked with blue chalk in one of the pictures). I added something different to the routine … cutting in from the end at a shallow angle. It was not easy cutting from that direction and I broke the “manhandling” rule. Bad idea! I knew from the feel of the saw that the cut had gone a little wrong, but couldn’t see inside to know how it had gone wrong.

When it came time to cut from the other end, I switched to the frame saw. I kept to the routine prescribed in the previous post, without the shallow cut from the end: the saw didn’t fit well in that position.

The difference is remarkable! While heavier, the weight of the saw makes a bigger difference than I imagined it would. The combination of its weight and slightly stronger set made for both smoother sawing and faster sawing. It was almost twice as fast as the plain saw! Better yet, it has far less tendency to wander. The blade, being held taut from both ends has much less opportunity to go its own way.

my 24 inch frame sawTwo more points to add to the learning:

  • Given the choice, use the frame saw. Even though heavier, the weight of the frame saw is an advantage and the blade under tension adds to accuracy.
  • Avoid that shallow cut that has too little guidance and too easily goes astray. Oh yeah, don’t manhandle it.
Categories: Carving and Sculpture

Resawing again! How to go wrong…

Bob Easton - Mon, 04/06/2015 - 2:00am

Learning to resaw well has been a long journey. With all the resawing I’ve done, I’ve found it’s very easy to end up with something like this: photo of dished cuta dished out area in one board and an matching hump on the other board. That kind of result is rather minor on small boards, or with stock where there’s ample room for error. But as board sizes increase, so do the probabilities and the scale of the mishaps. How do these things happen and how can they be avoided? I picked up some useful suggestions at the School of Hard Knocks.

Long ago, I built  a couple of wonderful small boats. For one of those boats, I made a frame saw and resawed a LOT of cedar into very long planks. (4/4 live edge white cedar, up to 10.5 inches wide and 16 feet long). Minor mishaps there were no problem because the raw boards had more than enough material to produce two 5/16 inch thick boards.  More recently, I’ve resawn cherry and walnut, but on a much smaller scale for desk boxes. Smaller pieces mean less opportunity to go astray.

Now, I’m working on something larger than desk boxes and smaller than boats. My lumber for this project is 8/4 African mahogany that varies from 6 inches wide to 10 inches wide. I bought this lumber from Steve Wall Lumber in Mayodan, NC. They have 20 board foot bundles that are packaged for delivery by FedEx. I bought two bundles and am delighted with what Wall Lumber delivers. Both bundles contained clear lumber, S2S, in generous widths, and easily 20 bd. ft. No end checks, splits, knots or other defects. None! The only one complaining is the FedEx delivery guy who carries the 62 pound packages up our steep driveway. (Takes too much time to get out the hand cart.)

setting a kerfThe project calls for boards 1 inch thick and 3/4 inch thick. With careful resawing, I can get one of each out of an 8/4 board. OK, scant 1 inch and scant 3/4 inch That’s plenty sturdy enough for a project that is not super critical about board thickness. Scant thicknesses will work. But, there’s not much margin for error. Which also means, no room for going astray. However, the boards are long, up to 4 feet, giving yet more opportunity to go astray.

OK. What goes wrong? What causes the problems? In a single word: inaccuracy. BTW, I used my kerfing plane to establish a 1/2 inch deep kerf around all edges of these boards. That kerf is a lot better at guiding the saw than is a pencil line.

Inaccuracy in resawing can come from a lot of things:

  1. Sawing too long from one position.
  2. Guiding the saw instead of letting the kerf guide the saw.
  3. Being too aggressive with the saw — “manhandling.”
  4. Impatience.

No matter what the cause, here’s what happens. Resawing is always done a little from one side, then a little from the other. Switching back and forth frequently eliminates irregularities before they become bothersome. Imagine the cut becoming off by a mere fraction in one direction or the other. Sawing too long from one side lets the problem grow. Then, when you move to the other side, the saw will take the path of least resistance, through that inaccurate kerf. This results in the saw bowing within the cut, creating a dish on one side of the cut. The longer the sawing goes with a bowed path, the deeper the dish gets. Since you can’t see inside the board, the only external awareness you have about this happening is increased friction. It sneaks up slowly, and if you’re manhandling the saw, or holding it with a death grip, you won’t notice the increased friction until it’s too late.

Once a bowed path gets established inside the board it is almost impossible to correct. So, don’t let it get started.

Frequent direction changes are the most important factor for success. Aligning yourself to the work is equally important. As an aside, unlike the boat lumber that I did with a frame saw, I’m cutting this lumber with a common rip saw. Nicely sharpened, but nothing special. It is lighter than the frame saw and has a broader blade that (one hopes) helps keep it moving straight. No matter which saw, the body and saw both have to line up precisely with the cut line.

Stance: I face the work with my shoulders square to the work piece, so that both arms can move as one. I spread my feet about a shoulder’s width distance apart, but position them in a line with the cut. I’m right handed, and place the left foot forward, with the toe exactly in line with the cut. The right foot is back. Why? So I can use the bigger leg muscles to power the work. Using the legs to rock back and forth is far less tiring than just the arms alone, and leads to better accuracy. In fact, when properly lined up, one could pin their elbows to their side and let the legs do all the work.

BIG problem source: Maintaining this stance from both sides of the cut is essential. Not keeping this stance on both sides of the cut was the biggest cause of my problems for a long time. There’s plenty of room to take this stance from the end of the bench. But walk around to the other side of the board and the bench is in the way. Modifying the stance to accommodate simply didn’t work.  So, that meant turning the work piece so I could always work from the end of the bench. Open the vise, turn, close the vise, saw, open the vise, turn, close the vise, saw. Yeah, it was too much trouble to turn the board as often as I should have. Instead of turning, I was spending too much time sawing from one side. added blocksOften, way too much from one side. Very slight wanderings were not being quickly corrected from the other side. They added up… until…

Fix: I solved that problem by adding blocks to offset the work piece from the bench. I started with one 2-by and added a second one later. (They have pegs fitted into holes in the face of the bench so they can easily be added to the vise space.) Bingo!!! That provided enough space to maintain the correct stance from either side of the board. No more need for turning the work piece. It stays in the vise and gets approached equally well from both sides. Now, it’s much easier to change directions frequently, as frequently as 25-30 saw strokes at a time. The only need to open the vise now is to raise the work piece as the cut progresses.

holding the sawHolding the saw: How to hold the saw is almost as important as stance. The operative word is “loose!” I hold the saw loosely enough that only the webs of my thumbs push forward and the inner parts of my fingers pull back. The saw handle is free to move within my grip. Why? That method provides the least “guidance” to the saw. It let’s those kerfs do their work. Holding the saw too tightly leads one to “manhandling” the saw and diverting it’s path. Holding the saw loosely also makes it easier to feel friction increasing, to know about an oncoming bowed path before it’s too late. Over time, I’ve found a comfortable grip with only 2 fingers of each hand in the handle’s hole. Index fingers and pinkie fingers point toward the blade: same on each side. It is a grip that is very balanced, one that prevents favoring one side over the other and keeps the blade nicely centered in the kerf.

Changing directions: Cutting in “sets” of about 30 strokes from one side and then a set of about 30 from the other side has given me the most accuracy.

Cutting angles: I’ve tried many different approaches. The “cut toward the center from all corners” approach works well for pieces that are almost square. For long pieces, I cut with the saw’s tooth line running at 90° across the board … mostly. The majority of the strokes are straight across the board. But for 10 strokes of each “set,” I drop the handle stroke by stroke until the tooth line is at 45°, then another 10 to 12 at 30°. This deepens the kerf line gradually and accurately.

Keep the cut line high: By keeping the cut line about chest high, the arms are less inclined to do the hard work, and thereby less likely to push the cut astray. Keeping the cut high almost forces using the legs, and when done this way the arms can be kept even and the saw centered on the kerf more easily.

oil-canOil the saw: That’s a small tomato sauce can with a cloth rolled up inside it. It’s soaked with light synthetic oil (3-in-one). A couple of quick swipes on each side of the saw after every few direction changes keeps the saw smoothly gliding along.

Take a break: Sawing too long makes one tired. Tiredness leads to impatience. Impatience leads to manhandling. … and so on. Sawing for the length of an Oscar Peterson album, a Travis Tritt album, or a Beethoven piano concerto is about right. Then, take a break and come back refreshed.

…and what to do when it goes wrong? The easiest answer is to stop as soon as you detect the bowing and go saw from the other end of the board. ~carefully~ You’ll have to saw from the other end at some point anyway. Make it good.


  1. Make sure your heart is healthy enough for resawing.
  2. Work all the way around the board with a kerfing saw.
  3. Mount the board in a vise in the manner that enables the same stance from both sides of the cut.
  4. Develop and maintain the same stance from both sides of the cut.
  5. Hold the saw loosely enough to allow the kerf to guide the saw, not your arms guiding the saw.
  6. Switch directions frequently. Work in small “sets:” 10 straight across strokes. followed by 10 strokes of increasing angle (about 45°), then 10 strokes at a more acute angle (about 30°).
  7. Let the kerfs guide the saw, not your arms.
  8. Switch directions frequently. (90°, 45°, 30°)
  9. Let the kerfs guide the saw, not your arms.
  10. Switch directions frequently.
  11. Raise the work piece in the vise often enough to keep the cut line about chest high.
  12. Oil the saw every few changes of direction.
  13. Take a break BEFORE you get tired, grumpy, or impatient.
  14. For resawing that lasts longer than 4 hours, seek immediate medical advice.
Categories: Carving and Sculpture

Transferring Patterns onto Light and Dark Wood

Mary May, Woodcarver - Wed, 04/01/2015 - 6:52pm

Mary May - Woodcarver

Have you ever had trouble seeing the lines of your design on the wood? Often with lighter colored wood such as basswood, pencil lines show up clearly. If you have transferred a template to your wood with carbon paper, this also shows up well on lighter colored wood. The carbon paper can be purchased at office supply stores.

However, when using darker woods, such as mahogany or walnut, I often use what is called “transfer paper” instead of carbon paper to transfer on designs. This paper comes in a variety of colors – white, red, yellow in addition to darker colors. It can usually be found in craft supply stores such as Michaels or Hobby Lobby. The lines also erase easily with a standard pencil eraser.


I just place the transfer paper between my template and wood and trace over the design from the template. I have accidentally had the transfer paper laying the wrong side up several times, so a warning… make sure the right side is down! It makes a really nice pattern on the back of your template if not :(




Another good trick for darker wood is to use white gel pens or colored pencils when you trace around a cut-out template or pattern.



I have a video on youtube that goes into more techniques of transferring designs to wood. Enjoy!

What is the “Clothing Iron” thing?

Mary May, Woodcarver - Sat, 03/28/2015 - 8:51pm

Mary May - Woodcarver


You know these very interesting electric gadgets that are found in most workshops called an “iron”? They have a flat surface, and are pointed at one end. They get really hot too. These unique implements have great uses in the woodworking shop:

Transferring templates:

Make a good photocopy of your design with a photocopier that uses toner (ink jet printers do not work). Turn your template over, and run the iron over your design and the ink from the paper should transfer to your wood. This is a great way to make a very accurate transfer if you have a complicated design.

Taking minor dents out of wood:

Take a damp cloth, lay it over the dented wood, place the iron on top and let it steam for a second or two. The steam causes the wood grain to expand and the dent is magically removed.

Bending thin pieces of wood:

Take a damp cloth, lay it over a thin piece of wood, place the iron over this and you can bend the wood.

Removing veneer:

Run a hot iron gently across veneer and the adhesive should heat and release old veneer.

Ironing those wrinkly shop aprons

What?? Who would have thunk?

“Words… ” box

Bob Easton - Mon, 03/16/2015 - 2:35am

closeup of lid inscriptionWords are our most inexhaustible source of magic.

My wife, a linguist, lifelong student of many languages and an English pronunciation teacher was immediately enchanted when she first heard these words.

The box is for her, with two inscriptions making it a very special box. The second inscription is the pair of Chinese characters on the front of the box, her Chinese name. closeup of Chinese nameNo, she’s not Chinese. She’s as Western as I am Hoosier. Chinese people sometimes offer non-Chinese friends an honorary Chinese name. This name is a gift from one of her language partners who lives near Beijing. He bestowed this name because it is the pseudonym of a premier Chinese poet he admires, Yi’an Jushi. A reasonable translation is “Amiable Calm.”

The box is intended as a desk box, something of convenient size for everyday use on her desk. It measures 9 inches long by 5 and 5/8 inches wide by 2 inches high. The box is made of mostly cherry. All of the cherry parts are 5/16 inch thick. The floor is 1/8 inch thin walnut. The finish is wax over shellac, several coats of each, with a lot of rubbing and buffing.

box with thilt lid openThis box uses my current favorite box construction. I like dovetailed corners, but I don’t like butt joints showing at the edges. I also like the floors set in grooves, but I don’t want any through grooves showing. Plugging exposed grooves is ugly to my eye. So, I use joinery that features dovetails in the middles of the joins and miters at the tops and bottoms. The technique eliminates butt joins, leaving beautiful miters and by strategically placing the groove, hides the grooves. Miter tip later…

Lastly, the tilt lid, from Peter Lloyd’s “Making Heirloom Boxes,” makes for easy use. The lid opens to just a bit beyond 90° which let’s it stand open nicely. The hinge pins are walnut. The lift tab is shaped to echo the bottom loop of the “g” just above it. The notch is a simple scoop.

Lettering layout

Which brings me back to the lid inscription, the part that took the longest. The cherry parts were prepped almost a year ago, as was the walnut. It wasn’t until last fall that I got serious about the inscription.

I started with a lettering layout that used all Roman capitals, the norm for so many inscriptions. It was too “flat” for my tastes. I wanted something more flowing and more cursive. My lettering design work went through about a dozen iterations, all hand drawn.

Hand drawn lettering is making a come back on the web, as are hand painted signs in the brick and mortar world. After years of computer drawn fonts and plastic lettering, many designers are looking for something different and more human to polish their designs. So, there’s a lot of hand drawn lettering showing up. Some of it is really good. A lot is terrible! In an effort to draw attention to “hand drawn,” many of these designers go to extremes to make “hand drawn” obvious by making the work wildly imperfect. Too often, the result is hand drawn letters that look childish and amateurish.

photo of carving in progressMany decades ago, I watched my father do nearly perfect hand painted lettering. That’s the quality level I wanted, not childish dreck. A dozen or so iterations later, I landed on the design I like, … and she liked it too.

Now, to carve it.  This lettering differs from most of my previous experience in scale. The lower case cursive letters are only about 1/2 inch high. The Roman caps in “Inexhaustible” are about 3/4 inch high. All are very much smaller than I’ve carved before and I’ve learned that difficulty increases as the size shrinks. Those 41 characters were preceded by well over 200 practice characters. I carved some of them over and over and was repeatedly disappointed. It turns out that “the secret” to success is in how the pattern is transferred to the wood. Most of my practice cuts were done by using carbon paper to transfer the design to the wood and then cutting. It was too easy to be inaccurate. Being off by the width of a half-millimeter pencil line was enough to throw off the look of a letter. Over and over, the results were unsatisfactory.

The answer was to scan the design, make it a computer hosted image, print it out and glue it to the wood with rubber cement. Cutting through the paper eliminated the inaccuracy that was based in tracing and immediately led to good results.

Smaller gouges were in order for this smaller work. For the most part, I used full length gouges, but in narrower widths, #1 1/4 in fishtail, #1 3/8 in., #3 1/8 in., #3 3/16 in. fishtail,  #6 1/4 in. and a set of 6 #8 micro gouges that ranged in width from 1/16 ” to 1/4″.  The #3 fishtail did most of the work.

For those interested in lettercarving, Mary May has several lettercarving lessons at her online school. Albeit, they’re larger, easier to manage letters.

For readers interested in learning really high quality hand learning, take a look at Sean McCabe’s online lettering course.

If your interest is hand painted signs, I’ve found these two links interesting.

Perfectng the mitered corners

Now for the mitered corners. I mark the miters with a standard layout square and cut them by hand with the same fine back-saw that I use for dovetails. I don’t use a miter box for these; just cut freehand, only to the depth needed. I cut just outside the line, leaving about half a kerf-width room to trim. As the dovetail joints come together these miters fail to join because they are “fat.”

Making them fit perfectly is simple. I learned this technique from Doug Stowe’s book, “Simply Beautiful Boxes.” It works like this: When the dovetails are about one saw kerf width from being completely joined, press the miters together (holding square) and then use a very fine Japenese pull saw to cut a simple kerf through the middle of the joint. That effectively trims both pieces. Repeat to narrow the gap. Voila, perfect joint!

Inscription source

Lastly, the quotation for the lid is from Prof. Albus Dumbledore in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows.”

mitered dovetail joints: Fine Woodworking – Matt Kenney – “Two Ways to Build a Box
fitting the miters: from Doug Stowe’s Simply Beautiful Boxes
tilt lid design: from Peter Lloyd’s Making Heirloom Boxes

Categories: Carving and Sculpture

Acanthus Book – Carving a Basic Acanthus Leaf

Mary May, Woodcarver - Sat, 03/14/2015 - 8:25pm

Mary May - Woodcarver

And the book writing continues…


Here is a sneak preview of the first acanthus leaf project for my book. It is going to be a very basic leaf – showing certain aspects that are seen in most acanthus leaves (eyes, pipes, flowing vein lines, overlapping leaf sections). The projects and chapters following this first leaf will have some similarities, but will evolve into a variety of historical styles and get more advanced in detail.

In each chapter of my book, I will show a step-by-step method of how to draw this leaf so that you will be able to understand the technique of creating the “flow” of the leaf. This way you won’t have to be dependent on using someone else’s drawings, but you can design your own leaf, keeping with the “traditional” design aspects.

I will then show you step by step process of carving the leaf. There will be anywhere from 1 to 3 photographs per step to explain that particular step as clearly as possible. In addition, I will be adding drawings to clarify each step.

The following is an example of showing how to make the small “notch” cuts along the leaf serrations (my favorite cut!)

Chapter 1 step 17



In addition to the “printed book”, I will also have online videos showing how to draw the leaf and also how to carve the complete leaf. There will also be templates that will be accessible online.

This book is going to be as thorough as it can be. It will be the next best thing to actually being in a classroom!

book cover-190

Follow along as I write my first book.

I will be sending newsletters where I walk people through my experience with this book writing process. Those on the list will get VIP treatment such as opportunities for free things (everybody like FREE things), previews or snippets of part of the book, and opportunities to become involved in the book writing process. Come join in the fun!

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    Carving Sampler – early work

    Bob Easton - Mon, 03/09/2015 - 5:23am

    The shop is still too cold for what I want to do next; finish the “words box.”

    So, do something else!  There’s been a pile of little practice carvings stacked on a window sill for a few years. All were carved in February to April 2012. The stack made a nice home for spiders, but even they fled the cold. I could toss those carvings, but holding on to them has won out so far.

    Let’s see…, if I rearrange them just right, maybe they can be put together as a “sampler,” a lot like cross-stitch samplers.

    photo of wood carving sampler; a collage of 15 pieces

    Getting them to similar sizes and nesting together was an exercise of time and precision, but work that could be done in a warmer part of the house. A piece of 1/4 inch plywood forms the backing. A rough dab of hide glue holds each. If there is any movement, they might be free to dance around a bit. And Ralph; no mitered corners.  :)  Overall size about 18″ square.

    Design sources:

    1 “Complete” is completely inaccurate in the title of Koch’s book. It is a collection of 7 carving exercises. Good, but not “complete” in any sense.
    2 One of 3 similar books, Wilbur covers a much broader range of architectural carvings than Koch. Very highly recommended.

    Categories: Carving and Sculpture

    Carving Flame Finials – Oh, my brain!

    Mary May, Woodcarver - Sun, 03/08/2015 - 6:21pm

    Mary May - Woodcarver

    I recently had a client who asked me to help complete 3 traditional flame finials that he had started for a reproduction of a 1760’s secretary.

    I received one finial that was laid out and partially carved, one that was just turned, and a block of wood to be turned into the third finial.

    When I began looking at the finial that was partially carved, it took me over an hour of staring at it to try and figure out what the “formula” was of laying out the lines for the flames. I knew there was a pattern, but it was a real brain tease to figure it out. I even looked at several articles in books and magazines on how to lay out these lines, and that just tied my brain in more knots.

    caleb W-4 2015018

    Template to lay out on turned finial that is transferred onto wood with carbon paper.

    I finally figured it out – dividing the lower edge into 6 equal segments, and the upper edge into 9 equal segments. From there I think it is best to show a visual (see image to the right).

    The best way I found to show to lay out the lines was to take a piece of paper, wrap it around a finished finial, and press it against the sharp edges of the flames. A wonderful impression of the sharp lines of the flames was pressed into the paper. Next, I took this paper and cut out sections of it so that it is sort of like a globe on a flat surface. After cutting out this template, it can then be taped around a turned finial with carbon paper under it and the lines transferred. The “globe” technique allows the paper to bend and shape along the curve of the finial. The left side of the template goes to the bottom of the finial and the right aligns with the top. It’s not a perfect technique, but it is a good start at getting the lines laid out.

    Since this particular design was based on my client’s partially carved finial, it is “loosely based” on traditional flame finials. It is close, and has the same “feel” but I have not been able to find others that match this design exactly. And there are so many different styles out there – some very exact in their dimensions, curves and symmetry, some more free flowing, and some with completely wild flames.

    But the most critical aspect of all flame finials seems to be that wonderful “S” curve. All lines, whether they go from the base all the way to the top, or only go a third of the way up, should have a gentle “S” curve. If this curve flattens, or if corners appear along the edge, the flame illusion is lost.

    I had to turn the 3rd finial before carving it. It has been a long time since I have turned something this delicate, and I am definitely not an experienced wood turner. I resorted to using rasps to defining some of the base details (I am so ashamed).

    First finished flame finial and second finial with flame lines drawn.
    Turning a finial
    Close-up of turning

    I filmed this lesson and it is scheduled be be added in April to my online school and will also be available for individual purchase at that time also. You’ve got to try this. Especially for you engineers and those who love math!

    Affordable Hide Glue Pot

    Bob Easton - Thu, 03/05/2015 - 6:05am

    The stuff likes to be kept warm … about 140° warm.

    One can get a really really nice glue pot at TFWW. Yet, for as often as I use hide glue, something more affordable suits my needs. (Sorry Joel.)

    As I walked down the kitchen accessories aisle at Walmart a couple of days ago, this “Roll-Back Special” caught my eye. I don’t know how much Walmart stores across the country standardize their sale items, but in my neighborhood it was priced at $8.86. A slow-cooker glue pot for less than 10 bucks!

    It does exactly what I want for the sorts of occasional glue ups I do. I mix glue from TFWW flakes in a small glass jar (pickle relish). That jar fits nicely inside the pot. Fill with enough water to surround, but not overwhelm the jar and set to HIGH for about 30 minutes. That gets the temperature up to near 140. It will go to 180 if you don’t watch it. Then, set to WARM which holds right at 140°. Perfect!

    Oh… Keep the lid on the pot while not using the glue. Otherwise the temperature drops off fast.

    Photo of pot and bag of glue flakes  thermometer shows 140°

    Categories: Carving and Sculpture

    My First Video with a “Special Guest” – Dan Hamilton

    Mary May, Woodcarver - Wed, 03/04/2015 - 5:32pm

    Mary May - Woodcarver

    To this date, all of my video lessons that I have made for my online school have been filmed with just little ol’ me carving away and talking through the carving process.

    me and danAnd now on to the next evolution – a guest artist! Several students have asked how to finish carvings on soft wood. Since I don’t feel that I am very knowledgeable in this area, I decided to invite someone who is skilled in finishing techniques. Tonight’s video that has been added to my online school will have Dan Hamilton as a guest. Dan is great friend and fellow woodworker and also a highly skilled furniture maker and restorer from Okatie, SC – just about 1 hour south of Charleston. On this video he shows me (and you) how to do some basic finishing techniques on 2 different basswood carvings using simple products that are probably lying around in the cupboard somewhere.

    FinishingTitleStill copyDan did a great job in sharing a lot of “secrets of the trade” and we really had fun making this video. I hope it shows. We even included a few very silly bloopers at the end.

    I’ve already talked to Dan about doing another video on more advanced finishing techniques. Who knows where this will lead?

    You can see this video if you are a Premium member of my school, or you can also purchase this as an individual lesson for $9.99. Check out the intro video.


    Best Brooms Ever

    Bob Easton - Wed, 03/04/2015 - 5:28pm

    The shop was almost warm enough to be bearable today, and it needed a good sweeping.

    Decades ago, we lived in the middle of Indianapolis, Indiana. A blind man would show up at our house occasionally carrying a dozen or so brooms over his shoulder. He sold brooms made by “Industries for the Blind.” We enthusiastically bought from him because his were really well made brooms of sturdy, thickly padded, broomcorn. They lasted almost forever, more years than I remember. They were the best brooms ever. We left Indianapolis over 30 years ago and there are no blind men walking around selling good brooms where we live now. In that time, the last of the blind-made brooms have worn out.

    The last of the real broomcorn brooms I bought at a big-box store was so flimsy, it wouldn’t support its own weight. I’ve witnessed a steady decline in the quality of store bought brooms, seeing broomcorn get thinner and thinner and finally being replaced by plastic bristles, set in plastic heads, attached to plastic handles. They don’t behave like brooms and break too often. Pure junk!

    photo of 2 brooms

    So, I went on a hunt. The answer to my search was not “handmade,” “blind-made,” “sturdy” or any of the other “durable” words, but “broomcorn!” Two new brooms from Broomcorn Johnny’s now hold my praise for the best brooms ever. Brian Newton is the artisan who operates the broom shop named Broomcorn Johnny’s in Brown County, Indiana. We’ve had two of his brooms long enough to know they’re the new “best.” The flat one is what he calls a “cabin broom.” The round one has about the same amount of broomcorn but is tighter wound and great for heavier work. The flat one stays in the house / cabin. The round one just cleaned up the shop better than any broom I’ve had in the past 15 years and hangs there now. (Cabin brooms are available in plain or in a range of color schemes.)

    These brooms seem expensive at $60 – $70 each. Yet, I know they’ll easily outlast the $12 box-store brooms by a factor of 8 -10. That makes them a real bargain, and very attractive too.  Highly recommended, and I have no financial gain from this recommendation.

    Categories: Carving and Sculpture
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