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The Woodworking Blogs Aggregator
This "aggregator" collects all of the woodworking blogs I read every day - or try to anyway! Enjoy!
Carving and Sculpture
I’m starting to make short introduction videos for every new video lesson I have on my online school just to give people an idea of what the lesson is about. They usually run about 1-1/2 to 2 minutes long and give an overview of what the lesson is about.
On my “to-do” list is to go back to some of the older videos and make an intro video for these also, but my “to-do” list is getting longer by the day – so I’m not sure whether that will happen soon.
I also have several full lesson videos on youtube and as a Free member of my online school:
The Youtube ads are really annoying and I haven’t figured out how to get them off my videos. One showed up for “Laser carving machine”. What??? I don’t even get paid for these, but if they’re putting them up there, I’m going to figure out how to get rid of them.
Enjoy the videos (ignore the ads).
I’m very happy to say that these past few weeks have been very busy with commissions. Since my step-son, Caleb has been editing my videos for my online school, I have been enjoying a lot more time in the workshop. Here are some of the carvings I have been working on.
These are 4 carved corners for a reproduction of an 1830’s mirror. These were carved in basswood and are a very 3-dimensional fleur de lis. I filmed the process of carving one of these, and Caleb is currently in the process of editing this full lesson. It should be available on my online school next month. It’s over 2 hours, so it might end up being 3 episodes. It is carved in 2-1/4″ thick wood, so there is a LOT of shape to these.
This carving is one of 2 sunburst designs I made for the tops of pilasters on a door surround. This was made for a local woodworking company that installs custom interior woodwork – Southern Lumber. It is carved in sapele (sometimes referred to as mahogany or African mahogany). Sapele can often be very difficult to carve because the grain tends to switch on you about every 1/4″ to 1/2″. It definitely keeps it a challenge, but this particular wood did not cause too many frustrations.
I ended up filming this while I carved it – just because. But I already have a lesson that is very similar to this on my online school.
And then there is that wonderful flame finial. My customer started one finial and asked me to finish it and wanted me to carve 2 additional finials. Just the layout is a real challenge – and then to try and figure out how the flame shapes flow is a real brain tease. This is lightly based on a design for an 18th century period secretary or highboy from the Philadelphia area. I say “lightly” because any descriptions that I read in books about how to lay out these finials fried too many brain cells for me to get through the article.
However, since I had one that my customer started, I just had to base the others on his design. Simple, right? Well, it took me about 2 hours staring at his finial and turning it in all directions to figure out what the pattern was. I finally got it! The main thing to focus on with these finials is to keep “S” curves no matter what – whether they are the high corner peaks, or the deep, sharp inside corners. All lines should be continually flowing in “S” curves with no straight lines. With that in mind, there are many ways to lay these out – and many different designs and styles out there. I just designed a new one!
This process was also filmed, so probably within 2 months, this will be on my online school.
I have a great heater in my shop, so when it only gets up to 35 degrees outside, I’m toasty warm while I work. Yeah, I know, that’s NOTHING compared to what other parts of the country are experiencing right now. But this is South Carolina! And I admit it – I have become a wimp. My Minnesota blood has thinned out somewhat over the past 15 years.
A nice fire in our fireplace. Hmmm. Something is missing. Maybe a carving on the mantel? The fireplace has been like that for nearly 14 years – taunting me every time I look at it. This is truly the “cobbler’s shoes” dilemma. Maybe one day…
March 7 & 8 I will be at the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking in Manchester, CT to teach a weekend carving class. This is open to beginners and experienced woodcarvers. Come join us in the fun! There are spaces still available.
For those who are beginners, we will be going through all the basic carving techniques to get you started in an incredibly fun new art. Trust me, I’ve been doing this for over 22 years, and still have fun! We’ll cover how to sharpen gouges to a razor sharp edge, safety techniques of carving, how to work in the correct grain direction, and how to carve a floral design in relief.
If you have carved before, bring something to work on and I’ll help you through it. Or you can also follow along as a “review” with the beginning carving project. There’s always more you can learn!
Come join in the balmy March weather in CT. I’m sure it will be warmer than here in SC
It doesn’t matter if you are a beginner carver or experienced, I love to see the progress – and I’m sure others do also. What better way to show off your work? You should be proud!
Take a look yourself to see some of the photos of what some of the student’s have accomplished.
And if you are a student on my online school and want to add a photo of your work, just follow the easy steps towards the bottom of the gallery page.
It’s so exciting to see your progress. Please share!
Sorry about that title – I couldn’t resist.
I am on a sort of “retreat” where I am isolated in a hotel room working on the writing part of my book. Really bad puns come out when I spend too much time alone. Don’t worry… I’ll edit them out of the book – at least most of them.
Much of the book is going to be instructional, step-by-step processes of how to carve acanthus leaves, and I am completely comfortable and familiar with this. It’s the writing part that I need to really be able to focus and not be distracted by “normal” life. So, this “me” time is very necessary.
What is so interesting is that I have been in this room all day and was so focused on writing, that I hadn’t noticed all the varieties of acanthus leaves surrounding me in the hotel room. I continue to be amazed at how prolific this design is in everyday life. And it does motivate me while I am writing this book. I hope to bring attention to what impact this design has on some very simple and common things that we see every day – lamp bases, picture frames, curtains, carpeting.
Now, I have to admit that some of the designs I want to “adjust”, but all in all, they are quite nice and have a good shape. Being surrounded with all these leaves reminds me of the variety of styles the acanthus leaf comes in. It makes me want to write another book after this. How can I fit it all into just one book??
Please sign up for my book writing e-mail list. 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!
Click on the book image to sign up.
Some may accuse me of being a woodcarving purist in many ways. However, I am also practical in that when I have to get a job done, I take advantage of the modern technologies available to make my life a little easier. Let’s say, for example, that I have finished carving a complicated acanthus leaf design and I want to make an exact duplicate – only in reverse.
Here’s how –
Step 1: Take a photo of your carving
Step 2: Put your photo file into your computer photo editor
Step 3: Make a reverse or mirror image
Step 4: Print out the reversed photo image –
Step 5: Take this to your shop so you can view in the correct position. This way you don’t have to turn your brain inside and try to figure out the details in reverse. Trust me, it’s NOT easy.
One way to transfer your design in reverse is to make a plastic or cardboard template of half the design and turn it over to produce the other half. This works for repetitive and symmetrical designs that are used more for tracing around the outside edges of designs.
You can also use a thin type of paper (tracing paper or velum) with a design drawn on it. Turn the paper over and you should be able to see the design through the paper in reverse. You can then trace it onto your wood with carbon paper or transfer paper.
Can’t think of anything else at the moment. Just trying to help so you don’t hurt your brain!
If you have any other ideas of working with reverse images, please share!
The acanthus leaf definitely is a real plant originally found in the Mediterranean. I have heard that this plant that inspired so many architects and designers thousands of years ago is considered an invasive plant today – sort of like our thistle in the US – and it even resembles the thistle in appearance. I tried to grow one in my garden, and it was really beautiful. I, however, am a woodcarver and not a gardener – so it did not last long in my hands. But I managed to take a photograph of one of the leaves before it met its demise.
So it started as this…
Then evolved to this…
Or maybe this…
You can see that the leaf evolved into designs that often have little resemblance to the original plant. But that’s what is so great about this design! There are certain specific design elements that carry through all leaves that identify it as an “acanthus leaf”, but it is the variety that intrigues me the most.
Here are several direct dictionary meanings of “acanthus” which I thought interesting. Hope you do too.
From the Oxford Dictionary:
In architecture, an ornament may be carved into stone or wood to resemble leaves from the Mediterranean species of the Acanthus genus of plants, which have deeply cut leaves with some similarity to those of the thistle and poppy. Both Acanthus mollis and the still more deeply cut Acanthus spinosus have been claimed as the main model, and particular examples of the motif may be closer in form to one or the other species; the leaves of both are in any case, rather variable in form. The motif is found in decoration in nearly every medium.
The relationship between acanthus ornament and the acanthus plant has been the subject of a long-standing controversy. Alois Riegl argued in his Stilfragen that acanthus ornament originated as a sculptural version of the palmette, and only later, began to resemble Acanthus spinosus.
From Collins Dictionary:
acanthus (əˈkænθəs ) or acanth (əˈkænθ)
(plural) -thuses, -thi (-θaɪ)
- any shrub or herbaceous plant of the genus Acanthus, native to the Mediterranean region but widely cultivated as ornamental plants, having large spiny leaves and spikes of white or purplish flowers: family Acanthaceae See also bear’s-breech
- a carved ornament based on the leaves of the acanthus plant, esp as used on the capital of a Corinthian column
I recently added the fifth and final episode of Carving a Cartouche for a Philadelphia Highboy to my Online Carving School. This has been one of the longest lessons I have made (only to be out-done by the Dragon and Acanthus Lesson) and totals around 4 hours. Here is a brief introduction video that shows some of what is included in this lesson.
The lesson covers every part of the carving:
• lowering the area outside the “Philadelphia Peanut”
• re-drawing the design onto the lowered surface
• dividing up all the large elements in the carving
• carving all the details -c-scrolls, leaves and abstract shell design (sometimes called rocaille)
• releasing the design from backer board
• carving the back-side of the cartouche
• finishing up the top curled leaf and the lower rope design
You can see my blog post with photos on the carving process here.
This lesson (along with most other lessons in my online school) is also available in downloadable form for individual purchase for $34.99. This is an option for those who are not members of my online carving school.
There is also a resin casting available for sale. This lesson in particular is important to have something to view while your are carving it. This casting helps a lot in showing the subtle shapes in this complex design.
Now you just need to build a Philadelphia Highboy so you have a place to put your cartouche!
I love my job!
I get to work with amazing furniture makers, and at the same time, I get to experience lovely and historical parts of the country.
I have been working with Greg Guenther, a highly skilled furniture maker and restorer out of Savannah, GA for nearly 17 years now. He often calls me in to help him with the carved elements of period furniture projects he is either reproducing or restoring. Some of the jobs we have worked on are reproducing a Goddard-Townsend 6-shell secretary, several carved 4-post beds, a beautiful shell niche, numerous repairs on period pieces, and currently a 1830’s peer mirror reproduction. I have several photos of work we have done together in my gallery.
Here are some photos of the first corner I carved on Friday – it is a very 3-dimensional fluer de lis design. I only have 3 more to carve!
Then I had the opportunity to walk around Savannah as a tourist and see some beautiful examples of acanthus leaves in architecture and wrought iron (I have acanthus leaves on the brain because of my book I’m writing). I hope to use several of these photos as reference and examples for the book.
Once you start looking for acanthus leaves, you see them everywhere!
Also, please sign up for my acanthus book newsletter. As I complete chapters, there will be free things to win!
This past weekend has been so much fun! Traditional Cookie Molds!
Late last year, I received an e-mail from someone asking me if I have ever carved Springerle cookie molds. Not wanting to sound ignorant, I quickly googled this mysterious name to see what he was talking about, and a new world of carving opened up!
Then the following week Roy Underhill called and asked if I have ever carved traditional Springerle cookie molds. Was this fate? Coincidence? I think not! It was meant to be!
So Roy and I set up a 1-day cookie mold carving class (as opposed to moldy cooking carving class), and then scheduled filming another Woodwright’s Show episode on carving these same cookie molds.
These carved molds are traditional designs made in Germany, (called Springerle or spekulatius), Belgium (called Speculoos), and Holland (pronounced speculaas), meaning “mirror”. They are similar to shortbread, made with white flour, brown sugar (or honey), butter and spices. This dough is rolled or pressed into the oiled and flowered carved molds that are about 3/16″ to 1/4″ deep, leaving about 1/8″ dough left above the mold. After gently releasing the dough from the mold, the edge of the cookie is often cut out (sometimes special cookie cutter shapes are made that match the edge of the carved design to cleanly cut out the cookie to the correct shape).
The wooden molds are usually carved from very dense, hard, tight-grained wood such as pear or apple. Softer woods would be affected by oil or moist dough.
First – the cookie class. This class was open to all carvers – beginner and advanced, and it really was a great class. We dove right into carving a wind-mill cookie mold (didn’t even go over sharpening tools until towards the end of class because we wanted to get right into the fun part). As people were finishing up their wind-mill carvings towards the end of the day, Roy went around the room, oiled the molds, and pressed cookie dough into the molds (Roy’s wife, Jane, made the cookie dough). This is where we discovered that if there were any undercuts in the wooden mold, the dough would catch and not release easily. The malt shop next door was kind enough to bake the cookies and they were really tasty!
Sunday we filmed another episode of The Woodwright’s Shop – one of the longest running shows out there – 33 years! Roy is always fun to work with. I’ve had the privilege of getting to know him over the past 5 or 6 years with 3 different shows, and teaching at his school in Pittsboro several times a year.
The show should air in September or October. I’ve also filmed the process of carving several of these for my online school and that should be available within the next few months.
If you leave wood shavings in the mold, you add more fiber to the cookies! Then they’re healthier!
David Piazzo is one of the active members at my online carving school. We frequently see comments from him on lessons at the school. He seems to be very engaged and enthusiastic. The following is from a recent email from David, describing how he safeguards his tools for convenient storage and travel. David agreed to this guest post to share the idea with other carvers. Thanks David and nice work!
If you take a class from her, or join Mary May’s online school, one of many things you will learn is to love your tools. (“You can never have enough”) As my collection of quality tools has grown, I wanted a way to store and transport them safely, but still wanted to be able to get to all of them quickly when ready to carve. With this system, they are all secure in the case, but when the top comes off and you pull out the top tray, set it on the bench in front of the bottom box… you have easy access to 40 full size tools. Yes tool rolls are easy, but 12 or 18 tools is all you’re getting in, unless they become so big you worry about so many tools in a clump. Also if you have L series gouges or bent backs, they do not fit into nice straight spaces and they push and protrude into other spaces.
Mary has also taught how to get them SHARP so I wanted to make sure there were no metal hinges or clasps any place an accidental bump could dull a tool. So, the top has dowels along one side that fit into holes in the case and a couple rare earth magnets inlaid on the opposite side. They do not stick out and even then, NdFeB or Neodymium Iron Boron is softer than steel.
I started with 3/4 pine. But did not want the weight and bulk of 3/4 pine so I ripped it in half on the table saw to 5/16. I wanted the box small enough to carry under one arm so I worked out the dimensions by lining tools up on my bench. I dovetailed the 5/16 pine in the corners for strength and dadoed a groove around the inside for the bottom piece of 3/8 ply to hold down weight. I knew I would strengthen this bottom with the tool holder strips – see next picture.
First I made the main box with the bottom holder. After laying tools out on my bench I knew how far apart to space the half rounds for holding the handles in place. I made the frame for the top tray and strips for the bottom tool holders and clamped them together and drilled 1” holes for handles to fit into between the two strips. This gave me half rounds on both that lined up perfectly.
Here you can see that the top tray is also dovetailed for strength out of 3/4 pine. I drilled holes through sides rather than making the case 1-1/2” wider. So all tools fit in same footprint. Also the bottom of the top tray, and the inside of the cover both have a 3/8” x 2” x 18” strip of temper foam glued along the center line. When the tray and the lid are in place, the foam holds down the tools to keep them from shifting or rattling.
The center bar is floating. If I change tools it can move up or down to accommodate them, it moves easily. I also toss in a couple dessicant packs that come with electronics to control any moisture inside.
Next, the lid and how to attach it. The lid is rabbeted like a drawer front would be. Then 5 dowels inset into the lid, and matching holes in the case side.
Finally, inspired by Mary’s fireplace Sunburst, I decided to carve that lesson into my lid. I used high gloss lacquer finish because sometimes when I sharpen, I have iron filings on my fingers and did not want that to dull the bright pine lid. With this finish, it cleans up with windex and paper towels. I turned a button for the center out of rosewood on the lathe. I do love my tools and want to take the best care of them. Now they are safely stored and easy to transport. I have an old Coleman stove nylon carrying case they fit into perfectly for taking to a class or friends shop.
The great thing about writing a book these days is that the technology available is amazing!
I make videos. A LOT of videos. With my online carving school, I add a video each week. And that’s adds up to a LOT (as of today, almost 4 terabytes stored)
So, since I have had over 2-1/2 years of experience in making video lessons, why not include this technology with my book?
To start with – the book. I plan on having this an interactive book (available both in hard cover and “e-book” form). This book will have step-by-step written instructions with photos that can be taken out to the workshop where you can refer to while you are carving. For the printed version, I would like to have the book spiral bound, so it can lay flat on the workbench – sort of like a cookbook that can open flat. With the “e-book”, I guess that’s not necessary
Next – videos! With each chapter lesson that goes through a project, I will have 2 videos – one on drawing that particular acanthus leaf, and one on carving the entire leaf. The set-up and style of the videos will be similar to the ones on my online school (I don’t know any other way!)
These videos will be available online for people who purchase the book. We have decided against DVDs, as that technology is SO yesterday. Seriously, by the time I finish this book late next year (oh, it is 2015? yikes – this year, I mean), the technology and options will be even more amazing.
Let’s see… what else? Printable templates for each project will also be available online.
Also (and this is SO cool!) my sister-in-law, Sara, is an awesome computer artist and she is going to work on making each acanthus leaf design a 3-d computer image that can be twisted and turned so that you will be able to view it from any angle. Not sure how this is going to work, but wouldn’t that be great?
So, with the help of the guys at Lost Art Press, and their expertise with publishing books and the technology that goes with it, this is going to be so much fun!
I’ll be starting a newsletter about my journey of writing this book sometime this month. Sign up and you’ll get VIP treatment (and maybe the occasional give-away)
Follow along as I write my Acanthus book.
Get news about My School of Traditional Woodcarving.
A weekly newsletter tells of the latest video episode.
My monthly newsletter tells all of the things going on including a free template and class schedule.
I have next year’s class schedule pretty much locked in. It’s going to be a very busy year.
Here is the link to the page on my website. Or you can choose the “classes” menu above. You would need to sign up and register at the particular school.
The class scheduled for February 4 – 8 at the Southwest School of Woodworking in Phoenix, AZ still has a few spots available. What better of a place for you northern folks to escape to in February!
I’m really excited about heading to Germany again this year to teach at the Dictum School in Munich. I went there last year for the first time and it was amazing!
|January 16||Carving Springerle Cookie Molds
The Woodwright’s School with Roy Underhill
|February 4-8||Introduction to Carving
Southwest School of Woodworking
|March 7 & 8||Carving Basics
Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking
|March 21||Demonstration on Carving Charleston Furniture
Museum of Southern Decorative Arts
|April 7 – 11||Fundamentals of Woodcarving
Marc Adams School of Woodworking
|April 30 & May 1||Basic Relief Carving
Kelly Mehler’s School of Woodworking
|May 2 & 3||Intermediate Carving Techniques
Kelly Mehler’s School of Woodworking
|May 15 & 16||Demonstration on Carving
Handworks Woodworking Show
|June 1 – 5||The Joy of Woodcarving
Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking
|June 29 – July 3||Beginning Woodcarving
Center for Furniture Crafsmanship
|July 4||Demo and Presentation
Lie-Nielson Toolworks Open House, Warren, Maine
|July 18 & 19||Advanced Relief Carving
|August 10 – 14||Classical Relief Carving
Marc Adams School of Woodworking
|September 4 – 6||Relief Carving of Floral Designs
Dictum Woodworking Workshops, Munich, Germany
|September 8 – 10||Advanced Course in Relief Carving
Dictum Woodworking Workshops, Munich, Germany
|October 3 & 4||Carving Ball and Claw Feet
Ben Hobbs Furniture