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 Joel's Blog at Tools for Working Wood

Carving With Chris Pye - Next Lessons and a Step Backwards  

01/03/2012

In the last lesson I finished the basic exercises of a flower, reported to Chris Pye and started the next project which was a bull from the Woodcarving Course book. because I didn't have a good way of enlarging the plan in the book I did it about 3/4 size. It came out okay (see picture) but I did have issues around tight curves and around the eye. According to the lesson I was supposed to use a stabbing cut when the arc of the curve got tight but I didn't. In practice I could not make the stabbing cut work so I used a low angle cut. After finishing the bull I knew I had screwed it up. The tight curves are muddy and uneven, and the eye is a disaster area. Otherwise, the low angle cuts which I had practiced extensively were fine.

According to the instruction I need to carve another bull and do some different effects. I didn't want to repeat the same errors but I could not make the stabbing cuts with any confidence and I did not understand how you keep the line quality of a small 1/16" x 11 gouge which was used to carve the rest of the body, consistent when you change to a stabbing cut.
I thought about photographing the bull, sending it to Chris, and letting him tell me what was wrong but being in the Xmas rush I procrastinated on that. And then it hit me that what was wrong is that I could not do a stabbing cut properly and consistently. Actually when I thought about it the practice piece I had done to show grips really only had a few stabbing cuts in it and I was so thrilled about getting the low angle grip down pat I never really studied the right way to do a stabbing cut.
So before I call Chris I figured I should reread and watch him do the stabbing cut demo.
I did and I am doing it all wrong. Somewhere between my initial lesson and practice I lost the proper grip, I wasn't holding the tool correctly, I wasn't following the cut correctly, and needless to say I have to go back and start learning the stabbing cut correctly once and for all. As I have mentioned before I mostly learn from books, but the videos on Chris's carving TV were perfect in this case. my next step in learning to carve is watching the stabbing videos again, with my workbench right there, and practicing the cuts properly. If need be I will talk to Chris about matching the character of the different cuts in the bull, but first I need to see what happens when you do it correctly.

So I will be carving the bull again soon, but not before more reading and video lessons.

Note: In case you are curious, I know I mention many times the many books we sell by Chris, and his woodcarving TV website. While we do make revenue when we sell a book, we do not get any sort of commission on his website. The main reasons I am writing this series of blogs on carving are: Between work and parenthood my time and commitment to any hobby activity is tough and by blogging about my carving lessons I can justify more time at work spent in what is basically a hobby activity for me.

The process of how people learn is interesting to me. Most of what I write about is trying to teach or at least inform people. Most blogs are like that too. I thought writing about the learning process an interesting subject. Most students writing about their classes write about their progress, what it's like working and studying with others. I'm trying to write about the thought process and experiments and learning epiphanies needed to make my carving progress. I can't draw or sculpt so if at the end of this I can make a nice natural carving of something I will be extremely proud of myself. My wife says I need a hobby and furniture making is no longer a hobby for me. Carving on the other hand is totally out of the left field of my experience and I would guess that how I am learning and how I am acquiring tools and equipment is pretty typical of a lot of people who have learned to carve and can be a typical path of those who want to learn. Carving, for those living in an apartment, does not take up much space, so I hope I can get good enough so what excites me is the project I am working on, not my learning process.
Finally we stock and sell lots of carving tools and accessories. My blog is mostly on the history of woodworking and furniture-making. Adding in this storyline of learning to carve gives me a wider range of things to write on and I am hopeful that maybe a few carvers, beginners and more advanced, will find the inclusion of carving topics in my blog a reason to read it.

Tags:Woodworking Tools and Techniques
Comments: 7
01/03/2012Don 
Hi Joel,
Enjoy your blog. I like the interesting way you have of looking at things. I have joined a carving club mostly for the same reasons as you. I found I had a mirror project that needed a vine crawling up the side. First attempt was a disaster! After joining the club,I found that the many talented carvers were willing to share their knowledge with this newcomer that describes stick figures as his artwork. Nothing like a instant evaluation and critique to help you find out what you are doing wrong. Keep up the good work Don
01/03/2012Dennis E. Matthews 
Thanks for sharing your carving adventure with us Joel. I too am using Chris' knowledge through his books and DVDs to learn to carve. Unfortunately, I'm failing at the actual "doing" part.
Thanks for sharing my friend.
01/03/2012Richard Wright http://on Facebook as Richard Wright-Woodcarver
Hang in there all you beginning carvers. Learning to carve is a slow process and, like playing a musical instrument, takes lots of practice. I have studied with Chris numerous times up in Maine, and know his techniques really work, but we have to work at making them work!!! A suggestion though, in looking at the bull, is that some of the tear-out on the curves is a result of cutting in the wrong direction relative to the grain -- you may have to change direction part way around a curve to accomodate the grain. Secondly, when cutting across the grain the tools must be absolutely razor sharp -- which means a lot of stropping, especially in a harder wood. Hang in there everyone, it is well worth the effort!!!!
01/05/2012Francisco Castro 
Hello Joel,
I have been reading your blog for some time now. I initially got into woodwork through carving. I have also used Chris' books and videos through my adventures in carving. I am no artist, but I truly enjoy the process and am always pleased with what I end up with.
Thank you for sharing.
01/10/2012Bill McCaffrey 
Joel,

Your bravery alone should make you proud. Not many would show the world their first attempts at anything. Some of mine go into the trash before anyone even knows I tried (ha). I really appreciate you sharing your learning experience. I have learned most of my woodworking techniques from books and videos and have found it to be effective so long as you can stay motivated. Stick with it and you will do great!
01/19/2012Joseph Bergey 
Hey Joel!

I'm a wannabe carver not too far from you (Suffolk County) and have been following you and your site for a few years at least...find it very interesting and have always been more inclined to woodcarving myself. Bought my first set of twelve Two Cherries chisels a few years back and put them to good use on a few projects but over the last five years I've spent many many more hours studying and learning rather than carving and I realize that's probably a mistake. I guess I enjoy collecting tools and learning about the craft as much as carving although I'm reluctant to admit it.

I find it very useful to read blogs like yours and have also indulged in Chris Pye's books and am a member of his woodcarving TV series online.

I'm looking forward to more blog entries on the topic and perhaps even more carving tools to be added to your available arsenal.

Thanks from L.I., N.Y. -Joe B.-
02/03/2012George Gillen 
Hi Joel,

I, too, got involved with carving to enhance my furniture making skills. Now I would rather carve!

If Richard Wright's analysis above is correct, Nora Hall's first lesson (which you do have in stock) is an excellent answer.

Nora's videos and Chris's books and videos are both very valuable, and inspirational.

Thanks for making them available.
Comments are closed.
The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the blog's author and guests and in no way reflect the views of Tools for Working Wood.
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