Types of carving

Carving can be done by hand, power tools and even chainsaws. I don’t use a chainsaw for carving, just for cutting wood for turning. The types of carving that I do are chip carving, relief carving and  carvings in the round. Most of my carving is done with hand tools, but I do use power tools sometimes.

Chip carving

Chip carving has been around for a long time. There are some artifacts from the Vikings that are chip carved. Basically all chips are either triangular or rectangular in basic form whether they are straight-sided or curved. There are books and videos that explain the fundamentals and show you how to carve the chips. There are many ways to accomplish the end result, but each has it’s advocates.

Personally I use a special knife that is designed for making chips How you hold the knife is essential. The sides of the chip should be between 45 and 65 degrees. Most books suggest the best angle should be 60 to 65 degrees, but some people advocate the 45 degree chip.The 65 degree is deeper so it gives more shadow for better effect.

Relief carving

To do relief carving you lower the background to leave the design proud of the surface. This is accomplished by the use of gouges and chisels. If small amounts are being removed, palm tools can be used. But if deep relief is needed, larger tools and sometimes a mallet are used. If removing the wood requires more force than can be safely done by hand, a mallet is used on the end of the tool. Mallets are also used to help speed up the carving.

Not only is the design higher than the background, but many times the design is undercut. This helps give more realism to the carving. The undercut can be minor or go under the design more than a 1/4″.

Carving in the round

Carving in the round has two major branches, real-life and character carving. Real-life tries to copy the subject so the carving looks just like the original model. Busts and statues are part of real-life as are wildlife carvings. A lot of wildlife carvers also use pyrography for decoration. Feathers and fur are easier to put in with a wood-burning pen then a small gouge.

Character carving doesn’t have to be proportional like real-life. As a matter of fact accentuating certain parts of the carving helps to give it the needed character. The old folk art carving is the basis for this style. One style is called flat-plane because of the large flat areas. Flat-plane carving is thought to have originated in Scandinavia when the men carved during the long winters. A knife is used in flat-plane carving instead of gouges and chisels. That’s what gives it character.

More to come

There will be more posts on the tools and the different forms of carving, so check back.



What scroll saw to use

Are you interested in using a scroll saw to make projects? Do you know what thickness of material you will be using? Will you need a tilting table? Will you br doing fine lines or just large cutouts? These are all things you need to know before you decide on a scroll saw unless you already have one.

Types of scroll saws

There are many brands of scroll saws, but they any one can be used. You need to decide which of the following choices will work best for the type of cutting you will be doing.

  • Pin-end or straight ended blades? Straight ended blades are easier to find and will let you have much smaller entry holes for finer work. But pin-ends can be easier to put back after insertion thru the work.
  • Single speed or variable speed? Variable speed gives you the opportunity to adjust speed for different types and thicknesses of wood to help avoid burning and blade breakage. Single speed machines are normally easier on the pocketbook.
  • Do you need a tilting table or a tilting head? Right tilt, left tilt or both? Even though most of the current saws tilt, there are many possibilities. A saw that tilts is recommended as there are many useful ideas that can be used. A tilting head means that the table stays flat and it is easier to keep the material steadier on a flat surface.

Each feature will change the price you will have to pay. Get the best saw in the type you choose that your budget will allow. A quality saw can last you many years and allow you to grow.

My personal scroll saws

I personally have two saws. One is an older Dremel that uses short pin-end blades. The blades are hard to find. It is a single speed, non-tiltable that will cut up to 3/4″ material reliably.

The other is a Delta that is no longer made, so parts are hard to find. But it is variable speed, uses straight ended blades and the table tilts. So it is very versatile when I use it. It can also cut 1 1/2″ stock with the right blade and speed.

I would love to have either a Hegner or an Excalibur saw, but right now they out of my price range. So I will probably have to get a DeWalt or it’s equivalent

I’ll talk about the blades to use in another post..


Cleaning up the shop

Even though it is an ongoing project, my main project right now is to clean up the shop and rearrange the tools for better efficiency. I also need to make room for my radial arm saw so it isn’t sitting outside.. It’s a small 10′ x 16′ Gambrel roof unit. I put in an attic for some stock storage.

It’s been awhile

There are three corners that I don’t know everything that is there. I don’t think I have seen the building in those corners in over 5 years. I think there are some tools and old projects there in addition to empty plastic cases that some tools came in when new. Hopefully I won’t find any uninvited guests.

There are also areas under a couple of workbenches that have boxes under them that I don’t know what is inside them. And not all the dust and dirt has been vacuumed up So I have my work cut out for me.

Rearranging the shop

After I get the corners cleaned out I will need to rearrange the shop for ease of working with all of my tools. I will need to build some storage areas for the tools I don’t use as often. By storing them under the tables and benches, I should have more room for the tools that I use regularly.

Once I get the radial arm saw inside, I will be able to work more without having to worry about the weather. I know that many people think that radial arm saws are very dangerous. Any tool can be dangerous if you don’t pay attention and are not completely awake.

Don’t forget to cleanup every day

You have to remember to clean your shop every day. If there are chips, shavings and dirt on the floor, it can be slippery and cause an accident. So for the safety of anyone that goes into your shop remember to sweep up or use a shop vacuum daily. If you don’t do it every day, it will be harder to clean up the next day because of the amount of work required and easier to let it go again.


Getting ready for a show

Up to date inventory and pictures

So I guess that my main tip for this time is to keep your inventory and pictures current. You never know when you will need them. We are in the process of checking and cataloging all of our inventory and making certain that we have good pictures.

With all of the possible social media available, it never hurts to let people know what you do and to be able to show your products off. Leads for custom work can come from many places and at any time. I have gotten leads while at Wal-Mart, Lowe’s and different restaurants. So always be alert to possibilities.

Have plenty of handouts with you

And don’t be afraid to give out your business cards and/or brochures. If you don’t have both, design them up and either print them yourself or get them printed. And don’t fake yourself out by saying you aren’t any good at that. You design and build things in wood, so you have some talent. Even if you are just following someone else’s plan, you still change things up when something happens. So you do have some talent for design.

With all of the software that we have available and the quality of the newer printers, there is no excuse for not having plenty of business cards and brochures or flyers available.

It doesn’t take expensive software and high-priced printers to make quality advertising materials. My wife is the expert on using the programs to design the materials. She uses an inexpensive (under $20) greeting card program to make both the business cards and the tri-fold brochures along with the pass-outs. Most of these programs have other options than just greeting cards. I will have her writing a post on her thoughts on the advertising materials soon.

And don’t forget that there is a lot of open-source (free) software out there that is as good or better than the expensive branded products. You have to be careful of some of the software, but if you find a reliable source like Sourceforge, CNet,  Major Geeks, or any others that you know you can trust. These are the main 3 that I personally know and trust. They check the software for viruses and malware before they can be downloaded.

In Conclusion

In conclusion, there should not be any reason that you should not have a current inventory, good pictures of your product, business cards and other advertising materials ready at a moments notice. Even if you don’t plan on selling anything you make, have the option of letting your friends and relatives see what you can do so they can give you ideas for their next birthday or Christmas present from you.

Remember, if you plan on keeping everything you make, you will soon run out of room and either have to move or add-on to your existing abode.


My favorite woods

Different woods for different woodworking

Each type of woodworking have different woods that work best for me. Below are my preference. Please leave a comment and tell me what are your favorite woods. I know that we won’t always agree because of the difference in locally available wood and the particular fools we each use.

I personally haven’t found one particular wood that works for every type of woodworking. In particular, turning and carving take 2 different types of wood. Basswood is great for carving but too soft for turning. Cocabolo is great for turning and scrolling, but doesn’t work well with carving.

Favorite woods for carving

My favorite woods for chip carving are basswood and aspen. Both are tight, straight-grained woods. They hold fine detail well. Butternut is supposed to work well also, but I have never tried it.

For my dimensional and relief carving I prefer basswood, but again, aspen works well for me. I have carved oak, cherry, walnut, maple and pine, but not all are easy to carve.

Cherry and walnut are harder to carve with minimal force. But they do hold shape well and finish nicely. They dull your tools faster than basswood or aspen, Oak  tends to be difficult to get a smooth cut in due to the grain patterns and open grain. It also absorbs the paint like a sponge, so thin washes of color are harder to maintain.

I think that pine is the hardest to carve due to the difference in hardness between the 2 layers of wood. The annular ring is harder than the growth wood, so your tool seems to either jump or stop quickly. Also, the tools wants to follow the grain instead of cutting across them.

But maple is the worst wood that I have carved so far. In relief carving, some areas are easy to carve and hold detail well. But just a little ways away, the wood can be so hard that it seems to be like carving rock with a butter knife and it will dull your tools fast.

Wood for scrollsawing

Almost any wood works well with a scroll saw as long as you are using the right size blade for the job. I have used oak, cherry, walnut, maple, pine,purpleheart, zebrano, cocabolo and different types of plywoods.

The main problem with scrolling wood is using the right blade for the thickness of you wood. Most woods will cut just as easily for the same thickness. The main thing to remember is that your can’t force the blade.

My favorite for turning

I think that oak is beautiful when turned, sanded and finished. But for me it is one of the hardest woods to turn and get a smooth finish before sanding. Pine is another wood that is prone to tearing instead of cutting for me. Cedar turns fairly easily, but catches easily. Cherry and maple work fine for most turnings.

Other woods that i turn are walnut, purpleheart, goncolo alves, elm, ash, cocabolo, zebrano, and lacewood to name a few. Acrylic, corian, alabaster and soapstone are some of the non-wood materials I have turned. As long as the material is softer than your tool, it can be turned. But some materials will dull your tools faster than others.

In conclusion

All woods are usable with most forms of woodworking. It’s just the fact of the amount of time and energy you want to spend on your project. You will find woods that you prefer and wood that you hate to work. I have some bullet wood that I have been saving since most descriptions of it claim that it is very hard. One of these days in the near future I will give it a try on the lathe.


Things I prefer in a lathe

We each have our personal preferences in a lathe. But I think the biggest thing about choosing a lathe is the cost versus the usefulness for your type of turning. In other words, don’t get a lathe with a 40″ bed a 16″ swing to turn pens. That is overkill unless you also want to turn long spindles and large bowls.

What size is best?

Do I need a mini, midi or full size lathe? First you need to determine what you want to turn. If all you are ever going to turn is pens and other small items, a mini lathe is the least expensive way to go. It is also more portable and takes less room.

I personally prefer a midi lathe because of the type of turnings I do. They are great for pens, bowls up to 10″ in diameter and spindle work to 18″ long. This covers what I do. Plus it isn’t real heavy to move when I need to.

What features to check for?

Almost all lathes these days have different speeds that you can switch to for the job you are doing. With some lathes the motor has a single speed and you have to change the belt position to change the speed. Some have a variable speed motor and controller that allow you to easily change speed without turning off the lathe. Most of these will also have more than one set of pulleys so you can adjust the range of speed that you need or want.

When looking at lathes, check to see if it has a reverse switch on it. There are times that being able to reverse direction will be a huge advantage for safety as well as sanding. When I bought my lathe, they told me it had a reverse switch and I wondered if I would ever use it. I have used it many times, but not until I saw a video by Capt. Eddie Castelin on YouTube where he showed how to work on a project on the opposite side. It can come in handy for hollowing a vessel as you can see what you’re doing and don’t have to reach across the bed and hold your tool in an uncomfortable position.

Is the On/Off switch easy to reach, but not easy to bump? You want a switch in a location where you can easily turn it on when you a changing your work holder or putting in or removing your work. That is an easy way to be hurt. The switch can be on the front if there is some sort of safety cover or other solution. My lathe has the On/Off switch handle at top back of the head.


My first lathe was cheap.

My first lathe was purchased about 10 years ago from Harbor Freight. I think it cost about $50. It has a sheet-metal frame and bed. To change speed I have to change the belt to a different set of pulleys by loosening a bolt that holds the motor in place. So I have to remember to tighten the bolt up after I change speed. I forgot a couple of times and wondered why my stock quite spinning when I started taking a healthy cut.

Also, I can’t tighten the stock between the headstock and tailstock too much as it starts to bow the bed and changes the centerline.

It took me about 6 hours to get the headstock and tailstock aligned. They were at different heights (about 1/16″) and the tailstock was about 1/16″ farther towards the back. I would get things lined up one way only to find out that they were now out of alignment the other way.

Needless to say, it is not my primary lathe. But I still keep it and use it to round stock sometimes.

My current lathe


Currently I have a Delta 46-460 and I love it. This seems to be a popular lathe as I have seen others on YouTube using one. They are very easy to spot. It has a variable speed motor with a reverse switch. I can turn up to a 12 1/2″ bowl or platter. It has a #2 Morse taper in both the headstock and tailstock. 250-4000 rpm in 3 different speed ranges. Changing the belt is very simple by opening a door, pulling out a tension release, moving the belt and then pushing the tensioner back in.

In my next post I’ll start talking about the different types of lathe tools that I have and when I use them. I will also include soe others that I am aware of and have seen being used.


A lot of posts to start

There will be a lot of posts here at the start to attempt to get as many tips for beginners up as fast as possible. After the initial flurry of posts, there will be a slowing down. But I will try to post as often as my other work allows.

Which categories will I post in?

I won’t be posting in all categories every time. As I get ideas or the need arises I will post in a particular category. If you have a need or an idea, post it in a comment below and I will try to get to it as soon as possible.

Each category has it own special needs, so I will be posting at different speeds in each. Part of what determines where I post will be what I’m working on at that particular time. Also, as I think of items that I consider to be important, I will write on them.

This site is for all levels of skill

As I have said before, now I will be concentrating on the beginning information. But there will be something for everyone as we progress in posting. It never hurts for anyone to review the basics. Sometimes even the best need to be reminded of  a simple skill they may not have used in a while.

I don’t claim to be the most experienced in all types of woodworking, but I have been working with wood for almost 60 years. I still have all of my fingers with just a nick missing from two. I can also say that I have never had a major accident working with wood. I have experience with all of the types of woodworking listed in the categories of this blog.

Self-taught versus Class-taught

I have only had two classes in woodworking, both in Junior High school. I took Shop (Industrial Arts) in both 7th and 8th grades. We were taught the proper use of table saws, band saws, drill presses, sanders and lathes. Also the proper finishing of our projects. We were allowed to design our own projects from a list of topics.

Since school, I have read countless books and watched many YouTube videos on all forms of woodworking. I will post some of my favorite channels in another category.

But I realize, as you should, that just reading and watching are not enough. You need the hands-on practice to learn the skills necessary for making the best you can. You didn’t become a good driver without practice, and the same is true of anything you try.

Expert? or not

Am I an expert? I have many people tell me that I am an expert in what I do. But am I an expert in my eyes? I don’t consider myself an expert when I see others out doing great projects and with great expertise on YouTube. But the work I do would stand up to the same level of quality as theirs. We use different methods to accomplish the same end results.

What defines an expert? An expert is one who can produce the desired results consistently and knows a tremendous amount about their subject. Does it mean that they know everything? No. None of us can know everything about a particular subject. The only thing that is constant is the fact that things are always changing.

Don’t give up

Just because you don’t think you’re an expert or your work will compete with others, don’t get disheartened. Remember that we are our own worst critic. We know the little imperfections and flaws in the piece we just finished. But unless it’s a major one, only another woodworker would possibly notice it. As Capt. Eddie Castelin says, ‘Only another woodturner will feel the inside of a vessel for smoothness’.

So don’t be too hard on yourself if your work has a small flaw in it or it didn’t turn out quite like you wanted it to. Remember that small flaws occur even in the best of hand-worked items from the experts. That’s what makes it ‘Hand Made’ not a carbon copy like mass-produced items. Those little imperfections make it more valuable as people who find the flaw know it is truly a ‘One-of-a-kind’ piece and no one else has exactly the same item.