Thursday 30 September 2021

52 Weeks Of Carving - Repetition

I learn through many ways but I cement knowledge by practice. 

That's why the boxes I sell over on Etsy are the prefect way for me to hone my skills.

Sunday 19 September 2021

52 Weeks Of Carving - quotation

For awhile now I'd had an idea for a bit of written carving I wanted to make for a friend. 

I am not a religious person, but he is, and he once said this phrase to me and it really stuck with me. So I thought I'd carve it out so he could mount it on his wall. 

I gave it him as a surprise and he seemed really pleased with it. It felt nice to give and unexpected gift. 

Carved in Oak all by hand.

Wednesday 8 September 2021

52 Weeks Of carving - A bit behind!

 I've slipped out of habit with this bit of the blog lately - I'd like to say though that I'm still carving every week. 

The trouble is I've been carving for some magazine articles (which I'm really excited about) and so I can't really show what I'm up to until they're published. Hopefully I'll have a few more projects I can post on here soon! 

Monday 9 August 2021

52 Weeks of Carving - Week 30 - Tudor Rose

 I had an enquiry about a possible commission for a sign for a local historic building that I needed to quote for. The brief was fairly vague, but simple. There was the possibility to make it a little more complicated to add a Tudor Rose to the project to show the age of the building (it was built around 1530).

I thought that before I quote I had better practice carving a few Tudor roses and see how I get on with them. 

My first one (to the right of the above picture) I wasn't happy with. I made too many mistakes and having it quite small might not have been the best way to learn. I decided to try again on the same piece of scrap oak, but a much bigger version. 

I got this picture from the Chris Pye Website but in all honesty it wasn't ideal, I could do with altering it a little bit as his is to go in the middle of another project. It worked well enough for this practice though. 

Much like carving a rosette it is a sequence of repetitive techniques. I did loose a few bits of detail, purely down to my own technique and the fact I need to remind myself to use slicing cuts more rather than mallet taps, especially in oak which is far more likely to flake up. 

So I still wasn't happy with it finished but there is enough going on to draw the eye away from the mistakes and be a passable Tudor Rose. I think I will carve it another time now to help me remember how to do it and practice the techniques needed. 

If I get the commission it should be a fun job and I'd love the fact that it will be a on a historic building a one minute walk away from my house! 

Sunday 8 August 2021

52 Weeks Of Carving - Week 29 - Woodcarving Magazine!

 Super excited to see one of my projects in Issue 182 of Woodcarving magazine! 

I made this projects a few months ago and wrote the article. But it was extra great to see it on the first page of the magazine on the welcome to the issue page! 

I really enjoyed writing this article, I found it an enjoyable process writing step by step way through the project. I also love the plans they drew for the project - To get that from the sketch I scribbled down is some skill! 

Hopefully I have a project in the next issue as well! 

Tuesday 27 July 2021

52 Weeks of Carvign - Week 28 - Seeds

 I did a bit more writing this week and practiced it until I could do it a reasonable speed. Then filmed myself and sped it up! 

Monday 12 July 2021

52 Weeks Of Carving - Week 26 - Carved Writing - A Lesson Learned

 I've deliberately missed out a couple of weeks on here - not because I wasn't carving, but because I couldn't show it on here. Hopefully I'll be able to show that project soon. 

This last week I decided to tackle a part of carving I'd been intimidated by - writing. And it's a big part of being a carver is being able to do some good and neat writing carved into wood. I've also got a job coming up with a little writing so decided that this would be a good time to practice and convince myself I could do it. 

Of course being me I couldn't just pick a simple word. Instead I picked out one of my favourite phrases that I often say to the children when I tell them they need to look after each other - "The Strength of the wolf is in the pack and the strength of the pack is in the wolf" From the law of the jungle in the Jungle Book. 

I printed it out and started to carve. I was surprised how easy it was once I'd got the right chisels sorted and approached the carving in a systematic way. It's lots of repetitive cuts and I found that I left it set up with the few chisels I needed and just attacked it whenever I got 5 minutes. The nice clean piece of oak helped I imagine. 

Of course this would have been much harder in the past without a printer - but I try to use technology to my advantage where I can. Sticking the sheet on was a great idea but I need to find some better glue as this one took some taking off in the end. A book I own about doing carved writing even says how drawing it out is over half the job - not anymore! 

Luckily it cleaned up well with white spirits, 

I then sealed it with a coat of Scandinavian oil.

Now some of the more astute amoung you might spot something on this carving that I didn't. 

I mean I really didn't. 

I then showed it to a friend, who laughed a bit then looked at me. 

"You know you've spelt this wrong?" she said in her strong Australian accent.

"Get lost"

"No really - That's not how you spell strength." 


I was genuinely gutted. How had I not seen that! Normally I get my wife to check all my writing (except on here) and this time I hadn't. I felt like such a fool! 

So this is a cautionary tale about how you should always check your work before you spend a long while carving it out! 

Anyone else made a mistake like this?

Friday 25 June 2021

Furniture And Cabinet Making Magazine

 I have written for a few magazines now, one with a monthly slot about smallholding machinery, but I've always wanted to write for a wood working magazine. When I was an apprentice I'd buy big stacks of second hand wood working magazines and take them to read at break time - fair to say I was a little obsessed! 

For me the one magazine that seems more like one you'd keep on the shelf was Furniture And Cabinet Making Magazine so I was really excited when they asked me to write a piece on my workbench with the carving on the front. It's in the current issue number 299

I had great fun writing a article for them and even ended up carving a fresh piece of strapwork for the photos (shows I should always take more. 

The article ran to 6 pages and it's been great to see my work in there. Hopefully this will lead to some more writing work and tie it to my trade, I've already had another accepted for a different woodworking magazine so watch this space! 

Monday 21 June 2021

52 Weeks Of Carving - Week 23 - Toolbox

 This week I've managed to carve a tool box to sell on my Etsy store

I'd been looking to make a few carved items to add to my store, so I feel this is a good start. I'd also like to do seed boxes with carved fronts as well. 

Thursday 17 June 2021

52 Weeks Of Carving - Week 22 - More flowers

 This post is for last week - I just didn't get chance to put it up (I was recovering from a busy day on Sunday). 

I've decided that some more repetitive carving would help cement some skills, so I'm making another tool box. This one is to sell once I've finished it and becomes perfect practice to help increase my speed. 

I've only made a start but carving both sides at the same time has huge time saving and it's been a nice job to do in the workshop in the morning before the heat of the afternoon makes it unbearable!

Finished piece to be on etsy soon then move on to something else. I have plans to maybe try again on another oil stone box like one I made 10 years ago

Sunday 6 June 2021

52 Weeks Of Carving - Week 21 - Daughter's Scythe Peening Pony

 Had a random week this week, but managed to start to learn to a skill I'd always wanted to learn how to Scythe. 

I'm going to talk about that in my other blog, but it involved meeting a very interesting chap who teaches people how to use Austrian scythes and how to sharpen them. Part of the sharpening process is called peening, which is the cold treatment of the metal by hitting it on a small anvil. To do this well you need a rest for it and this little set up is sometimes referred to as a "peening pony".

My eldest daughter using her "new" wooden plane given to her by a friend.

As soon as I saw it I thought that the small stool like "pony" would be an ideal project to build with my daughter. It was a great little project using fallen branches from one of our old oak trees and some scraps out of the firewood pile. When it was nearly done she mentioned about carving something onto the front of it. 

So I suggested she sketch out a design and then we could see about putting it on the pony. She looked at the scythe resting outside and drew a simple design with it's shape. I asked her what tool she would like to use first - "V tool" was her reply, she's going to be better than me soon! 

This was her first time using the small (ish) carving mallet I made, as it was oak she was carving into. She went slow and steady, didn't rush and only made one little mistake. I loved how well she used the mallet for the rhythmic tapping needed to outline a picture. 

When she had lined in I gave her a gouge (14mm No6) to just lower the background around where she carved. The only thing I did was help keep it stable as she carved and trim two bits that were tricky to remove from the background. 

It's fair to say she was as pleased as punch with it! A lovely simple carving on a piece of oak. 

I love having something like this personalised in such a lovely way. She's always so keen on this little project and it was great to find the time this afternoon to make this with her. 

So not exactly my carving this week but I hope you'll forgive me for that! 

Monday 31 May 2021

52 Weeks Of Carving - Week 20 - Practice Peony Flower

I used a bit of scrap Tulip to try a different type of flower a bit more like a peony.  

Just a practice piece so only really messing around. Background roughly lowered. 


The piece feels a little "scratchy" and normally I would spend some time tidying it up, that said the shape is okay and I like the undercut centre ball of petals. I'll try and practice this one again this week and keep going until I get it looking better and I can carve it quite quickly. I have some more tulip coming this week and I wonder about carving a few toolboxes as the trumpet shaped flowers are getting much easier to carve! 

Sunday 23 May 2021

52 Weeks Of Carving - Week 19 - Flowers

 So this week has been quite a good one for carving and I managed to get a project completely finished (unfortunately whilst not wanting to start a big project as I was supposed to have a delivery of timber).

I won't show a picture of the completely finished piece as it's for a project I'm working on but I'm quite pleased with how these flowers came out and I enjoyed layering the leaves around it. Tulip turned out to be a great wood for this project, not too heavy and takes detail brilliantly. 

Hopefully you'll see the project fairly soon! I have something else to put on the blog this week  - an article I wrote for this months Furniture and Cabinet Maker Magazine. 

Now I'm not sure what carving to tackle next week - any ideas?

Saturday 15 May 2021

52 Weeks Of Carving - Week 18 - Flowers And Leaves

 Very late writing this one up - I slipped with posting last week but I have the perfect excuse as to why I didn't get any carving done. 

I'd left it until Sunday to spend a bit of time carving, but my younger daughter was feeling pretty ill when she woke up. In fact she was so ill, and had symptoms we recognised from last year, that we decided to take her to A&E. Luckily it was easily sorted with a course of antibiotics, but by the time we got back the last thing I wanted to do was go into the workshop after spending most of the day in a windowless room. 

A fair excuse I think.

So I've done a bit of practice carving for a piece I'm planning on making next to make up for any carving missed. 

I wanted to do some more ornamental relief carving, but wanted to do something that wasn't necessary a formal design, but a bit more free flowing.   

So I decided on carving out some simple leaves and flowers, making it up as I went along. Flowers in place first then adding the leaves in. 

It's not finished yet, I need to lower the background more and add in some branches, but I might leave it there and start on the proper piece now. I also need to make sure that I give the leaves a bit more flow and although I'll probably leave it heavily tooled I'd like the flowers to come out a bit smoother. 

Sunday 2 May 2021

52 Weeks Of Carving - Week 17 - Carving Mallet & Celtic Weave

This week I did try to start to carve an Aztec style face in some poplar and struggled with my carpenters mallet a bit. I decided it was time to make a smaller, turned, carvers mallet.

I have some branches of pear and know this is a good wood for mallets so set about with the froe making it a close enough size to mount on the lathe. As the wood is green it turned easy. 

As I haven't done much on the lathe lately I snatched the wood when using the skew chisel and fetched it off the centres before I'd had chance to finish it. 

In all honesty what I'm going to do is use it for a bit as it is, turn another one tomorrow (I have plenty of this wood) and then season that one properly. This one can be used for a while then discarded when the other is ready. I'm annoyed at myself for such a simple mistake! 

I decided to try out the mallet with a simple and quick Celtic Weave. 

 I printed off an outline and stuck it to the off cut of tulip I've been using to practice on. This piece isn't my tidiest work, but took me 12 minutes to do, so ideal as a practice piece and something I might try to do a few times to get faster at and to try to carve cleaner. It would be ideal to decorate some of my seed boxes I make to sell, or on the side of a tool box. 

So a good craft week - good to get back on the lathe, something I need to do more, and good to practice smaller bits in between projects. 

Saturday 1 May 2021

Little Cupboard

 Build and fitted this little cupboard unit for a regular customer this week. Nice little job - I was worried as they'd sent me the measurements to save a visit - luckily it all fitted nicely. 

Sunday 25 April 2021

52 Weeks Of Carving - Week 16 - A Beetle & A Poor Cranked Spatula

 I need to get back to the more tradional carving as this almost feels like cheating - but with the weather being so great we've been messing around lots outside doing green woodwork. 

I picked up some pear logs from my parents farm (a huge beautiful old tree that decided to split in two last autumn. The pear will dry to be as hard as nails so I thought it would make a great mallet/beetle. I roughed out the shape with the froe and axe (it is really hard to work). 

Then my daughter removed the bark and made the handle nice to hold.

It's potentially a little big, but it'll dry lighter than it is now and will be good for hitting the froe into wood. 

For my project this week I used a cranked branch of sycamore a friend had dropped off for me. I wanted to keep the crank in the work. 

I tried to do as much as possible with the axe and get it to be as light as possible. 

I got fairly close then worked on it with the draw knife and a carving knife. 

In the end I really hate it and think it'll end up on the fire. The crank just seems the wrong shape for it or in slightly the wrong place. Although it's not he end of the world it just doesn't feel right. Still it was nice to do on a sunny afternoon while my children were making clay models not far from me. 

At least it'll give me a bit of heat when I burn it. Also good to have a few failures as it makes the successes even better when they happen!  Also good to practice and try to make things symmetrical, the only way I'll learn is to keep making things, even if they all don't turn out to be useable. 
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