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First relief carving (or any carving for that matter)

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  • First relief carving (or any carving for that matter)

    Hello fellow carvers. Not sure I am one yet....I originally posted this in the beginners forum, but thought I might get more pointed feedback from the relief carvers specifically. I've been doing flat work in wood for more than 20 years, and have been turning on a lathe for about 2 years now. I wanted to learn to carve, mainly to embellish pieces of furniture and turnings. I have several hand carving tools and a micromotor. Dappled with the micromotor a bit, but found it too dusty. So I decided to try hand tool only (mostly) carving. Bellow is my very first carving. It's out of a Chris Pye book. It's about 16" long and 5" wide. Cut in Mahogany.

    I'm looking for truly constructive critiques. Don't hold back. What do you see that I could do better? Are there any tell-tale signs that I'm using a bad technique? Just any advise that would make my next one better. And there will be a second one. I plan to add the carvings to the sides of a Mahogany hamper I am making. I just started on the second one and was hoping for some real feedback.

    IMG_1922[1].JPG
    Last edited by gittyup; 07-15-2020, 06:42 AM.

  • #2
    I'm thinking much of it should be thinner, especially the leaves. But then it will be very fragile to remove from the carving board. Chris Pye recommended 5/8" material. Mine is closer to 9/16", with the thinnest places being about 5/16 or so. Should I take the leaves down to 3/16" or an 1/8"? What to others think?

    And yeah, I know the radials in the left fin are completely wrong
    Last edited by gittyup; 07-15-2020, 06:44 AM.

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    • #3
      The leaves do look too thick. You make them appear thinner by undercutting on the bottom. This makes the very edge thin, but you leave it thick on the very bottom for support and strength. Relief carvings are meant to be viewed from a specific angle, so you don't carve it realistically all the way around like a 3 dimensional carving. The undercutting creates a shadow and the illusion that the leaves are very thin. You still have plenty of wood to re-carve the radials on the fin, but leave it as is where it joins the body and and taper the rest down at an angle; it would look better than it just being flat and then you could do the radials correctly. You could undercut the body a little so it looks more rounded rather than flat. The scales on the fish would look better if they varied in size, but you may need to leave that for your next one. Fish carvers often use wood burners to do the scales. I use a small ball tip tomake them varied in size. Yours look ok, but it bugs me a bit where the edge of the gouge crosses over some of the previous scales (near the leaf). It seems to throw off the look of them? And I would use a knife to cut down the middle of that center vein and then round the edges over where you used a gouge to make it. It seems too wide and just abruptly ends; doesn't seem right? I hope this helps! You have the right idea but it takes practice to improve most things. Part of it is learning to see what you are trying to create. There are just small differences, just a few additional cuts or changes, between okay and great. You just have to learn where it is needed!
      'If it wasn't for caffeine, I wouldn't have any personality at all!"

      http://mikepounders.weebly.com/
      https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mike-...61450667252958
      http://centralarkansaswoodcarvers.blogspot.com/

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      • #4
        Maybe this will help with understanding the thin edge idea. People frequently comment about how thin these hat brims are. But as the guy with a set of calipers in my hand. I can tell you with in a 1/4” of the edge they are a 1/4” thick a 3/8”+ at inside of the brim the thinness is an illusion created by the edge.
        DDD5A071-B2BA-4745-BA87-257659EB8461.jpeg
        Ed
        Living in a pile of chips.
        https://m.facebook.com/pg/CentralNeb...ernal&mt_nav=0

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        • #5
          Many of the details of a relief carving will be determined by the eventual use. Some situations call for realism, and some of the critiques have emphasized parts of your carving that are not realistic. Other uses may call for stylistic forms. The choice is yours and should be part of the mental image that guides your carving.
          The fish below is part of an overall design in which the figures gradually increase in depth and detail. Note that it uses a similar technique for the scales - overlapping U-gouge marks.

          scales.jpg

          Here is the overall carving based on a graphic design of M. C. Escher called "Sky & Water II" - walnut, poplar, basswood - 16" x 23"

          SW2final.JPG
          This obviously isn't a critique of your carving. My advice is to choose your own vision for your carving. If some details distract from that vision make adjustments, but don't allow it to be a composite of others ideas.

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          • #6
            Thanks for the feedback, folks. I've started on the second one and will come back to try to make this one better when finished with that one. On the second one I am undercutting quite steeply on the leaves. Hard to do, but they are looking better.

            Mike, you give suggests on the vein using a knife. Are you speaking about the ridge on the fish's back or the center vein in the leaves?

            I was impatient with the scaling and should have been more careful. I used a #9 gouge. I think I'll try a veining tool. I only have a few choice chisels that will work here. I do own a good pyro pen, but I don't have fish scale bits for it. And it is so easy to burn too heavily. I think I'l stick with chisels on this one for now.

            Since this is my first carving ever, I'm trying to focus more on techniques and less on artistic impression. That will come later.

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            • #7
              When doing the fish scales or other surface patterns, you do not need to cover the entire object. Some carefully placed ones may suffice:

              FishFinal1.jpg​​

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              • #8
                I meant the vein on the leaves. A U gouge is going the make the same shape you already have. I was thinking something a little deeper in the middle. Although looking at aquatic plants doesn't show much in the way of veining?
                'If it wasn't for caffeine, I wouldn't have any personality at all!"

                http://mikepounders.weebly.com/
                https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mike-...61450667252958
                http://centralarkansaswoodcarvers.blogspot.com/

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by mpounders View Post
                  I meant the vein on the leaves. A U gouge is going the make the same shape you already have. I was thinking something a little deeper in the middle. Although looking at aquatic plants doesn't show much in the way of veining?
                  Mike the u-gouge would be for the scales. I used a parting tool on the leaves. On the next one I'll try a carving knife, but they seem much harder to control as the grain changes. I have a couple of nice chip carving knives but have never tried them for relief carving. I also plan to taper the leaves downward/inward toward the vein on the next one.

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                  • #10
                    The gouge I use for fish scales is a #11 (Swiss), like a #9 but a half oval. Whatever you use, avoid having the wings cross the prior scales.
                    Last edited by pallin; 07-16-2020, 03:23 PM.

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                    • #11
                      Impossible to avoid jamming one wing of a parting tool into the wood grain to carve a curve.

                      For me to carve a circle V- groove is 9 cuts.
                      I use a Moor large chip knife to make the first entire cut to follow the line of the design.
                      I use a left and right pair of 12 mm (1/2") skews to carve with the grain,back to the first center line cut.
                      It is every bit as tedious as it sounds.
                      But I get better control and I can lay the Vee as open as I wish.

                      Here, the Dragonfly wings were done like that.
                      So too the 3 pairs of legs on the underside.

                      DragonD.jpg.jpg
                      Brian T

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by mpounders View Post
                        I meant the vein on the leaves. A U gouge is going the make the same shape you already have. I was thinking something a little deeper in the middle. Although looking at aquatic plants doesn't show much in the way of veining?
                        I think the leaves are meant to be water iris. They have more of a raised ridge and softer, less pronounced, convex on the opposite side. Would a raised ridge be easier to produce?

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Brian T View Post
                          Impossible to avoid jamming one wing of a parting tool into the wood grain to carve a curve.

                          For me to carve a circle V- groove is 9 cuts.
                          I use a Moor large chip knife to make the first entire cut to follow the line of the design.
                          I use a left and right pair of 12 mm (1/2") skews to carve with the grain,back to the first center line cut.
                          It is every bit as tedious as it sounds.
                          But I get better control and I can lay the Vee as open as I wish.

                          Here, the Dragonfly wings were done like that.
                          So too the 3 pairs of legs on the underside.

                          DragonD.jpg.jpg
                          Thanks Brian. I keep forgetting that a parting tool always produces one bad edge. But this wood is hard such that pulling a knife smoothly for long distances is hard, at least for me.

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                          • #14
                            I get a couple of inches with the chip knife at a time. Really lean on it. Agreed, hard work.
                            Why I have not broken the blade, I do not know.
                            I really enjoy cutting back to that line with the skews and the curlies that spall off the cut.
                            Brian T

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                            • #15
                              Second carving installed on Mahogany hamper I made from some leftovers.

                              IMG_1982.JPG
                              Attached Files

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