How to Get Greater Contrast Between Planes

If, after the various planes of the carving are modeled, you want greater contrasts between the planes, it may be done by using the parting tool to increase the depths of the outline cuts. Here again, there are no hard-and-fast rules. Your taste will determine to what degree you want to develop the contrasts.

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In the case of a bas-relief, no great contrast should be made between the planes and the outlines, in depth. The sharpness of the outline cuts will determine the degree of contrast. The more vertically the parting tool or the skew chisel is held to the face of the stock, the sharper the outline, hence the greater the contrast.

There will be instances in making certain carvings where it is advantageous to have some contrast made in the outline cut-where, in other words, you want to shade one plane of the carving into another. The technique here is to decrease the depth and angle of the outline cut by rotating the parting tool and by lifting it from the stock as the tool is run on the scribed line. Again, practice cuts will show you the degree of wind and lift to give you the effect that you want.

Keep in mind that, here again, it is better to take a lot of light cuts than to try to make a few heavy cuts to develop the degree of shading and texture that you want to bring out; and that razor sharp tools are easier to manipulate than just plain sharp ones. It may seem that I am harping on one string too long when I talk about sharp tools.

I do it for this reason-dull tools are dangerous, do not make clean, sharp cuts, are harder to work and are not easily manipulated in anything but soft butter. I have made it a rule to strop the tools that I expect to use in the course of the day's work before I start. It may well be that I have not used the tools in the work I did the day before, but on general principles it is easier to be sure the tools are stropped up than to make a series of running cuts only to find that the edges of the cuts are fractured rather than cut cleanly.

One of the reasons that I prefer to work in mahogany is that in making long, running cuts on the face of the stock, with sharp tools the cuts can be made with the same facility across or against the grain. To digress a moment from finishing cuts-when you are designing the carving, keep it in mind that no matter what carving stock you intend to use, carving into the end grain of any stock is the most difficult part of the work.

Try to design and lay out the work so that this is avoided, if at all possible. There will be instances where it cannot be avoided. In this case, make light cuts, holding the tool at a slight angle to the face of the stock, take very light cuts using steady pressure on the tool handle, and be satisfied with small progress as you work.

What you are doing, of course, in cutting into end stock, is trying to cut at an acute angle across the ends of the wood fibres. An apt simile would be to say that you are cutting into the end of a piece of rope. These cuts can be made, they can be smooth and accurate, if sufficient care and time are taken to make them. They cannot be heavy or done hurriedly. After the finishing cuts have been made, the final form and the shading are done.

The carving can be either left as it is with the texture of the surface as it comes from the tool, or you may wish to smooth off some of the sharper lines of demarcation. In the latter case, use very fine sandpaper-not less than No. 4 Ought grit. Do not try to hurry the process. Here again, light passes across the stock will give you better effects than heavier ones. The fine paper will not scour marks in the finished surfaces and the results will be more pleasing than if heavier or coarser sandpaper is used.







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