Dec 21, 2008

Details, details - and tools

Reproduced from David Western's Portland Eisteddfod Lovespoon Blog

Now that the spoon bowls are nicely shaped, I am going to move on to the vines. These need to work over and under each other, but don't need the formality and regularity of Celtic knotwork. The idea is that they appear organic and natural, so I will round them over much more than a Celtic knot and try to get a more 'random' feel to their movement up the spoon handle.

To achieve this look, I begin by gently ramping down the wood on either side of an 'over', thus creating the 'under'. I don't take too much off initially; I just take enough so that I can see the over under pattern clearly. By taking a shallow cut, I can rectify mistakes in the 'over/undering' or can change the pattern if I prefer a different order. If I commit to a deep cut and make an error, I can easily find myself in hot water. I use a simple straight knife for this process. The straight knives I use tend to have very short and pointy blades. These give me access to tight areas and keep me from getting carried away and cutting too much material at a pass. I am a great believer in taking multiple shallow cuts rather than getting all excited and pulling off great heaving strips with big deep passes. Its easier on the hands, the spoon and the state of my mental health to take my time and not push things. When the over and unders are completed, I round over the edges quite heavily with the knife and with some small files. With the rounding over looking good, I finish the vines with some cloth backed abrasive paper which I tear into thin 6 inch strips and draw back and forth over the edges for a final rounding.

In response to questions I have received about the knives I use, I have included this slightly blurry shot of my straight knife collection. These knives are the ones I use for all my spoon carving. They are all inexpensive tools but they are the workhorses of my art. As long as the steel is of good quality and will hold a sharp edge, any one of these little knives is capable of helping me to carve a beautiful spoon. Nothing fancier or more technical is necessary!

I began my spoon carving career with the chip carving knife at the bottom of the photo. This economical knife will do everything a beginning carver requires and it won't break the bank when you visit the tool dealer!The pointy Flex Cut brand knife above it was my second knife and has an ergonomically designed handle which makes long carving sessions a much more comfortable proposition. The skew bladed Japanese knife second from top is one that I use for getting into tight corners and for shaping edges. Its a lovely knife, but its skew shape has taken some getting used to and it might not be a good knife for a beginner.

But it is the top knife which currently has my heart! A Flex Cut brand knife endearingly known as a 'pelican', it is an absolutely sweet little knife. With a tiny blade and comfy handle, pelican and I spend many hours together and I would recommend this style of knife above all others for serious lovespoon carving.

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