Sunday, October 17, 2010

Choose Your Weapon

We all know there are specialty tools for specialty jobs. I hope to explore many of these in detail in future posts. We also know every carver has his few favorites. There are plenty of carvers who manage quite well with just a pocketknife. Watch Lynn Doughty work and be amazed at what can be done with just a utility knife and occasionally one or two gouges. But this is a blog about learning and improving. To my way of thinking, that implies, to some extent at least, try different carving with familiar tools or carving something familiar with different tool. I set up a little test project for myself to see how far I could go with a simple Santa face using a different tool or set of tools. The completed version shown was the first one I completed. The tools were utility knife, for most of the work. A 5 mm Dockyard gouge for some facial shaping. And a 1.5 mm Dockyard V-tool for eye cleanup and  hair and beard.

The next three faces were roughed out as far as I could go with only one tool each. On the left, a 1 1/2" straight knife. In the center, a Denny 5/16" V-tool and on the right, a  #3 - 3/4" gouge.
 The first thing I noticed was that I gravitated to working on the sections of carving that were easiest to shape with that tool. I could easily complete the project with the first knife. So that was no real revelation, but it served as a control. With the V-tool - a rather large one for this size carving, I worked the noose, mustache outline and eye areas under the brow quite easily. I could also go pretty far along shaping the beard. The V was also good along the sides of the nose and under the cap. But that's about it. I then started turning the tool on it's side, more as a straight chisel to get some spots the V-tool couldn't otherwise do. The big flat gouge made me actually change the design a little. I couldn't easily make the eyes like the original, but it gave me a large, more slanted eye easily, by flipping it on it's back and shaping the ball of the eye and cutting out the lids by plunging straight in. The shape of the mustache was also dictated by the size and shape of the gouge. For cutting in some outline cuts, I chocked up on the tool and use just one coner for a slicing cut.

So why bother to do this little experiment? I found some new ways to use the tools. I experienced some ways that the size and shape of a tool can help dictate design. Most importantly, I a little more about the strengths and weakness of my tools and my ability to use them.  I recommend trying something like this when you have time. You might discover a new use for an old tool.

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