Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Well, I have to offer a great big fat apology to you all.  I just received a message from a friend of mine that many of the pictures on my posts have broken links.  Chalk it up to being new at this, but the problem stems from loosing one of my picasa photo albums that contained those pictures.  I hope that you will all forgive me and don't go running away screaming to someone Else's blog.  I promise to get this whole mess repaired as soon as I can.

Tip from the Stump: never delete a picasa photo album that you link to from your Blog.  Hey, I'm a carver, not an I.T. wizard!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Nativity

Well, with "Practical Jokes" all finished up, it's time to move on to something new.  My sweet wife has put in a request in for a new Nativity since last year the kids were a little rowdy and porcelain does not do well in the presence of rowdiness. 

This is a new adventure that I am embarking on since I'm a caricature carver trying to carve a reverent Nativity.  I assume that It will turn out somewhere in between a caricature and a realistic carving.  I'm also going to try something new with Mary and the baby Jesus and try carving them out of a solid block of wood.

I have looked at the pose that I want accomplish and I just don't see it happening except it come from a single block, so you will have to hang in there with me as I stumble along.  I will post periodic updates (whenever I get enough done to see progress) on The Carving Bench page.  I hope you will follow along with me as I tackle this new challenge.  Hopefully it will turn out to be something special.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Practical Joke

FINISHED!!!!!!  Wow, it seems like I worked on this piece all summer.  In reality it only took about three weeks but with all the breaks in between, it felt like much longer.  Anyway, even though it took awhile to finish, I am really pleased with the outcome. 

It looks like that young Arthur Pendragon kid has been up to his antics again and poor old Sir Robert fell prey to the oldest trick in the book.  You can just picture that little brat hiding behind a bush somewhere laughing his head off.  This sure was a fun piece to create and that expression on Sir Robert’s face turned out perfect. 
Tip from the Stump:  carving is supposed to be fun!  If you are not having fun, you are doing something wrong.  Step back, decide why you are not enjoying yourself, and make the change.  Use the right tool for the right job, keep your tools sharp, and wear a carving glove and thumb guard and you are on your way to a lifetime of carving bliss.
I hope you enjoy him as much as I did.  Please leave a comment and let me know what you think.  Lots more pics in the Picture Gallery.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Almost There

This is just a quick post to show the progress on my latest carving.  I call it “Practical Jokes.”  When the piece is all assembled, you will get the meaning behind the title I hope.  He’s carved, burned, sanded and ready for some paint. 

Tip from the Stump:  always take a lot of photographs of your carvings during the whole carving process.  The pictures of your progress will be a valuable reference tool and help to jog your memory when you are trying to recreate a process on a future carving.  The pictures of your final projects will allow you to remember your carvings and the journeys they took you on long after they have been sold or given away.  Snap away!!!
The scenery is finished and ready for a finish coat of varnish and for Sir Robert to be attached to it. 

This has been a fun piece and assuming that I don’t really botch up the paint job, he should look really cool.  I hope to have him finished by this weekend, so check back soon for the final unveiling.  More pics are posted on The Carving Bench page.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Sometimes Chores Get in the Way

If you have ever had the opportunity of owning your own home, you know that sometimes the chores around the house and the yard get in the way of really important stuff like carving and knife making.  For the past week I have been breaking my back on a landscape project that I have been working on in my garden and haven’t had the time to make a single knife or do much carving at all.  With my outdoor escapades coming to an end I hope to get back onto the carving wagon and finish up this piece that I have been working on for it seems like eternity.
Tip from the Stump: take time to carve often, even if it is for short periods of time.  Carving often will cause your skills to improve and keep your ideas fresh in your mind.  You can also avoid losing interest in a project if you keep working at it since you will finish it in a relatively short period of time.

If my current carving works out like I have envisioned, it should be one of my best pieces.  I have put a few progress photos on The Carving Bench page and I plan on spending most of the evening working on it, so I’ll keep you all posted.
Oh, I forgot to mention that I have posted a bunch more knife photos in the Knife Gallery for you to look through and drool over.  Remember that I would be happy to make anyone a custom made knife to your specifications.  With Christmas coming up, put your orders in early to avoid the rush.  Details are in the Knife Gallery.
Well, back out to the garden. . . . .

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Carving Attachments

I’m sure that many of you are getting kind of tired with me droning on and on about my escapades in knife making, so let’s get into something more interesting, carving.  I thought that I would take you through the process that I use to attach heads and arms to a carving.  There are many carvers out there that use a solid block of wood for their pieces, and I have tried it that way, but I have come to find that there are many benefits to attaching the different parts of a carving instead of carving everything from the same block.  Let’s talk briefly about these benefits and then we will take a look at the nuts and bolts of how to do attachments.
The first benefit of attaching parts instead of carving from a block is the ability to change that parts position.  For example, when I attach a head to a body I have the ability to turn the head from side to side and even forward and backward until I get the right head position for the body posture that I am shooting for.  When it comes to attaching arms, I have the same ability to move them around until I get the angles just right.  Another benefit of attaching parts is grain direction.  If you carve from a solid block you will run into cross-grain situations that can leave a week point in the carving that could be easily broken.  When you carve a part separately, you can orient the grain in the right direction which makes for a much stronger finished piece.
Tip from the Stump: always keep the grain direction in mind when you are designing a carving.  Try to avoid cross-grain situations by orienting the grain with the narrowest part of the carving thus avoiding week spots that could potentially break.
The last benefit to add-ons is ease of carving.  Carving parts separately lets you establish many details that would be difficult to accomplish if the piece were of one block before it is attached to the main figure.  This allows one to use fewer specialty tools to produce some terrific carvings.
Now before we get started I need to give credit for this technique to Lynn Doughty of Out West Woodcarving for sharing this process with the world.  Alright, let’s see how this whole thing is done.  Here is a picture of the head for the carving that I am currently working on and the body that it will be attached to.

As you can see I leave a long neck post that is tapered and the hole in the body is tapered as well to allow the neck to fit in place.  The neck hole is made with an appropriate sized drill bit and finished by carving out a conical shape with a knife.  Now when the head is inserted into the body, they fit tightly and give you the ability to change the position of the head until you are satisfied.  It’s a simple technique and very effective.

Arms are a little more complicated.  In order to attach arms and disguise the joint line, you need to have a disk sander. 

As you can see from the picture, I rough out the arms and sand a flat section on the upper arm at the shoulder which will be the point of attachment.  Remember to allow extra wood when doing attachments since some will be wasted in the attachment process.  Now you need to sand a flat section on the body to mate up with the arm.  This takes some playing around in order to get the angles just right which is the reason for leaving the excess wood. 

Once the joints mate up the way that you want, drill a 1/8” hole in the arm to accept a dowel.  Scribble some pencil lead around the lip of the hole, position the arm to the body and give it a little twist.  Some of the lead will come off on the body showing you where to drill the second hole for the dowel.  Be sure when drilling the holes to keep the drill bit perpendicular to the plane of the joint so that the dowel will go in straight.  Now with the arms in position draw a line around the joint to show you where the excess wood is and carve off most of this excess.  Make sure that you do not detail the shoulder area of the carving until after it is attached.  Once you are ready, just add some wood glue to the joint and dowel holes, press the pieces together in the right positions and clamp in place with some wood clamps or rubber bands until dry.

I hope that this explanation will be useful to you and if you have questions, just leave a comment and I can offer further explanation.  More photos in the On the Bench page.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Katana Rough Out and the Microwave?

Have you ever had one of those serendipitous moments where all of your stars line up in a row and miracles seem to happen?  Well, here is what happened to me.  After having just gotten into the whole knife making scene, I was pruning my apricot tree to make room for a few more plants underneath.  After cutting off a fairly large branch and while in the process of dragging it away to be cut up and hauled off to the county landfill, I happened to glance at the cut end of the branch at the beautiful swirls of grain that had been exposed.  So many colors; black, browns, reds, blonds, and yellows of may hues.  It donned on me, this would make a FANTASTIC knife handle!  So, like any lover of beautiful wood, I cut it up into short sections and anticipated what my new knife would look like.
Now those of you who have ever collected wood from anywhere but in the stacks at the lumber yard, you know that the wood must be completely dry before attempting to do anything with it.  The professionals say that it takes wood about one year per inch in thickness to dry.  Now if my math is right, and being a professional engineer it usually is, my 2” by 2” little block would take two whole years to dry.  That seemed like a life time.  Well, I have never been accused of being a patient man, so I did a little research.  I’ve heard of kiln-dried wood, which is how most commercial lumber is dried, but have you ever heard of microwave-dried wood?  That’s right; I used that familiar old household appliance to nuke my little block dry.  Here’s how I did it.
First I split the block into two halves giving me two 1” by 2” blocks.  I put these blocks in the microwave on a paper towel and zapped them for 45 seconds on the defrost setting, flipped them over and zapped them again for an additional 45 seconds.  I then let them cool back down to room temperature and repeated the process over and over again.  Probably the best technique that one could use in order to tell when to stop nuking the wood would be to use a postal scale and weigh the blocks after each cycle.  When the blocks stop losing weight, which would indicate that no more moisture is being evaporated out of the blank, you know that they are dry.  But since I don’t have one of those things, and being too cheap to purchase one, I just kept zapping away until they felt really hard and gave a beautiful “clack, clack” when I banged them together.  (I wonder what the postal workers would say if you brought your block of wood to be metered?)  Good enough for me. 
Tip from the stump: by the way of a disclaimer, using this method for drying your wood could very easily cause your blocks to catch on fire, followed by your microwave, cabinets, kitchen, roof, . . .  i.e. I will not be held responsible if you burn down your house!  Use short cooking periods on the lowest heat setting for your microwave and do not leave the blocks unattended.  Also, get your wife’s permission to try this before she opens up the microwave and is surprised by your latest science project.  I would hate to be responsible for upsetting your marital bliss.
With my little knife handle blank in hand, I realized that I really didn’t have enough length to the wood to make my usual dolphin shaped handle, so I decided to try a short and stocky handle shape to see how it would feel.  Here is what I came up with:

Now isn’t that some beautiful wood?  I’ve never seen grain so beautiful before!  Now, how does she carve?  In a word, fantastic!  The stubby little handle is actually very comfortable; in fact, I would recommend this handle style for someone who has arthritis or problems with a week grip.  I decided on making it a rough out knife and put in a 2-1/4” Katana shaped blade.  It has all of the properties of the all-purpose Katana blade that we discussed earlier except for the fact that it is a dedicated rough out knife since the blade is far too long to do much detail work.  All things considered, it turned out to be a great little knife.  And did I mention who beautiful the wood is?  Fantastic!!!  You will find more photos of this beauty in the Knife Gallery.

Monday, October 4, 2010

New Pages

As you may have noticed, I have added two more pages to The Old Stump.  The first added page is a gallery of my knives which contains several more views of each knife that we discuss.  From here you can also custom order a knife to add to your own arsenal of carving tools.
The next added page is called The Carving Bench.  Here is where I will log the progress of my current carving piece under development.  It should be fun to take you along on my carving adventures.  I hope you enjoy the ride.

The Ninjato

Here’s the next little knife that I would like to review that I call the Ninjato.

This blade shape is quite popular among knife makers and is actually the shape of the first knife that I purchased back when I started my adventures into the carving world.  Let’s look at the handle first.  As you can see from the picture, the handle is my favorite dolphin shape.  This shape really gives you a firm grip while allowing you to hold the knife with the blade edge towards you or away from you without giving up comfort. 
Tip from the Stump:  choose a knife handle shape that allows for multiple gripping angles without giving up a comfortable fit in your hand or the loss of a firm grip.
Like the Katana, it is made out of an oak and poplar lamination, only this time the lamination runs perpendicular to the blade.  I still wish that I would have used two woods that had stronger contrast.  Oh well, you live and you learn.  And you know what, the aesthetics of the handle don’t really make a difference in how the blade works, which is why we use a knife in the first place.  Now, on to the blade description and critique.
The cutting edge of the blade is just over 1-1/2” long which places this guy in the all-purpose category of carving knives.  The wedge shaped tip of the blade is the feature that sets this style apart from other knives.  This little spear point really gets into those corners and makes chip cuts a breeze.  It also works fairly well for making stop cuts.  The flat cutting edge encourages one to make slicing cuts which, as we discussed in a previous post, you should really be doing anyway.  I have tried to use this knife for detail work with limited success.  In my opinion, it works well in the all-purpose category that it belongs to, but doesn’t really cross over very well.
As good as this knife is I do not use it for roughing out.  All in all, I give this knife a score of 8 out of 10 for its overall performance.  Now let’s sum up.
·         Great for corners
·         Great for chip cuts
·         Good for stop cuts
·         Must use slicing cuts
·         Not a good cross over

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Picture Gallery

If you haven’t noticed by now, I have added a new page to The Old Stump called the Picture Gallery.  You can navigate there by clicking the tab at the top of the page.  Everyone likes to show off once in a while and this is my place to do so.  I am in the process of uploading a whole plethora of photographs of my past carvings, so, give me some time and check back often.  I hope you will leave a comment and let me know what you like, and if you don’t like something, let me know that too, only tell me why you don’t like it.  Of course, I reserve the right to delete your comment (wink, wink).  Anyway, I’ll be uploading pics for the next few days and I hope you enjoy what I show you.