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Tips from Old Millrat - James D. Thompson


Carving the Green Man

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A friend at my carving class gave me a piece of wood that was almost 2" thick and about 13" wide by 20" tall. It was extremely hard wood. I have never learned exactly what it is. I have a scrap piece of it yet.  Does anybody know how to identify such a piece?? I will send a piece if you can help.


One of the members of the club is a master carver who was working on a very ornate spoon in purple heart at the time, and I was just enthralled at the details he was putting into that piece. I tried a piece of purple heart, and it was just too hard for me to even try to carve. I learned later that some of the more difficult work he does is done with power tools. I am a Neanderthal carver, and only use hand tools.


I had been reading Chris Pye's monthly newsletter and ran across the Green Men in his gallery. I was impressed, and decided that I would give it a try. I had no clue that it would be a year before I could complete it. I had to learn how to sharpen my tools for very hard wood, and I had to learn the techniques that go with the hard woods. It is different from carving the soft stuff I used in the beginning. There is more mallet work involved.


But once I had that carving completed, I knew I could never go back to carving soft wood again. I feels like carving butter now, and I don't enjoy it.


I finally found 2 carving knives that I love, after going through about a dozen. There are things you just can't do with anything but a good detail knife. These were $35 each, but worth every penny. I wasted more on inferior knives.


Carving is very relaxing. You get lost in the work and hours pass unnoticed. 

One of the first things I carved while learning was a spoon of the type called a "Love Spoon." I recently  tossed that piece in the fireplace.  Now that I have a framework that allows me to look back on my early work, I can see that some of it sucks pretty bad. :>)

I am about halfway to where I want to be as a carver. I am pretty good, but not REAL GOOD. Not yet! I have only to look at the work of guys like Chris Pye to be convinced that I have a long way to go.

Learn how. Discover why. Build better.
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Greenlee Chisels


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