Friday, February 6, 2009

Not for Naught, Knots!

Continuing where I left off with the Celtic knotwork, the first image (4845) shows clearly the little ramp that I am developing to form the over and under structure of the knotwork. As mentioned before, the key at this stage is not to go too deep. Until I am satisfied that all the cross-overs are in order and there are no doubles, I'm not going to commit to digging too much out.

Again, the paper pattern glued to the spoon blank comes in very handy as it lets me clearly see where the overs and unders are and lets me find out in a big hurry if I have messed the sequence up anywhere! This image shows how shallow the ramps currently are and that I have lots of depth to play with if there is a problem. To follow all these little ramps around and dig them out, I make use of a nice, little Japanese 1/4inch wide chisel. These chisels are only about a third the size of a regular carpenter's chisel and allow me to manoever in these very tight surroundings without struggling to control a big handle and long blade.

To really ramp the knotwork and set the overs and unders off, I start digging in a bit more substantially with the gouge. First I repeat the stabbing action whereby I cut straight down at the intersection of the knot, then I progressively increase the depth of the ramp, all the time working to meet the low point of the stab cut. If I meet up cleanly with the ramp, a nice chip pops out and the intersection area is nice and neat with no cut marks or bits of uncut wood messing things up. Ultimately, I want to work the ramps up so that they curve gently over the intersecting section and there are no flat spots through the curve. (Flat spots can be seen as the slightly duller coloured sections between each ramp) What I'm after is a nice domed effect where the ramp rises up from one side, crosses over and then dips back down on the other side.

With the knotwork ramping nearing finished depth, I make sure to get a nice fair curve along each section and then I put a light chamfer (the slight easing of the edges you can see in this photo) to make the knotwork look more finished. I'm careful not to overdo the chamfering as a too round knot starts to look a bit too 'soft' and more like a shoelace than a wooden knot. I find about a 1/16th of an inch worth of chamfer is about right to soften the knot without making it mushy.

Occasionally, if the wood is presenting a troublesome grain, I will run a file or even sandpaper over things to even everything out just before I apply the oil finish. However, I NEVER sand while I still have carving to do. The grit which breaks away from the paper and embeds itself in the wood while I'm sanding makes a great abrasive which then plays havoc with my nice sharp knife blades. I always leave sanding until I'm are positive that I won't need to carve any saves me a ton of time in wasted sharpening!

Next week I'll start shaping up our Draig Goch ( or in this case our Driag Gwinau). This will bring another series of challenges trying to get a nicely rounded body that retains lots of vitality and vigour! In the meantime, Valentine's Day is coming and if you neglected to get your sweetie a lovespoon I would suggest you hang your head in shame.. OR, consider donating a buck or two to help sponsor the Left Coast Eisteddfod in its first year! Your donation could win you this very lovespoon, show you for the romantic you are and get you out of the doghouse!

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  1. Hi, David. It helps a lot to see how you handle the carving here. I'm currently working on my own design that incorporates a couple of celtic knots. I think my design outpaced my carving skill a bit, but that's ok. You can't progress unless you try something a little beyond your current grasp. I'm learning a lot: about wood grain, about knife technique, and about designing to the capabilities of the tools you have. In order to be proportionate to the size of the spoon, the piercings have to be relatively small in area. I have no scroll saw so the piercings have to be done with drill, hand saw and knife. Some of the piercings are too small for anything other than drill and knife. That was dealing me fits until I got a knife made by a friend in Minnesota. The blade is about 15 mm long by 4 mm wide at the base, fragile but sharp as sin and twice as dangerous. This has been a big help, but the piercings are still slow, painstaking work. Work is progressing again after having given myself a case of tennis elbow with the coping saw. The top of the handle has a couple of celtic birds with crossed beaks (design got away from me again). Don't quite know how I'm going to handle that yet, but I'll figure it out.

    Sure hope I win that spoon!


  2. Hi Bob
    I salute your tenacity tackling Celtic knotwork by hand like that! You are a braver man than I!
    The odd few times I've done it with the handsaw and knives I thought I was in purgatory! That was more than enough excuse to go out and buy an electric scroller!! One thing I can suggest which I found made life a bit easier cleaning up tight Celtic knots was to invest in some really good quality needle files. The cheap ones that you can get at the dollar store are ok for some stuff, but as with everything to do with get what you pay for! I found a sharp set of needle files let me access tight areas more safely than with the knife and they do a great job of cleaning up any rough areas. I hope that you'll send along a picture when it is done!
    Best wishes for success and fun as you work through this one! And good luck winning the spoon...although by August, you will probably have made one!!


  3. WOW!!!! its AMAZING!!!

    you did it!!!??? you have a great hand
    and wonderful, talented mind..........

    keep the good works.