Friday, March 13, 2009

On a Wing And a Prayer!

This week the dragon finally gets his wings clipped! He might also have a name fairly soon too.

There are a number of ways I can approach the wings in terms of how I shape them. Many times I carve a concave 'dip' between the spine of each wing section to give them a bat-like appearance, but for this spoon I am going to cut in evenly. This will create wedge shaped section which will cast more shadow and have a vaguely art deco feel. I think that with the bold scales running along his back, the bolder and more stylized look of the wedge tapers will work nicely.

To do this, I first cut lines to delineate each section of wing. I do this in several passes until the knife is cutting about 1/16 of an inch deep or so (1.5mm) Be careful to keep the support hand out of the path of the knife blade in case it suddenly slips. Although the picture angle makes it look like my left hand is perilously positioned, it actually is out of the way of the knife blade.

With the lines all cut, I start shaping out the wedge cuts. I start close to the line and take small cuts, gradually deeping and widening as more material is removed. I resist the urge to hack out heaving great chunks as it makes the work a lot harder and increases the risk of a slip or break.

For the first section which is quite small and confined, I make use of my wonderful little bent knife and make yet another shameless plug for tool maker extraordinaire, Mike Komick at Preferred Edge Tools. If you have ever wanted to try out a bent knife, you really can't get better than one of Mike's. I love my bent knives and have used them to replace almost every one of my gouges. Handled carefully, the bent blade can access just about any area of the carving and leaves a nice smooth curve in its wake. Now you might be saying, "I thought Western said he was going to make a flat cut" and you are right!! I'm going to use the bent knife to remove material in the awkward areas and then will go over the results with my straight knife and chisels to get a nice flat surface. If I didn't have a bent knife on hand, I would use the straight knife here, I just wouldn't be able to clear the area as quickly.

Here is a close up showing the wedged-stepped effect I am after. What I want to happen is for each segment to deepen evenly and fairly with no bumps and dips. Its harder than it sounds, especially as the grain changes direction through the curve.

I'm using my straight knife to come back with the grain on this wing section. You can see that the grain changes direction about half way along the section, so I am forced to work from both ends toward the centre if I want to have smooth, tear-free cuts. Going against the grain is not recommended except in direst situations. It inevitably results in torn and ragged cuts as the wood snaps ahead of the blade.
I've often been told that it pays to learn to carve with both hands so that I don't have to keep spinning the work around, but I confess that I have thus far lacked the discipline to teach myself ambidexterity...hell, I can't even spell it!!

The design I am working with will show both the left and right wings of the dragon, so it is important to cut the left wing down in depth to set it off against the right wing. I level this area down about 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch below the right wing section then cut my lines back in. With that done, I proceed in the same manner as with the first wing. When complete, the effect of 'one wing behind the other' should be fairly evident. The meeting of all these lines also makes a nice sculptural image all on its own!

Well, here he is in all his splendor. That means we are almost half way finished. Next week I'll go over some of the rough sections and details I haven't quite finished and tiddle everything up before flipping it over and starting phase 2.

This gives a good idea of how the spoon will look when completed though and it will hopefully convince any 'fence-sitters' who haven't donated a couple of bucks to the Left Coast Eisteddfod that it will be worth it! Time is ticking and the Eisteddfod is coming together! Please help support it!! Come on Tom Jones, Catherine Zeta, Cerys Matthews, Anthony Hopkins etc etc etc...where are you??

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  1. He's really looking good, Dave. I really like the way you did the wings. I just got one of Mike's bent knives and love it for finish cuts and working in small places. I used it to clean up the smaller kolrosed areas that I didn't like on my current spoon. I also love Dell Stubbs' hook knives and use them a lot, but Mike's bent knife gets me closer to the work and gives me more control. For the name I'm voting for Dewi y Ddraig and fully expect him to be hanging on my wall after the Eisteddfod!!

  2. Hi Bob
    Glad to hear that you enjoy the bent knife. You can get them made up in all kinds of curves from almost straight to nearly circular. I have ditched almost all my gouges in favour of 3 profiles of bent knives. They are the bees knees!
    I can also rough out a spoon bowl in next to no time with them...even when the wood is some of the crazy figured maple that I love to use.
    I can't wait to hear what name gets selected and even more, I can't wait to see the spoon finished and find out who will win it!