woodcarving


Seba and I went camping! We went together to the midwintercamp in the veluwe. Mariana was not feeling well  and stayed home. Nothing is worse than feeling bad laying in a tent far away from toilet and other comforts. So it was father and son time.

The Midwintercamp is organised by Peter Qvist from Qvist Outdoor Cooking, there are activities organised by several other people. One of them is Jan Harm ter Brugge from hout van bomen who I’ve really wanted to meet for some time, but I never got around. Jan Harm is one of the few (actually I think the only one) that carves nice spoons in the Netherlands.

Seba and I arrived friday just after midday at the campsite. Papa had to go and put up the tent and Seba helped unpacking the car and put together the central pole. We stole the stove from Marianas atelier so we would stay warm and make a cup of coffee.

Seba decided that he wanted to go play and left me alone dealing with the tent.

Al the activities where on Saturday, they are mostly camping and food related. You could prepare a wild boar, pig roast, bake bread in a dutch oven, have some guided tours around the veluwe and carve spoons.Needless to say I carved spoons, while keeping a hungry eye on the food preparation. It was very good to see a spoon carver in action, my knowledge comes from books and the internet only and it is much more instructive to see things in vivo. When one is able to hold a spoon in your hands the proportions and relations of the handle and the cup are easier to see then on a picture.  And I had the chance to see some other tools from gransfors, djarv and karlson.

Seba made freinds and did the activity “getting dirty” in the woods. Followed by getting sand in your shoes and the filling up your hat with pine needles.

Here is the only picture of me, Seba took it. I had to cut off the ford KA on the side, it did not look wild enough. Also it would not work well when Seba is explaining to his sceptical mother that we “need” a “sjeep-auto”.

At night we ate wild boar, pig and deer. Obviously the food was too late, according to Seba who was very hungry.

Some spoons I’ve been working on. They are all made of walnut wood. The cut-offs from the bowls.

 

I acquired a walnut tree trunk diameter 40 cm some time ago but I did not really have time to carve something from it yet. Past couple of days however I took myself some time to make some things. I really like Richard Law’s and Robin Woods carved bowls. So I made a horse more or less like this, but from wood that I had left from building the Atelier for Mariana so it is a bit chunky.

To try out how the walnut wood works I’ve made some spoons, at first they did not look too good but after a while I got the hang of it. Walnut is has a bit more fibre then the birch or alder that I usually use. When you start cutting into the bark you can smell the junglone. It smells a bit like hospital disinfectant.

The wood itself is white when it is wet and the core wood is dark grayish brown. You get purple oxidation marks on the wood when carving it wet. When the wood dries it gets darker brown. I haven’t oiled any of the spoons yet so I don’t know how that looks. They still need to dry a little.

Making the bowls themselves is pretty straightforward. I’ve hollowed them out with a little adze. Then using a 25mm gauge and finished it with the spoonknife.  For the outside I used the axe and then a pushknife, and finished with my carving knife.

I bought the pushknife online and it was called a drawknife but it never really worked for me. Somehow it didn’t bite into the wood like the second hand drawknifes I bought and repaired. But now I’ve discovered that it works very well as a pushknife and that is fine by me.

I still need to make the bowls and spoons smooth when the wood dried a bit. I probably use the spoonknife and an scrape iron to finish the inside.

The new horse works pretty well, should have made that I while ago. I was scared that after a couple of blows, I could pick everything up from the floor. But I’m surprised by the strength of the clamp from just two simple wedges.

I think the shape of the bowl is a bit boring, but one has to start somewhere. I’m going to make some more and bigger ones next week.



Finally finished,

I got a little bit sidetracked, the weather turned nice and I could continue with both the garden and constructing my wife’s atelier (more about that in an upcoming post).

I’ve let the wood dry out slowly, just by leaving it standing around. When dry, I used my carving knife and with little cuts I smoothed the surface. On the inside I did the same with a spoon knife.

Then I put linseed oil to seal the surface, I’ll have to let the linseed oil dry over a couple of weeks before I can use it. Linseed oil polymerises and makes the surface stronger, impermeable and more beautiful. Linseed oil is food safe but has a particular odour that will take a while before it is gone. The first couple of coffees are going to be really ugly…

I acquired these three draw knives via the Dutch version of e-bay. I’m normally not a big fan of buying unseen second hand tool via the internet, but these where just too much of a bargain. The top one in the image is a bark peeling drawknife, the other two are carving drawknives. The top one was in the best shape, I just had to put two new handles and a bit of sharpening and it is good to go. I really like the old handles on the middle one, but the edge is blunt and uneven. The bottom one is in worst shape, the edge is very bad and the handles are pretty horrid too.

The bottom two need a completely new edge, it is terribly mistreated . The edge angle is uneven, has pits and  is worn away in the middle much more then elsewhere. Also it has some damage, probably from falling. I started grinding a rough new edge on them today but it is going to take me some time to restore these to their former glory. I think that it is worth the effort, it is 3 good tools rescued from rusting away. But it will be a long time until they are going to be used on the shaving horse.

Here is part two of the drinking bowls, this part covers the roughing out with an axe.

First something about the tool I’m going to be using.
The axe I’m using as a Gransfors Bruks woodcarving axe. The two differences between a regular bushcraft type axe (picture top right) and a the carving axe,  is that the shape of the head and the curve of the handle differ.

The woodcarving axe has a much broader head, with a curved cutting edge that goes on above the head’s eye. This enables you to carve with the axe. Essentially, you can use the axe more as a knife than as an axe. The handle is much more curved, making it go parallel to the cutting edge on the parts where you hold it. When carving, you often grab the axe right under its head. To do this, there is space between the beard and the handle to put your fingers. When you grab the axe under its head you have finer control, when you grab the axe from the throat of the handle you will have more force.

If you want to know more about axes there is a free axebook available on the Gransfors Bruks website.

Lets make a cup.

After making the holes in the wood, I separate the three bowls from each other using a saw.

The next step is to make the rough shape of the ear. Picture two shows the wood with my pencil scketches of the future ear. The bottom two lines are cut with a saw. That makes it easier for me to come in with the axe, and hit the two top vertical lines and the piece of wood comes right off. I leave the ear quite thick to avoid splitting when shaping it later.

Shaping with an axe.

Now I shape the bowl carving with the axe. Chopping is only needed where the ear connects to the cup. Although a faster method of removing wood, chopping leaves many marks on the bowl that can be difficult to erase with the knife. So I prefer to axe-carve as much as possible.  Slowly I shape the bowl until the walls have a thickness of 4-5 mm. As you can see it looks pretty rough at this stage.

Making the ear and shaping with the knife

Next step is making the ear. I dig it out with a small curved gouge. Make the hole bigger with a knife, and shape it with the axe and then the knife. In the end it should look a bit like the last picture.
It is still not quite ready. In the next step, I will smooth out the inside of the bowl using a spoon or crook knife. The outside I smooth out with a regular knife.
The drying will take a while because it has to be done slowly. Afterwards I finish it of with linseed oil. But that will be on the next post…

I’am busy making some wooden cups. They are inspired by Sami Guksi’s or kuksa’s but also by turned wooden bowls, called masers made by Robin Wood. Traditionally a kuksa has a handle with a hole to put your finger trough, the once I’ve made before don’t. I don’t know yet how these are going to turn out. In the picture below you can see some cups that I’m finishing.

The difficulty of making cups is in two things first the thickness of the wall, I’m aiming for 4-7 mm. It is hard to make the wall nice and equal, I sometimes leave the walls and especially the bottom to thick. The second difficulty is the drying process. Unlike a spoon, a cup has a bigger diameter and crosses more growth rings of the wood. Drying results in much more tension in the wood and therefore there is a good chance of cracks. Drying these cups has to be done extremely slowly.

First I have to find a log with at least a 250mm diameter, I split it in half and remove the bark. While removing the bark I check for irregularities like knots and cracks, depending on the location I use it as a feature in the cup handle, but sometimes I have to discard a log. Then I take out all the core wood, this would cause the cup to split when drying. The process of debarking, splitting and taking out the core wood is done with an axe. Then I even things up with a plane.

I draw the rough shape of the cup essentially, a circle on, the log and start taking out the surplus wood from the sides, again using an axe. In this case the wood is very nice oak and it has no irregularities. So I can make 3 cups from the same log at once. I drill a large hole in the middle with a d 30mm auger. This will speed up the hollowing significantly.

I hollow out the cup using a large curved gouge, then a smaller one and eventually a spoon knife. I try to make the hole already round and nice, because it is easy to hold the cup in a vice now, but later in the process I have to hold it in my hands and it will make it harder to use strength.

For now I have to stop carving not because of the process I could continue but I have a family, the trick is to not let the wood dry out too fast. Which is not a very big problem because it is freezing, but I still have to put it in a plastic bag so it remains wet.

Later I will continue with the carving of the wood, during that time I keep the cup in a plastic bag, slowly opening it to let more moist out, thus drying the wood. This drying takes around a month. When the wood is all dried you can start smoothing the surface. Wet wood will not give you a smooth surface.
Part two will be about the carving with a knife.

I’m afraid this book is only available in German and Swedish, the original title is “Slöjda I Trä” which translates as sloyd in wood. The German title is “Schnitzen mit Jögge Sundqvist” which translates as carving with Jögge Sundqvist. The subtile of the German book is “Swedish tradition in a new light.” I think it has this subtitle because of the lack of one-word translation of the word Slöjd.

The book has 90 pages with lots of colourful pictures and a lot of black and white illustrations. Using illustrations an photo’s Jögge explains how various items can be made, among others knives, spoons, beakers, hooks doorhandles, etc. It explains the most important cuts and techniques, and how to source your materials.

Jögge has his very own style in carving, you can see the control he has over his knife. He uses seemingly simple and rough shapes that are very pleasing for the eye but are very hard to replicate.
Jögge works a lot with colours and paint, which is very refreshing when your used to mostly wooden unpainted pieces, especially the stuff I make myself. It convinced me to try and make some more coloured things myself.

It seems the writer of this book has the same opinion about woodcarving as I have. If you go trough the trouble of carving by hand also let it look like something that was carved by hand. No use of sanding paper, but only smooth carved finish. Which if it is a knife handle also helps with the grip on the handle.

I also have the book his father, Wille Sundqvist, wrote call Swedish Carving techniques. Which is a more technical approach to greenwood carving. Both books complement each other where the father is more technical and thorough on the carving and the materials part, Jögge is more artistic in his approach.

Links
Jögge Sundqvist (in Swedish)
The book at Dick.biz
Will Sundqvist book at Amazon in English. or in German at Dick.biz

This is a shaving horse, I made it of some leftover wood. It is basically a clamp for greenwood carving.  With your feet you push down on the lever that clamps the wood down so you have your hands free to use a two handed drawknife.

A drawknife has the advantage that you can take thick shavings off, while still have control and precision. You grab the drawknife and pull it toward you while your feet push against the lever and fix the wood in position. Therefore is physically impossible to cut yourself this way, it is possible to fall of the shaving horse.

I’m still experimenting a bit with the clamp itself, I used a piece op round wood now. But in retrospect it might be better to use something with a hammer shape that has a bigger clamping surface.

See more shaving horses here

Eatingspoons

These are some spoons that I recently carved. Most of them are carved out of alder, one out of birch. They are finished with linseedoil org tungoil. These ones ar for eating and carved in Swedish style with a curved handle so they are very comfortable to eat. The bowl is carved 1 mm thin so it has a good “mouthfeel”, the bowls are so thin that the light shines trough them.

I first hew them out of wood with an axe and then I smooth them out with a knife and a crook-knife (also called spoon knife). I finish them with scraping steel and sometimes sandingpaper. Then drying, oiling, more drying…  and they are ready to use….

0eatingspoon

This is a picture of a small eatingspoon with my carving knife.

0utilitysmall

This is a spatula, coffeescoop and a stirringspoon. The coffeescoop is made out of hazelnut, sourced in my own backyard.

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