Little House Woodcarving

Woodcarving Tips and Tools

Chip Carving With a Gouge


The traditional way to chip carve is with a special knife and a very intricate pattern.  The end products are beautiful.  I took one chip carving class a few years ago and I find the technique very valuable.  I use it often in my regular carving.  I have a basic problem with traditional chip carving though.  I hate to measure when I’m carving.  And it is an absolute necessity to measure when drawing the patterns for traditional chip carving.  I have an alternative for the folks that don’t like to measure and draw specific lines measured just so.  It is called chip carving with a gouge.  Oh, there is a little measuring.  You have to find the center of the plate or a square and a middle here and there, but you don’t have to draw each of those tiny cuts!

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I was first introduced to chip carving with a gouge when Izo B. came to teach a class at Little House Woodcarving several years ago.  Izo is a master carver from Bosnia, now living in Minnesota.  I have seen several pieces of furniture Izo has carved using this technique and it is beautiful.  The class he taught at Little House Woodcarving was a chest.  The top was rounded and had been glued before the carving.  The other pieces were glued together after carving.  The chest we carved was 14”x10”x8 ½”.  The class got me very enthusiastic about that form of woodcarving.  I started using that technique on plates (large and small) and on small boxes (treasure boxes).  I taught several classes on chip carving with a gouge at Little House Woodcarving in Minnesota and also in Oregon.  Last week I taught Pat, a new woodcarver, the art of chip carving with a gouge.  Pat and I met when her sister and I were patients in a hospital and were roommates.  Pat drove from Minneapolis to Alexandria, MN for our all day class.  Pat is a natural and will do well in woodcarving.  She is very excited about her new found talent

Since I came back to MN I have carved a couple of small plates using the chip carving with a gouge technique for my granddaughters.  Then at the last woodcarvers club meeting one of the members had carved a candle holder (chip carved using a gouge).  So while I was teaching Pat, I started a candle holder myself.  I finished that today.  The wood is butternut and I finished it with a coat of poly spray and then waxed it with a clear paste wax and then buffed it to a soft shine.

The only tools necessary for chip carving with a gouge are a compass to draw the circles, a long handled # 9-5mm wide gouge, a mallet and a piece of wood to carve.  When I teach I encourage the students to draw several patterns on paper.  They can copy their patterns by turning their compass to the same size as their pattern.

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There is no limit to different projects you can use this type of chip carving on.  Besides chests of different sizes, treasure boxes, plates and candle holders I have also seen picture and mirror frames decorated this way.  A few years ago our club members built and carved a lectern for the church where we always have our carving meetings.  It was designed by one member, another member donated the butternut wood, a parish member built it and each club member took a piece home and chip carved it using a gouge.  The result was beautiful.  I’m sure there are many more decorative uses for the chip carving with a gouge that the artistic minds out there can think of.



Little House Woodcarving

Large Acanthus Shelf

Little House Woodcarving

Woodcarving continues at Little House woodcarving in spite of the fact we moved back to Minnesota for a few months.  I have just finished carving an acanthus shelf that is about 55 inches long.  The shelf has a bar underneath that is suitable for display of a quilt or similar treasure.

This carving is a commission.  I really like to carve for someone else.  When I go into a project, I know it is being made for someone special and I don’t let myself get personally attached to the carving.  I still give it my best efforts, but it’s not so hard to let it go.  Some carvers don’t have any problem that way and that is good.

When I moved back to Minnesota (temporarily), I knew I wanted to carve the shelf so I brought a board (clear white basswood) with me. I didn’t have the board for the top of the shelf or any way to cut them since all my “machinery” is still in Oregon.  Again, my woodcarving buddies that used to take all the classes we offered at Little House Woodcarving came to the rescue.  Sony A., the gal who goes to Austria, Nebraska and wherever with us, said, “Hey, I’ve got a really nice basswood board.  It’s really yours anyway.  You left it in your garage when you moved!”  I used this board for the top and for the braces to hold the bar.

I went to the local lumber company to talk to my favorite lumber guy, Randy M. I told him I needed a dowel but I had to have one side cut off.  Randy looked at my pattern and told me I needed a handrail!  You learn something new each day.  So now I have all the lumber, handrails and my own carving tools that I need.  But without saws, planer, glue, clamps, or routers, what next?

Another woodcarving friend, Gene B., who also took several classes @ Little House Woodcarving, has a beautiful shop in his basement.  Gene offered to help me.  He cut the boards to size, planed them to the right thickness, cut the acanthus pattern on the band saw and helped me glue the shelf together.  What a guy! I used the pattern from a carving done by Izo Becic.  Izo is a master carver from Bosnia, who now lives in Moorhead, Minnesota.  Izo has taught many classes on acanthus carving at Little House Woodcarving.  Now I am ready to carve.  One of the problems of acanthus carving is the depth. Most of us tend not to go deep enough.  Depth is necessary for good shadowing.  Once I have the depth I desire, I use a measuring device to make sure everything is at the same level.  When I first started carving acanthus, I marked each area that needed to be recessed with a c/o (for cut out) mark.  That way I was less likely to cut out the wrong area.

Once all the recessed areas are at the correct level, the rounding and shaping can begin.  When all the shaping is completed, the fine lines that accentuate the swirls can be put in using a fine parting tool.  When the carving is done to your satisfaction, it is time for the texturing.  The texturing is done in all the recessed areas.  I use a nail that I rounded on a sandpaper machine. The end is flattened to about 1/16 inch.  It takes a little time but the effort is worth it.  The tiny nail holes are placed about 1/8 to ¼ inch apart.  This covers any uneven spots you may have and gives a good back ground, this was a really fun project.


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Little House Woodcarving

Woodcarving an Elf


Little House Woodcarving

November 14 and 15, 2009, six eager woodcarvers and an instructor gathered at Ollie’s service in Alexandria, MN for an Elf woodcarving class.  The class was taught by Jerry Adamich, who hails from the iron range in northern Minnesota near Hibbing.  I took a Santa class from Jerry a year or so ago and he is an excellent carver and instructor.

The elf’s head and hat measures 7 inches tall and is 3 inches wide.  It has been cut from a 2 inch square that has been cut diagonally through the center.  The cornered front gives a good start on the nose and facial features.  The ears are large and protrude from the side of his head.  The back is hollowed out when the front is done.  Every one of the six carvings we did had it’s own personality.  It was fun seeing the outcome of each elf.

The finishing was done in class.  It is always such a pleasure to go home with a completely finished carving.  Jerry has a unique way of finishing that really makes the colors stand out but still lets the wood grain show through.  The face, hat and beard are painted with a very diluted acrylic paint After this is dry (a hair dryer comes in handy), it is coated heavily with boiled linseed oil.  Let it drip off and wipe it dry with a paper towel.  Then it is sprayed with a light coat of Deft or lacquer and then with a heavy coat.  When this is dry, cover with watco wax, two parts light and one part dark.  This needs to dry over night and then it can be buffed.

What a pleasure to be back with all my good carving friends.  The camaraderie is so good.  We have an all day event coming up Dec.5, 2009.  Our club will hold an all day Christmas party and potluck lunch.  We will hold a short meeting at noon and elect officers.  The rest of the day, starting at 8AM, we will carve.  Some of our members will bring projects to teach and some will bring their own projects.  It will be fun.