Tuesday, May 15, 2012

New to carving? Or thinking of giving it a try?

It seems the more I read my favorite carving forums, the more I see new carvers asking what and where to get info on what type of carving to try, and what tools you should buy. Well let's set down and look into this a bit.
Types of carving... There are several types of wood carving out there. From Caricature, Flat plane, Relief, Chip, Realistic and so on. Each of these to me are fascinating, but I do not have the interest to pursue them all. When I got into carving I decided to research and see what types interested me.
 After a LOT of research and looking at finished carving pictures I chose Caricature. I liked the fact that I could be semi realistic and also add caricature aspects to each carving or vise versa. So now that I had my type of carving I was interested in, next came tools. Wow what a mistake I made on this part. I rushed in my excitement to the first online carving store I could find. Which by the way is an excellent store.
 And bought a bunch of tools, not knowing what I would need ahead of time. What a mistake !! Too often new carvers will get excited and rush off to buy those tools! What you end up doing is buying huge amounts of tools thinking, well I will use them all. But how do you know what you will need before you even start? You don't!

Let's explore this a bit more. Wood carving can be a tremendous amount of fun with the right tools, or a huge headache after you realize you spent hundreds of dollars on tools for a hobby you find out is not for you. So when starting out think small. Buy as good a quality of knife as you can easily afford.
 Some great brands are Helvie http://www.helvieknives.com/ , Ralph long http://woodbeecarver.com/dl/REL_Knife_Net_Brochure.pdf, Drake http://www.drakeknives.com/, To name a few. On a side note Drake also makes some excellent gouges as well, and as of this writing is my preferred brand of gouges. I am in no way affiliated with Drake knives, I just like the look and the quality of the tools and how they fit my hand, as I use mostly palm gouges.

 Which leads right into my next topic. Gouges, V tools, Veiners etc...
Let me start off by saying there is darn near a gouge for just about every cut you want to make in a carving, and if there is not one you will find the gouge that can do it for you with a little ingenuity.
Now gouges are not for everyone. My teacher Don Mertz rarely uses gouges. And if you study his work would swear that he uses them all the time. I can vouch that he does not :) He is just that good with a knife. Although Don rarely uses gouges, I find myself really enjoying using them. I like the versatility they give me. There are some pros and cons to gouges though.
Great help for certain cuts
Great way to outline
some work as good as knives (V tools)
come in a vast amount of sizes and shapes
really enhance details to clothing, beards, hair etc...
This is just a small list of pro's, as I am sure there are many more, I just can't think of them at this time :)

Difficult to resharpen. and hone until you get the hang of it.
Price, Some tools can get very expensive. But with the old adage you get what you pay for is really true in this case.
Addicting :) You can never seem to have enough f them. When you get to using these types of tools you will always see another that would help. ( maybe it's due to me being a tool addict)

As you can see the list is short. This is by no means the end all be all of a pro/con list. Just my opinion. But what I did find out is that by buying most "beginner/starter" gouge sets you do not get the tools you will use the most, so it is better to start out using the knife and if you get into a spot where you think, WOW if only I had a tool to help here? Well now you know what you want to buy and you go find it. And by doing this you save yourself a lot of money. Trust me on this.
However there are a few places that do sell a nice starter set of tools, but ask around before you buy.
Which leads to the last topic, forums. I myself only use one and it is http://www.woodcarvingillustrated.com/  I have never really ran into a question that was not easily answered here. Either by asking it or just searching for old posts. Give it a try, it's a great place to hang out.
Well I hope this was some help to someone out there :) I will leave you with a post I made today to a new carver who is wanting to get into the hobby , but had no idea what he/she wanted to do.
 I think it is some good advice for someone thinking of getting into the hobby and not quite sure what to do.
 Hello Blue, First off welcome to the forums. As for what type of carving? You will get a lot of different answers there. You need to do some research and see what appeals to you. When I decided to get back into carving, I read a lot on this forum and also did some internet searches for pictures of various types of carvings. And once I found what I really liked I started to pursue it.
In these forums are different sections of the types of carving, Pyography, chip carving, relief and so on. Look inside them, read some posts and look at some pictures of completed works. This should help you decide what interests you.
Once you decide on a type of carving you want to go for, really research it, ask questions. And don't run out to the store and buy the first tools you see. Ask carvers, and search for threads on what types of tools you will need and what types people like. Again you will get a plethora of answers. But in the end you will have more knowledge on what you want to try.
Start out with a small amount of tools until you get used to them and carving. Then you will know more about what types of tools you feel you need to get the job done. And with that you will spend less money on tools you never use.
I hope this helps.

So if you read this blog and have more questions please feel free to email me and I will try to address them here. And I hope this helps someone out there who is wishing to get into the wonderful world of wood carving.