Wood Carving Basics

Quick Wood Carving & Pyrography Clamps

My Dad, an avid wood worker and gun stock carver, always insisted that nails and screws were only little clamps to hold the wood together until the glue dried!  Words of wood wisdom.

Glue is the agent that gives any joint its strongest bond.  But for the best joint the wood pieces need to be clamped tightly until that glue is thoroughly dried – for many wood glues that is at least 24 hours.

But what do you do when your wood, or gourd shape does not fit any of your regular wood clamps and you don’t want to use nails or screws?

Let’s look at a few quick clamps that can be made out of common household items and that can be adjusted to fit any size or shape.

 

This is a set of 3 pound molds for handmade soap
that I was ‘quickly’ throwing together – too big for my
small wood clamps, but perfect for this Today’s Carving Tip!

 

Low tack masking tape makes a great, disposable clamp.  Available in many widths, up to 4″, the tape can be wrapped multiple times around your project to make a tight tension on the joint.  Because it is low tack it does not leave glue residue to the project surface, which is wonderful when working gourd art.

2 Large rubber bands can be purchased from most office supply stores, usually by the pound box.  They come in a variety of lengths and can be used over and over again.  Look for extra wide bands when you go shopping, 1/2″ to 1″ wide bands are available and provide greater strength.

3 Bungee cords can be ganged to become a flexible clamp for your work.  I use smaller bungee cords, and simply lock one to another until I have a nice tightness.  Spacer blocks, as the  1 1/4″ basswood carving block shown here, can now be slid beneath the bungee cords to give you the tightest pressure.

4 Zip ties have become an every day item around the house and they use as wood clamps is invaluable.  Gang zip them, tighten them a little at a time so each tie is even, and simple cut them off when you are done.

5 Butcher’s string is thick, cotton, two to three ply twist cord which is perfect for really odd shapes, such as a gourd art project.   Wrap the string around your project and tie as tightly as possible.  Repeat, so that your clamp has several independent strings tied around the joint.  Working one string at a time, slide a popsicle stick, tongue depressor, or 1/4″ or wider dowel rod under the string.  Gently twist the stick to wrap the string around the stick’s center.  When you have the string as tight as you can twist secure the stick with a small clamp or with several clothes pins.

Next time you are cleaning those kitchen drawers or odd boxes, make up a quick clamp kit to keep in your wood, gourd, or pyrography studio – on hand and ready to go.

How to Clean Wood Carving -Burning Projects

Antique Road Show may call it patina … but I call it dirt!

A.K.A.  The Joys of Murphy Oil Soap

In wood crafting – wood carving and wood burning – patina is the natural color change that any wood surface goes through with age because of oxidation.  This darkens the wood because the iron in the wood begins to rust over time.  A clean, fresh piece of white pine will turn into a deep golden-orange color as its patina develops.

This morning I have been taking photos for my next book with Fox Chapel Publishing and needing a backdrop I grabbed one of my very first relief carvings – a photograph box.   But even before I got it to the photography table I knew that carving desperately needed a good cleaning.  What I am posting is the same procedure that I use of my wood burnings.

Because we display our carvings, handle our carvings, and use many of them on a daily bases our artwork does begin to pick up an ugly layer of common household dirt that both dulls  the surface finish and begins to fill in that fine detail carving that you worked so hard to achieve.

This project was carved in butternut, circa 1995, and used in my first book Classic Carving published by Taunton Press.  Over the twenty years of being used as either a jewelry box or photo box, the lid had become quite dingy.

Note here, this is not some precious 200 year old antique … at least not yet!

I use Murphy’s Oil Soap.  Murphy’s is a concentrated wood cleaner that is safe to use around children and pets. Not only can it be used on raw wood but also over most of your polyurethane or acrylic sealers.  Remember to do a small test on the bottom of your project before you work the carving.

  1.  Dust your work well before you begin.  Use condensed air to clean what you can out of the deep details.
  2. Mix about 1 cap of soap with 1 1/2 cups of warm water.
  3. With a kitchen dish washing brush, work one coat of soapy water over the surface of your carving.  Let the soap mix sit on the wood for a few moments so that it can loosen the dirt.
  4. Gently scrub over your carving or burning with the kitchen brush to lift the dirt.
  5. With a large ox-hair brush, work the puddles of dirt out of the crevices and corners.
  6. Use a clean, lint-free cloth to rub away the dirty soap.  You do not need to or want to rinse your work after you have wiped the wood.  The oil in Murphy’s will refreshes your wood surface.
  7. Repeat if necessary.


After my jewelry box thoroughly dried it was ready to be returned to my dresser as my family photo box.  The shine you see on the box edges and carving curves directly comes from Murphy’s Oil Soap.

 

how to transfer a pattern

How to Trace or Transfer Your Pattern

Doodle Days #9   Wood Burn Spoons, Wood Carved Spoons, Leather Work, Free Lora S. Irish Patterns to Download, DIY Bookmaking, Bullet Journals, Scrap Booking, Card Making, Applique Quilting, Pyrography, Wood Carving,

Tracing a Pattern
There are several ways to transfer a pattern to a carving blank – carbon paper, graphite paper and pencil rubbing. All three products transfer a pattern to wood, but which you use  is determines by the craft you are working.

how to trace your pattern to the boardCarbon paper
Originally used to make multiple copies of a typed or written document, carbon paper comes in black or dark blue. Tracings made using this product have heavy, dark, bold lines. Carbon paper is perfect for transferring patterns for long-term projects, as the traced lines will not fade or rub off, even after many hours of carving work.  However, carbon paper creates a traced line that can not be erased with an eraser, and often can not be removed with fine sandpaper.  I use carbon paper with my wood carvings, but never with pyrography.

 

how to trace your pattern to the boardGraphite paper
This paper is lightweight with a waxed graphite coating on one side, and comes in both pale gray and white. When tracing a pattern, the graphite side is placed against the wood, resulting in a tracing with medium-gray colored lines. Graphite paper is available in sheets as small 8 1/2″ x 11” (216 x 279mm) and as large as 48” x 96” (1219 x 2438mm), and also comes in rolls several yards long. Graphite paper can be used several times, so keep previously used pieces for later tracings.  This product works well for both carving and wood burning.

how to trace your pattern to the boardPencil Rubbing
To use the pencil rubbing method for transferring a pattern, rub a soft #2 to #6 pencil over the back of your pattern paper. The higher the number of your pencil, the darker or blacker the rubbing will be. Then, place the pattern face up on your carving blank and begin tracing it. As you trace along the pattern lines, a thin, light gray coating of pencil will be left on the wood blank. Pencil rubbing lines can be erased using a white artist’s eraser, making it an excellent method for transferring patterns for carvings that will include some pyrography work.  This is my favorite form of tracing as it is so easily removed after your pyrography or carving work is done.

Simple steps for tracing a pattern
Tracing a pattern onto your carving blank is an important step; you want to make sure you center the pattern on the wood. Follow these steps to trace a pattern using graphite paper.

how to transfer a pattern1 Gather your supplies. To transfer a pattern to your wood blank, you will need a copy of the pattern, carbon paper, an ink pen, a ruler, a T-square, and tape.

how to transfer a pattern2 Mark the center of the blank. Using your ruler and T-square, mark the center of the carving blank using a horizontal center line and a vertical center line

how to get your pattern on the woodhow to get your pattern on the wood

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 Align the pattern with the center lines. Fold the copy of the pattern into quarters. Place the pattern on the blank, aligning the fold lines in the paper with the center lines drawn on the blank. Tape the pattern into place .

pattern tracing4 Adjust the pattern as needed to fit the shape of the wood.  For our sample tracing the board has a curved top that affects the placement of the pattern.  By sliding the design down along the vertical line the square pattern is now centered to the square area of the plaque.

how to trace a pattern for wood burning5 Place the carbon paper, and trace. Mark any adjustments necessary on your pattern. Slide the carbon paper in place under the pattern paper, and trace along the outside lines of your grouped elements. Check your tracing before you remove the pattern and carbon paper to ensure you have transferred all the necessary pattern lines .

how to trace a pattern for wood burning6 Create a border if desired. If you like, you can use a compass to create an outside border or margin line around the pattern .

how to trace a pattern for wood burning7  Add in the details as you carve. As you progress through the carving stages, cut small pieces of your original pattern paper, secure them to your wood blank, and trace the fine line details to that roughly cut areas.

8 Print several copies of your pattern.  As you work you will often find that your carving will cut away some areas of the traced pattern or that your burned shading will obscure some areas of your traced line.  You can cut small sections of your extra pattern out from the larger design and spot trace as needed.

 

finishing and paintinf techniques for wood

how to trace your pattern to the wood

How to Trace Your Pattern on to Wood

Preparation – Begin by cleaning, and sanding your wood to create a smooth surface on to which you can transfer your pattern.  Remove all sanding dust using a dusting brush and clean, dry cloth.

Chose Your Tracing Media – There are three primary tracing products which are graphite paper, carbon paper, newspaper, and a soft #4 to #8 artist pencil.

Please share on Facebook and Pintrest!

 

tracing your pattern to the wood with graphite paperGraphite Paper Graphite paper can be purchased through both office supply and craft stores.  It comes in several colors, including gray, white, and blue for easy tracing onto different colors of wood.  Graphite leaves a very fine line on the wood and can be erased with a white artist eraser after you have completed your project.

 

 

 

 

how to trace your pattern to the woodCarbon Paper Carbon paper comes in 8 1/2″ x 11″ sheets and has a very dark, heavy layer of tracing media on the back surface.  It is available in deep blue and black colors.  Carbon paper lines do not erase easily and should be carved or scraped away as your work your project.  Use this media on projects that will receive excessive handling or for long-term projects as it holds up very well.  Because carbon paper was primarily used with typewriter to create multiple copies, you may need to do a little searching to find it.

 

 

 

how to trace your pattern to the woodPencil Rubbing – My favorite way to trace my pattern to the wood is to rub the back of the pattern paper with a #4 to #8 artist pencil. This creates a layer of graphite that will easily transfer to the wood surface as your copy the pattern lines with an ink pen.  Pencil rubbings work extremely well for wood, gourds, and even leather.  Woodless pencils work wonderfully for tracing.

 

Newspaper – Heavily printed sheets of newspaper works wonderfully as a tracing media.  As you trace along the pattern lines the printer’s ink from the newspaper will leave a dotted line on the wood.  This process is especially good for extra large projects as out door signs or long, wide mantel boards.  The ink is easily erased with a white artist’s eraser.

 

tracing your pattern to the wood1.  Adjust your digital pattern as necessary to fit your project piece.  Print several copies of your pattern – one for the main tracing, one for cutting and tracing small areas of the pattern, and one for a reference to the detail lines of the design.

You will need a ruler, a small t-square or right angled triangle, a pencil, painters or masking tape, scissors, and several colors of ink pen.  Of note, my ruler is cork-backed to grip the wood surface and keep the ruler from sliding.

 

tracing your pattern to the wood2.  With a right angle triangle or small t-square mark the center vertical line of your project’s surface.

 

 

 

 

tracing your pattern to the wood3.  Use your ruler to find and mark the center point of your vertical line.

 

 

 

 

tracing your pattern to the wood4.  With the t-square or right angle triangle, draw a horizontal line across the project surface at the center point of the vertical line.

 

 

 

tracing your pattern to the wood5.  Fold your printed pattern into quarters, matching the outer pattern lines on the sides of the pattern. Place the folded pattern on to the wood, aligning the paper folds to the marked lines on the wood.

If you will using a pencil rubbing for your tracing media, open the folded pattern and rub the back of the pattern to completely cover it with pencil graphite.  Refold your pattern and begin the positioning steps.

 

 

tracing your pattern to the wood6.  Unfold your pattern, continuing to match folds in the pattern paper with your guidelines.  Cut several small strips of painters tape.  Use the tape to secure two sides of the pattern paper to the wood surface.

 

 

 

 

tracing your pattern to the wood7.  Use a colored ink pen to mark any changes you want to make in the pattern, so that you will follow your changes during the tracing process.

 

 

 

 

tracing your pattern to the wood8.  Slide your tracing media – graphite paper, carbon paper, newspaper – under the printed pattern with the tracing surface against the wood.  Trace along the pattern lines with a colored ink pen.  Use a light pressure, just enough to transfer the pattern line without leaving an indented score line from the ink pen’s point.  When your tracing is complete lift the pattern paper at one of the un-taped corners.  Check your work before you remove the pattern paper and tape.

 

 

tracing your pattern to the wood9.  Trace only those lines that you really need for your initial working steps.  For my Beta Fish relief carving I needed only the outlines of each area of the fish and the outlines of the grass to work the rough out carving steps.

 

 

 

tracing your pattern to the wood10.  When your project work is done, remove any remaining tracing lines using a white artist’s eraser.   Avoid colored erasers that can leave dye streaks on your carving or pyrography work.

 

 

 

 

tracing your pattern to the wood11.  Click on the small image on the right for your free full-sized, printable Beta Fish pattern – a design from Relief Carving Workshop, by Lora Irish.

 

 

 

how to trace your pattern to the wood12.  This second example is from the Wood Spirit Carving project posted on the Wood Carving Illustrated Forum.  The pattern was transferred to the wood using typewriter carbon paper because the project would require intense handling.

Relief Carving Wood Spirit Grape Man WIP – Over 250 detailed, close-up photos with step-by-step instructions of relief carving the wood spirit, green man face. This thread has had over 69,000 views!

how to trace your pattern to the wood13.  After the levels where established in the carving I cut my paper pattern into small sections that could be easily re-traced to the project.

 

 

 

 

 

how to trace your pattern to the wood14.  Click on the small image to the right for a free full-sized printable pattern.

 

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