The triangle and square are the primary shapes in most chip carving patterns. In the sample, right, you will see six different ways you can cut one 3×2 grid diamond motif using these two geometric units. Any chip carving pattern can easily be altered by simply dividing the triangles in your pattern into smaller triangles.
In my chip carving patterns the outer edge of any chip unit is shown in black, the inner liner shown in blue represent the individual cuts that make up that shape.
In row one the diamond is cut in four separate chip cuts to create one deep well at the center point of the diamond. The second row divides the diamond shape into two individual triangle chips and does row three. By the fourth row you can see that this same diamond shape can also be cut using four distinct triangle chip units.
By using just these six sample diamonds you can create multiple chip carved borders or motifs.
Three-Sided Triangle Chip
The three-sided triangle chip is made with three cuts, turning the board with each new cut. This releases a small chip of wood, leaving an inverted pyramid shape in the board. The angle at which the knife approaches the wood determines the depth of the chip cut. A low angle makes a shallow chip, a steep angle cuts a deep chip.
The first cut is made by placing the point of the blade along one side of the triangle, holding the blade at a 45 degree angle to to the wood.
The knife is pushed in to the wood until the blade edge has cut along the full length of that leg. For large chip triangles the knife blade is pulled along the pattern line.
Turn the wood to bring the next leg of the triangle into position for cutting. Lay the point of the knife at the beginning point of the next leg. Push the knife into the wood until the entire leg is cut.
Turn the wood to bring the last leg of the triangle into position for cutting. Lay the point of the knife into the point at the end of the last cut line which should be at the beginning of the leg. Push the knife into to the wood until the entire length is cut.
Square and Rectangle Chips
Square and rectangle chips are created with four angled cuts, similar to the triangle chip. This pattern of chip is excellent to add small accents to a larger designs and for large area fill patterns.
CUT 1 – 4
A square chip is worked exactly as a triangular chip, cutting each side of the square with the blade point angled towards the center point of the well. Cut along one side of the square, then turn the board to cut the next side. When all four cuts have been made a small pyramid shaped chip will be released. Rectangular patterns will have a long, centrally placed line in the well. This long line parallels the long sides of the rectangle. Rectangle chips are commonly used in chip carved lettering.
Cutting Adjacent Triangle and Square Chips
Most chips that you cut will share one or more sides with another chip. Begin a motif with touching or shared-side chips by working the inside chip first, working each series of new chips out from the center. In the photo sample, right, one row of triangle chips touch the inside square of the motif. The second, outer row of triangles touch the outer square lines of the motif.
Work each new chip by cutting the trapped angle of the chip along one shared-side line, working from the inside point towards the outside point of the triangle. The second cut is made from the same inside trapped angle out towards the outer point of the line on the second side of the trapped angle.
The third cut is made on the free side of the triangle, releasing the chip. Working form the trapped angle avoids the inner-trapped point of the chip from breaking out.
Today’s Free Chip Carving Practice Pattern
Please click on the image to the right for a full-sized printable chip carving pattern to use for your practice board. You may either transfer your chip carving pattern using a pencil grid or by using removable spray adhesive. Remember chip carving takes practice to create clean, smooth, even sides to each chip. So print several copies.
Today’s session of our Free Online In-depth wood carving Winter 2014 Seminar, taught by Lora Irish, wood carving and pyrography book author and line art pattern maker, will focus on the hand positions and knife cutting positions for chip carving.
As a small treat I have posted my favorite shortbread cookie recipe that I use with my handmade chip carved cookie presses. Hope you enjoy them as much as my family does.
Basic Hand Positions for Chip Carving
How you hold your knife and how you rest your hand against your chip carving wood project determines the angle of the chip walls. Let’s look at the basic positions used to create the angle and depth of your cuts.
Lay your chip knife into the palm of your hand, with the top edge of the wood handle in the bend of your index finger. The handle crosses the palm along the natural fold of the palm. Keep a light, loose grip. Too much tension on the knife can make large cuts difficult to execute and will cause your hand to tire quickly.
Three and Four Sided Chips
The three-sided triangle chip is the most common cut chip in this wood carving style. The knife is held at 45 degrees to the wood as it is pushed into one leg of the triangle. The point of the blade cuts to the center point of the well inside the chip. In the photo, the black dot in the center of the triangle pattern is the point of the chip well.
Straight-wall chips have two sides of the chip cut with the knife between 85 to 90 degrees of the wood. The intersection point of these two sides creates the deepest corner of the chip. The knife is places with the point of the blade at the corner point of the two straight sides, then pushed into the wood.
Sloped Floor to Straight-wall Chips
To create the sloped floor of the straight-wall chip the knife is dropped low to the wood. Slide the blade point into the straight-wall corner, thinly slicing the third side of this chip. For large straight-wall chips I use a detail wood carving bench knife, instead of my large chip knife. The added length of the bench knife blade allows me to drop the cut dramatically.
Many designs have curved-edges to some of the chips. Curves are cut by changing the angle of the knife from the wood as you move the blade through the curved line. Begin with your knife held at a 45 degree angle to the wood. As you pull the knife towards the center point of the pattern line, gradually drop the angle of the blade to the wood – close to a 30 degree angle. To work the second half of the pattern line, gradually raise the blade back to the 45 degree position.
Changing the angle as you pull through the stroke enables to blade point to reach the center point in the chip well.
Free Form Lines
Free form lines are made using two side cuts instead of the traditional three or four-sided chips. This creates a v-trough line that begins at a fine point, widens at the center point of the line, then narrows back to a point. Use the same knife angles as you would for a curved-edge chip.
Sample Chip Carving
The chip carving sample, shown right, uses all of the basic chip styles – triangle, square, straight-wall, curved-edge, and free form. You can see how the angle of the blade to the wood determines the slope of the chip walls.
As a fun note, the bottom three large leaf-shaped cuts are cut as a curved-edge or free form chip. This type of chip was very common during the early 1900’s and often called Spoon Carving.
Positive and Negative Space
The areas that you cut in a chip carving are called positive space – these areas have actually been worked. Those areas that you do not cut and that are left at the original level of the wood are called negative space – space you have not cut.
You can dramatically change the look of any chip carving pattern by controlling the positive and negative space in the design. In the photo sample you can clearly see a zig-zag pattern beneath the top border chip carved pattern. The dramatic shadows inside of the straight-wall chips in the rows above and below this un-carved line makes that zig-zag prominent. In the large border pattern, below the zig-zag, an inverted diamond has been left un-carved. Again, the shadows of the straight-wall chips that surround this area brings that diamond visually forward. The small cross pattern inside the un-carved diamond was made using a push stroke with the stab knife.
Today’s Free Chip Carving Patterns by Lora Irish from LSIrish.com.
Click on the image, right, for a full-sized printable pattern.
Here’s your treat for today! Over the weekend please gather your supplies – basswood practice boards, chip carving knives, removable spray adhesive, 320-grit sandpaper. On Monday, January 20th we will begin cutting the sample patterns using the six types of chip carving cuts – triangle, square and rectangle, straight-wall, curved-edge, free form, and accent chips.
Any wood surface will require a light sanding using 320-grit sandpaper. Rough surfaces can cause your chip knife to grab or hesitate as you make the cutting stroke. Sand in the direction of the wood grain to avoid adding fine scratch lines from the paper. Wipe the board well with a lint-free dry cloth to remove the sanding dust.
Pattern tracing using graphite paper
If the pattern is small and you have a printed copy of the design you can use graphite paper to trace the image to the wood. Center the printed pattern to the wood and tape it into place along one edge. Slide the graphite paper under the pattern. Using a ruler, compass, or straight edge and a hard pencil, mark along each line. After the cutting is complete the tracing lines can be erased.
Advantages – Tracing has the advantage when you are transferring your pattern to curved surface or when you want your chips in one oddly shaped area on the wood. In the photo sample the carving board is oval and the pattern has that same oval. Tracing with graphite paper made it easy to cut the pattern along the oval shape and align it properly with the board.
Disadvantages – Hand tracing, even when you use a ruler and compass, does not always give you perfectly matched chip sizes or perfectly straight cutting lines. Take time to double-check your line accuracy before you begin cutting. After the chip carving is complete you will need to remove any remaining tracing lines using a white eraser. For stubborn lines a light sanding with 320-grit sandpaper may be necessary.
Graphing directly to the wood
Because most chip carving patterns are geometric they can easily be graphed direct onto the board.
Using a small t-square, a ruler, and hard pencil mark the grid to your board. The size of each unit determines the final size of the chip motif – a 1/3” space will create larger chip motifs than a 1/4” spacing. With a soft pencil, to mark darker lines, pencil in your motif using the grid guidelines.
Advantages – Creating the pencil graph directly to the wood means that your knife is cutting directly into each chip wall. There is no graphite paper that might slide as you create the chip lines and there is no pattern paper between you and the wood as you work.
Disadvantages – Your final chip carving will only be as accurate as your pencil grid. Use a small t-square to mark all of your grid lines, sliding the square across one edge of the board. After the chip carving is complete use a white eraser to remove the pencil grid. A light sanding using 320-grit sandpaper will remove any stubborn lines.
Applying a graphed pattern with removable spray adhesive
Spray adhesives allow you to temporarily glue the printed pattern directly to your wood board. You can cut your chips following the printed paper lines. After the chip carving is complete the remaining pattern paper can be lifted from the wood, leaving a clean, unblemished background.
Read and follow the directions of the label for the best results when using spray adhesives. After the pattern has been affixed to the wood allow the paper to dry completely before you begin your cutting steps.
Advantages – By using a printed, adhered pattern you know that each chip cutting line is absolutely accurate. The bright white of the paper and the black chip outlines makes it easy to know where you have cut and where you still need to work. When the pattern is removed the background wood is clean, there will be no tracing or pencil lines to remove.
Disadvantages – Spray adhesives can become permanently affixed to your wood. Do a test sample on a practice board before you use this method on your larger project. Be sure to clean the nozzle of your spray adhesive can before you coat your pattern paper, a clogged nozzle can cause your spray to become uneven in coverage and it can leave small clumps of adhesive that are hard to cut. Spray adhesive patterns can come loose during the cutting steps.
This often happens where one chip lies against another. The loose side of paper can both block your view of your next cut as well as get in the way of the knife blade. If this happens lightly score the pattern paper along the outer lines of the chip you are cutting. This releases just the paper chip so that you can remove it. Now cut along the score lines.
Simplifying the Pattern
As you view the free chip carving patterns that are being offered with this seminar you will note that the outer lines of each chip is marked with a black line. The inner cuts that make the well of the chip are marked with blue lines. If you are tracing or graphing your pattern the inner lines do not need to be transferred to your board. Instead, after the outer lines have been graphed with a #4 soft pencil or a fine point marker, place one small dot inside the chip to note where the center point of the chip well will be. One dot, centered in the chip well will note a three or four-sided chip cut. One dot placed in one corner of the chip well will note a straight-wall cut where the third chip wall slopes into the corner.
Chip Carving Graph Paper
The two square girds below are 100 dpi for accuracy. Please click on each image to view the full-sized pattern. Save to your computer. You can Click and Print as many copies as you need. As we work through the practice board grids over the next few days I will be using a blank grid and pencil marking the chip motifs.
1/4″ chip grid
1/3″ chip grid
Today’s Free Chip Carving Pattern
Next we will look at hand positions for cutting your chips, common problems, and positive and negative space in chip carving. We are getting very close to cutting a few chips. Thank you for reading!
basswood practice boards – 3″ to 4″ wide x 18″ long, 1/4″ basswood is available at most hardware stores 11″ x 14″ basswood plaque – needlepoint sampler pattern 14″ x 14″ basswood plaque – chess game board pattern large chip carving knife stab chip carving knife detail wood carving bench knife sharpening stones and leather strop graph paper removable spray adhesive pencil 320-grit sandpaper white artist eraser linseed oil turpentine paste wax finish
For this seminar you will need a chip knife, stab knife, and detail bench knife.
Chip Carving Knives
The chip carving knife is your primary cutting tool. It has a short blade as compared to wood carving bench and detail knives, or whittling pocket knives, which places your carving hand closer to the actual cuts in the wood. The blade is angled slightly from the handle, placing the point and cutting edge in the correct position for the push cut used to angle the inner walls of the chip.
Chip knives are available in large and small sizes, with wooden or ergonomic resin handles. My personal preference is the large, wood handled knife which can also be used as a bench knife in my relief carving.
Stab Chip Carving Knife
The stab knife also comes in two varieties. This is a straight-edged blade made to be pushed into the wood that makes thin, straight line accent cuts in the negative space of the chip pattern. If the tip of the stab knife is sharpened along with the straight edge of the blade and at the point, this knife can be used to cut the walls of your chips.
Detail Bench Knife
Detail bench knives, used in wood carving, are excellent for your chip carving. The long, narrow blade can be used to cut the walls of the chip and can reach deeply into the sloped floor of a straight-wall chip. For chip carving you want a detail bench knife with a short blade to keep your cutting hand close to the wood.
Utility, Craft, and Pocket Knives
Although utility and craft knives are readily available and very inexpensive but I do not recommend them for either wood carving or chip carving. The steel in the blades are very thin and not the high quality found in specific wood carving knives. The tips of these blades can snap easily, creating the potential for you to end up cut. Please also avoid using straight-edged razor blades for the same reasons.
There are some excellent quality steel pocket knives available today that are perfect for whittling wood carving projects. I do not, however, recommend them for chip carving. The thickness of a pocket knife blade can cause problems when you are cutting small-sized chips. Thick blades tend to push against the wood as it cuts, compressing the wood outside the chip. That compressed area then causes cutting problems as you cut an adjacent chip.
For this seminar you will need a coarse sharpening stone, a fine sharpening stone, a leather strop and rouging compound, emery cloth 1500-grit sandpaper, and several sheets of newspaper. My personal preference, especially for new carvers, are ceramic stones. These are reasonably prices, small enough to keep right in my carving kit, do not require either water or oil, and last a life time.
Coarse 1000-grit Sharpening Stones
The coarse sharpening stone creates the angle of the knife blade bevel. If you are wood carving hardwoods and using a mallet you want a wide bevel on the edge of your cutting tool, up to 25 degrees. If you are relief carving you want to drop the bevel angle, bringing the bevel down to around 20 degrees. For chip carving you want a very narrow bevel, below the 20 degrees.
A sharpening jig that allows you to set the exact degree of the bevel takes the guess-work out of knife sharpening. If like most carvers you sharpen by eye, place the blade of your knife flat against the coarse stone. Raise the back – blunt – edge of the blade slightly, just high enough to slide 3 to 4 sheets of paper under the back edge. This sets the knife blade at a very shallow angle to the stone, perfect for chip carving.
Pull your knife across the stone to create the cutting edge bevel. Work both sides of your knife.
Fine 6000-grit Sharpening Stones
Fine stones have a high grit number, ranging from 6000- to 8000-grits. This stone sharpens the cutting edge. Place your knife onto the stone as the same bevel angle or ever so slightly higher. Pull the knife blade across the stone until you have developed a bright edge.
The fine stone work will create a very thin strip of steel along the cutting edge of the blade. You can not see this strip, but if you run your finger from the back of the knife towards the edge you will be able to feel a thin, rough tin edge.
Emery Cloth Sandpaper
There is a wonderful version of sandpaper, called emery cloth, that is specifically made use with metal. Emery cloth comes in many grades, I use 500-, 1000-, and 15oo-grit. I use my finest grit emery cloth before I move to my strop to insecure that I have established and then released the tin edge. Many carvers use emery cloth exclusively for sharpening. In relief carving you can wrap emery cloth around a dowel for sharpening the inside cutting edges of your round gouges.
Leather Strop and Rouge
Stropping, pulling a carving knife across a leather strop, removes the tin edge developed on the fine sharpening stone and brightens the cutting edge. The leather strop has two sides – one raw leather and one tanned leather. A rouging compound or sharpening compound is rubbed over the raw leather side of your strop. Place the blade, at the same bevel angle that you have been working, against the strop and pull the knife in long strokes across the compound. Work both sides of your knife.
There are several stropping or rouging compounds available, and each wood carver seems to have their favorite. I use red oxide in a stick form and aluminum oxide power.
Select several sheets of newspaper that are heavily printed. You can also print a sheet of condensed text using your computer printer for this step. Paper has a very fine grit and the printing ink acts as a rouging compound. Fold the paper into quarters and place it at the edge of your work table. Lay you knife blade flat against the paper and pull the knife across the paper several times.
This final paper stropping will polish the cutting edge.
Chip carving patterns can be printed and then glued to your wood using removable spray adhesive, which for this seminar I will refer to as gluing, or they can be graphed directly to the wood. Printing and gluing the pattern insures that you are working from a pattern that has perfectly straight cutting lines, but unless you have a graphic image editing program you are constrained to working the pattern at the size of the printed paper.
You can, using a small t-square, compass, and straight edge, create a pencil graph directly onto the wood. I use a #2 soft pencil to create the grid and use light pressure on the pencil to avoid leaving thin, indented lines in the basswood. You can also use a pale brown colored watercolor pencil for this step. When the chip carving is finished, using a white artist eraser the pencil graph and chip outlines can be removed. With watercolor pencil the board is wiped with a slightly damp cloth.
Basswood Practice and Project Boards
For this seminar I would strongly suggest that you begin with basswood practice boards. Chip carving needs precise, strong cuts to create the wonderfully intricate geometric chips. Precision comes with practice!
You can find 3″ to 4″ wide by 1/4″ thick by 18″ to 24″ long basswood craft boards at most local hardware stores which are perfect for your practice work. Check each board carefully to insecure that it has even, straight grain, and a clear unblemished coloring. These basswood boards are not the high quality found in the finished project plaques that are available through Walnut Hollow and other companies, but quite fine enough to use for learning, experimenting, and practice motifs.
Tomorrow we will look at how to prepare the wood for your chip carving. Thank you for reading!
For this year’s seminar I have chosen Chip Carving, also called Spoon Carving! This wonderful style of wood carving uses geometric and free form cut chips to create intricate designs. This free seminar is only being offered here on my blog, so please lets your friends and fellow carvers on your favorite message boards know! Post a link today.
Over the next week or so we will take an in-depth look at this wood carving technique, create several chip carving practice boards, and take a close look at a classic needlepoint sampler layout, shown above, that you can use to carve multiple chip carved projects. The pattern and photo sampler for this Needlepoint Layout is available in both our new Chip Carving Pattern Package and in the Chip Carving E-Project.
We will explore:
Supplies needed for chip carving Creating basswood chip carving practice boards Wood preparations Knife sharpening Transferring a chip pattern to your board Knife angle Common problems Positive and negative space How to cut the different styles of chips Learn triangles, square, straight-wall, curve-edge, free form, and accent chips Using chip styles in your patterns Work a set of chip progressions How to turn a corner
To get ready for this seminar you will need the following supplies:
basswood practice boards – 3″ to 4″ wide x 18″ long, 1/4″ basswood is available at most hardware stores
11″ x 14″ basswood plaque – needlepoint sampler pattern
14″ x 14″ basswood plaque – chess game board pattern
large chip carving knife
stab chip carving knife
detail wood carving bench knife
sharpening stones and leather strop
removable spray adhesive
white artist eraser
boiled linseed oil
paste wax finish
Class begins Wednesday, January 15th! I’ve saved a chair at the teaching table just for you!