What's on my bench: Carving


Greetings from San Diego...
As I have been working with my automata I have difficulty with what I call the biped.  The person.  The figure.  
I've evolved to the point of using basswood.  Of shaping the basswood on a bandsaw. And then of using mostly sandpaper to come to "a" final shape.  
I realize that I need to be able to better control the shape of my wood bipeds.
So...I started browsing YouTube looking at woodcarvers.  I've found one that I really like.  He seems to be wise and to have common sense...and I like the way that he presents himself and his carvings.
I've watched about a dozen of his videos so far and have taken away the following:
  1. He uses the same knife (1-3/4" blade) 99.9% of the time.
  2. He NEVER uses a sharpening stone or machine to sharpen his tools.  He ALWAYS strops.
  3. 99.9% of the time he carves Basswood.
Three simple things.  
I have some basswood on hand.  And a pocket knife.  I started doing a tiny bit of carving and decided that the knife was not sharp enough.  I need to strop it.  So I built a strop and have sticks of polishing compound on order.
As I was building the strop I found a sheath knife (see image below) that I've had since the '70s.  Never used it.  So I decided to modify it to make a 1-3/4" carving knife (see image below).  The process was not difficult but it did take me about 6 hours.  I'm still not satisfied with the blade and am looking forward to stroping it into final shape.
The steps I took to modify this knife were:
  • Because the blade is hardened I could not file it or cut it.  Using a bench grinder I ground it to rough shape.  I needed to be careful to not overheat the metal...I did not want it to lose it's hardened characteristics.
  • Then to my benchtop disc sander for some more shaping.
  • Then using a lot of time and progressively 150, 220, 400, 600, 800, and finally 1000 grit paper I worked the blade.
  • Then I started stropping the blade.  Yes, the leather does cut the metal...not a lot...but some.  And it further polishes.  Ideally, I would have had a polishing compound on the strop but the compound has not yet arrived.
And then right after I completed that I had a small Swiss Army Knife fail (see image below)...the plastic cover came off of one side.  So I disassembled the Swiss Army Knife and used the blade and a piece of Myrtlewood to create a "detail" carving knife (see image below) with a blade about 1-1/4" long.

At this time I'm sitting with two carving knives that I've created, a strop that I've created, and polishing compound and more basswood coming in the mail.  I feel much better equipped to deal with future bipeds.  I'm excited, actually.  This morning I spent a couple of hours carving a small hand (3/4" X 5/8").  I did use both of the carving knives and also a scalpel.

So that's what has been on my bench the last couple of days.
What's on your bench???

Jim Coffee
San Diego, CA


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