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Janel

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Registered: Nov 28, 2004
Posts: 121
Reply with quote  #1 
Nearly every week I receive requests for information about materials and tools, where to find them, what to use, etc. Just today I received one such request, so I have posted my reply here, with a couple of images from my Tools area of my web site: http://www.janeljacobson.com/toolsstudio/toolsindex.html

My answers are only from my own experiences, thus, I would like to encourage other carvers to contribute when questions begin to be asked on this Forum.

Today's question:

"If possible, I'd like to ask if you can tell me where you get your tools for working small-scale. I don't feel entirely sure that I can make my own, but if you have sources for good tools, I'd love to know. I carve usually with a crooked knive as I am interested in Pacific Northwest masks, but have become very interested in netsukes. most likely I'll be working in boxwood. Thanks for any information (and also, if there are relevant workshops, etc, please tell me)."

My response:

I do not know of workshops for netsuke carving. Up to now, we carvers have been on our own for figuring out what tools to use. We all have learned about tools, each in a different way.

The images below are from my web site. I have tried to show some of my favorite styles of tools that were not too difficult to make. The shafts which are set into wood handles were mostly high speed drill bits (the drilling end is glued into the handle), ground on whet stones, to keep from heating up, from coarse to finish grade of 6000. They are not the only styles of tools which I use, but these are often used after the carving has gotten to the attention to undercuts and detailing stage. You may see that the smallest shafts are darning and sewing needles, honed to have an oval surface, at a slant.

I will use the word "scraping" for a particular carving action. It is really more like planing with a flat or curved sharpened edge in a small area. The hard materials which I use for netsuke/okimono carving are often boxwood, african blackwood, or a variety of similarly hard and dense woods. Antler, bone and tusk (mammoth ivory) are also a good candidate for the filing and scraping of sharp metal tools.

The slanted oval face makes a good two sided scraping tool, or the end may be used as a gouge. The largest here is ?" in diameter, made from a Sears Craftsman pin punch. There are two qualities available, I found by chance. The more expensive one may be a higher grade of metal and hold a sharp edge longer.

The three sided tool is ground on a whet stone until three faces are about equal. One side is dedicated to being curved, again on the whet stone, which gives the tool two larger scraping edges, and the point is great for undercutting. Well, cutting is a relative term, more scraping occurs with the hard woods used for netsuke/okimono sculptures.

See: toolsets.jpg


The image below shows a broader selection of my scrapers, files and sanding tools. What is missing from this image are true gouges and V parting tools which I use on occasion. The Dockyard tools on the right come in a variety of micro carving choices, perhaps from wood working stores or if you are lucky to have one available, a wood carving store. Catalogs for woodworking supplies are also a way to look for tools.

See: justtools.jpg


My hands are not large, so the red handled woodcarvers tool on the right of the frame above was altered to be more cylindrical rather than a palm filler.

The tools that I use the most after the initial stages of roughing in with a microgrinder and filing, are cutting tools for a moderate amount of work and the bulk of the detail, undercutting and finishing is scraping and sanding. It flows from one phase to another.

Japanese carving tools of Komada Ruyshi are illustrated here: http://www.cc.rim.or.jp/~komada/e-carving.html I believe that most of his work is in ivory and some perhaps in boxwood. Take some time to browse the Koryuen web site once you have had a look at the tools.

I hope that this is helpful. You are basically on your own to discover what works for you with tools. It is a fun part of learning to carve. There is always another tool that you feel might work for something you want to accomplish, so there is an ongoing search for potential tool material.

Warmest regards, and have fun with what lies ahead for you!

Janel

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"Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it!" ~ Goethe

Janel

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Registered: Nov 28, 2004
Posts: 121
Reply with quote  #2 
Good points made, Clive!

I try to encourage people to just start carving, and with each piece there will be learning and growing. Perfection is not something that comes with the first attempts, nor does it come with long experience, since each time there is more to learn and more to discover. If an artist stops seeking, what happens to the work?

Over the years, I have seen tools occasionally that other carvers use. Unless the tools purposes are demonstrated, there may be a whole lot of discovering to do with trial and error, which would likely lead to a different use for the tool for anyone who uses it.

The message I am using at the end of my messages has been a great inspiration for me throughout my adult life. To make a quote in the flavor of an early UK BBC character, "I didn't get where I am today without being bold now and then."

I have had my passion for carving grow through many stages in my now 34 years of living on my own as a self-employed artist. There has been some magic in it, to be sure!

Janel


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"Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it!" ~ Goethe
dougsanders

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Registered: Nov 29, 2004
Posts: 41
Reply with quote  #3 
I have to agree with Clive on this.  I realize it is difficult for beginners to trust their own development, but it's a necessary aspect of creating a sound foundation.  With tools, I always say whatever works!  Tools are individual to each artist; they are transformed into extensions of the body holding them.
 
However I would advise to stay away from power rotary carving tools at least as a beginner- they're noisy, generate more dust (a cleaning nuisance and health problem) and aren't as delicate as a finely sharpened blade. I'm convinced that they bruise the wood and chew up fibrers on a micro level, making a fine polish difficult. Many wood carvers in general become addicted to these and learn nothing about the beauty of sharpened steel, or the grace of movement that comes to one's hand after holding a blade for years. 

It's funny... I belong to a local wood carving club.  The predominant style is whittled pieces- hobos, boots, hound dogs, etc. carved from step-by-step guides and patterns with specific knives recommended and specific cutting actions described.  Members often wish to see my tool-kit, perhaps in an attempt to understand the carving.  It's artistically dangerous to get hooked on proscriptive lessons and guides.  Just get a knife and get to work

That said, for most of the carving, I've found that a standard carving knife works 85% of the time.  I switch between two blades- one is sub-nosed with a straight edge, the other has a blade which curves upward to a point.  The Dockyard chisels are a good start for detail work.

For the Pacific Northwest carver used to working with a characteristic curved or hook knife, try honing a similar yet smaller version.  Study any and all carvings you can and begin to understand the tools required for certain effects.  You already know what the cedars and alder feel like beneath this blade; you'll begin to understand what boxwood versus ebony versus holly feels like. Work with your vernacular- a miniature sheep horn spoon in boxwood would be beautiful.

Ittobori-style carvers use, in theory at least, only one knife.  The trick is to make each cut and resulting facet count.  Though 'rustic' in appearance, this style can have very powerful results.  Have a look at Enku's work (17th century wood scultptor)http://www.exporevue.com/magazine/fr/enku.html though not a netsuke-shi
you can bet this guy didn't care about the latest tool catalog and just went for it!

-Doug
carey

Registered: Dec 2, 2004
Posts: 2
Reply with quote  #4 
hi,

janel was kind enough to post my question about tools on this site--the discussion has been great--thanks so much to all!


carey
carey

Registered: Dec 2, 2004
Posts: 2
Reply with quote  #5 
oh, and i did want to add another thing. kestrel tools on lopez island in the pacific northwest makes amazing crooked knives. gregg blomberg, the maker, is truly a master. these knives function as gouges, you can slice either with a pull or pushing motion as they're beveled on both sides. wonderful things! i've found that they are great to work with, and do get you to a certain place with netsuke-sized carving. after that however ...
the website is http://www.kestreltool.com

carey
Janel

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Registered: Nov 28, 2004
Posts: 121
Reply with quote  #6 
Welcome to the discussion Carey!

Janel



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"Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it!" ~ Goethe
kiwi

Registered: Dec 3, 2004
Posts: 1
Reply with quote  #7 

Janel

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Registered: Nov 28, 2004
Posts: 121
Reply with quote  #8 
Welcome kiwi!

Try your post again!

Janel

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"Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it!" ~ Goethe
Janel

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Registered: Nov 28, 2004
Posts: 121
Reply with quote  #9 
In an email today, I received a question about the oval faced tools in the photos which I posted in an earlier message on this thread
---------------------------------------------
Hi Janel,

Thanks for letting me know about the new forum, it looks great.

I was wondering where I might find out about the type of cut you make when you grind
the angle on the round pin. The shape is elliptical, which I copied, but I can't seem to get
the proper motion to cut or scrape the wood. Am I supposed to use the edge or push
the tool into the wood?

Well anyway thanks for keeping me in mind. The forum will be a great asset to us all.

================================

The quick answer is to use the tool however it works for you.

Otherwise, what sort of wood are you using? If it is really hard and dense, you should be able to use it in a couple ways or more. The end could be used to remove a rounded amount of wood, a little like a gouge. The end and the sides will also work for scraping/planing.

Another way, make the tool pivot on the thumb of the opposite hand while the tool and tool hand rocks and moves the tool against the wood. It would be easier to show it and see it...

You should be sure that the edge is honed as sharply as possible. I use a whet stone up to 6000 on the face, and then lay the shaft on the stone and sharpen the sides, well sort of, to be sure the edge is as defined as possible.

I think that the oval tool is more for hollowing a rounded concavity, for instance the shallow petal of a flower after the shape and edges are established. The end is also good for reaming out a hollow area, to the limits of the grain of the material, and the shape of the hole... or the little ones, for cutting down like a tiny gouge.

Work at it, play with it, try it out on good hard scraps of wood or for fun, mammoth ivory. It is a tool more for definition rather than gross removal of material.

I hope you figure out some good ways to use the tools. Just start using it and find out what it can and cannot do!

Janel



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"Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it!" ~ Goethe
dougsanders

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Registered: Nov 29, 2004
Posts: 41
Reply with quote  #10 
Thanks Janel for the tips on scraping tools with oval and triangular faces.  I made two recently, and they've quickly earned their keep.  I've found them useful for removing scratches in hard to reach spots and to smooth out concavities so that not as much sanding/polishing is needed. They go where gouges can't. I'll make a few more and have a nice set of varying profiles and sizes.

-Doug
Janel

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Registered: Nov 28, 2004
Posts: 121
Reply with quote  #11 
Holiday greetings to you all!

I recently received an email of introduction to Peter Welsh, a netsuke/small sculpture carver from the UK. He lives in the Cornwall area. He experiences some problems with AOL on his computer and cannot use forms so I have volunteered to post his contributions in the various areas of the Forum today. Janel

In regards to the topic about tools:

"I make scrapers from second-hand gravers. These are readily available on Ebay (search under 'gravers' and 'engraving tools') and there are several suppliers on the internet. As I'm sure you know, gravers come in a variety of shapes and sizes and can easily be altered to the carvers needs. Some of the small gravers can be re-shaped on a disc sander. I also buy carving knives and small chisels from http://www.capeforge.com
They already make very small, high quality knives and will do custom work to your own design."

"Do you know of Bishu Sato's book? ISBN4-8170-5161-2. Written entirely in Japanese, but does show various profiles of blades and files." . . . . . . . Peter Welsh

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"Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it!" ~ Goethe
lotzla

Registered: Jan 3, 2005
Posts: 2
Reply with quote  #12 
Hi

Janel invited me to joing the discussion on this bb. I'm a professional carver but I don't work as small as you do. I'm in awe of your tiny carvings.

I really enjoyed reading about materials and especially Janel's discussion on tool making. I tend to use my tools as scrapers too. My husband always fusses that I dull my blades. So I've been wanting some small scrapers. I love the idea of reshaping punches and needles. I have some misc tools that I can reshape. I'm going to look through my studio for items with potential.

Something I find indispensable are old mechanical pencil holders - the kind you press a button on the top and metal claws come out to hold a large lead. I use these to hold diamond, ruby, metal or ceramic roto cutters. I can use these bits by hand to sand and rasp up close with a lot of control and without my fingers cramping. So I don't hold tiny roto bits in my fingers anymore.
Many years ago (on an old carving listserve), a very talented Australian carver suggested using broken glass as a scraper - infinite shapes and edges. She just held the broken pieces in her hand BUT she worked in a large scale. She got this idea after she accidentally broke some glass. She saw all the sharp edges while cleaning it up and she got excited.

If I used glass, then I would want mount the glass shards into a handle for safe working. I was thinking about making a wooden handle with a slot in the end, then inserting a piece of glass gluing with epoxy and filling with epoxy clay. That should hold it firm enough. You would need to protect these glass scrapers.

Most of the other experienced carvers on this bb questioned the safety of using broken glass and said, "why use it when there are so many good commercial scrapers on the market". Well that isn't true when you work in a small scale. And she replied that she never found a scraper to hold an edge like her glass shards do.

But recently my friend, Hanna, replied to this suggestion with the following comment:

"It really is a cliche but so true - there is nothing knew in this world. In the early sixties when I went to the London Art School, one of the finishing tools was a shard of glass. However, glass really can only be used with larger carvings, in those days most of my carvings were abstract or organic forms. Glass definitely doesn't work on small areas or any areas with a great deal of detail. The glass just cuts into the wood, destroying the detail."

Any comments?

Jean


Reply with quote  #13 
Thanks for the tip, Jean. I just bought a set of tiny diamond roto cutters and have been fiddling around trying to hold them with fingers or pin vices. Never would have thought of a pencil lead holder - that's great because you can change out the shape you are using mch faster than a pin vice...

Christine

P.S. Hi Janel! I finally am having some success at carving wood!
old_greek

Registered: May 5, 2005
Posts: 1
Reply with quote  #14 

There is a catalogue called Micro Mark that has smaller tools that can be adapted for holding cutters...pin vices, and such. Also there are several work holding devices, vices, clamps, etc. that I've found useful. Hope this is a help to someone. Catalogue web address is http://www.micromark.com

Janel

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Registered: Nov 28, 2004
Posts: 121
Reply with quote  #15 
Thanks for the information! and welcome to the INS Forums!  It is nice to see you here.

I'll have a look at the link.

Janel


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"Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it!" ~ Goethe
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