Sunday, August 24, 2008

Carving a Celtic Knot

1. Lay out the design on your workpiece and define the outer and inner edges of the shape with chisels and gouges. I shaded the "under" parts of the knots with pencil so that I didn't accidentally cut across the "over" parts.

2. Match curves with gouges that have the same sweep.

3. Bevel down, remove the background areas that surround the shape. I used both chisels and gouges for this and tried to maintain a consistent depth of cut. Don't fret too much if it's not perfect; you'll have another shot at it as you're finishing the carving.

4. My 1/16" chisel got a work out along the outer edges.

5. I used dental tools to pick out some obstinate chips. These tools are cheap and your dentist may even give you some of his/her worn-out ones*. You can reshape the cutting edges to meet your needs.

6. Bevel up, I removed the pencil-shaded areas of the drawing with a tapered slice—starting at the high point (the "over" knot) and slicing downward toward the pencil shading—but did not cut as deep as the background areas. Once all the pencil-shaded areas (the "under" knots) are removed, the woven design emerges. You can stop at this point if you like a more hard-edged look. And here's where you can tweak the depth of the background area. Since parts of the design have been made more shallow, you have easier access.

7. If you prefer, you can round over all the edges with chisels and gouges to create a rope-like effect.

8. The finished design.

9. My neck started hurting as I was hunched over the workpiece, which was lying flat on my workbench. Then I rememberd a drill press jig I had made for another project. It worked amazingly well at positioning the board at a comfortable angle. No more pain, and carving became a complete joy. Of course, I was almost finished with the design when I remembered the jig....

*I needed dental tools for a class taught by Steve Latta. Steve suggested that we ask our dentists for his/her throw-aways. So I called my dentist's office and rather than give the receptionist a long explanation, I merely asked if I could buy any of their used dental tools. "Hold on," she said. Moments later, "NO!" and she hung up. I figured she thought I was planning to pull a Hannibal Lecter on someone and freaked out. At my next appointment with my dentist I told him what happened. "Oh, that was you?! That phone call was the talk of the office!" His response confirmed my Hannibal Lecter suspicions. And it totally made my day.