Saturday, September 5, 2009

Boring Box Makeover

No wonder our ancestors used chip carving as a decorative feature. The sliding lid boxes, reminiscent of 18th c. candle boxes, that we made in the handcut dovetail class I taught last weekend are incredibly ho-hum if left unpainted, unstained, or unadorned.

So I decided to "flip this box" by adding a little chip carving.

One piece of advice from this newbie carver: your knife must be sharp, sharp, sharp, or you will not get good results.

Use a magnifier to check the edge all the way to the tip, and if you see any nicks or flat spots, keep sharpening. There must be no resistance from the knife, especially since you will be cutting with and against the grain. If you are getting ragged edges or tearout, and if you are not able to swing the blade to get a smooth curve, your edge is either not sharp or you are using crappy pine like I am.

I was getting rough edges on the carving and having trouble swinging the blade through a curve until I started stropping the knife. That helped quite a bit. Still, you will get a smoother cut with Basswood, Sugar Pine or Eastern White Pine.

Another bit of advice is to sand your pencil marks* rather than run a handplane over them. My plane blade lifted little chunks out of the carving on the lid.

The box is looking better, but I'm going to carve all over the sides and ends, so it's properly tricked out.

Chip carving is addictive and adds a little flair to otherwise dull projects. If you would like to learn how to do this, I recommend getting a copy of Wayne Barton's book The Complete Guide to Chip Carving.

*See comments section for other suggestions. Sandpaper can dull your knife if you sand your piece before you're finished carving.