Monday, October 6, 2008

Finished Cross

Finished, but for the finish, which will most likely be boiled linseed oil.

For the inlay, I traced around the pieces with an exacto knife, defined the incisions with a small veiner, hollowed the background with a laminate trimmer, and cleaned up the shapes with chisels and gouges.

The small circles of purpleheart were made with a plug cutter at the drill press.

The other shapes were rough cut at the band saw and cleaned up with files. I filed a slight underbevel on the inlay pieces so they would drop into the recessed areas more easily.

At first I made the center circle, inlaid the small purpleheart cross, and then tried to cut it out at the bandsaw, which caused it to split. Live and learn! The better way was to first inlay the circle in the large cross and then inlay the small cross inside the circle.

The other lesson I learned is to inlay the pieces first and carve the knots second. That way, you can plane the surface smooth before carving. Since I carved first and inlaid second, the only way to flatten the inlaid pieces was with sandpaper and scraper.

There are lots of errors on this cross—you can see gaps in the inlay pieces for one thing. But since this cross will be given to a church, I'm not concerned. They're supposed to forgive imperfection. It's like a rule or something.

The chisels and gouges I used are from left to right:
1. 2a/1 Bent Chisel
2. 1a/6 Bent Chisel
3. Flat Chisel (I think a 1mm or 2mm)
4. Straight Gouge (I think a 1mm or 2mm, 5 sweep)
5. Straight Gouge—3mm, 5 sweep
6. Straight Chisel—6mm
7. Straight Gouge—6mm, 5 sweep
8. Straight Gouge—10mm, 3 sweep
9. Straight Chisel—12mm
10. Straight Gouge—12mm, 3 sweep
11. Straight Gouge—16mm, 7 sweep

The gouges matched the various radii of the curves, but you could get away with using an exacto knife to follow the curves. I freehand cut the center circle in fact. The bent chisels were used to flatten the recessed areas behind the knots while the straight chisels were used to clean up the recessed edges of the inlay and carve the flat surfaces and chamfers on the knots.


Anonymous said...


This is amazing work... especially considering you mortised for the inlay with hand tools. A dremel would have been forgivable in this instance ;-]

Was it difficult to mortise to a consistent depth? I apologize if you spoke to this in a recent post... I'm behind on my reader, but I had to comment on the stunning end result once I saw this. I don't even see the gaps in the inlays.

So you do you see yourself incorporating more architectural type carvings in future pieces after this experience? (i.e. did you find this enjoyable or a little too painstaking)


Susan Hasbrouck said...

Amazing, and beautiful; your diligence and patience, as well as the final product. Right now I have more desire and interest than tools or know-how, but maybe one day. Just found your site. I'll definitely be back.

Anonymous said...


TERRIFIC! hmm, hmm, hmm...!!!

You should be proud, as the results of your carving are terrific. Thanks!

You also said:
"...They're supposed to forgive imperfection. It's like a rule or something...?

At least there might still be hope for me... ;-)

Vic Hubbard said...

YOU GO GIRL!!! OMG, that's gorgeous!!! You are an arteeest!

Anonymous said...

VC, I'm not a religious guy, though I admit I do pray a bit, and I pay special attention to spiritual art, it's history, traditions, and beauty... you have carved a living prayer - for a gift if I recall, a thanks between believers - and I wonder what patina of prayer and hope will attach to it after it leaves your hands, how the blessing of your carving will multiply... what wonderful work!

Vic Hubbard said...

I'd like to change my post to reflect the more thoughtful and poetic post of Anonymous. That, of course, is really what I meant. It is a piece of art that the receiver will cherish.
You still ROCK, though!!!

Geemoney said...

I need to second, third, and fourth the accolades from other commenters.

That is a beautiful, beautiful piece of work.

Kari Hultman said...

Thank you for all the kind remarks. You sure know how to make a woodworker feel good! :o)

Charles, I only recessed the background behind the knots by hand. I "cheated" and used a laminate trimmer to recess the inlays, but I did clean up the outside edges by hand. Carving is lots of fun and I'm sure I'll do more of it in future. I can see where taking a class with a master carver would help improve technique and speed, however.

Anonymous said...

I was trying to figure out how you cut the trough for the circle portions and I appreciate that you confessed to using a laminate trimmer. Given that, in my hands, these things, like routers, have a mind of their own and like to take off in directions unknown, I'm thoroughly impressed. As a guy with no faith, I would have used a drill press with a forstner bit. Great stuff, Kari, and I hope you post an image of it after you oil it so we can see how the colours (Canadian spelling) of the wood work with each other.

Anonymous said...


Very nice...very nice indeed!

The Craftsman's Path

Shazza said...

Wow Kari that came out bea-U-TEE-FUL!


Kari Hultman said...

Thanks, guys. Mitchell, a forstner bit would be perfect for the center circle. I wished I'd had one with the correct diameter! The finish will go on this week and I'll post a photo of it.

Woodbloke said...

Very,very nice, just one or two observations. I'm not sure that for the purple heart works, I think I mihgt have used something darker like ebony to get a real contrast. Additionally, the purple heart won't stay that colour.
BLO isn't the finish for this piece (as it'll cause the maple(?) to turn yellow. In this case I think I'd opt for a few coats of neutral or blond shellac to preserve and keep more of the natural colouring of the timber - Rob

Kari Hultman said...

Woodbloke, I thought about using shellac, but figured it would be nearly impossible to rub out the shine inside the knots with steel wool. But you're right about the BLO. I put a coat on yesterday and it looks like cr*p. It's actually basswood, not maple, but it looks horrible. I'm thinking about not giving it to the church. : (

I don't know what other finish would have worked to keep the lighter wood closer to its natural color. The problem is not being able to rub out the finish on the carved sections. I'm open to suggestions!

I've had pretty good luck with purpleheart maintaining its color. Using the brightest purple pieces seems to be the trick. I did think about using wenge instead of the purpleheart but the grain pattern seemed too heavy for such tiny pieces.

Woodbloke said...

Kari - glad we aggree about the BLO...great stuff but not for this sort of job. I would still go for the neutral shellac applied with a 'rubber' (cotton wool pad wrapped in a lint free cloth...not wishing to stray into an egg sucking department) I'd try it on a test carving first, several thin coats ought to do the trick and then de-nib between each coat with something like a toothbrush...I wouldn't use 0000 grade wire wool on this as you'll lose the definition on the carving. Having got the shellac on, leave it overnight to harden and then apply a thin coat of clear, soft wax with the toothbrush and polish off almost immediatly with a soft duster, or cotton bud to get into all the tricky areas. I reckon it's horses for courses on this just need to play around with techniques on a dummy piece till you get a satisfactory finish but it'll be tricky to get it spot on. Main thing is to keep it simple - Rob

Kari Hultman said...

Rob, I'll give that a try next time I carve something. De-nibbing with a toothbrush is a great idea. I was also thinking some kind of spray-on finish might work.

Woodbloke said...

Just read your last've already put the BLO on it haven't you?
...thought so, (hands up if you have)
In which case you may have a bit of an interesting time trying to get the stuff out of the carving detail. I'm not really sure on this one as the oil is going to soak in and will colour the basswood as it dries. The only thing you could do is to very carefully sand the affected parts down to clean timber, but if you've done a lot of it you may well be there 'til Christmas...not a lot of help am I? Either that or you could try a bleach of some sort, but I'm not sure how that would affect the purpleheart - Rob

Anonymous said...

Wow!! That is awesome.

I have also enjoyed reading some of your other posts.

Keep up the good work.


Kari Hultman said...

Rob, I already put the oil on the cross and I'll just chalk it up to a learning experience. Hey, if everything worked out well, we wouldn't appreciate it! :o)

Thanks KJ!

Woodbloke said...

Onwards and upwards.... - Rob

Anonymous said...

As a novice considering starting into carving, what do you think is the least number and type of chisels you could have used to do a piece (a rather remarkable one I would say)like this, and maybe describe what would be the things like inlays a novice should not try.

Vic Hubbard said...

Kari, you know me well enough to know I often talk out of my ars. But, for rubbing out the detailed sections, what about a very soft cloth wheel on a drill. Or if you need something more aggressive, something like a stimpling brush? I would think if you use one with semi coarse hair, it might take a while, but it should get the job done.
Don't back out of giving it to the church. I'm sure they're not going to be as hard on you as yourself.
I'm not impressed easily and you always impress me.

Kari Hultman said...

Mike, I'm also a novice carver—this is very new to me.

If you plan to carve this cross (size 10" x 13" x 1"), I suggest getting: 3mm straight gouge with a 5 sweep; 6mm straight chisel; 6mm straight gouge with a 5 sweep; and 12mm straight chisel (for the outside straight parts of the knots, so you can use a knife instead).

You'll also want an exacto knife and/or carving knife.

The two small gouges match the inside and outside curves of the knots, so you could do away with them if you are handy with a knife.

Beyond that, the smallest chisel--it's about 1/8" wide--is helpful. The two bent chisels flatten the backgroud behind the knots, but you can do it with straight chisels--it's just more difficult. You'll need either a 1/16" chisel or a dental tool to plow out the skinny area surrounding the knots if you don't get the small (2a/1) bent chisel.

The big holes can be roughed out with a scroll saw and cleaned up with files, so you wouldn't need the 16mm, 7 sweep straight gouge.

The best advice I can give you is to get a good carving book or magazine with projects in it that you like. I have Richard Bütz' "How to Carve Wood". It covers relief carving, chip carving, carving in the round, and lettercarving (but a different technique than I use).

Inlay is very easy--just cut out your piece and trace around it with an exacto knife. Define the cut with a chisel or knife and continue in this manner. Deepen the cut with the knife and define it with a chisel or knife until you reach the depth you want. You can hog out the middle by hand or with a laminate trimmer.

Hope this helps. Feel free to email me directly if you have more questions and I'll try to help.

Vic, thanks for the ideas. The wheels might round over the carved details because the wood is so soft, but it would be worth trying on a test piece. I told my friend the cross looks like hell, and he said that in that case, giving it to a church would be the right for it! haha

Kari Hultman said...

"I told my friend the cross looks like hell, and he said that in that case, giving it to a church would be the right place for it!"

I should clarify that he meant that if the cross is hell-bound, it could be saved by a church. He did not mean that church is hell. (at least, that's what I think he meant!)

Woodfired! said...

Nice work Kari. I hope the finish isn't as bad as you're making out. I use a spray pak of nitrocellulose when I want to retain light colour and minimise yellowing. I also like to leave light woods unfinished where it is practical. This option doesn't seem to get enough consideration.

Dan said...

Kari - The cross looks great! I'm very sorry to hear that you are not happy with the finish. It is so frustrating when that happens. Do you think it will look better as it ages? Could you go with the "in for a penny..." route and add a coat of something like dark tung oil?

Kari Hultman said...

Mark, you have a good point about leaving wood unfinished. I was concerned it would get too dirty with handling, but it's certainly a viable solution with certain pieces.

Dan, I even considered painting it!;) It's not so much that the wood darkened, it's that the basswood is now striated. The oil accentuated the tighter grain and now it's a distraction. The grain is too "loud" whereas before it was barely perceptible.

Anonymous said...

It is absolutely beautiful.

Anonymous said...

Things I learned in Shop Today #8: Just because I know about imperfections in my work, doesn't mean others do! :) Cut yourself some slack. You do fantastic work! Thanks for another lesson.