Sunday, May 23, 2010

Verily, 'tis putty that saveth the day

A friend who's into medieval life and renaissance fairs asked if I would make a shield for him to hang on the wall that would include the first letter of his and his girlfriend's last names (H and Z). He wanted the two letters to be connected.

No prob. I got this.

The shield is 15.25" wide x 18" tall and I created the interlocking letters in Illustrator.

Roughing out the blank and planing the curved slopes so that the shield is convex was easy.

Then, I rubbed graphite on the back of the printout and transferred the design to the blank. Piece of cake.

I struck all the center stop cuts with chisels and gouges, and I was ready to start carving.

Here's where it gets ugly. If you're going to carve a sign, it's much easier if the grain is running horizontally. Those upright posts that create the letter H were a bear to carve in the vertical grain. That's because the chisel wanted to follow the grain.

Then it got uglier. Cutting the crossgrain serifs resulted in pock-marked tearout. Big chunks of pine popped loose.

That's when I reached for the wood putty.

The other mistake I made was in trying to carve too deep. If you use my technique for lettercarving (here, here, and here), you need to stick with about a 25º angle. I carved a 50º angle so the shadows would be very pronounced.

This resulted in more tearout. And more putty.

Alas, I pray my gentle friend doth paint the shield, whereupon he wouldst saveth mine arse from ruin and restoreth mine honor. Prithee, Bobby Z?


Vic Hubbard said...

Very cool! I think I can see where you had to use putty, but me thinks Lord Z will be painting it anyway.
Have you tried to carve any hard woods yet? I'm assuming they would hold an edge better, as they do when dovetailing. Almost makes me want to join the local renaissance chapter. They have cool duels in the park every year.

Dyami said...

Admittedly I'm viewing this on my Droid, but from this vantage point your carving is beautiful. I'm sure it's one of those situations where you as the creator know every mistake and 95% of those who view it will see it as absolutely perfect. Please, carve on.

Black said...

You're a brave lass for executing this project in pine,absolutely not a wood that's easy to carve!
Nonetheless,you've succeeded in yet again creating a beautiful object that shall be treasured for years to come.

JERM said...

I know your heartache!! I am my worst critic. My recent project is still not finished as it still needs work. Not one of the 4 people I have shown it to can see what I want to fix. It would have long since been in the burn pile if my other half had not threatened to leave me should I destroy it =)

Jonathan said...

It looks good to me Kari. It won't matter anyway, once Lord Z fights the Dark Knight your serifs will be obliterated by ye old sword blows. Hip Hip... Hazzah!

Tico Vogt said...

Zorro! The fox so cunning and free, Zorro, he makes the sign of the "Z."

Bill Abendroth said...

Never-the-less it looks great!!!

Doug Berch said...

Looks great, Kari!

Not sure if this will work on this piece but here's a luthier trick I use to fill small voids, chips and spots of tear-out; super-glue and sawdust. It can be built up in layers and as I get the "oops spot" close to level with the surface I put the super-glue on and sand the area with very fine sandpaper while the glue is still wet. The filler color will be a very good match. Sometimes the repair is invisible.

Keep up the beautiful work!


John Cashman said...

Beat it to fit, paint it to match. Hey, that would make a nice toolbox motto if carved in Latin.

Jim "Bear" Giles said...

from someone who has done carving before remember 2 things, 1 keep the chisels razor sharp, 2 take multiple passes to get to the desired depth, I find this prevents the "following of grain" in softwoods like pine, and prevents chip out with hardwoods.

other than that you did great, no one will notice anything wrong unless you point it out or they are a fellow carver, who in turn if they know their craft will not say anything. It happens to us all.


Woodbloke said...

Hi Kari - nice job. I'm not a carver, but I wonder if something like pine was the best choice of timber...lime might have been better? - Rob

Bob Easton said...

Put simply, this work needs no apologies.

Gild the carved areas. Varnish the un-carved areas.

Bob Easton said...

Lest ye forget... Gilding was never intended for showing the wealth of the object's owner. It was invented as a putty overlay.

will said...

Oh no! The "H" is backward.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to be branded a heretic and shunned at the Woodworking in America Conference, but the Illustrator file easily coverts to CNC code and a CNC router could make the cuts in a minute.

Kari Hultman said...

Vic, I have carved cherry and pear. Cherry is okay, but pear is excellent at holding an edge.

Thanks, Dyami, the paint should cover all the boo-boo's. :o)

Black, the pine around here is not great, for sure. I have carved sugar pine, though, which is awesome.

Jerm, we as woodworkers are way to hard on ourselves. Most people never notice our mistakes. I'm glad your spouse made you keep your project!

Jonathan, well said, my good man!

Tico, you figured out his last name! ; )

Thanks, Bill.

Doug, does the super glue affect the finish? I have done this with regular glue and sawdust, but the super glue is clear, which is better.

John, thanks for the idea!

Jim, especially when you carve deep like this. Multiple passes definitely helps. As does having a strop within arm's reach. I'll be sure to not show this piece to other carvers. ; )

Rob, yes, pine is not great to carve. I was trying to avoid gluing up boards and this is the biggest piece I could find. Plus it was cheap. heh.

Bob, I'll be interested to see how he paints this. I love gilded signs.

Savitra--nice one!

Michael, for shame!!!!!

Anonymous said...

I still have the remains of Rob, The Tattooed Woodworkers blog.

The 5 Faces of Woodworking

4. The Hand Tool Only Woodworker

5. The True Purists

"The True Purist uses whatever tool gets the job done in the best way given the situation."

Bob Zaccano said...

Kari, it is truly a thing of beauty and Mandi and I will treasure it!

Both of our coats of arms are gules and or (red and gold). I think I will preserve that theme. I'll paint the escutcheon a deep scarlet and gild the letters, perhaps antiquing them with a little dry brush of black. What do you think of my proposed colour scheme?

Ian W said...

I have found that Basswood or Butternut is way easier wood to relief carve.
None the less it is a very nice piece of work, your friends are lucky.
Ian W

Alexander Hobson said...

OK, how is it that you do only very cool projects that end up looking awesome? Truly a cool piece of work. You'll have to make a bow and arrow set next?!?!?!? Or how about Excaliber in wood?
Kari, you always inspire. I open your blog page every day just to see what you are working on next!

Kari Hultman said...

Michael, Rob really nailed the definitions of types of woodworkers. I remember that list.

Bobby, can't go wrong with red and gold! I suggest you also add an outline of the shield's shape (as shown in the drawing) in another color or gold.

Ian, I've tried basswood but not butternut. I've heard other people say how nice it is to carve. Thanks for the recommendation.

Thanks, Alexander! This was a fun project. A carved wooden sword would be a cool addition. I'm kind of digging this medieval stuff. :D

John said...

If the girlfriend becomes the "ex-girfriend" you may need globs of putty. Love seeing your work.

Dean said...

Kari, thanks for the motivation. I may get into carving yet due to people like you. I did run across this tip on the Wood Magazine site (link below). However, it's more for sculpting a small 3D object, but it may be useful for other things as well.