Monday, July 11, 2011

Carving Symmetrically

I don't *think* this is going to turn into a carving blog, but I reserve the right to change my mind at the drop of a hat or a chip off a chisel.

So, if you aren't yawning yet, I'll share with you how I'm making the scrolls on the frame saw fairly identical.

In the comment's section of the last blog post, Bubba Squirrel posted a link to Roy's episode that featured violin maker Joe Thrift.  The last few minutes of the video are golden. Joe explains that he uses tiny scrapers to make the scoopy parts of the volute, and suddenly I realized what those tiny violin maker's planes are for.

He also shows his technique for ensuring identical scrolls on both sides of the violin.  He punches tiny holes through a template, thus transferring the pattern to the workpiece. Then he connects the dots.

I do wish I'd watched the episode before I carved the opposite side of the first scroll...but it worked brilliantly with the second set.

Something else that works when carving symmetrical shapes is to mark a center line on your workpiece. That way you can eyeball both sides as you carve, keeping them evenly matched.

The next post may or may not involve carving. Hard to say when it's a meandering right-brained noodle that's doing the writing.


Unknown said...

So when are you going to start making tiny planes?

Unknown said...

I just build two dulcimers one with a guitar type tuner head and one with a more traditional type which I plane one carving a scroll in the walnut peg-head, that or a humming bird depending on my mood the day I start the craving.
Your saw is looking cherry, it is on my list of tools I am hoping to craft this year, right now I have been working on some spokeshaves and a tenon saw plus the carving knifes I have been making. enjoyed your blog as always,

Dyami Plotke said...

Let the next post (and every one after that) be about whatever you like, just keep them coming.

Follansbee said...

Hi Kari

I'll be the devil's advocate. Do they need to be symmetrical? Or just be close to symmetrical? Alexander used to tell us "the eye is very forgiving" - I always strive to make them generally symmetrical, but expect & desire some variation on each side of the centerline. So, now's the time to go & look at oldie examples & see what "they" did. Put the template in the fire, I say.

Unknown said...

I think you're both really saying the same thing. "I always strive to make them generally symmetrical" - you're both striving for symmetry, and each may be willing to accept a different amount of deviation. Using a template to transfer a pattern symmetrically doesn't seem like going overboard to me at all. After all, this is just the layout - the carving still has to be done by hand. Those of us who don't do this for a living often won't produce nearly the volume of work required to get really proficient at things like carving symmetrically. Kari, I say do what works for you.

Anonymous said...

Hi Kari,
Exceptional Work.
As always.
As much as I admire and appreciate your work; the photos, the description, and your willingness to share, are what is best for me. I always learn something at your Blog.
I think that there’s a teacher in there somewhere.

Many, many thanx
The Village Sexton

Al Navas said...

Terrific! You are right, this is work for the right side of the brain :)


Chris Adkins said...

Carving or not I enjoy reading your post.

I just finished the third plane in the set of Greene & Greene design hand planes. The handle of this plane has a scroll carving on each side and I wish I could had read your past two post before attempting. They are ok but I am not completely happy with them.

Stephen Shepherd said...


Once more [times 4] you have done an excellent job. I like the symmetry and the template pattern with holes makes it easier to reproduce the uniform look.
You might try a few more holes in the template and some powdered charcoal or chalk in a small bag [pounce bag] and dust the pattern. Quicker than an awl and no holes.


John Cashman said...

Very nice Kari. I'm always glad to see the carving.

As a modern twist to Stephen Shepherd's traditional approach above, Al Breed uses some sort of heavy metal foil that machinists use, and punches lots and lots of holes with an awl. He then puts graph paper under the foil and rubs it, like you would for a gravestone rubbing. It transfers the patters very well. And because the foil is flexible, it's great for transferring a pattern to a three dimensional object, like on a cabriole knee.

Of course, increasing efficiency would only come into play if you were going to make lots of frame saws . . .

Corey said...

Kari, these posts made me think of Kory Klein, a violin maker and repairer in my home town: She gave us a wonderful talk about making and repairing violins last year. She said that makers could tell who the maker was and how skilled they were by the quality of the scroll carving. thanks for the cool posts, keep it up.


Kari Hultman said...

Mark, that's waaaay out of my league.

Joey, those are cool projects you've been working on!

Thanks, Dyami. :o)

Peter, I do see your point. I'm trying to get close to symmetrical but am not sweating it because it's just a saw. I can see where someone who makes violins, though, would want to try for close symmetry. It probably also has to do with the woodworker's preferences whether or not they want to try for perfect symmetry.

Mark, the template really helped a lot. I didn't do that with the first one—big mistake. haha

Thanks, Village Sexton. That works both ways. I keep writing and pushing myself to build things I've never built before because people keep reading. So, thank YOU.

Al, if I didn't use the right side, I'd be in trouble. heh.

Chris, as I posted on your blog, carving wenge is not for the faint of heart. Well done!

Stephen, thanks for the tip. That would definitely come in handy when you want to avoid holes. It didn't matter so much with this because the holes get carved away, but I'll remember your tip for future projects.

John, another great tip. Thanks!

Corey, I bet that was an interesting presentation she gave. I've been thinking about visiting our local violin maker to see if he'd be game for an interview. Signature scrollwork makes sense. Sort of like the variations in ball and claw feet made by different craftsmen. Very cool.

Vic Hubbard said...

Kari, you could write blah, blah, blah and still have me "reading" your articles. It's a major bonus you happen to always be a very gifted wordsmith! Maybe at WIA, you can help me shop for some carving chisels!! ;o)

Kari Hultman said...

Vic, I endorse only Lamp brand carving chisels. I've never found any that I like as well. You can buy them at Woodcarvers' Supply if you're interested. I'll still help you shop for tools at WIA, though. :D

Gary Roberts said...

Clearly you need a pounce bag