Essential Woodcarving Techniques
Largely inactive since the 1940s, the L woodcarving genius of Britain and the English-speaking world is reviving after a period when the tradition was shrunk by apathy, lack of demand and increasing mechanization. Now, perhaps as a revulsion against the lifelessness of machine-made objects and certainly as a response to geater leisure and longer retirement, an increasing number of classes are offered, and in their wake new books and magazine articles proliferate. It IS, however, very much an amateur revival; the old uaftsmen are few and not all are willing or able to reach. Tastes, too, have changed, and new machines and tools are becoming necessary parts of the piufessional workshop; they remove drudgery and dxy are convenient and faster.
Twenty-eight years of teaching traditional and modern woodcarving has taught me two things. Firsdx if left to explore the tools for themselves, soldents limit their style and subjects and develop dmique very slowly or not at all. Secondly, they mrend to do carving, so carving is what they do. They may be persuaded to draw what they are Wgto carve or to make a model, but for most che design is something to be worked out on the Bning in progress. Rather than train their powers &observation, develop a sense of sculptural form and learn a repertoire of natural and conventional forms, many rely on the knowledge, skill and time of the tutor. An important theme of this book is the encouragement of carvers to overcome their diffidence about their drawing and artistic ability.
To meet this deficiency I prepared a course with a regular progression through techniques for the City and Guilds of London Institute’s Creative Studies series. The present book closely follows this progression. It is designed to cover the technical aspects that a carver should master before he or she is competent, and because some carvers are interested in traditional and others in more creative carving I have covered both in this book. The projects are arranged so that techniques of carving and ways of thinking build on those before. The City and Guilds Creative Studies courses are accompanied by a compulsory course in Preparing Working Designs. Design and drawing ability are best learned by attending classes, but I have indicated some of the problems and have suggested how they may be overcome. Space, however, limits the range of techniques covered, including some advanced subjects – for example, relief carving of scenes and people has been omitted. Although it is popular with beginners it is a special discipline, demanding not only good draughtsmanship but also much practice with perspective and the foreshortening of forms that are difficult to carve in the round. Woodcaning covers many different techniques and tools, bur here I concentrate on carving with chisels. Chain saws, angle grinders and other machines are referred to as useful aids, particularly when roughing out a carving, but the greatest skill and sense of achievement comes from carving with chisels.
Writing a book to teach practical techniques is risky. The best way to learn carving is by watching it being demonstrated and then practising under the eye of a constructively critical teacher. This book is therefore intended only as a guide, and it will he seen that for all but the first two projects – chip carving and the carving of mouldings – design is your responsibility. Examples are given to illustrate principles; they are not intended as patterns for you to follow (although of course you may do so, except in the case of recent original works which are covered by copyright). Even if the resulting designs are not works of great art they will be your own and therefore be much more fulfilling to carve. Bad examples are shown as well as good in order to illustrate common faults and how they can be avoided. I particularly stress the need for preparation, not only by study of the subjects to be carved but also by planning the designs and ways of holding the wood.
Tools and Equipment
Selecting and Buying Suitable Wood
First Cuts: Chip Carving
Foliage: Copying a Natural Leaf in Wood
Carving Traditional Foliage
Carving a Commonplace Object in High Relief
Carving in the Round
Carving a Bowl
Carving an Animal in the Round
Carving the Human Figure
Stylizing the Figure
Carving an Abstract
Appendix: A Personal List of Woods
About the Author
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