February 7, 2012

Celtic Heart

Once a month I get together with a few girlfriends to play with miniatures. We take turns hosting the gathering. This month I hosted the group at my workshop. The projects we choose vary, sometimes we work independently other times someone will suggest a project to share. I offered to show them how to do some miniature sized carvings and since Valentines Day is coming up I chose a heart design from a Dover Publishing book of Celtic Designs.

I had a piece of poplar wood that was cut thin and wide enough to fit the design. I have stained my piece to look like old English Oak for no particular reason other than I felt like it. After I was done carving the piece I cut around the outside edges with a jeweler's saw.

I might turn this project into a necklace or maybe I will put a pin on the back of it. I suspect I suspect it will become a random, surprise gift for someone on Feb. 14th. Maybe my favorite barista will be the one to end up with it.

I used Dockyard brand miniature carving tools for this project. They come in sets or as individual pieces. The sizes range from 1.5mm up to a 5mm width. Two are two issue I have with the Dockyard chisels, first is they don't hold a sharp edge for very long and second there are no shallow or medium sweeps available on these U gouges, only a full half circle, what is called a deep sweep, is available. This really limits what you can carve with them unless you grind them down to create a shallower sweep. A better option for much higher quality made miniature sized carving tools is to buy Ashley Iles block cutting gouges. Available in the USA from www.toolsforwoodworking.com.

photo copyright Karin Corbin 2012

photo copyright Karin Corbin 2012

It is a trick to sharpen a tool that small. The chisels are easy enough to deal with but the gouges used to be a challenge for me. However I just learned a trick that makes it easy. Take a piece of softwood such as pine or basswood and use the gouge to carve a groove into the wood. Each size of gouge gets its own custom groove. Put some honing compound in the groove and use a pull stroke on the gouge to polish the beveled edge at a 20 degree angle. The honing compound quickly brings up a lovely mirror like polished surface and it creates a razor sharp edge. On the side edge of the block turn the chisel over and use the inside curve against the wood to carve a matching shape and use it to burnish the inside edge to remove any burrs left from the honing process.

As you are carving and the carving tools start to feel a bit dull give then a few strokes on the honing block and they will be sharp once again. No need to regrind these tiny tools if you take good care of them.