Hand Carving a Pin

From: Larry "Spi" Spinak

carvepin1.jpgI made small in-the-round Christmas ornaments for friends. When I noticed that the women liked them so much, I decided to give my gifts a life that would outlive the holiday. That's when the idea for pins came to me.

At first, I would carve an item in the round and cut off the back to accommodate the pin. Or, for a different kind of display, I glued a magnet on the reverse side and made the project into a refrigerator magnet. This approach was refined to the point where I now carve high relief. I also expanded my themes from Christmas to other holidays: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Valentine’s Day and Easter. Some of the women who receive my pins wear them for an entire holiday season. And magnets stay on refrigerators all year long.

An Inspiration

Since autumn is my favorite time of year, I began to look around for inspiration for a pin design. In a greeting card store I came across a great idea that puts a baby bear in a pumpkin. Hand Carving a Pin Since I have carved both bears and pumpkins in the past, I decided that this would make an easy project. If you’re in need of a project pattern, check out greeting cards. But I don’t recommend making an exact copy any more than you would be comfortable having someone copy your original ideas.

The Wood and the Tools

Basswood is my choice for most if not all of my projects. However, for the baby bear in a pumpkin pin just about any softwood will do. If a hardwood like butternut is chosen, then it can be coated with a clear finish instead of paint so that the grain is prominent. However, the details can be lost if too much figure is present in the wood.

Since the project is such a simple one, it can be done with just a knife. However, I also use a variety of small gouges for the fine details and special effects.

Centerlines and Blocking Out

I consider centerlines and blocking out very useful and important aids in the carving process. The centerline is a road map, telling me where to go. In most cases, it represents the high point of the area I am carving. All else “falls off” or is removed down from it.

Blocking out is the process of carving an area to its basic shape. Once there, the details fall into place. When I start carving, I don’t even think of the details, much less try to carve them at the start. carvepin2.jpg



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