Get Started in Chip CarvingComments (0)
This article is from Issue 108 of Woodcraft Magazine.
A couple of knives and a little practice are all you need
Applying a pattern
The best way to learn chip carving is to apply a simple, repeating geometric pattern to a small blank of basswood and start cutting. These “practice boards” are easy to make, fun to do, and, while not technically a project, look pretty cool when done.
Draw your design on graph paper or print out a design and cut it to the size of your practice board. Now, cut a piece of carbon paper (available at office supply and craft stores) to size, and tape both sheets to your practice board. Then, simply trace the pattern. After shading the areas to be cut, chip out your design. When done, sand away any remaining pencil lines, being careful not to blunt the pattern’s sharp lines.
Trace it on. After taping your cut-to-size pattern and carbon paper to your practice board, trace the pattern as shown. Various washer sizes make great guides for curved details.
Getting a grip
Most chip carving is safe and doesn’t require the use of a glove. Due to the angle of attack, controlled cuts, and limited range of motion, the danger of cutting yourself is relatively low. But understanding how to grip the knife is critical to controlling it. Hold the knife with the cutting edge pointing away from you. Curl your fingers around the handle, rolling the cutting edge toward you. Rotate your wrist, and rest your knuckles on the project with your thumb bracing your hand. Then angle the blade to the workpiece as shown.
Hold Steady. Point the cutting edge away, and rest the handle near your fingertips. Then, grip the knife so that its spine nestles where your palm and fingers meet. Position your middle knuckles on the surface, anchoring with the pad of your thumb. Usually, you want the blade at about 65°, unless you’re making a shallow cut as shown.
Getting to the point
Most chip carving consists of incising pattern shapes with a series of angled cuts that meet at a single point or line in the center. To practice, start with a triangle. For the first cut, plunge the knife along one side, imagining the tip touching the triangle’s center. Power comes from your shoulder; keep your wrist locked. Rotate the workpiece rather than moving your arm to make the second cut. Rotate the piece a third time, plunge, and cut to free the chip, completing the triangle. If the chip doesn’t pop out, repeat the process cutting a little deeper. With practice, your cuts should intersect in crisp lines and points.
Third cut. Rotate the board again to align the pattern line with your blade. Place the knife tip at one point of the base and pull the blade along the triangle’s base to free the chip.
Sharpening your chip carving knives
Starting with a 1000 grit waterstone and the cutting edge toward you, raise the back of the blade 8° to 10° (about the thickness of a dime). Pull the knife toward you a few strokes. Flip the cutting edge away from you, and push the knife the same number of strokes while maintaining the angle. Repeat the process through 8000 grit. To polish the blade, make a strop by gluing two scraps of leather (available at craft supply stores) to both faces on a length of plywood. Using a compound (see p. 60), start on the rough side of the leather but this time, point the cutting edge away from you and pull the knife toward you. Then, flip the edge toward you, and push it away. Finally, flip the strop over and repeat the process to finish polishing on the smoother side as shown.
You must be logged in to write a comment. Log In