The Carving Bench
"Stay Sharp !!   Be Sharp !!"




Old Tips
Contains old tips and techniques that appeared on other editions of this web site.
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Tools 'n Tips   Stropping Tips  Clean-up Tip
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Winter 1998

Tools and Tips

Tool Sets

Often the new carver is tempted to buy tools in "sets".  Beware !!   Reasons not to purchase sets include:

  • sets contain tools you may never use or need
  • sets may be made up of non-quality tools

We have purchased a few tool sets over the years, but use care.  We recently bought a set of eye punches, which proved to be a "good deal".  A few guidelines include:

  • Know what you are purchasing!  Is it a quality product? 
  • Avoid the temptation to get a "real deal". 
  • Do you really need a set, or just one tool?


On my one-piece sculptures, there are areas that diamond and carbide cutters just can't reach. Instead, I use micro tools.  They are unbelievably good for hard to reach areas.  
  -- C Ashely Gray

What is a blank?

A blank is cut from wood.  It has a definite form ready for wood sculpting. This blank could be cut out on a band saw, scroll saw, or chain saw.  It is ready for shaping and detailing.  Another form of a blank is called a duplicate or "roughout", which is done by a machine to aid the carver in speeding up the carving process.  The machine removes about 90% of the wood, allowing the carver to carve the details.  The roughout is favored by some instructors because it speeds the teaching process in short class formats.

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Strop Tips

  • Always hold the elbow of the stropping arm out from the body for better control while stropping.
  • Knife sharpening starts with the blade flat against the strop. Stroke with firm pressure pushing the blade away with the sharp edge trailing. At the end of the strop, roll the blade on the unsharpened edge (top) and pull to the body with pressure. Continue using only a few strokes on each side of the blade. Rotate the strop and continue on the unloaded side. If this does not result in a razor sharp edge, repeat the process.
  • If a razor edge does not result, this means the tool was used too long between stropping, the edge was nicked, or it cut sanded wood.
  • Most new knives have a hump or bevel in them. The best cutting edge should have a "V " shape from cutting edge to top of the blade. For a "V " shape, hold the blade flat against a stone and wear this bevel off the edge. Strop the edge afterwards.

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Summer 1997

Finishing Facts

After completing a carving, I like to go over the entire project to clean up rough spots. I find that I do a better cleanup if I set it aside for a day or so. This technique creates space between the project and myself. Often I can't see the forest for all those trees!

If the project calls for woodburning details, be sure to remove the char. Char is produced when burning wood and needs to be removed from the project before sealing the wood. Use a soft bristle brass brush for the char removal. Carving supply houses have them. The shoe polish section of the supermarket or drugstore often yields a suede brush that does as good a job.

The Southeast Wood Carver's Association published an excellent article in their December 1996 newsletter. The article presents techniques it took this carver years to learn on his own.

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Winter 1998

Clean-up Tip

While carving, keep a soft bristle brush in your carving box. Use this to remove chips and carving "dust". The particles often lead to picking a project in an effort to remove a chip or fuzzy. A tooth brush will do!

Painting Tip

When using acrylic paints to finish a carving, thin the paint. Use 3 parts water to 1 part paint for the first coat. Make adjustments in the concentration on subsequent coats depending upon the effect you are trying to achieve.

World champion waterfowl carver, Jim Sprinkle says:

"Thin is In;
Thin, Don't sin;
When in Doubt,
Thin It Out."

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Updated:   01.12.2001


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1999, 2000, and 2001 by
Mountain Star Studio -- Roanoke, Virginia
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