I’ve spent the last three days at Kelly Mehler’s School of Woodworking (www.kellymehler.com) with Mary May. It was a class called Basic Relief Carving.
I’ve never been a particularly good carver. I don’t think I’ve tried very much though, so that’s probably a big part of the problem. I think I got my Woodcarving Merit Badge but that was a long time ago and something completely different. I thought I knew what sharp was – I didn’t until very recently.
In the last few years I’ve figured out how to get tools scary sharp. That makes an enormous difference on everything from chisels to planes to carving gouges. Carving gouges are a bit trickier since they are mostly curved, requiring more skill. I’m not great at sharpening the gouges but I can get them there.
In this class we talked a little about sharpening and a lot about grain direction and how to manage it when carving. The process for doing relief work is pretty logical but the big thing to keep in mind all the time is the grain direction. I haven’t taken a lot of classes but working with Mary has been a huge help. The only problem will be that I need to practice soon to maintain some of the skills. I need to figure out how to do that along with all the other things I want to do.
We started with a simple exercise of a free form snake/worm thing to start to understand the processes and grain direction. I won’t bore you with that photo.
Next we really got into it with this Camellia flower. In fact we didn’t quite finish it the first day. I was a little frustrated we didn’t get to the finish line, but since I had gotten up pretty early to make the drive perhaps it was OK. I was ready for dinner and a beer. Mexican that night.
Next up was the Acanthus leaf which is a classic motif found back to Greek architecture and seen all over the place even today in wallpaper, textiles, etc… And lots of period furniture.
Finally we did a simple Scallop Shell. We were a bit rushed for time in the last afternoon. It was tougher than I thought it would be. The changes in grain direction – one side of the gouge is going against the grain in those sweeping curves – made it a challenge. I think that’s the one I need to try again soon.All in all a good experience. I’m not sure where I’ll use these skills but I do plan to use them.
Meanwhile, back at the shop…. A little clock progress. The movement is now running 100%. I had been trying to find time to fit the replacement hands after I broke the original hour hand while fitting it to the movement. That was a $42 mistake. Anyway I carefully bored out the hole in the hour hand and fit the bushing and it worked like a champ. I used the new minute hand too though that wasn’t really necessary. I also ordered shafts for the second hand – I lost the first one. Now that I have a replacement – and THAT was an ordeal – I’m sure the original will turn up.
I also discovered that the hour strike train doesn’t run when the minute hand isn’t installed all the way. I’m surprised at how much tweaking and fussing was required to get this going but I got it done. I did get complaints from the family that the hour strike sounds like an old bicycle bell – not a clock. Everyone is a critic!