Woodworking as a hobby could be enjoyable to many more people if it were not for the space and expense required to set up a fully equipped wood shop. One way to enjoy wood crafts without taking up a lot of valuable household space, and busting your budget is to take up relief woodcarving. Woodcarving can be a bit messy, so a designated work area is advisable But this area need not be large. Indeed, a small worktable in a garage, basement, or utility area is about all that's needed.
A minimum of tools are required for this hobby. Two or three Xacto knife handles, an assortment of blades, some sandpaper, wood sealer, graphite or white transfer paper, and a pattern are all that's needed to get started. Other materials required are common household items, such as scissors, cellophane tape, and ball point pen. Later on you can add paints, brushes, and other items needed for more advanced carving projects.
Relief wood carving is easy to learn. The Xacto tools mentioned are ideal for the beginner because they do not need to be sharpened. Merely discard the blade when it gets dull and replace with a new one. The two or three different types of handles will hold all the cutting and carving blades you will need . Xacto manufactures dozens of different blades for a myriad of uses, including chisels, knives, gouges, and routers.
There are six different basic cuts in relief wood carving. Using these cuts the hobbyist methodically carves out the design. Basswood is the wood of choice for the beginner, as it carves very easily. Later on, as techniques are improved, harder woods can be worked. Walnut Hollow Farm has an excellent beginner's book - Creative Woodcarving - which covers tools, techniques, and patterns in greater detail. Xacto's Woodcarving Video is also a good source of carving information.
Prepare the wood by sanding to a smooth finish with a fine grade of sandpaper. after sanding, the pattern is transferred to the wood with graphite or white transfer paper. Use graphite paper for light woods, and white transfer paper for dark woods. Tape the pattern and transfer paper to the wood with masking tape. Trace the pattern on the wood with a fine point pen.
The working surface for carving should be sturdy and at a comfortable height for the carver. It is important that the tools be sharp for all phases of the carving project . If tools are dull, it will cause the carver to try to force the tool through the wood. Injury is possible if the tool slips. Dull tools also tear the wood, instead of cutting it. By using Xacto tools, the hobbyist can maintain sharp tools by merely changing the blade.
The hobbyist can create some really beautiful projects by combining woodcarving and wood burning. The pattern is first carved and sanded. Replace the pattern and transfer paper on the carving, and trace in the details to be burned into the carving. Highlight key features with the wood burning pen, and apply a coat of wood sealer to protect the design. The hobbyist may also use paint or stain to add a flair to the carving.
Relief wood carving is a wonderful hobby. And you don't need a large expensive workshop to create some fantastic works of art with a little practice. This is a great craft for the beginner!
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