Tag Archives: forging

Carving Tools

As my interest in carving has grown, so has my understanding of the tools required. Different tools are needed for the various stages in carving, starting with saws for obtaining wood from fallen trees, wedges and froe for splitting it into workable sections, and finally, axes, gouges and knives for shaping the individual piece.

I’ve been borrowing some of the more specialized tools from David on our carving nights, and have also been assembling a set of my own. I had a stroke of luck recently in finding a carving hand axe at a local flea market for 15 dollars. With some concerted effort, I was able to resharpen the damaged edge and give it a new handle. It is on the heavy side, but having a single beveled, right handed blade has made a great difference in the initial shaping of wood before switching to the knife.

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I’ve also bought some Haida designed hook-knife blades from the local Lee Valley store. They are sold without handles, so I now have them mounted on pieces of maple I had left over from another project. These have proved indispensable in all of the recent carving I’ve been doing. Having the three different profiles has made hollowing out both spoons and bowls much easier. They require some serious sharpening at the beginning, so patience is necessary.

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I also made my own adze with Lorne Grey when we were doing some blacksmithing earlier this year, but have only recently given it a handle made from dogwood. My first attempt failed as I had chosen a branch configuration with too acute an angle, making it almost impossible to swing. That (boxwood) handle was replaced and recycled into a handle for the hook knife I also made with Lorne. The adze in particular has been brilliant in working on a larger sized bowl I’m making from alder.

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Wooden Spoons

Over the past couple of months I have spent many happy Tuesday nights at the Strathcona Park field-house with Artist in Residence, David Gowman, for a casual evening of spoon carving. Initially billed as a pipe-carving workshop, it has evolved into a friendly free-for-all where attendees work on projects of their choosing, loosely based on shaping wood.

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Strathcona Park Field-house

I started working on spoons after the second week, and since then have been making one just about every week. I’ve carved before, but this was the first time using green-wood, which David explained is much easier to work with, provided you keep the end-grain sealed and store it in a plastic bag to avoid rapid drying, resulting in the wood checking.

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We have collected a multitude of branches, including David’s favorite for horn-making, the Paulownia tomentosa (Empress tree), from a specimen he pollarded in the nearby Cottonwood Garden, and hazel from the same location. I’ve taken to carrying a small folding pruning saw with me in the event I come across a fallen tree. So far I have made spoons from Yellow Cedar, Paulownia, Hazel, Lilac, Apple and Alder.

Yellow Cedar spoon

Yellow Cedar spoon

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Alder spoon

David is very generous in loaning tools from his carving collection, including some hand-made hook knives. Recently, blacksmith Lorn Gray has been attending and has brought a portable gas powered forge and he and David have been walking me through the process of tool making. Pounding an anvil is great therapy, plus you get to wear a leather apron. I am working on a small adze blade as well as a hook knife. Hopefully, more ambitious wood projects to come.

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With Lorne Gray. Photo by Alexis Greenwood

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Photo by Sharon Kallis