Author Topic: First Attempt at Carving - Critiques Appreciated.  (Read 1728 times)

Offline Coal-Cracker

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First Attempt at Carving - Critiques Appreciated.
« on: July 07, 2018, 12:08:18 AM »
First, I'd like to thank the members for all the information they make available on this forum.
My "journey" began two years ago, and it would have been much more difficult without the invaluable resources this forum and it's members provide.

Being self-aware of my abilities (or lack of... :) )and time constraints, I chose to have a rifle assembled to "in the white." I considered a SMR/Kibler kit, as it seemed manageable for someone like myself, but was really looking for something that would be found where I'm from in PA. So last October, I started the process of acquiring an "In the White" Chambers' Early Lancaster and I would do the carving/finishing.

While waiting for the rifle to be built, I practiced on scraps and bought some reference books, most notably Dixon's book and RCA 1&2. I soaked up every resource on rifle carving I could find. I also managed a decent array of vintage chisels and gouges, thanks to flea markets, yard sales, and ebay.

In a previous life, I was trained as an illustrator, so the drawing part wasn't as much as a challenge as the actual carving.
Most will recognize the pattern as Issac Haines, specifically  RCA #78. I readily admit, this is NOT intended to be a bench copy. I will also admit to using "artistic license" on the carving. And while I strayed from Haines' style, hopefully the style I presented is stylistically consistent throughout the different carvings.
Please critique my work. I appreciate honesty as I want to always improve.
Again, Thank you.
















« Last Edit: July 07, 2018, 12:46:30 AM by Coal-Cracker »

Offline alyce-james

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Re: First Attempt at Carving - Critiques Appreciated.
« Reply #1 on: July 07, 2018, 03:02:13 AM »
Coal-Cracker; absolutely an outstanding start for a first. I like the design. The first thing that jumps out for me is your tools, not all, could use a little TLC. Razor sharp. I like to use a final polish, after the stone work. I use a cotton polishing wheel on my 10 inch pedestal grinder and jeweler's rouge, pink. Keep us posted as you complete this project. Have a great week end. AJ.
« Last Edit: July 07, 2018, 03:04:14 AM by alyce-james »
Turkeyfooter

Offline smylee grouch

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Re: First Attempt at Carving - Critiques Appreciated.
« Reply #2 on: July 07, 2018, 03:10:15 AM »
From where I sit your first carving job is above the average by quite a bit. Good job and please keep us posted with more photos.

Offline Bill Raby

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Re: First Attempt at Carving - Critiques Appreciated.
« Reply #3 on: July 07, 2018, 03:17:45 AM »
I agree. Looks good, but tools need to be a bit sharper.

Online Craig Wilcox

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Re: First Attempt at Carving - Critiques Appreciated.
« Reply #4 on: July 07, 2018, 03:22:58 AM »
Coal-Cracker, that is a GREAT job.  Looks like a 5th or 6th gun, instead of your first.  Your former job taught you well - the carving seems to flow well, and you handled the transition from pencil or paint brush just fine.  Come on over and sketch out some sort of design for this H. Rupp I am attempting to build!

Keep going on your work.  Flinters, and carved longrifle stocks, are truly addicting.
Craig Wilcox
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Offline Coal-Cracker

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Re: First Attempt at Carving - Critiques Appreciated.
« Reply #5 on: July 07, 2018, 04:06:04 AM »
Thank you everyone for the response.
I appreciate the words of encouragement.
And I also appreciate the criticism. I've been working on keeping my tools sharper. Lately, finishing the blade with a strop with green polishing compound.

It's funny actually, prior to obtaining the actual rifle, it was a borderline obsession to obtain the quality tools necessary for stock carving. I dont like to think how much money was spent in chisels, gouges, veiners, etc., - only to use a razor blade and chip carving knife for all the carving.  ;D
(You can see the carving knife in the background of the first pic.) I tried gouges on practice carving and I'm sure they are more practical, but I just feel like I have more control using that knife.

Another thing I found really helped me was to draw on paper the design in the form of a shaded "shadow study." It really helped me lay out the prominent features in each design.

Again, thank you everyone. Your help, as always, is greatly appreciated.
« Last Edit: July 07, 2018, 04:11:24 AM by Coal-Cracker »

Offline D. Taylor Sapergia

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Re: First Attempt at Carving - Critiques Appreciated.
« Reply #6 on: July 07, 2018, 04:18:24 AM »
Very respectable  design layout.  Unusually well done, so far, for a first effort on an actual rifle stock.

Critique:  search here for David Price's tutorial(s) on carving technique.  The background of your carving needs a lot of attention.  Holding your razor sharp knife with short control and paring through the background will remove most of that chattering in the ground.  but David's tutorial will help a lot.
D. Taylor Sapergia
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Art is not an object.  It is the excitement inspired by the object.

Offline J. Talbert

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Re: First Attempt at Carving - Critiques Appreciated.
« Reply #7 on: July 07, 2018, 05:00:03 PM »
Remarkable job for such an ambitious first attempt at carving.  Your artistic skills are evident.

I'd echo what others have said about sharp tools and technique. 

When removing background near the carving I like to use a little paring tool or a #2 gouge depending on how the the grain is running relative to the carving design.  Use a low angle light to cast shadows and attack the peaks. The slivers of wood being removed are miniscule

Keep it up.

Jeff
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Offline PPatch

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Re: First Attempt at Carving - Critiques Appreciated.
« Reply #8 on: July 07, 2018, 05:17:16 PM »
Yours is a heck of a lot more involved and better than my first carving - you are getting some good advice on sharper tools and leveling your background.

dave
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Offline LOZ

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Re: First Attempt at Carving - Critiques Appreciated.
« Reply #9 on: July 07, 2018, 05:53:57 PM »
You sir have the pen and the eye. Your layout and curves flow well.

Offline Marcruger

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Re: First Attempt at Carving - Critiques Appreciated.
« Reply #10 on: July 07, 2018, 11:48:41 PM »
I'd be mighty proud if I did that carving.  God Bless,   Marc

Offline Mike Brooks

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Re: First Attempt at Carving - Critiques Appreciated.
« Reply #11 on: July 08, 2018, 03:57:33 PM »
I've been doing this for a living for 22 years and my carving isn't as good as yours.
www.fowlingguns.com
Say, any of you boys smithies? Or, if not smithies per se, were you otherwise trained in the metallurgic arts before straitened circumstances forced you into a life of aimless wanderin'?

Offline Coal-Cracker

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Re: First Attempt at Carving - Critiques Appreciated.
« Reply #12 on: July 08, 2018, 04:00:51 PM »
Wanted to Thank everyone again for the time they took to respond and help me with my carving.
I spent some time last evening trying to level and remove the background chatter. As indicated by yourselves, I suspect my biggest issue is with tool sharpness and carving technique.

Starting out, I found more control using the knife as a scraper to remove background. I guess this technique was motivated by intimidation and an attempt at heeding the advice to keep the carving depth low (less than .030"). Problem with that is, apart from being extremely time consuming, the end results aren't always ideal - as shown with the above pics.

One concern of mine is how do you folks keep the carving details from getting lost with each subsequent coat of finish?

So below are some new pics. I tried to utilize your advice. I'm not finished, but hopefully I'm moving in the right direction. You know... crawl, walk, run.... ;)

 





Edited to add that I'm now utilizing a desklamp in different positions to help show ridges and high spots. Thanks for the tip, J Talbert.
« Last Edit: July 08, 2018, 09:19:39 PM by Coal-Cracker »

Offline J. Talbert

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Re: First Attempt at Carving - Critiques Appreciated.
« Reply #13 on: July 08, 2018, 05:39:51 PM »
Looking good.

Finish build up is definitely a concern.
With the initial coat of finish which is applied generously you must be careful to avoid pooling in the carving.  You can use a lint free cloth and perhaps a soft toothbrush to remove any excess finish.

Subsequent coats are super thin.  You can apply the finish with your fingertips and rub in with your palm.  Still you have to be vigilant and watch for build up in the carving and catch it before it dries.

Good carving can definitely be diminished or even ruined with excess finish.

Jeff
"When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic"  Benjamin Franklin

Offline Ed Wenger

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Re: First Attempt at Carving - Critiques Appreciated.
« Reply #14 on: July 12, 2018, 05:39:18 AM »
One way of emphasizing low carving is simply restamping the carving to create an outline.
This is low (much lower than I like) carving that has been outlined by restamping.



Personally, I think the concept of keeping relief carving low is over emphasized.  I’ve found that bolder, higher carving, stands out much better when finished.  You can certainly over do it, but higher is not a bad thing.

       Ed

Offline Mr. Bubbles

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Re: First Attempt at Carving - Critiques Appreciated.
« Reply #15 on: July 13, 2018, 09:24:04 PM »
Looks really good so far.  Make sure to go back to it a few times to clean up some of the elbows though.  The outside of the last volute at the end of the tang carving is an example of one.

Offline Jerry V Lape

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Re: First Attempt at Carving - Critiques Appreciated.
« Reply #16 on: July 14, 2018, 04:41:59 AM »
If I understand correctly you are using a knife rather than gouges to remove back ground.  That would require hand forcing the blade forward which I find much more difficult to control than lightly tapping a gouge with a small mallet.  Most background is removed with a straight chisel, # 2 gouge or a diagonal chisel.  Watch grain carefully- it switches around frequently.  If you feel a razor blade is better than your gouged your gouges are just not sharp enough.

My first rifle was carved with the same Isaac Haines scroll.  I like your much better than my first one. 

Offline Coal-Cracker

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Re: First Attempt at Carving - Critiques Appreciated.
« Reply #17 on: July 14, 2018, 07:28:45 AM »
If I understand correctly you are using a knife rather than gouges to remove back ground.  That would require hand forcing the blade forward which I find much more difficult to control than lightly tapping a gouge with a small mallet.  Most background is removed with a straight chisel, # 2 gouge or a diagonal chisel.  Watch grain carefully- it switches around frequently.  If you feel a razor blade is better than your gouged your gouges are just not sharp enough.

My first rifle was carved with the same Isaac Haines scroll.  I like your much better than my first one.

I'm using a knife/razor blades as a scraper to "feather" the background.
I dont have a #2 gouge or I'd give that a try as it logically seems to be the correct tool for the job. I'll make a point a getting one for the next rifle. (For what it is worth, I have managed to get the chisels and gouges I do have armhair shaving sharp. :) )
Thank you for the guidance. Its obviously needed.
You guys will have to bear with me on my sloppy and unintentionally unconventional technique. Because of work and family responsibilities, taking an actual carving class is, unfortunately, out of the question.
« Last Edit: July 14, 2018, 07:32:50 AM by Coal-Cracker »

Offline Acer Saccharum

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Re: First Attempt at Carving - Critiques Appreciated.
« Reply #18 on: July 14, 2018, 05:56:24 PM »
There are many ways to skin a cat, and to carve a long rifle.

There is the actual carving, and yours is very good, albeit it appears troubled with some of the curves. Know your design and layout are very good. This will finish up very nice. First attempt? Wow, this is incredible. I suspect this won't be your last.

Then there is the backgrounding. A smooth background no one pays attention to, as all you see is the carving. A rough background will draw attention away from the carving, so in some ways, it's as important as the carving.

You have by now read a half dozen methods different builders use to background. There may be a 'right way' to do it, but I'm not sure what that is, as I work in a hole in the ground, not in the middle of PA rifle country, never apprenticed, just learned from the ALR and my own sweat and blood.

I use small rifflers and rasps to flatten the background, then scrape with various mini-scrapers and knives to get the background plane smooth.

Regrards,

Tom

These are the little tools I use to stab around my carving designs. I only push them in about 1/32" deep.


To traverse a broad curve, I 'inch along' by rolling the stab tool.


Then a use a shallow gouge, only 3/16" wide, to pare across the grain to bring the background down around the carving.


After the surface is gouged down, I flatten with mini rasps and scrapers. Always, always, roll your work in slanting light to find the lumps, bumps and hollows.


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Offline Coal-Cracker

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Re: First Attempt at Carving - Critiques Appreciated.
« Reply #19 on: July 14, 2018, 11:22:25 PM »
It's funny how you don"t notice certain mistakes till they are pointed out to you by others. Despite them being in front of your face the whole time. I guess right there is the real value to receiving others' opinions and professional criticism.

Until Acer and Mr. Bubbles mentioned it, I wasn't even aware my curves had issues. Now it really jumps out.  :)
Before I did any carving, I sketched the design/layout. Even adding shadow as a form of "shadow study" to reference during carving. I went back to check, being sure that I put the elbow in the bottom of the tang carving deliberately to add a "weight" element to "ground" the bottom of the design. Sure enough, I misremembered. The drawing was rounded with no elbows - but at some point my carving went sideways. I suppose it is yet another learning experience that accentuates the importance of attention to detail.

Below is the original drawing I did...


I definitely have to work on smoothing my background.
I guess I didn't place near enough emphasis on this task from the beginning. Based on many photos of originals, it seems that a smooth background wasn't a major concern of the original makers of these rifles. Not that it's an excuse, but I guess that kinda threw me off.

Either way, what's done is done as I have already begun to add finish.



Mistakes were made.
And the next one will be that much better because of them.

Again, Than You to everyone who took the time to respond.
« Last Edit: July 15, 2018, 01:11:33 AM by Coal-Cracker »

Offline Chowmi

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Re: First Attempt at Carving - Critiques Appreciated.
« Reply #20 on: July 14, 2018, 11:44:10 PM »
Coal Cracker,
Your first attempt is well well above average, but the thing that really strikes me is your understanding of the carving. I carved the same design that you sketched above on my first rifle about a year ago. Problem is, I didn’t “see”what the design was at the time. Only now, looking at your drawing do I “see” it. Needless to say, my carving sucked.

Many of us struggle with both the design and the execution, most definitely including me. You seem to have an eye for it, and some pretty good carving skills to boot.  You will progress far faster than most, if you can dedicate the time.

Keep at it, and be happy in the knowledge that you are starting ahead of many of us.
Cheers,
Chowmi

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Offline JTR

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Re: First Attempt at Carving - Critiques Appreciated.
« Reply #21 on: July 15, 2018, 07:54:24 PM »
What an amazing first effort!
To further your future efforts, pictures are fine, but you really need to get your hands on several upper end carved original rifles. You'll be surprised at the difference between a picture of a rifle, and that rifle in hand! I don't mean just in carving style, but also in general fit, size, shape of various components, finish, etc.
As you've noticed the old guys were a bit less concerned with back ground smoothness than nowadays, but some of what you're seeing can also be due to wood swelling, shrinking, wear and tear, etc as well. 

I don't know where you live, but there are a number of Kentucky rifle shows throughout the country, and most guys will be happy to help if asked.

Looking forward to more, 
John
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Offline Acer Saccharum

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Re: First Attempt at Carving - Critiques Appreciated.
« Reply #22 on: July 16, 2018, 04:42:56 AM »
I would say paying attention to the background, or not, spans the generations. Two hundred years ago there were meticulous builders, and others who never gave a smooth background a thought. That hasn't changed.

There is no right or wrong about this, it's personal preference.





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Offline Acer Saccharum

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Re: First Attempt at Carving - Critiques Appreciated.
« Reply #23 on: July 16, 2018, 04:33:02 PM »
Elbows on curves: In the 'stabbing in' process is where your curves are defined. If you're following a pencil line with a stab tool, or a series of gouges, it's pretty apparent to the eye when you're on track.
If you're cutting curves using a parting tool, it's not so easy to keep a smooth curve going. An advantage of this method is you can always pare off a little here and there using the vee tool(aka parting tool).

Here, I've cut the outlines with a small vee tool. You can see the curves aren't perfect. You really must watch your depth at the same time as following your curve. Tricky business.


I'm backgrounding the carving. Since the curves aren't stabbed in, I can pare the curve until I get it looking the way I like.




Tom Curran's web site : http://tcurran.com/

Online Craig Wilcox

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Re: First Attempt at Carving - Critiques Appreciated.
« Reply #24 on: July 16, 2018, 07:43:28 PM »
Nice work there, Mr. Sugar Maple!  I really like your technique, and will attempt to emulate it.  You have a good, sure touch on the vainer, which is fast becoming one of my favorite tools on this maple.  Just keep it ultra sharp, and use a light but firm touch.  See What I get from watching you?
A person COULD pick someone else's work style, but I like yours!

Thanks for posting the pics - and thanks to Coal Cracker also.
Craig Wilcox
We are all elated when Dame Fortune smiles at us, but remember that she is always closely followed by her daughter, Miss Fortune.