About Planes Outlining

To outline the various planes in the finished piece, the skew chisel or the parting tool can be used. This process is done by following the drawn-in or guide lines on the plane surfaces of the bosted-out carving. I prefer to use the parting tools for this purpose in most cases. The reason for this is that the tool makes a "V" cut, that is, it defines both sides of the cut. In using the skew chisel for this purpose it is necessary to hold the tool so that the cutting edge is at an angle of perhaps seventy degrees to the plane of the stock. The same cut must be made on the opposite side of the cut with the tool held at the same angle but in the opposite direction. This process is shown in Image below.

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A splendid American Eagle carved by Samuel Mclntire of Salem, Massachusetts, in 1804, now owned by the Lynn Historical Society with whose permission this and the picture of the bill of sale are used. It is interesting to note how little the art and technique of detail carving has changed in one hundred and fifty-three years by comparing this Imagegraph with that of the American Eagle, shown in Image 58, carved last year for Senator Payne.

Bill of Sale for (American) Eagle carved by Samuel Mclntire of Salem,
Massachusetts. (Courtesy Lynn Historical Society)

Using the skew chisel for detailing the mouth and beak on an eagle's head. The vise jig can be seen under my left hand and in the woodworker's

Great care must be used with either of these tools to see that a long, running cut is made rather than a series of short, jerky cuts. The latter result in irregular profiles. Each stop made with the tools makes a distinct mark on the face of the cut. All of this sounds complicated in words, but again, if you will try these tools on a practice block, the results will be seen. The skew chisel requires a greater skill in its use for this purpose than the parting tool. The reason: the stock is apt to fracture alongside the tool mark.

Assuming that all of the profiling cuts have been made along the guide lines, that all the back cuts have been made to develop the profiles of the raised areas of the carving, the next step is to model the outlined surfaces. This is done with one of the gouges. It may well be that the modeled planes are to be left smooth with few, if any, tool marks left on their surfaces. It may be that you want to leave some tool marks to relieve the plainness of the finished surfaces for texture. If the first result is desired, the broader the gouge, the smoother the effect.

If a textured surface is desired, a narrower gouge should be used. The degree of texture is developed by the shape of the gouge. Here again, the exact shape of the tool to be used is best developed by using the gouge on a practice block to see if the resulting cut is the sort you want to make for the textured effect. Various degrees of definition can be done with the same tool by winding, that is, rotating, the tool about its axis as the cuts are made or by holding it so as to make a skew cut, or a combination of both of these. Just how this texture is to look after all the cuts are made is left pretty much up to the carver.

There are no hard-and-fast rules. Trial cuts will determine the degree of wind or skew you may want to use. I suggest that two facts be kept in mind: one, that all cuts made in this process may well be final cuts; the other, that it is your carving and you can do what you want to. The choice is yours.







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