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Thread: Frustrations of chip carving

  1. #1

    Frustrations of chip carving

    Please forgive me this rant. But I need a few words of encouragement, because Im ready to throw all of this in the trash - knives, wood and all.

    Ive been at chip carving a couple weeks. I bought a Pfeil knife, some basswood and Barton's book. I prepped the knife to look just like the profile in Bartons book, then sharpened/polished. It cut well. I've since done 6-7 practice panels and had good results. I was ready to try a harder practice pattern that had more diagonal cutting. Since I was going cross grain more in this pattern, I wanted to make sure my knife was really sharp. That's where the trouble started.

    I noticed the tip had worn at an angle to the rest of the blade. So I got out my stones and worked the blade to straighten the tip. That took more than an hour. Then I sharpened it back to scalpel sharp. I cut 3 triangles and the blade got 2 big nicks. Then I noticed the tip is bent. I was being careful and following Barton's advice NOT to pry out chips. So my guess is that I thinned the blade too much while reworking it and so there wasnt enough metal to stand up to the use.

    I am a hand tool user. I know well that "sharp solves all manner of problems." And I remember how much effort it took to learn to sharpen my planes and chisels. I eventually bought a grinder to speed up the repair of plane irons and chisels. For carving knives, Barton says NOT to use power sharpening. But I cant bear the idea of buying a new (unbent) knife and spending 2 hours working it on my stones to get it in shape.

    Im so frustrated I just want to box this carving crap all up and put it away forever.
    And I was really enjoying chip carving, so that's a shame.

    Rant off. Thanks for listening.

    Edit: Oddly enough, the nicked, bent blade still cuts well - for now.

    Edit #2: I removed the nicks, resharpened and went back to work. The tip is slightly bent. Sigh.

    Fred
    Last edited by Frederick Skelly; 11-10-2019 at 8:07 PM.
    "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
    - Sir Edmund Burke

  2. #2
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    Not sure which Pfeil knife you bought?

    I bought a pair of Bartons chip carving knives years ago. They are heavy duty and work well.

    If you bought whittling type knives. . . . probably will not work so well.

  3. #3
    Hi Ted.
    I bought the chip carving knives, Pfeil #2 and #9. I've got Barton's knife on my list too!
    Fred
    "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
    - Sir Edmund Burke

  4. #4
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    Feb 2008
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    Yikes. Do you know another chip carver who could look at your knife and vice-versa? When I bought my first knife, a Barton, I gave up after some very short attempts. Maybe 10 years later I found out the knife was worthless as sold and needed major rework to get a useful blade cross-section. What helped me was running into a professional chip carver and taking a quick look at his knife. The light bulb went on and I suddenly knew exactly what my knife needed! Two days lather I was carving up a storm.

    Regardless of what they say about grinders, I used the flat sides of my Tormek water wheel to help shape the blade. (I think with such thin blades keeping the steel cool is so important to keep from destroying the hardness and temper - maybe that's why they say don't use a grinder.) Then I went to work on it with the stones. Note that I spent many hours getting my first blade right.

    My guess is your guess is right - if the tip is bending and chipping the steel is likely too thin. There seems to be a fine line between not thin enough and too thin. I measured three of my knives after reshaping them to where I found them useful (the Barton, a Hock, and MyChipCarving modified knife) This is what I got the angles are near the tip. I arbitrarily picked a spot on each blade to be consistent, the dimension "h" in the drawing. (The angles are very much the same as reported all the way along the blade to make sharpening easier but, of course, you never use more than the first 1/4" or so!)

    chip_carving_knife_angles.jpg chip_carving_knife_angles_c.jpg

    Don't pay attention to what looks like horrible scratches on the sides of the blades - they actually have a good polish but the light I used highlighted tiny sharpening scratches inconsequential to the cut. Note that the angle measured is that from near the back of the blade almost to the cutting edge. You might see in the closeup the area towards the cutting edge itself is tapered a a bit for a slightly larger angle for strength. I didn't measure that angle.

    These are my two favorite knives, the Barton and the Modified. BTW, I don't think Wayne Barton designed anything on his knife - I found pictures and diagrams of that blade shape in old carving references from Europe indicating the shape was probably around before he was born!

    chip_carving_knives.jpg

    BTW, I don't use stones to sharpen any more. What I found a lot easier to get a consistent razor edge is the sharpening kit from MyChipCarving. It uses four strips of very high quality abrasive mounted on a board and following the instructions made perfect edges every time. I bought extra abrasive strips for the future.
    https://mychipcarving.com/product/sharpening-kit/
    Check out the video on that page.

    BTW, my whole drive to learn chip carving was to carve on woodturnings! Almost everything I saw was flat and I wanted to do something different. Even Bill Johnson, Carolina Mountain Reefs, (http://www.carolinamountainreefs.com/) got excited when I started sending him turned ornaments, a goblet, and a small squarish platter to carve!

    I've shown these before, but here are some again - I especially like to combine layers of basswood between contrasting "normal" woodturning woods for carving. You can see I use very simple patterns! I have fun with letters too, the font I like best is from the back of one of Wayne Barton's books.

    chip_carved_goblet_c.jpg ornaments_chip_carved_IMG_5.jpg BOC_C_Jack_01_IMG_6687.jpg chip_mess.jpg practice_comp.jpg

    There are a few special things to keep in mind when carving on a globe like an ornament. One is the grain orientation changes with the latitude. Another is to make a flat side of a horizontal chip I had to visualize the edge as a curve on the surface!

    The "Modified" knife is better for curves in the letters because of the shape. The Hock knife is also good for curves.

    Don't give up! Along with learning a very consistent hand position, the thing that suddenly made chip carving easy for me was visualizing exactly where the blade point and edge was in the wood at all times. X-ray vision would have made this easier but when I got to where I could "see" the tip and edge down in the wood my chips got more precise and cleaner - hardly ever left anything that needed cleaned up.

    JKJ


    Quote Originally Posted by Frederick Skelly View Post
    Please forgive me this rant. But I need a few words of encouragement, because Im ready to throw all of this in the trash - knives, wood and all.

    Ive been at chip carving a couple weeks. I bought a Pfeil knife, some basswood and Barton's book. I prepped the knife to look just like the profile in Bartons book, then sharpened/polished. It cut well. I've since done 6-7 practice panels and had good results. I was ready to try a harder practice pattern that had more diagonal cutting. Since I was going cross grain more in this pattern, I wanted to make sure my knife was really sharp. That's where the trouble started.

    I noticed the tip had worn at an angle to the rest of the blade. So I got out my stones and worked the blade to straighten the tip. That took more than an hour. Then I sharpened it back to scalpel sharp. I cut 3 triangles and the blade got 2 big nicks. Then I noticed the tip is bent. I was being careful and following Barton's advice NOT to pry out chips. So my guess is that I thinned the blade too much while reworking it and so there wasnt enough metal to stand up to the use.

    I am a hand tool user. I know well that "sharp solves all manner of problems." And I remember how much effort it took to learn to sharpen my planes and chisels. I eventually bought a grinder to speed up the repair of plane irons and chisels. For carving knives, Barton says NOT to use power sharpening. But I cant bear the idea of buying a new (unbent) knife and spending 2 hours working it on my stones to get it in shape.

    Im so frustrated I just want to box this carving crap all up and put it away forever.
    And I was really enjoying chip carving, so that's a shame.

    Rant off. Thanks for listening.

    Edit: Oddly enough, the nicked, bent blade still cuts well - for now.

    Fred

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
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    E TN, near Knoxville
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    BTW, it's a personal thing, but I didn't like the Pfell knife. Don't remember, maybe it was something about the handle. I hope it was shaped better than the Barton I got. In fact, I hope the latest Barton knives come prepared better than before, but from some of the reviews I've read I doubt it.

    JKJ

  6. #6
    John,
    Thank you for the advice and pictures. You're always so kind and helpful to me. My knife profile looks just like what you have posted, but I added about a 5* secondary bevel. It cuts really really well. I dont have a Tormek, so it was all stones today. It was 2 hrs of tedium, but I recovered the blade (no nicks) - except it's impossible to truly straighten that slightly bent tip. So I'll probably be buying another knife sooner than planned. We'll see.

    I'll look into that kit from mychipcarving - I'd seen it but thought the ceramic stones were better. Based on your experience, I'll probably order the kit.

    I found I had to shape the handle on the Pfeil knife to make it comfortable. But after I did, it was fine.

    Again, thank you for the advice and encouragement! I needed it!
    Fred
    "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
    - Sir Edmund Burke

  7. #7
    Without being there it's difficult to saw what the problem is. I can tell you with any carving patience is #1 and two weeks practice is next to nothing. If you want to do carving you will have to be determined enough to stick it out.

    Sometimes when you sharpen a tool you can leave a burr on the edge and when you use it the pressure pushes the burr into the edge and dulls it. The best way I've found to check a sharpening is to run the edge of my fingernail over the edge. If there is any burr present you can feel it and know you need to hone it more.

  8. #8
    Thanks Edward!
    "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
    - Sir Edmund Burke

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    E TN, near Knoxville
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    Quote Originally Posted by Edward Dyas View Post
    Sometimes when you sharpen a tool you can leave a burr on the edge and when you use it the pressure pushes the burr into the edge and dulls it.
    Sharpening can be a hot topic with lots of opinions. My thoughts on sharpening these knives:

    The sharpening kit I mentioned uses four abrasive strips with grits from 15 microns down to 3 microns. Following their instructions carefully I find it easier to get a good edge than with my good ceramic stones.

    Per advice from others in the chip carving world, after sharpening I remove any trace of burr by stropping using a polishing compound on leather. After some experimentation, my favorite strop is now a piece of very thin pig skin glued to a piece of flat wood board. (I found this at a local carving shop.) Some people don't like stropping because they say it will round over the sharp edge but I suspect they are doing it differently than I, maybe using too much pressure or using a poor strop.

    The finger/fingernail method is a good test for a burr but using a microscope occasionally is useful. The other type of fingernail test is good for testing for a sharp edge. (I also hone and strop lathe tools after sharpening, these with a leather wheel on the Tormek.)

    Note that chip carving knives and carving gouges typically are only sharpened occasionally. However, they are stropped many times between sharpening. This is similar to the way I was taught to manage carving gouges.

    JKJ

  10. #10
    John, thanks for the advice about imagining where the tip of the knife is. I used that today and it was very helpful!
    Fred
    "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
    - Sir Edmund Burke

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