Carving with Confidence. It sounds simple yet carving with confidence is the most challenging concept for the beginning carver to grasp. If you take the time to overcome the carving with confidence obstacle, your carving will be much more enjoyable and of far better quality.
So what is carving with confidence? First, I’ll tell you what it is not. Carving with confidence is not chipping away with tiny tentative cuts. Carving with confidence is not working for an hour on a small carving and then looking it over trying to see how it changed since you started on it. Carving with confidence is not spending a month on a small figure that still looks square and far from complete. And the number one problem, carving with confidence is not creating hamburger!
Hamburger, I learned from my first real instructor, Lynn Diel, is that stuff that accumulates between the arms and the body, between the legs, between the face and the hair, anywhere there need to be a clear decisive separation.
Beginners and even more experienced carvers who have not learned to carve with confidence will generally make many small tentative cuts when carving these areas. They are afraid to make a long deep decisive cut fearing they will ruin their carving by taking off too much wood. They are much more likely to end up chipping away with tiny cuts that never seem to connect so that they end up digging slowly deeper and deeper into the wood leaving a mess of chopped up wood that just won’t come out cleanly.
The cure for hamburger is carving with confidence. It will not only get rid of hamburger but it will make carving more enjoyable. Carving with confidence will speed up your carving, letting you carve more and carve better.
So how do you learn to carve with confidence? You must plan your cuts. Look your figure over and find an area where you can make a long firm cut. Instead of making a several cuts, concentrate on making longer cuts and taking off more wood then you normally do. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. If you do take off more wood then you intended, then adapt. Change your carving to cover the mistake but keep on using long decisive strokes.
Once you learn to make long decisive cuts, you’ll notice less and less hamburger. You’ll find that you carve faster and enjoy it more. Practice, practice, practice and you’ll gain confidence, especially after you’ve made mistakes and learned to overcome them. Once you learn the basics, you’ll be able to carve more complex carvings with greater confidence. The “Cobbler” in the accompanying picture is an example of a more complex carving, yet once you learn the basics, it is less difficult then you might think.
I was fortunate to have personal instruction from Lynn Diel. He gave me projects which helped me overcome my tentative carving style and learn to carve with confidence. He has a CD available with instruction to carve a farmer Santa. This is the first project he had me carve. I carved this farmer Santa and then began making small changes to create my own characters. It is a simple figure that can help you to learn to carve with confidence. I really recommend it.
His book, “Flat Plane Carving the Nativity,” is also an excellent resource to learn to carve with confidence. It can be found on bookstore sites on the Internet. The instruction is very specific, you start with a block of wood, drawing lines and carving away long flat planes. Because you know everything must be carved off between specific lines you have drawn on the block of wood, you have no fear of cutting off too much and you can confidently carve with long deep cuts.
If you’ve read my earlier article, “Carving on the Right Side of Your Brain,” you may think I am being inconsistent in my advice. These articles are consistent. Carving with confidence is laying the groundwork. It is learning the basic skills you need as a craftsman. Once you have the skills then you can advance to learning the art, which is what “Carving on the Right Side of Your Brain” is all about.
So quit creating hamburger, speed up your carving, improve your carving, carve with confidence. It makes carving fun.