Summer and Autumn 2013

Summer 2013

Took some time to work on my carving and jewelry spaces over the summer and autumn, and just slowed things down after a year of commuting and carving like crazy. The big pieces can really take a toll on a body. And my work spaces were driving me nuts with how unorganized they were.

It turns out some of the pictures of my carving shanty didn’t turn out so I don’t have some of the ‘before’ pics I’d wanted. I call it a shanty because it was essentially a roof with ragged tarps stapled onto it. It looked like a poorly wrapped Christmas present. I could see my tarps blowing off, and around littering my backyard from Google Earth, so knew I had to do something about it.

So I spent the summer nailing in some blocking to clad it in galvanized steel siding. I figure the steel is fairly secure, and now that I have locking doors I don’t have to put every single thing away as much as before. With the siding on it, its looks have been upgraded to ‘shack’ status.

With a bit of electricity, lighting, and maybe even insulation, I think I could eventually even upgrade to carving ‘shed’ status.
messy jewelry studio
I also redid my jewelry room, because I was able to move some of my carving stuff outside into the newly renovated carving shack. I upgraded some of my tools, but mostly separated my sawing and engraving into two different stations. I’d used the GRS mounting plate to hang my engraving block, or bench pin from, and had to constantly switch them out. So now I have two wells, and can just leave everything in place, or even have a friend come by and have some space. jewelry studio

The jewelry bench is now affixed to my wall like a shelf, also, because the old table would jiggle and shake like Elvis every time I hammered on it. My new bench is also narrower, front to back, because I could reach everything at the back anyway, and it gives me more floor space because I want to put in a better hammering station.

I have only a couple of jewelry stakes, and every one of them has a different mounting on it, a Pepe domed stake set, which has one post holder like a bottoming stake, but with a screw which is supposed to hold the stake in place. I also have a Potter, USA stake which I use a lot, but which I find rather soft for raising and planishing, as it gets marked up fairly easy. I just got two Peddinghaus stakes also, which I think are made to go into an anvil hardy hole. Add to the mix: a couple of the new Bill Fretz stakes, and its a real jumble.

I’d got an engine block stand, and used some leftover lumber cut offs for a very thick table top, like a butchers block, and drilled out some hockey pucks for feet to make my hammering stand, and put some leather loops on the edges for my forming hammers. It sounded like a good idea, but my little hammering station jumps around when I hammer on it, and ‘walks’ around my studio like it’s trying to get away from me, and is never even close to level, tilting back and forth like a cafe table with a full cup of coffee on it, and the hammers all clank around with every hammer blow.

So I’ll tackle that next. I’ve ordered a ‘universal stake plate’ from John Newman Forge and Pattern (which you can also get from Blacksmiths Depot, if you’re in America), and hopefully most of my stakes will fit in there. The tapered stakes are fantastic if you’ve got a holder, being much easier to take in and out, and very stable, but they don’t work held in a vise that well.

I may just land up making some of my own stake heads, and a sort of horses head stake holder for them. I’ve been waiting for the bigger t-stakes I understand Bill Fretz may be making.
It’s odd that with all the clanking and hammering, I find raising metal over the stakes quite relaxing and enjoyable. The pierced and engraved jewelry that I’d done I always found quite flat compared to the wood carving I’d done, and it’s only been since I’ve started in on repousse and smithing that I feel like I’ll be able to truly create the things I see in my imagination.

Woodcarving knife

I started teaching carving class again this year, working with a program established by my teacher and some dedicated teachers in the Langley School District. We start by making our own (straight) carving knife, modified from a no 8 Opinel high carbon steel pocket knife. I think the knife turns out better than many that I’ve bought and used over the years, and is much cheaper.

It is a really useful way to students respect for their knives, so they don’t tend to damage a blade they’ve spent so much time on; and teaches the students sharpening also, which lots of beginners struggle with. With a lot of grinding of the knife bevel, the students get a feel for the angles needed when they sharpen the knife.

The video I made on the knife is on YouTube, and I think I should make companion to, talking a bit more in depth about the grind and bevel shape of the blade.