Wood Carving With Mallets & Chisels
The hobby of wood carving with mallets & chisels is an age-old way format of the hobby, one that has remained unchanged throughout the ages. There are many people who only use the mallet and chisel to carve out massive pieces of wood and over the years, they have perfected the art of working with these two vital instruments in the wood carving trade. However, there are many things that even some expert wood carvers make when wood carving with mallets & chisels and these are the most common ones that you need to look out for, amongst them.
Some Don'ts for Wood Carving with Mallets & Chisels
One of the most common mistakes that people make when using these tools is not using them. For some extremely gentle cuts, people tend to use their hands or their palms to hit the back of the chisel. All you will do get with this is something called "carver's claw". This results in the fingers getting drawn up towards the palm permanently - a feature that many wood carvers, especially from traditional towns and villages, were actually proud of as a sign of their trade. However, it is an extremely painful process so keep away from it.
Always get into the habit of using a mallet as it helps you increase the speed of your work. People tend to use a chisel, without the mallet, on a full-time basis. They carve away, every single day, without stopping and thinking about what they are doing and why. Your hands will get into bad shape if you just keep working with the chisel while you won't get that clean and decisive cut as well because the force of the chisel driving into the wood, with bare hands, will never be as sharp as with a mallet.
Most people also don't like clamping their work down because it restricts their movement. If you are wood carving with mallets & chisels, you want your work to be clamped down so that you don't have to worry about the piece moving about and suddenly sliding out of the way to cause accidents. Cleaning up the under-cutting is also another accident-prone activity where a clamp and a mallet & chisel partnership will work wonders. Finally, when you are using a chisel, don't use a shovelling motion.
That kind of motion gives you very little control over the chisel and can lead to uncontrolled cuts that ruin your wood and design. Once again, use a mallet and chisel to get the right kind of action working through the process and you will find a lot of advantages when it comes to controlling the entire movement of your chisel.
Things to do when Wood Carving with Mallets & Chisels
The advantage of using a mallet and chisel is control over your work and holding the chisel the right way is important. When you are just using the chisel, you need to use one hand, the steadying hand, to hold onto the chisel about an inch and a half from the blade. The other hand goes to the back of the handle and becomes the hand that applies the force or direction. The lower hand becomes the pivot and both hands need to oppose each other in terms of the tension, burnishing the wood as you go along.
The best way to carve wood, when using these tools, requires you to hold the chisel at an angle to the wood, with the block lying flat on your work-surface, and your chisel at the correct angle to the surface of the wood. You hold the chisel with a face-down grip, not too tight so as to absorb all the force of the mallet-strike. Then, you slowly tap it in from the back using firm and repetitive taps rather than hard hits. If you want to cut down into the wood, then you need to use the same grip, make the chisel as close to the perpendicular as required, and start tapping with the mallet.
The key thing to remember in this technique is that your stability has to come from your hand and to make your hand stable, tuck your elbows and press them into the side of your body. This will give your hand more stability, along the right angles, without having to rest it on the work surface. If you are cutting down without using the mallet, then you need to use your chest or shoulder as the main driving force, while holding the chisel down with both hands to keep it stable. This ensures that the force isn't sharp or jerky while the chisel also stays firmly under control.
Almost everyone develops their own style for wood carving with mallets & chisels, but the basis of everything lies in the technique. If that technique is correct, everything will work. Otherwise, you can spend hours and hours on your work and suddenly, one small mistake will ruin everything you've spent all your time and effort on. That is the where you will realise the importance of learning the technique for wood carving with mallets and chisels.