This DIY (it really is easy), is also a very very basic carving lesson. As such, the tutorial is in part written by my dad in that I am paraphrasing instructions that he gave me and would not have happened without his help and his woodcarving tools.
Yeah, sorry about the chainsaw bit. You could also give it a go with a handsaw, but in my dad's words, "that would take a very long time." I suggest finding someone who is confident using one (I'm not, despite having a certificate that says I'm qualified to use one - yes really!), and getting them to help you with the first bit.
Thanks Pop! Like many of my wood-based projects, Papa-bear helped me get started in the same way that Mama helps me with many of my yarn/fabric related crafts. At first I wasn't sure about cutting it before carving it, but I soon realised that my Pa was right.
Don't expect to get perfectly flat edges, but it looks more rustic this way anyway...
My dad has an awesome vice built onto his workbench and I'm not exactly sure what you would use instead of this. The log doesn't need to be completely secure, but can just be jammed in, in a way that prevents it from moving too much while you carve. The ropes really aren't at all necessary. Rest easy though this is a method you could try in order to hold your wood tight.
Have you done woodcarving before? I'm not sure if this is obvious to everyone already, or whether this is useful information to share. I was brought up around these tools so they fit easily in my hands, but I guess maybe some of you have never seen anyone carve before... Basically, hold your chisel (a 'V' chisel for this project) in your 'wrong' hand, and the mallet in your strong hand. If you have some scrap wood, clamp it to your bench and have a bit of a practice first. The key is to tap gently. You must follow the grain of the wood as much as possible, and tap even more gently (with the mallet banging against the top of your chisel - as pictured), at any point that you find yourself going against the grain. Wood kind of splinters and goes ugly (hows that for mean technical jargon?!) if you bash away too heavily, without 'tuning in' to the wood you are carving. Um. Well anyway, that's the way I feel about it. It's kind of an intuitive thing. You'll see.
I am right-handed so this is my 'mallet' hand - though in this picture my dad is standing in as my right hand - guess he's my 'right hand man'. Sorry. That was bad.
Woodcarving is also a very meditative craft. Creating this simple project reminded me of that, and I'm actually very keen to do some more soon. My pop is a woodcarver by trade, and he is planning to do a time-lapse woodcarving lesson sometime soon (a much more thorough and informative one that this!). I'll let you know.
You want to keep the bark in a rustic condition, which means it is pretty much impossible to pencil your design in first. My suggestion is to carve a very light outline of your design first, and then tap away more heavily at that once you are happy. Small mistakes can be disguised thanks to the 'rustic' look, so don't worry if your initial outline is not absolutely perfect. For this project, I carved to the bone (that's what I call it anyway, just until you can see some white 'flesh').
The benefit of having cut your log first, is that you do not have to endure the stress of having to cut exactly through the centre of your heart. Carve one side of your heart, and then mirror that design again on the other half.
This next step is not absolutely essential but depending on how 'barky' your piece of wood is, will give you a smoother surface to carve on. Using a flat chisel, gently tap away some of the excess bark (going with the grain again, despite what the image shows!). I tried to keep as much of the bark as possible, to give it an authentic look, but chipped off any flaky bits, or bits that had gum or small knots.
Once again, gently outline the word you are going to carve. It doesn't matter if your rough sketch looks ugly at this stage, you can pretty it up when you go over it again.
Well... it still looks a little bit messy, but I guess we can just call that rustic! Some of my bark chipped away from the insides of the letters, so I collected those chips to re-glue at the end.
And an arrow as a final touch! Carving to the bone helps your design to stand out. I briefly considered adding paint to my carved design - a metallic gold perhaps - but decided against. I like the rustic look more, but you might decide to add paint to yours!
I hope to share more projects like this soon. We are making a little Woodland themed nook in Eleanor's room (sneak peek soon), so there may be a few more projects along these lines...
Tomorrow: Giveaway the Second! x