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Woodcarvings by Maura
The simplest method of securing a carving is to hold it in one hand while the other hand holds the knife or chisel. You must use care when carving in this manner. Remember to keep your holding hand out of the path of your cutting blade. My best advice is to use Kevlar or metal mesh carving gloves and or thumb guards when using this holding method. Inexpensive thumb guards can be made from vet wrap or sticky florists tape.
There are many mechanical ways to hold carvings. It is much more efficient to have your carvings held in place so that you may have 2 hands free to work your tools. By not holding a carving while using tools, you also keep your hands out of the path of your carving tools. Machinists vices, wood vices and clamps of all types are the most prevalent holders available in the average workshop.
There are some very inexpensive yet highly effecient holders which can be quite easily fashioned or procured.
1) rubber bands
This may seem silly at first but the versatile rubber band can hold smaller carvings against larger fixed objects.
2) A rubber Mat
Rubber mats can be purchased inexpensively at any hardware store. Rubber shelf liners can also be used. Lay a piece on top of your bench and place a relief carving on it. If the carving wood is soft enough, you can exert decent pressure on the carving and it will not slide around. I find this a very efficient way to hold very delicate carvings which might otherwise be damaged by clamping.
3)carvers sled (bench hook)
The carvers sled is a very versatile simple holding device. You can make it any size that you like. I have made small, large and medium ones, each size has taken 10 minutes or less to make. It begins with a rectangular or square board in your desired size. Any scrap lumber will do. Simply attach a board running perpendicular to one edge of the board. Attach using nails or screws and glue. Make sure that the tops of the attaching nails or screws are below the surface of the main board so that they will not scratch or dig into your carvings. Turn the main board over and attach another board to the opposite side of the main board as pictured in the first photo above. the side profile will resemble the letter Z turned on its side. This is a basic carving sled. You may add a smaller additional piece as I have done. This allows not only pressure to be exerted straight into the sled but diagonal and a bit of side pressure as well. I will sometimes put a rubber mat between the sled and the bench top to prevent it from sliding. This holder is excellent for doing relief work. The base of the sled should be slightly larger than the size of the wood being relief carved. I have seen smaller sleds used for carving spoons. A sled will also brace in-the-round carvings as well, as long as the extended top side of the sled is as high as the carving is.
The large mantle carving above is being held in place by two medium size simple carving sleds.
I have seen quite a few variations of the basic carving sled. Sometimes 2 or 3 sides are attached to the top portion. Sometimes the top walls are notched in order to place relief carvings on the main base at an angle. I have even seen some with homemade tool holders attached to the back side of the top wall(s).
4) a carvers arm
This is a very versatile holder for statuary and in the round carving. It is constructed of sturdy wood, complete with a pivoting end with a tightner. It bends up and down. The carving is mounted on a carvers screw, which has a wood screw on one end and a mechanical screw on the other end. By simply loosening up the screw, the carving can turn 360 degrees which allows access to virtually all sides of the carving. These are available in various sizes and can be used to accommodate small to very large carvings.
5) A simple bench vice