Carving in Alder

Hope everyone had a great holiday season, and is looking forward to a grand year of hand tool woodworking!  I am through the marathon that is my family’s Christmas and Birthday (3) bonanza, and putting my mind towards some woodworking again.

While I was at the Hand Plane Essentials class in Port Townsend we worked in some local Alder wood supplied for the class by the instructors.  We were each given a rough sawn plank to work to a finished board through a series of planing techniques.  We then took our plank home proudly to show our spouses what we had spent all that money on.  🙂  I also grabbed a couple scraps for testing on carving since it felt like it might  be a decent carving wood.

My plank will be come the sides of a toolbox tote I am building, but I did spend a little holiday time testing out the carving tools on the Alder.

Things I learned about Alder wood:

  • You need sharp tools (duh).
  • It chips out fairly easily.
  • It carves really easily.

Test Carving in Alder wood

I discovered pretty quickly that my larger V tool was a little dull.  You can see how it crushed the wood fibers, rather than cutting.  I pulled out my quite sharp smaller V tool for a similar test and it cut nicely and cleanly.  I then did a little gouge work (lower edge) and some low relief work with punched background like I am hoping to do on my toolbox.

I think the test results were encouraging enough to proceed with the carving, although I’m a little nervous about the V tool work.  I’m considering a layout that is heavy on the low relief method, and keeping it simple.  We’ll see.

Right now I have the sides smoothed, rabbeted on the bottom edge, and sized perfectly.  I have a scrap of hardware store 1/2″ thick Oak that will work as the bottom, and I’m probably going to use some Oak for the ends.  For the handle I’m thinking of using a little bit of Walnut.  Most everything will be carved just so I can get more practice in a variety of woods, and to decorate my toolbox marking it uniquely as mine.

More to come including some thoughts on how to sharpen a V tool.


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