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Saturday, February 24, 2007

Getting Started

Notice: Major updates made 5-31-07- scroll waaaay down!

*First off I need to make the disclaimer that I am not an expert carver of dachshunds in mahogany. I've never done it before- nor anything even remotely like it. I will be feeling my way through this process- and it may be messy.

When I am done I will be able to write up how to do it correctly- and have the patterns and directions worked out so that anyone could do the same. This is how the first one is done- hit or miss, by guess and by golly. Wish me luck.

First Entry: after 10 hours
Today, Saturday, 2-24-2007, I'm starting on a major carving. This one is not a commission nor for a class, but for my husband's birthday in July. Last birthday I bought him the dog; this birthday, the carving of his dog, in mahogany. Her coat is a nice mahogany color, so it seems appropriate to use this wood.
I actually started on it a few days ago when someone on a woodcarving group posted that they needed a pattern for a miniature dachshund. I figured I could get started on mine and help out other carvers too.
It took quite a few hours to take some reference photos and then make the patterns for all 4 views to coordinate. Here are the photos I used:

She is a cutie, isn't she. The photos were not the right size, so I manipulated them to get them there. Then I traced off the photos to get relative dimensions. The poses were not exactly the same, so I had to use a little drawing skill to make them all line up. It wasn't easy.
The next step was to make the patterns to the right size to cut out the block of wood. that wasn't easy either, but after lots of trial and error I had the patterns I needed:

I'm not completely satisfied with the side view head details, but it will do for cutting out the blank. Drawing the side view with turning the head without a good side view of a turned head was impossible at this point. I can correct it after the carving is done.
I laminated together two lengths of 4" x 4" mahogany in a staggered pattern so that no wood would be wasted. I traced the pattern for the side view onto the side of the block and it was ready to be cut out. I will drill out the voids in the pattern since I need to retain the base for clamping the carving. Notice on the ruler there that this carving will be over 10" long- much bigger than anything I've ever carved.

The next step is to drill out the voids where the band saw blade cannot reach. You may have to work from both sides if your block of wood is as thick as this one.

After sawing the outline with a band saw it looks a lot like a dog already.

In laying out the pattern I at first didn't notice the grain and had the details of the carving running across the grain. This would make those sections weak, so I erased the pencil lines and reversed the pattern. Since the pattern was on tracing paper, I just had to turn it over, back it with a white piece of paper and I was set to go.

The placement on the right should be stronger, and it didn't matter to me- or the dog- which direction she faced. Sure looks like a rat's head, doesn't it.

Here are views showing the hatched areas I feel safe in removing. To get the pattern onto the curved piece of wood I just held it horizontal and sighted down from atop the paper and guided my pencil where my eye told me the pattern would end. It is a bit of guesswork too, so it is important to do all views in pencil, and then look at it and ask yourself: 'does this look right?' If there is any doubt keep looking at it and your reference photos until you get the pencil version correct. When you are sure, then go over the lines with your marker, hatch in the areas you are sure about, and then you will be ready to start carving. Remember, if in doubt- leave the wood there. It is easier to remove more later than it is to replace what isn't there anymore.

Second Entry: after 12 hours
Here is a look at my set-up. I'm using a hold-down that came with my workbench. It works OK, but notice the bench puppy to help stabilize the carving. I'm using large tools here so I don't get carried away with trying to put in details yet. There is a #1 chisel, #2 gouge, and a #9 gouge. I've done most of the work so far with the #2.

The #2 gouge does a good job of removing a lot of wood quickly on the 'outies'. For the 'innies' I use the #9. The flat #1 chisel is used where the op of the base meets the dog bottom.

The head requires a lot of thinking. It was recommended to me today that I angle the head for a quizzical look- good idea, but that will make the carving just that much harder. Guess I can try. This wood is fun to carve because it is kinda soft, but it is also dangerous because it is splintery. Somebody asked me how many hours I'd spent on this carving so far. I figure 8 for the plan making, 2 for the blank making, and 2 so far on the roughing out. That's 12, so far. I'll stick out my neck here and estimate that the total will be 48 hours. We'll see.

Third Entry: after 15 hours
This is the image I used to turn the head for that cute quizzical look. Then, of course I needed the mirror image so that it would be going in the right direction. More tracing paper.

So now I've started to kink the head to the right- not an easy task. I'm afraid I may run out of wood under the right cheek. Don't change plans after the blank is cut out like this. If you haven't planned it right you may lose something important.

I'm using a colored pencil to attempt to relocate all the head markings. It ain't easy.

Here a few holes are being drilled through the area between the front legs. This makes it a lot easier to carve them. Notice that I'm using the bench vise a lot for holding the carving. Works well.

By the end of another 3 hours I liked the attitude of the head, had narrowed the face a lot, and removed a lot of wood. Looks like there will be enough wood for the right side of the face, but just barely. There is a lot of work needed on the neck. I haven't the foggiest notion of where the heck it should be.

This is the left side at end of day 3. Notice that I've given up on having the tail tip raised. The wood will not support such a thin cross-grained section. It will look fine lying on the base. Guess I need to bring my sharpener down to the workplace soon. I haven't sharpened yet- bad carver- so I'd better get with it. I did vacuum the floor though, so I get a brownie point for that.

Fourth Entry: after 20 hours
Didn't work much yesterday, but made up for it today. Between the two days I've put in another 5 hours, making a total of 20, so far. I've removed a lot of wood. One lesson I've learned is that I should have taken the sides down at the beginning- with a Dozuki back saw. It would have given me a better perspective and saved a lot of time and muscle power. Then again, maybe I would have taken off something important. Who knows.

Here you can see where I have squared off the sides according to the top view pattern. I've worked almost exclusively on the head today. I needed to see that there was going to be enough wood to make the neck and face. I discovered that I needed to remove a lot of shoulder in order to find the neck. I also worked on the ears in relation to the head- so I could shape the head correctly. Even the tail got a little more definition.
I'm looking forward to finally getting to round the figure soon. I need to be extremely careful though, since this wood is a lot like cardboard and if you don't watch how you approach the grain you will knock off a hunk of wood. That is a bad thing.

Fifth Entry: after 24 hours

The picture on the left shows that there is more shaping in the forequarters, which generates more neck. Due to popular request I've worked some on the face too. There are some penciled eyes and rounder shape. On the right you can see a lot of refinement on the tail, as well as a lot of rounding on the back and a better shape to the head. It is still too big, but sneaking up on the right shape and proportions is the safest bet for right now.

Pore thang looks like Snoopy! Oh well, at least Snoopy is a dog. Better than if it looked like Garfield. Shaping on the face and head, rounding of all surfaces. Another view on the right. It seems to me to have made a lot of progress in a day. Did cost me a band aid for a cut sustained when my attention was distracted- doesn't take much. I'll survive.

Sixth Entry: after 28 hours
Sorry I haven't posted for a few days. I have worked an hour or two every day, but I didn't thing there was much change to document. I took some pictures today though, and I see quite a bit of difference.

In this front view you can see that the shoulders have been lowered a lot. This exposes more neck- good- we need a lot more neck. the forehead has also been flattened generating more of a drop to the eye area. Also, I've noticed that the eyes are set 45 degrees to the centerline- so I've angled the eyes more to the side.
In the side view, notice the shaping of the back legs and some wood removal over the back and under the belly to round the figure a little. Some of the fore leg definition helps too. I've also completely removed the back of the skull- since Emily's skull ends just behind the ear attachment. Guess what. . . that now becomes neck too. . . hooray.

On the right side you can better see the changes to the head. Good news is that the neck is now oval with no flat spots, and it looks like the muzzle will have enough wood to put in all the details I want to include.
From the back you can see all the thinning I've been doing to the body. She is getting much closer now to the final shape and size. I'm looking forward to doing all those nit-picking details that I like.

Here is a top view that shows the reshaping of the top of the head, as well as a gradual thinning of the body.
I've just been informed that there is a fellow (John) who has used these plans to make his own dachshund in butternut wood. His doesn't have a base and it is 5" long. He has promised to send me a photo and maybe he will let me post it here. How cool is that!

Seventh entry- no progress, but good excuses
Here is John's dog: he has also promised to show me the finished product- so I'll post that here
This is John's cut out blank
This is john's dog partly done.
Now I feel bad because my dog's ears are way too short- I see that now. Maybe I still have enough wood there to do something. We'll see. I may not be posting for a few days because I have a magazine article to do and a box to make for it. I'll work on Emily if I get tired of the box, but I may just focus on the article for a few days.
I'll be back!

Eighth Entry, 3/08/07
No progress on my dog- but the box is coming along fine. John has sent us some pictures of his finished dog. I think it looks great. The color is just like Emily's.

Well, it looks like I should have been dating these entries as I went along. As it is it has been a long time since I updated Emily- or her blog. Like 2 months. (I think I may have been disturbed at how quickly John did his dachshund- and how good it looked.) I have worked on her on and off, maybe 10 hours, but I didn't think I'd made much obvious progress until I came back here to look at where I'd left off. There have been changes, so I'll post some photos and tell you what to look for.

The most obvious change is that now Emily can see where she is going- she has eyes! Her nostrils are also somewhat indicated. Her chest is much narrower now, with some definition of upper legs. You will also see some roughness where I did some power carving- very nerve wracking, but there is no other way to get between the legs. No knife or gouge that I have will work in there. I may just decide to slice off the base so that I can finish the legs and belly- then glue it back on. I hate to do that, but it may be the only way.

In this view you can see that the mouth has been formed, and the lips. There is more definition around the eye sockets too. I think that the head looks too big for the body. Maybe if I shrink it I can generate more wood for the other ear which is a little short. Progress has been made a little in the rear legs too, though a lot more wood needs to come off, I think.

In this photo the right ear doesn't look too bad- maybe it will be OK. I've worked on getting the arm muscles separated from the rest of the body, and cut into the abdominal area to separate it from the thigh. A lot of wood came off the sides of the chest where it had been very blocky looking. Now it tapers a lot more. I like the way her posture makes her look so alert. She is an alert dog.

Looking from the top back there is a lot of action in the pose. I'm working on the shoulder girdle to approximate the 'X' that occurs where the folds of skin are generated from the shoulder muscles. Also, her buns have been very much slimmed down. Before, they were almost square, but she has a pointy butt. You can also see where I've done some serious cutting in to separate the upper leg from the side. On the real Emily this is very pronounced.
The 'S' curve seems almost too much, but that is really how these long dogs look. When Emily walks her mid-section actually bounces from side to side. Darn, I'm glad I'm not built that way!
By the way, I've started another blog, this one for the lap harp I'm building. Check it out: I'll let you know when I make another major change.

I decided that there was not enough wood for the feet- that I'd cut them too short. I sliced off the base, but goofed. I realized afterwards that the tail would be up in the air. That is no good!

So the only solution was to cut the base again, this time at an angle so that the tail would be closer to the ground, but I'd still have more wood to extend the feet.

Here you can see the added wood on the fore paw, and the result on the hind paw. I think it will look OK now.
The dog has very long feet and having them short would have looked strange. The plans should be modified to match the new look.

This is the carving after all 4 feet have been modified.
She looks a lot more stable now. You cannot see here,
but the tail has broken off. I'll wait to glue it back on
until the carving is reattached to a base. It is very
fragile and would just break off again if I glued it now.
I don't see much more to do to the carving at this point. It may be ready for some sanding and detail work. Maybe Emily will come with me on my trip in August and I can work on her then.

Many more hours have been spent on dear little Emily. Mostly sanding. Hours and hours of sanding, making corrections, and then sanding again.

On the left you can see the tender under belly sanded. On the right some sanding and corrections.

Emily is sanded, but still missing her tail end. That can only be fixed when everything else is ready to go, or it will just break off again. You can see the arrangement of toothpick pieces to secure the dog to the base. Now I'm ready to attach the tail piece. I drilled small holes into both the dog's tail and the broken section. Between the two sections I set in a tiny section of toothpick, slathered on a bit of 5-minute epoxy- and it was done. I was very careful to support the tail as I refined the shape and sanded it and the rest of Emily to 220 grit.
Here is the
repaired tail.
I'm quite
proud of how
it is nearly
after sanding.
It may be more
obvious after
the finish has
been applied.
We'll see. The color changes rather dramatically when the clear finish is applied. Now the carving has the color of the dachshund. How cool!

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