Doug Carlson

carving numbers and letters

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Hello all 

I am about to start on a walnut blanket chest that will be a wedding present for a good friend. 

I would like to carve the date of the wedding into the chest (09.28.2019) - probably on the underside of the lid, so it wont be highly visible but I want it to look good, obviously. 

I haven't done any carving, ever really.

So I am wondering if anyone with experience doing this can give me the broad strokes, and any suggestions?

A few questions that come to mind: 

  • Do you usually just draw the characters freehand or do you use a stencil of some sort? 
    • If you use a stencil, do you buy them or make them? 
      • Rockler, for one, sells character stencils for making signs. Those are way too big and not at all what I am looking for.
  • Are there any rules of thumb as to the size of the characters vs the size of the piece that they are going into? 
    • Right now I am planning on the chars being about 1" - 2" in height. Somewhere around there. 

The approach I am planning so far looks like this: 

  • Draw the bottom and top guide lines in pencil so the characters are straight and of a consistent height. 
  • Using a model of some sort, draw the characters in pencil (sans serif font, for simplicity)
  • Use a bench chisel and a med. size carving gouge to carve them. 
    • I could also use a palm router. 

Obviously, I will have to practice a few times before trying it for real. And, I am thinking about doing it on an separate piece and then gluing or pinning it into the chest, so I'm not committed to having to get it perfect as I would be if it were carved directly into the chest. 

(Full disclosure - I probably should have researched this a bit before bringing it to the forum. But I haven't done that. This post is my first action towards researching this.) 

That said, does anyone have any tips, suggestions or things to look out for?

Many thanks, in advance. 

 

Doug

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You might want to look at pyrography, a bit easier than carving and just as permanent. If you really want to get fancy take a piece of wood to a trophy shop or anybody else with a laser engraver and have it burned into the wood. Then you can inset it into the lid or if you are not so far along take a part of the lid before assembly and have it done.

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I've never done carving. The only thing that i know about carving is that a Lady names Mary May does online classes. Another place would be to search for fan carvings on youtube and just adjust that to fit letters.

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31 minutes ago, Gary Beasley said:

 If you really want to get fancy take a piece of wood to a trophy shop or anybody else with a laser engraver and have it burned into the wood. 

@Gary Beasley That's an excellent suggestion! One of the guys at the store I work at has a CNC and a laser engraver. I would not have have thought to simply ask him to do it. 

Problem solved! Thanks

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OK problem solved, but I was already writing this so you get to read it anyway.  

I just came back a two day carving class, so of course now I'm an expert, right:).   But here's a secret I did learn, carvers carve woods that are easy to carve, like basswood.  There is some overlap with furniture woods, e.g. butternut.  So not sure what you made the lid out of, but it may by a more difficult wood, especially for a first foray.  

+1 to pyrography, or you might want to consider just using a pen and archival ink.  Also +1 to the laser engraving idea and the idea of labeling a small piece that you would then inset into the lid**.  What about a brass inset?    

 

**Weddings get delayed.  We were originally set for November, but ended up marrying in April.

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4 minutes ago, Mark J said:

OK problem solved, but I was already writing this so you get to read it anyway.  

I just came back a two day carving class, so of course now I'm an expert, right:).  

**Weddings get delayed.  We were originally set for November, but ended up marrying in April.

 

Thanks @Mark J! I always enjoy your humor. 

I'm building the whole thing out of black walnut. So, not exactly basswood in the easy-to-carve sense, but fairly workable. 

And good suggestions, too. so thanks. I am going to ask my co-worker if he'll do it for me. If he can't or won't for some reason, I will consider pyrography or some of the other suggestions. The brass inset plate idea is an interesting one. I wouldn't have thought of that. 

As to the wedding delays, I could only be so lucky. I of course MEANT to start this project about a month ago, but pissed the time away so now I am already feeling whistle bit.  Fortunately, it's a pretty straightforward build - 8 raised panels all around are the only semi-complicating* element. Other than that it is just a big box. I might try to do one of those Project Journal posts for this. I haven't ever done one of them before. 

Anyway - take care, sir. 

--------

*Not that raised panels are exactly complicated. 

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Yeah it doesn't sound like one of my first projects where i did frame and panel but with a twist where the braces were in the center and the corners were unconfined. It was cool but tricky. Couldnt find a picture

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For a simple date, I would print the characters in a nice font and size, glue the paper to tge wood, and remove the printed area with a router, freehand. Clean the edges with a chisel or knife, as needed. Spray in some black paint or dark stain, then sand the surface clean to leave the characters dark.

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If you want it to be fancy, find a font you like, that seems carvable,  and print it out the size you want.  I wouldn't want to do it without one, or two carving chisels though.  A skew, and a  V parting tool.   With a parting tool, maybe even better with a little bend to it, you can carve out simple letters with one pass.  With the Skew, you can do much fancier letters with the heel of the skew hitting the middle bottom of the letters.

I've done simple ones with just a sharp regular chisel too.   With any of them, they need to be deadly sharp.

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There was an article on letter carving in Fine Woodworking #275, which is the May-June 2019 issue.  You might check that out.

Derek

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6 minutes ago, DerekMPBS said:

There was an article on letter carving in Fine Woodworking #275, which is the May-June 2019 issue.  You might check that out.

Derek

Thank you Derek

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On 8/23/2019 at 10:18 AM, Mark J said:

**Weddings get delayed.  We were originally set for November, but ended up marrying in April.

Not just delayed but moved forward also. My first wife and I had planed a nice outside wedding for April. It ended up being moved up 5 months as back then, it was just the right thing to do, so said our parents ;)

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@Doug Carlson, I meant to mention to you that the carving class we took was at The Clearing in Door County, WI.  As I recall you hale from that state.  The class was a lot of fun and it's a fun place to visit.  

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