Learning to Sculpt with Hand Tools


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I just wrapped up the waterfall table build, and I have some scraps that I would like to use to make a matching side table. I was thinking this would be a good opportunity to build some hand tool skills, and I would like to learn how to hand sculpt furniture parts. I have used rasps and a spoke shave before, but only for cleaning up edges and things like that. I have not done what I would consider any real sculpting by hand. 

My biggest point of confusion right now is how to layout for the sculpting process. In many of the videos I have seen with sculpted chairs, it seems like after roughing out the part, the woodworker either just freehands the rest of the shape or the layout lines aren't visible. An example is around the 12:20 mark below for the Maloof rocker build. I can't tell if there is some kind of reference he is using to know when to stop removing material or if he is just going by eye. 

Does anyone know of a good reference for learning how to sculpt furniture parts that discusses layout? The books I have that do mention sculpting only talk about how to use sculpting tools and do not mention anything about layout.  




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I'm with @Mark J @Bmac is one of our resident experts on this. I have done some (sculpted bar stools & the Michael Fortune #1 Chair) and from my experience you typically have a hard line or two that is where your marker/pencil line is and you leave those until the very end. A lot of it is definitely site and what looks good to your eye nut one tip I learned is do both sides at the same time for instance work the right arm and then start on the left arm before moving to a new part of the project. For example if your making multiples do all of the arms an all pieces before moving on. This helps keep things symmetrical especially if your making multiples like in the case of my bar stools where I was making three. 

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  • 3 weeks later...

Thanks for following up. Is there a journal in particular that you would recommend for someone totally new to shaping?

Shortly after posting this, I signed up for the guild Maloof rocker build. I don't have any intentions of building the rocker right now, but there are some really good videos in there discussing layout that removed some of the mystery of the process for me.

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