Friday, August 13, 2010

Chainsaw Carving Day V

Today was the continuation of "Carving the Head with a Kettensager 101". I did pretty well up until it came time to wedge out the face. I had to take off the pieces in two cuts and of course they did not meet. Once I got done creating the two planes for the face I found that I had created the "man with the pointy face". Nevertheless I pressed forward with the carving, after all this was purely a lesson and a vehicle to learn some techniques. Michael had me set in the location for the ears next followed by creating the profile down the midline. Not much different than what one might do with carving tools. Here where it got very difficult. Firstly, you must create two planes, using the chainsaw, one for the tilt of the eye, and one for the side of the nose and sweeping across to the cheek bone. Next came setting in the with of the nose, the smile line, and the barrel of the mouth. Now came the really hard part. Carving an eye with a running chainsaw. I had an extra difficult job because firstly, since I created too narrow a face, my eyes had to be set in deeper. Secondly, I had knots dead center on each eye. The eye was created by using the tip of the chainsaw to first set in the inner corner, followed by additional depth under the eye, followed by additional depth on the outside corner. Did you ever try carving the fold of the upper eyelid with a running chainsaw? It ain't easy!!! Of course Michael made it look easy, but then he did the easy side of the carving (now I can say what all of my students always tell me!!) Just kidding of course. I spent the balance of the day completing the face and giving him some nice wavy hair. Today I will have Michael show me the ear and it will be finished.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Chainsaw Carving Day IV

I couldn't be happier with the end result. I was able to finish the nude and begin the carving of a male head. I spent the morning refining and finalizing the details and just after lunch Michael put a disc sander in my hands and told me to go over the high points of the carving with the sander. He explained that it was good to leave some of the chainsaw marks in the hollows as this added interest to the carving and kept you from overworking the carving with sanding and wiping out details. The final cut was up the back of the carving with a chainsaw cut eminating from the center of the tree. Michael explained that this was a way to relieve some of the internal pressures of the tree as it dried and subsequently shrank. This was not a guarantee that the carving would not crack in the front but increased one's chances that the carving would not crack right up the middle. I took a look at some of the dry carvings that dot the landscape at the school and you could see clearly where this relief cut was made and what was once a chainsaw cut was now a much larger space. If the chainsaw cut does it job the wood can freely shrink from the back and preserve the details of the front. Michael also showed me some additional texturing techniques which were designed to give some contrast to the smoother carving.

I was very happy to finish the carving and get started on the next since there is only 1 1/2 days left before I must fly home. Tomorrow I will continue the male head I started today and am anxious to see how Michael has me set up and carve the details of the face. There are about a 1/2 dozen or so of these carvings on the property and it was always quite amazing to me that they could get this level of detail with just the chainsaw. No offense to the American carvers, but you don't generally see this level of detail on a chainsaw carving.

By the way. The new pavilion kept us high and dry while it rained cats and dogs today.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Day III Chainsaw Carving

I can sum up the days activities in one word: "Wow". Today is when it all came together. I was more or less happy by the end of yesterday but I never imagined I would get this far by the end of the day. Today was a complete workday. No lectures or critics, just work. Michael worked with me about 3 different times over the coarse of the day and showed me some great modeling techniques using the chainsaw. He showed me how to use the tip of the saw to create troughs and modeling in tight areas where slicing cuts could not be used. The key to using the saw this way was to lock the saw into your body so you used the swing of your body to maneuver the saw. Other times he would use the top and bottom of the blade to brush the wood which was great for flatter areas or areas with a slight concavity. Another cut involved laying the saw on it's side to smooth over outward forms. I took lots of video so I can review these skills again at home.
One of the main things I wanted to see today was how they would carve the delicate features of the face using just the chainsaw. Michael suggested that we create the suggestion of the face instead of trying to carve a realistic face like one might carve on a smaller figure with gouges. The tip of the saw blade very lightly created the hollows around the eyes and even the parting of the lips. Very amazing to watch a master at work. If I finish up the carving tomorrow, and I may, I would like to spend the last day and a half carving just the head so I can practice these techniques. We will see how the day goes tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Chainsaw Carving Day II

I found myself starting the day by pondering how I would go about extracting a figure out of this massive log. I got to class a little early and remembered that the first step was to de-bark the log so I could use the crayon to draw some lines on it. By the time the class started I had the log fully de-barked. We had ended the day before by talking about how we would start these carvings and I remembered that I must first square off the front and begin setting up the curve of the figure front to back. The female torso is leaning back dramatically with her head looking toward her left.

Michael started the morning by working around the room and discussing each person's carving and each person's unique challenge in starting their respective carvings. There was quite a variety of carvings ranging from a 7 foot tall giraffe, to a frog, a bull, an eagle's head, and several other human figures.

Once we were allowed to fire up the chainsaws I began the carving by squaring off the front plane, followed by the tilt backwards and culminating with a slight turn and twist to the left. Michael had explained that this was a way to get the dynamics of the figure started, by creating a powerful line backwards with a twist to the left. Once this was accomplished Michael had me begin setting up the outline of the right side of the figure. I marked a center line, matching the center line marked on the model, and took measurements off the model and transfered several points to the log. For measuring I had a stick cut to the exact height of the log. I measured off the height of the model, which was about 1/7th the height of the log, on one side of the stick and divided it up into an equal number of divisions. I chose to use 8. I numbered these divisions 1 through 8. I divided up the full height of the stick into the same number of divisions, marking them off on the opposite side. These were also numbered 1 to 8. Measuring and proportioning became as easy as taking a measurement off of the model with a pair of dividers, checking the measurement on the model side of the stick, finding the same proportional measurement on the other side of the stick, and transferring the measurements to the log. No proportional calipers necessary. The first cut of the log on the front became my reference plane from front to back, and my center line became my point of reference for side to side and height measurements.
By lunch the figure was beginning to be recognizable. We started the afternoon with another round the room discussion of each person's carving. Michael talked about looking for the composition of the figure first, not the details. He said looking for line, proportion and balance was more important at this stage than looking for details. He looked at each person's carving and model and identified the main lines and movement of the carvings. I spent the balance of the afternoon translating the model to log and by day's end had a pretty good start. Tomorrow I hope to have the basic figure roughed in so I can begin looking for and carving some of the details.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Schnitzen mit der Kettensage 08.09.10 -08.14.10

Chainsaw Carving is something I've dabbled in over the years but I've never had the opportunity to take an actual structured class, until now. I've had an interest in this type of carving since the early 90's and actually visited a chainsaw carver in the Catskills, by the name of Hal MacIntosh. Hal told me the best way to learn chainsaw carving was to go watch some chainsaw carvers, buy a chainsaw, and start carving. I did just that. I've been able to produce a few good pieces this way, but still wanted more instruction than watching someone else do the craft. It is next to impossible to find a class in the US. Fortunately, since falling in love with the Geislor Moroder School of Woodcarving in Elbigenalp Austria, 3 years ago, I had the perfect facility to learn this art form. We met last night at the new pavilion Martin Geislor is having built for the outdoor classes he holds at the school. It is a beautiful open air pavilion which is timber framed in the local pine. Our instructor, Michael (I will determine his last name for my next blog entry . . . shame on me), started the class by lecturing on the basics of the chainsaw, and did a great demonstration on how to sharpen the blade using a flat and round file. The lecture was of course in German (I am in Austria by the way) but a few of the other students spoke some english and were very helpful in translating for me. Michael speaks a fair amount of english as well and gave me me a little one on one training after the lecture to make sure I fully understood. He explained that we would be starting the class by carving a boot. He would use this lesson so we could get a chance to try out some cuts, while at the same time allowing him to evaluate each students ability. Everyone got a small model to copy from and we went to the log pile to pick out our first piece of pine. The logs were big enough around to allow us to blow up the boot about 4 times. After de-barking the logs Michael had us measure the extreme dimensions of the boot and mark off a rectangle on the end of the log that of course would be big enough to enclose the boot. Once the rectangle was determined Michael showed the group the best way to slab off the sides of the log with the chainsaw. We were working with electric chainsaws that had a dime sized tip bar on them. The short carving bar was not long enough to reach across the width of the log so Michael demonstrated how we could take the slab off in two cuts, one from the right and one from the left. Michael also showed us a couple of other types of cuts that could be practiced in the waste pieces before they were removed. We spent the balance of the day creating our boots and at about 3:30 we gathered for our critic. Michael went around the pavilion and gave a critic on the good and bad points of each person's carving. You'll find that chainsaw carving is very fast and everyone had more than enough time to finish the carving by days end. After the critic we all gathered in the model room to pick a model for carving. I chose (what else) a figure. Next stop, the wood pile, to pick out our logs. I found a log which was big enough to multiply the model about 7 times. The carving will end up being about 5 feet tall. Once the logs were cut and moved into position we ended the class for the day. It was quite a workout, and I am thoroughly exhausted but anxious to get started on the carving tomorrow.