wood for carving

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Postby Tony James » 19 Mar 2008, 22:36

I'm just curious about pine. My Tickner figures appear to be all made from pine and whilst as Chris vdC says they may have been 'hard to carve' the end result is far from 'disappointing' and I have never found the head to be 'too heavy to use'.

I think I'm right in saying Fred never appear to place too much importance on the type of wood he used. Just so long as it was clear and clean and free from knots.

Unless I've misunderstood I would have thought the majority of working Punch heads would have been made from pine.

Lime and fruit wood seemed to take on an importance after the great hurricane of - when was it? A lot of previously uncommon timber suddenly became available and people rediscovered lime.

I remember first hearing of the qualities of lime for carving because of Grinling Gibbons who used it for his decorative pieces he created for Wren's houses.
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Postby johnstoate » 19 Mar 2008, 23:28

1984 I think Tony, And yes, it was Gibbons and Thompson amongst others who were the great exponents of the use of Lime, mainly because of it's suitability for fine detail carving due to the tight, fine grain and absence of knots and other faults I rather think that this is at least part of the reason for the belief that it is the onlywood for any sort of carving. Mind you, for laminated work, a lot of pallets these days are made from surprisingly good quality timber, a lot seem to be American Oak and Beech, A little careful selection can yield some really nice pieces!
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Postby Chris » 20 Mar 2008, 00:03

Lime (and other fruit woods) have always been woods of choice for carving puppet heads. I wrote a series of articles on the subject for The Woodworker in the late '50s and researched Lanchester, John Wright, Bickerdyke and Jack Whitehead etc.
Different woods were favoured for different parts of the marionette - weight being desirable for hands and feet, for example. Pine was often used for bodies where detail was not required. It has a gorgeous smell when you are working it.
In those days wood was considerably cheaper (relatively as well as actually) with more variety and more plentiful and properly seasoned.
Where weight was needed then oak was often used - beautiful to carve, if you don't mind sharpening your chisel every few minutes.

Actually the woods used by puppeteers for carving were no different to those used by other woodcarvers. John Bickerdyke was one such - he specialised in ecclesiastical pieces - cherubs and wonderful angels with spreading wings, pulpits and lecterns.
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Re: wood for carving

Postby Richard Coombs » 11 Feb 2016, 23:36

I know its a reply to a long defunct posting.

But Im having a pleasant hour musing through old posts , and enjoyed reading this one.

probably because at the time of its origin , i was still making my heads out of a jigsaw puzzle of cut plywood shapes .
I had not discovered the joy of lime.

Like Miraiker , I now cannot imagine doing heads in anything else ...it is just so lovely to carve and sand.

Also must concur with CvdC , even though he no longer visits this board , so won't know I have agreed with him:

If you are going to spend hours and hours ...days... carving a head and hollowing it out , then 3 , 4 or 5 pounds is money well spent on a block of Lime to make the process so enjoyable ...and the results easier , and probably ( tho not always) better too.

For those just starting out , Its most likely not the money that will be lacking Chris (S) ..but I am in no way underestimating that as a real problem ....but the accessibility of being able to source the Lime at all.

If you have to send away for it , then yes true enough , the delivery costs will make even reasonably priced lump of wood , very much dearer.

Having a woodyard nearby selling 'exotic' woods like Lime and Oak and Jelutong , won't be an option for lots of people.

I am very fortunate that I do drive.
I also have discovered such woodyard about 12 miles away.
They also sell very small offcuts and chunks ( of everything it seems except Lime )

Consequently a nice bit of Oak that has just made noses and chins for 10 Punch and 2 Judy heads , cosy me 5 pounds....less than 25 pence per nose or chin.

Lime is admittedly only buyable in rather large 'beams' ( from this particular place ) ...so the bit I ended up buying was rather costly.
But if I ever use it all I suppose each head will work out at a couple of pounds.

But it is my time I would not know how to put a price on ( partly why I don't make for anyone else)
Also as I could not bear to part with something that has had so much of my time and attention.

To Eek I would say just wade in and give it a go.
Make a Baby or something very simple first.

It is so rewarding , and there are so many ways to 'carve' ...a great many of which dont involve a chisel at all

I don't even owns chisel , and never want to.
A small hobby bandsaw and a black and decker profile ( finger) sander do me !

But the current Punches I am working on are the first time I have used Oak for noses and chins....it all feels very 'grown up'

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