Relief carving


4v50 Gary
October 18, 2003, 08:38 PM
Just returned from Indianapolis where I took a one week relief carving class with Master Jim Chambers.

Had taken the same class with Wallace Gusler of Colonial Williamsburg two years ago. They have very different techniques. Wallace makes the "high relief" and has a wide assortment of chisels with which he "stamp" out the pattern. The unwanted material is shaved & scraped away leaving the relief which is then sculpted to define the figures.

Jim Chambers follows John Biven's approach. You use chisels for stamping and where chisels aren't available, use a sharpened pocket knife to cut the outline. The next step is digging furrows of equal width to ensure depth is the same. The furrows are then worked down and sandpaper is used to clean up the bottom.

Both methods work and it's good to have learned both. Jim's class was at Conner Prarie where they hold an Arms Making Workshop once a year. Other classes include gun building I (assembly) & gun building II (you do the finishing work), blacksmithing, horn making, bag making, strap weaving, quill work and hearth cooking & engraving. Go to Conner Prarie's website and check it out.

BTW, by Thursday, I had a sore neck from all the carving. Have to figure. It didn't bother me so much on Friday but a higher workbench (or vise) would have made it easier.

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October 19, 2003, 01:37 AM
dang Gary.. one of these days I'm gonna have to visit SF and ask for a tour of your shop.. the more you post this kinda stuff the more I want to see your work. :)


October 19, 2003, 08:33 AM
I tried carving on my last .50 cal I built. My only problem was getting it smooth inside th esmall swirls. Its to close for sandpaper and I've tried everything. I was doing raised carving and the part I'm talking about is the lowered inside. I really don't know that much about the carving techniques. I outlined with a knife and followed the lines with a chisel. Any advice?

4v50 Gary
October 19, 2003, 09:40 AM
Get a worn needle file and grind it down to make it into a scraper. You can scrape where you can't sand. For the edges, you may want to get a double edged chisel that will allow you to refine the edges to make them smoother.

Jim uses 220 grit sandpaper for rough sanding and then 320 emery paper for fine sanding. He rolls the latter up into a tight roll to get into the "v" where the back end of the "C" scrolls meets.

October 19, 2003, 08:48 PM
Gary, you wouldnt by any chance have any pics of some of the work that you've done do you? I'd like to see some if you do.

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