This section is from the book "Arts & Crafts Magazine Vol1-2", by Hutchinson & Company.
The beginner in wood carving should remember that it is wise not to try to climb too high at first, but be content with decorating simple objects, such as may be useful in the home and are easy to procure at a slight expense. A pair of bellows is one of these. Only two pieces of board are necessary for the carver. The making up is best done by an experienced leather worker. As bellows are always made to hang, the back does not show, and carving, therefore, is not necessary on it, though a simple design is often used, or in its place a suitable motto.
After the two pieces of wood have been cut out to the correct form, place the one to be carved on the working bench with two clamps, one at each end. Before clamping, however, take up the piece of wood which is to form the front, turn it sidewise, and draw a line one-fourth of an inch from the lower surface or side not to be carved, letting the line be parallel to the edge of the bellows and passing all around it. Let us suppose the wood which is to be used is to be seven-eighths of an inch thick. Drawing this line leaves a margin on which to tack the leather when the two pieces of wood are put together in making up the bellows. Next, curve the surface so that it will be convex in all directions from a middle point to the line drawn on the seven-eighths thick sides, only leaving a flat portion below, about two and a half inches square, sufficient for the man who makes up the bellows to fasten on the nozzle, else he will have to glue on a piece, which, of course, increases the expense. Have this convex surface smooth. As a rule, the beginner in wood carving is not sufficiently practised in freehand drawing to sketch the design on the wood; so he must trace it, but in tracing be very careful to have the lines connect and overlap properly, as they do in the "Viking" style illustrated in our design. This can become one of the ugliest of styles if this point of proper overlapping and connecting sweep of curve is not observed. The drawing should be made with a very soft lead pencil, which leaves quite a heavy line after tracing, if tracing be necessary.
Then take a small fluter or large veining tool; let the tool follow the outer edge of the broad pencil line, but do not cut away this line, and cut into the wood to a depth not quite equal to the depth of the tool itself, else the corners of the tool will tear the wood. After the fluter or veiner has passed along the lines of the design, gouges and tools that fit the curves are to be used to remove the wood and to undercut the design to produce a slight shadow. The reason we leave the breadth of the pencil line is, that if we did not do so, the gouges and other tools would clip into the ornament, as the pressure of a blow of the chisel weakens the wood on the ornament, as well as that of the background, and this weakening and chipping must be avoided. A thing to be carefully guarded against in using tools on curved ornament is nicking into the curved outline. Try to follow the lines laid down with long, continuous sweeps. The observance of this direction is very simple; carelessness or ignorance is betrayed by an indented outline. By all means pay the strictest attention to having the sides ot tin-ornament clear, clean, and sharp. The ornament does not need to be an even depth of relief all around, as the background is of uneven surface, though clear and smooth. I prefer to see tool marks showing strong sweeps to their absence and a weak effect.
Modelling in the Round.
Study by Walter Crane.
The pupil who has done some carving in the primitive stage of this "Viking" or "Dragon" style of ornament - where only outlining and stamped background were called for - can lay aside stamping as he progresses. As the dragons overlap each other, the line - so important in this style - should be correct, and the dragon itself should present a slightly convex appearance. Remember, the lines must be kept very clear. This is so important that it must be emphasised by repetition. We can have this "Viking" carving of different depths, but, before determining the point, it is necessary to consider the use to which the carved object is to be placed. In the case of bellows, one-eighth of an inch, if well done, will make a better appearance than a cutting half an inch deep. In this style, and for articles of this nature, I would not recommend a greater depth ever than one-eighth of an inch, but it the style is employed for furniture or for exterior decoration - for both of which it is specially adapted - a depth of one inch is advisable.
After the interlacing, the background and sides of the ornament are in perfect order; take a compass and make two close parallel lines just inside of both sides of the ribbon-like, interlaced forms; then cut out the wood between these parallel lines with a small veining tool; the compass prepares the way, SO the wood does not chip when the veining tool follows. Be careful to cut the line (with the veining tool) of even width and depth. Then, with the same tool, place short, parallel lines at intervals along the ornament, crosswise, to suggest the dragon scales. Those things are best left to the taste and judgment of the pupil, who should work as independently as possible and not rely too strictly on a copy. Bellows should not be unnecessarily heavy. In order to make them light, the front part may be scooped out, care being taken not to dig too deeply, or the air may come through in various places. The back part of the bellows must have a hole one inch in diameter cut in the middle of it to admit air. If there should be a grotesque face carved on the front of the bellows, the mouth can be cut through to admit the air, as will be shown in a future design. The carving of this ornament should be done in such a way that sand-paper is out of the question, but, once more, be sure and have the lines sweep into each other gracefully. The background is to be uneven and wavy, but clear and distinct; as a level background makes this style especially hard-looking.
For the finish of this kind of work nothing is so good as beeswax and turpentine, for it does not fill up the sharp edges nor take off the sharp corners as shellac and varnish do. Mix equal quantities of yellow beeswax and turpentine, melt the wax and pour in the turpentine, warm both again, dip in a soft brush, and pass it over the work and let the mixture soak in. Then hold the work over heat, so that the finishing medium melts again, when it should be rubbed with a dry brush and a woollen cloth. If beeswax and turpentine cannot be procured, linseed-oil may take their place.
Karl von Rydingsvard.