The real adventures in working cast resin plastics are in carving. To see intricate forms take shape, as easily as carving Ivory soap, as you pass the material back and forth under a highspeed carving-spindle, or "draw" grooves and curves in it with a power hand-tool, knowing that as soon as it is buffed and polished you will have a surface as glistening and colorful as any gem-stone, is the thrill of a craftsman's lifetime. Whether you are copying priceless museum masterpieces in jade, ivory, carnelian or any other material, or merely carving a ring, bracelet or other small item, this process gives greater satisfaction to the craftsman whose pleasure lies in creating beauty than any other craft material. In addition, it has the decided advantage over other forms of amusement indulged in by the amateur craftsman, in that a product of this type receives universal acclaim and respect, whereas the casual audience to whom the average homeworkshop hobby product is proudly exhibited is not always able to grasp the importance, the high degree of craftsmanship, the infinite pains or genius displayed in the hobbyist's latest model locomotive, inlaid what not or movie scenario. A beautiful carving in plastics is something they can see, feel and understand at once. Its warm touch pleases their hands, its scintillating color holds their eyes, its glass-like professional-looking finish amazes them, its utility and place in the home as an ornament is at once obvious. Some hobbyists may say that this statement smacks of prejudice, but in rebuttal all I can say is that I have indulged, more or less seriously, in practically every one of the craft hobbies, and none has given me the pure unadulterated satisfaction of creation that I have found in plastics. Nor have I ever had to apologize to any unsympathetic skeptic for the appearance of any finished job — the material itself takes care of that, requiring only to be fed sufficient buffing and polishing compound to wax fat, sleek shiny and fit for the queen's taste.
Hand-Carving Equipment It is in this sub-division of craft-work that plastics par- f ticularly excels, because of the striking effects that can be accom plished with such simple equipment. Without exaggeration, practically anything can be used to carve plastics with, from a nail-file on up. Practically a universal tool is a small triangular file, with its point ground square. The flat surface and the corners of the file will work any shape that is rounded, such as rings, bracelets, clips, pins, pocket-pieces, knobs, handles and small statuettes, and any carving which is in a depression or too deep to be worked with the triangular edge of the file can be done with the point, altered as shown in Figure 10, using the file with a pushing motion like an engraver's tool. A nail-file can be used in the same manner, except that it does not have the stiffness necessary for using the point. Other tools which can be used for hand-carving include small pieces of coarse abrasives of all types, sand-paper or emery-wrapped sticks of all sizes and shapes, or various shapes of tool-steel points mounted in wooden handles. Any tool to be used with a pushing motion should of course be short-handled, while those using a filing motion should have long or no handles. The tools are not used with a cutting motion, such as on wood, but with the pushing motion, as in etching copper plates.
Fig. 10. Carving- with a pointed file, which nut be ground to the angles illustrated.
To avoid digging-in, the tool-point should approach the work at about a right angle, as indicated in Figure 10, and if there is any tendency to gouge, a slight flat can be ground be-
I hind the point, which will act as a stop. Remove material with a number of shallow, shaving cuts, rather than with a deep chiseling action.
Carved work can either be slapped out quickly, or given infinite care and pains, in either event producing an effective and attractive object, but in planning and laying out your operations, provisions must be made as to which type of work you are planning to do. If you are working for a quick effect only, and particularly if the polishing is to be done by hand also without the benefit of a power buffer, then you should confine your carving-cuts to shallow rounded grooves as much as possible, or you may have difficulty in polishing the deep cuts in the finished object. On the other hand, if you are really intending to put some work into the job, ANY surface can be polished, no matter how intricately or deeply carved, in the same manner, and by more or less the same methods, as any surface of a gem-stone can be smooothed and polished — with little pointed sticks rubbed back and forth, charged with buffing and polishing compound. Therefore try a simple shallow smooth-cut project first, before you tax your patience too much with intricate carving.
A point worth remembering in connection with deep-carving however is that the unpolished carved surfaces, where the carving is done AFTER the main surface is polished, can frequently be made to serve a decorative purpose if left unpolished. A little experimenting will make this point clear. This is particularly true when working in the various transparent colors, especially crystal and clear amethyst, as these give the effect of frosted glass where unpolished, which makes a nice contrast with the glass-like appearance of the polished transparent material, and makes the carving much more noticeable than if carving and all were polished to a glass-like surface.
Even in the opaque colors the whitish color of carving-cuts is frequently used for contrast. No matter what color material you are working in — even jet black — your unpolished carving-cut will show up whitish, tinged with the body-color.
Another type of carving-cut that is always left unpolished is that which is later to be colored with dies or quick-dry lacquer, as the paint will not stick to the surface after it has been polished.
The most interesting effect in carving, whether working with hand or power tools, is carving done on the back of a transparent piece of material. Any "depth" in the actual carving-cuts shows up as a "height" when viewed from the other side, and the optical effects are such that the design appears entirely different when viewed from the two sides. Deep carving especially has an odd appearance, something like a flower or other object frozen into a block of ice. Of course it requires a little practice to see what particular cuts cause these various effects, but it is an extremely interesting field for experiment. Another variation of the same idea is making a shallow carving of a design, or even an outline portrait, in a sheet of 1/4" crystal material. When this sheet is lighted from one edge only, the picture stands out in striking relief, and this idea has been used not only for pictures, but for advertising signs and other applications as well.
Linoleum-block carving tools and similar "edged" tools of this nature cannot be used for carving plastics. The best tools and the easiest to work in every respect are plain files, where the work is so laid out that they can be used. In this connection it might be noted in passing that there are files available in practically every shape — spoon-shaped, ball-shaped and countless variations — called "die-sinker's files", with which any type of carving can be done, no matter how deep or intricate, since these are used by die-makers for shaping and finishing the most intricate dies in steel and bronze.