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Need Advice

Home Forums Chip carving technique Need Advice

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 18 total)
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    David Bass

    I have been playing with the below luggage tag pattern with fairly good success, but I always seem to have one of the chips in the red circle to chip out. It seems no matter how sensitive or shallow the cut I wind up undercutting.

    Any thoughts or ideas at the best approach to getting this center section carved out. If it was larger I really would have issues, but since it is so small I guess I am too heavy handed.


    Marty Leenhouts

    Hey David!

    I’m going to notify other members about your question to see the advice they’d offer before I jump in. This will help everyone learn how to deal with this very common problem.


    Michael Disher

    I think for all of those final cuts, it’s very delicate in there and so very prone to chip out, I think I’d have a tendency to plan my cuts so that the cuts to the center were made at the end so I could finish them by rocking the knife, rather than slicing. Mind you, that’s without knowing any grain direction, and assuming you’re using basswood.

    David Bass

    Great idea Marty!

    Michael…it is basswood and grain goes from side to side on the image. But looking at the center portion you will experience all kinds of different grain cuts do to the nature of the pattern…at least that is my thought anyway. I will have to live with my deck of cards.

    From what I can tell is this is an undercut issue and not a short grain chipout issue…again, my opinion…I could be wrong.

    Randall Hermanson

    i can’t give good advice on chip out. i struggle with it myself. following your recent video on technique has helped a lot. i remember the instruction i had during the late 80s or early 90s is to cut in the center first. that is most of the time but there are circumstances to make this not always the case. if one cut follows close along the grain i make a stop cut first.



    I would look at the grain first. Divide the area in 4ths. Begin -with the grain -quarter first. I would utilize a set of playing cards to determine which direction to make the cuts before making a cut. With a cross grain cut, I would ease up on the cut and not complete it. Then go back and complete the cut with the correct angle. This can take the pressure off of chipping out. Never make a first cut backed up to an already cut area. It is a weak area and can lead to chip out. I am fairly new and have chipped out several times. I do it less by using the set of cards to determine the wood grain. Glue comes in handy  for me right now! Always keep a sharp knife and consistent angle. I strop my knives every 20 minutes of use.

    I am not an expert by any means. I watch the videos on this site many times. Wood grain is my biggest challenge. Being left handed and watching right handed videos is also challenging. The biggest thing that has helped me visually learn are mirroring the videos and the deck of cards! I encourage you to watch the video.



    I read somewhere that start cutting into the center and as you get there roll your blade upward to 90 degrees to finish. Also dont carve the ridge all the way to the centerpoint. Never done it mind you, just read it.


    Ray Kretzschmer

    I have faced this issue in one form or another many times and have messed up more often than not. Sometimes wood filler gives a second chance at a reasonable outcome.  The best I have done is to work on every other chip first with a freshly sharpened knife and a light touch.  Start at the center point with shallow cuts. Once every other chip is complete, go to the remaining uncut chips.  At this point I don’t try to start at the center.  I will back off a bit and begin carving with shallow cuts to complete the individual chips. The result is that only every other chip touches the center point.

    Kevin Weaver

    Patterns radiating out from a center point can be tricky and have, in the past, resulted in some rather creative outbursts from me on more than one occasion (fortunately no one was in ear shot to hear me on those occassions).  But there are a few things you can do to avoid chip out at the centre.

    First off, make sure your knife is, as Marty says, scary sharp.  For tight patterns like at the centre of the luggage tag I find using the modified knife works best.

    Now you don’t need to have every chip radiating out from the very center of the pattern.  Trying to have each trip starting from the very center is guaranteed to result in chip out (and probably some creative loud outbursts).  Instead you want to offset some of the chips away from the center point. I find offsetting every other chip has worked for me but I don’t know if there is a hard and fast rule on a sequence for staggering offset chips.  I try to randomly stagger the offsets to avoid creating a pattern and taking away from the center effect.

    Of course you also want to remember to smoothly draw the tip of the blade out (go shallow) as you cut towards the center to avoid undercutting.

    The final thing to do is plan out your order of cuts from your very first cut of your first chip so that as you work around the radiating pattern the last cut of your last chip will be with the grain.

    With a bit of practice I have found that I don’t need to worry about creative outbursts or Super Glue at all.  For a great example of this technique, check out Marty’s video for carving a swirl rosette.

    Hope this helps.


    I haven’t had experience in this type of carving yet.  However, Barton has a technique which may be of benefit.  When carving a four chip fan he suggests leaving the two inner chips short of the meeting point, giving the illusion of all four coming together.  Your rectangle could be divided into 5 four chip sections in this manner, or, do 2 four chip sections (for the long chips) and 4 three chip sections (for the short ones).  I know it sounds a bit out-of-the-box, but it may do the trick.

    Norbert Riedi

    In his book “Das Kerbschnitzen” (1959) Christian Rubi recommends on page 45 to start the cuts from the center outwards—but just for a bit; not the whole line. (See black & white top left figure in my picture.) Personally, after a little bit more than two years in chip carving I’m not skilled enough to finish partial or subcuts properly in more than one step/cut. I always have to cut in one move because otherwise I tend to change the blades angle. And this kind of flaw is very visible along a cut.

    My workaround is, not to cut all the way in the center. Because if you draw many lines thru a centerpoint, the lines build up for a “stain” too. Hence I guess it’s more appropriate to leave an evenly shaped but uncut part of wood in the center than broken out parts of cuts. I usually start to cut with the right sided line right in the center carefully and not deeper than required, then I cut the following short outer line. The third cut goes back in the center very, very carefully, especially towards the end of the cut. There it’s crucial not to cut too deep. I always try to imagine where the tip of the blade is in the wood. Occasionally I also draw guide lines for this matter, to help me find out, where the blade’s tip should be (see dotted lines on the board right hand side of the picture).

    But I also guess that this problem depends on the type of wood and the quality of the boards you use.

    I hope you are able to understand what I wish to describe despite writing very verbosly.

    Take care everybody.


    Neil McGuire

    Hi David, I would add only a little to the great advice given above.

    Make sure you monitor your grain direction. In the image here, you can see the cuts are always with the grain.

    I would start with #1 and cut toward the center. Then #2 from the center. You will notice that the cuts are with the grain.

    Rotate counterclockwise and repeat. However, when you get the the 6 o’clock position the grain direction changes, so should your cut sequence and direction.

    Hope this helps.


    (posted by Marty for David)

    Well…..someday I will figure out the “posting” portal.  For now…..my advice regarding “circle pattern chip out”.
    Every other cut does not go completely to the center…..mind your grain direction.  Make every other cut completely around the pattern in ine direction…..then complete by cutting the remaining in one direction around the circle.

    Actually, you can avoid the problem if you leave a small “circle pattern” at the very center and only cut up to the circle…..

    David Blincow


    I really do not have much trouble any more with chip outs. I rotate my blade to 90 degrees as I approach the center point of a design and it comes out really nice and clean. I owe my success to the videos and your fine instructional advice.  I admit, it did not happen over night, took some patience andmuch practice.


    David Bass

    Wow! Thanks for all the great advice! All of them make sense.

    I will try these to see what works best and I will report back my successes.


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