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Carving scroll with difficult maple


H.R.Fisher
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 I started to carve maple scroll that has rather gnarly irregular grain and very dry.. It is difficult to carve without having some tear out.I was wondering if it would work to soak it in water for a few days or even boil it in hot water to make it easier to carve.. Is this a far out idea or have others done this before? your comments would be appreciated.      Thanks,  Henry

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Lightly wet the parts you want to cut, when you want to cut them. As you go you should learn which way the wood "wants" to be cut. Not sure what "very dry" actually means.

However, someone here once related a story (Hargrave?) of visiting a French violin "factory" and seeing a woman carve scroll after scroll in no time at all by constantly dipping it into a bucket of water she kept by her stool. She also had a child nearby constantly sharpening her tools. 

So, more or less what Julian said.

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The bucket dunk is a time honored technique, but maybe a bit heavy handed. I'll echo what Julian and others have said - I use an eye dropper and targed tricky areas with a few drops as I go. I let them sink in for maybe seven seconds, then get back to cutting. With the right kind of cuts you can get away with a surprisingly lazy sharpening routine (not advocating this at all!!), But better to just get your stuff really sharp and keep it that way. Makes those endgrain areas way easier.

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18 hours ago, H.R.Fisher said:

 I started to carve maple scroll that has rather gnarly irregular grain and very dry.. It is difficult to carve without having some tear out.I was wondering if it would work to soak it in water for a few days or even boil it in hot water to make it easier to carve.. Is this a far out idea or have others done this before? your comments would be appreciated.      Thanks,  Henry

 

 You have to know when  to cut your loses.  Why fight it. Life is short ;)

Get a better neck block to start with.

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18 hours ago, H.R.Fisher said:

 I started to carve maple scroll that has rather gnarly irregular grain and very dry.. It is difficult to carve without having some tear out.I was wondering if it would work to soak it in water for a few days or even boil it in hot water to make it easier to carve.. Is this a far out idea or have others done this before? your comments would be appreciated.      Thanks,  Henry

Extended soaking makes it a bit easier to cut. I have tried that. But the wood warps completeley in the drying process and you wont recognize your cut any more. It can also crack at the endgrain. This was reason enough for me to throw it away and rather make a new scroll.

Actuallly Strad never used very curled maple for the scrolls and he knew why. 

Edited by Andreas Preuss
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In the end what matters most is to understand wood and so cutting direction and of course the sharpening of the tools, there are no shortcuts.

In case of particularly brittle woods such as those very seasoned (or heat treated) and with deep flames the best trick is to cut very little at a time (very thin shavings) so as to limit to a minimum the breakout force increasing cutting control.

But you need extremely sharp tools to be able to do this, you always end up here.
 
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2 hours ago, Wee B. Bridges said:

 

 You have to know when  to cut your loses.  Why fight it. Life is short ;)

Get a better neck block to start with.

  $60.00 now days is hard to come by,at least for me. I'll try my best and throw it out if it turns out to be a disaster. I mixed some glycerin in water and i'll soak it perhaps a day or so and see what happens.   Thanks for all your come back;   Henry

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7 hours ago, Davide Sora said:
 

In the end what matters most is to understand wood and so cutting direction and of course the sharpening of the tools, there are no shortcuts.

In case of particularly brittle woods such as those very seasoned (or heat treated) and with deep flames the best trick is to cut very little at a time (very thin shavings) so as to limit to a minimum the breakout force increasing cutting control.

 
But you need extremely sharp tools to be able to do this, you always end up here.
 

Davide's reply is the best advice I have found....and I have carved very dry, brittle, thermo processed, deeply flamed maple and exotic woods.

That said, I'll try wetting the wood next time I run into problems and judge for myself.

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12 hours ago, lpr5184 said:

Davide's reply is the best advice I have found....and I have carved very dry, brittle, thermo processed, deeply flamed maple and exotic woods.

That said, I'll try wetting the wood next time I run into problems and judge for myself.

Of course wetting the wood works, it makes it more homogeneous to the cut, but it has the disadvantages described above, so if it is not really necessary I prefer to avoid it.

I wet systematically the wood when I cut the endgrain  inside the pegbox.

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My experience with wetting wood to carve it is that it takes very little. Like I mentioned, I use an eyedropper. That and, as others have said, razor sharp tools, and you're good. Davide made the most important point - light cuts are less likely to chip out. 

Using tiny amounts of water on a specific area are not going to warp your work. But they are going to help. I use a damp rag to wipe down the back when I'm carving it, also.

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14 minutes ago, JacksonMaberry said:

My experience with wetting wood to carve it is that it takes very little. Like I mentioned, I use an eyedropper. That and, as others have said, razor sharp tools, and you're good. Davide made the most important point - light cuts are less likely to chip out. 

Using tiny amounts of water on a specific area are not going to warp your work. But they are going to help. I use a damp rag to wipe down the back when I'm carving it, also.

I occasionally use a small brush to wet the wood  to cut the channels in the throat (endgrain) when the gouge has lost a bit of sharpening (sometimes I'm lazy too), but has the annoying tendency to make the center line disappear.:angry:

Time to make a pass on the sharpening stone.....:rolleyes:

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  Thanks for your helpful comments, Perhaps somewhat ironic that I would solicit  input from MN than continue with my own ideas.  However I do want to report that rough cutting the scroll and submerging it in 1 teaspoon of glycerin  and 4 oz of water for 24 hours than allowing it to dry for another 24 hours made a significant difference  in it's plasticity without  causing any cracking or distortion.

                                                                                       Thanks again;  Henry

         

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15 hours ago, H.R.Fisher said:

  Thanks for your helpful comments, Perhaps somewhat ironic that I would solicit  input from MN than continue with my own ideas.  However I do want to report that rough cutting the scroll and submerging it in 1 teaspoon of glycerin  and 4 oz of water for 24 hours than allowing it to dry for another 24 hours made a significant difference  in it's plasticity without  causing any cracking or distortion.                                                                                

Follow your ideas to see if they work is never a demerit, it is called experience, for better or for worse....:)

I do not know well the glycerin, but if it makes the wood more plastic permanently, I would be worried, since it could have a negative acoustic effect (yes, it's just the scroll, but it's still part of the violin ...).

I do not know if the glycerine will evaporate completely, but if it does not I would not use it to impregnate the wood of a violin.

Stradivari used a more drastic and efficient system, he used plainer wood for his scrolls, a lot easier to carve than highly figured maple so fashion these days...;)

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13 minutes ago, MANFIO said:

Try to improve your sharpening skills.

That's a solution suitable for a lot of different problems, which i would recommend to everybody. The steel used by many tool suppliers can also often be an issue. I was only happy after i changed almost all my (finger-)plane blades.

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