Lately I have been working on a couple of relief carvings at the Wednesday morning group. I have re-discovered my love of this type of carving and am working hard to improve my skills. Part of the challenge of relief carving is deciding which level various figures in the craving will be and then making sure the levels are consistent. On a smaller carving I tend toward a maximum of four different levels and usually only three. The back ground is carved away and I try and have it smooth and level all the way around. I then decide what should be in the foreground and then try to balance the carving by making some aspects of the picture lower down than the featured item. For example this carving is a Calla Lilly, the blossom with be the highest,(featured) and then will be leaves at two levels then the background level.
I am sure that a great artist is able to do all their carving and levelling by eye. I am not a great artist, but I aspire to improve as a craftsman. To make sure that all the various levels are carved to equal depth regardless of where they appear in the carving I decided I needed some mechanical help.
The edge is easy. I make a mark around the edge of the wood and work the material away until it is even. Gauging whether I am equally deep into the wood when in the middle of the carving is a much trickier.
To make is possible to accurately know whether I had carved away enough material in the middle of the piece I made this depth setting/measuring gauge.
The gauge straddles the work piece, then I screw the eye bolt down until it just touches the work piece. I can then check all the sections on level two, or level three against one another. If the gauge's feet sit flat on the bench while resting on the work piece, the depth is correct. I haven't bothered with an incremental measurements on this gauge, because the actually measurement are not important, it is the relative/comparative measurements that are important.
As a tool this was very to make. I drilled a slightly undersized hole in the cross piece and screwed the bolt through. The nut is not really necessary, it just happened to be handy so I set into the cross piece too. As you can see the eye bolt is much heavier duty than is required but it was was laying around purposeless in my tool box. Instead of going out to buy a bolt, I used what was at hand.
I glued the legs on rather than screwed, nailed etc. I have many good clamps and plenty of good glue. If there are no medal fasteners in projects connected with craving there are no medal fasteners for you chisels to hit. Yes, I can't imagine any reason that a chisel would be near this gauge, but.....the precedent of no nails near carving tools is a good one.
Cheers, Ian W