Data Collection.

It warms my heart to think that some lowly agent at the NSA has likely been forced to read a PHW blog post or two and has had to spend his or her valuable time watching one of my sharpening videos.  I can see him reading a post about milling a walnut tree, then getting bored with what I have to say and following one of the links on my blog to a real woodworking site that may have inspired him to actually give woodworking a try.  After all, NSA agents aren't likely immune to the web surfing addiction that the rest of us fall victim to, in fact, it seems they are actually encouraged to roam around on the interwebs.  All this talk lately of data collection got me thinking about some data I have personally been mining recently.  Unfortunately, my Internet hacking abilities stop at logging into my email.  As a result, I have been forced to collect data the old fashioned way... by doing something, then looking at what I have done and saying "oh crap...well I'd better start over."

Ms. Mary May Showing Everyone How It's Done

Partially Finished Ball And Claw

Several months ago, a trip to my local woodworking tool retailer resulted in me spending some money on a set of wood carving tools.  Don't worry, I paid with a credit card so that my purchase could be tracked by that bored agent.  I have been wanting to try to carve a ball and claw foot since I sat in a class given by Ms. Mary May at the Woodworking In America conference in 2012 (photos above).  If you have a chance to take a class with her, or are up to ordering one of her DVDs I would recommend you do so.  She is an excellent teacher and has an amazing amount of skill.  During the class, she made it a point to mention that she didn't start with many carving tools and that, like many other tools, experimenting with the tools opens many avenues to skill and creative solutions.  So, I thought, I'll start small (I always tell myself that but it never ends well).  The set of carving tools I purchased are made by Pfeil and came as a set of six different tools.  Pfeil offers several variations of the set, each with a different six tools.  I purchased the one that looked like it had the most variety, partly because I had no idea what I was really looking for.  This turned out to be a good decision...at least I think it turned out to be a good decision.

Not being one of those people with "patience" when it comes to testing out a new tool, I got the set home, grabbed a scrap piece of wood, and started hacking.  I have been working with this set of tools on occasion (not regularly) for the last several months and I must say I am very happy with my purchase.  I feel like there is a lot I can do with these, they hold their edge very well, and they are comfortable in my hand.  I like the octagonal handles as they don't tend to roll off the table and they are easy to grip.  They have taken a beating from my poplar mallet and yet they are easy to guide with my hand through some rather tricky grained wood.  I haven't tried the ball and claw foot yet, but I have managed to get my hands on a large piece of balsa wood which I plan to carve into a practice piece.  Ms. May recommended a soft wood like balsa to practice in so I thought I'd give it a try after I have been relatively successful at hacking away some bubinga (a scrap from a saw tote I made a while ago).

The Skull Is Screaming "STOP RUINING THIS WOOD
YOU $#@&!"
I am interested to see where learning to carve takes me, as it wasn't something I was terribly interested in until I gave it a try.  I am certainly as green as it gets with respect to carving, but I do know a good tool when I use one, and I'd recommend this set of carving chisels to anyone interested in something like this.  I plan to keep attempting to carve until I either really get the hang of it, or someone begs me to stop ruining wood.  I have found that this is something that is really great at the end of a long day.  Setup is minimal, I clamp the piece to my workbench and start, the mess is minimal (I have done some carving in my living room with a vacuum handy in case my wife walked in), and the tools required to get started were affordable and few in number.  This seems like a really great way for someone with limited space and funds to get into working wood, something I am always on the lookout for.

So, until the Federal Government comes and drags me off for poorly writing articles on the best ways to destroy a nice piece of lumber, I will keep trying to learn to carve (along with the endless list of other skills that interest me and frustrate my wife).  More to come...

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