Getting The Right Start

Beginner Basics
All About Tupelo Wood
How to Square a Block of Wood

Avoiding all the "book" ways to square a block is less confusing to  me. Here is how I do it. First of all, you can just about bet that the block will not be square to start with. There is however usually one of the six sides of a block that will be reasonably flat or even and that is the side I choose to lay my square against to get one of the other sides square with it. I try to pick the most narrow side to lie face up so when my vertical saw blade cuts the line I draw on there using my square, I will also not only have a squared corner for two sides but I will have a 90 degree cut which in itself is also squaring the block because it is cutting toward the wider side of that block. Put your square on the newest improved and squared side you just cut and now you have something more accurate to square all the other corners from. In short. always get one good right angle and vertical side to work off of and use it to get all the other sides and angles with the square and the vertical saw blade. Keep going back to that original square side and corner to check each other side and corner as you go. -
Side - Angle - Side etc.
About lining the pattern up on your block.

A tree is round and the best wood for carving birds is the sap wood, which is the wood nearest the bark. The top grain is what I call that part of the block that is closest to that region of the tree, so when looking at the end of the block, the end grain, (growth rings), will form a rainbow with top or flat grain being at the top of that arc on most blocks. This top grain is where I prefer the most viewed side of my carving and my finest detailed side to be. The top (ie; flat grain) is better for fine texturing and burning than the side grain areas it seems. With ducks, some carvers prefer the top grain to be on the side pocket side facing the view they wish to present first. I generally like my best wood, the top or flat grain, to be on the top of my duck. For working decoys and non detailed carvings this probably does not  matter that much. Other considerations in laying out the pattern on a block are the delicate areas and how you want the grain to run, (usually lengthwise) for strength. Often in fancy poses it is best to use inserts for fragile extensions off the main body of the carving,such as the wing tips. The top grain principle is also used for those inserts as well. --- Tip :- Always carve with the grain and perpendicular to the end grain, especially when power carving with coarse bits.
Vic Kirkman Originals
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School of Wildfowl Art

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