A Woodworker’s Notebook
Jeff Gorman
Carving Hints and Tips


  • Use an adjustable lamp, varying the position so that the light and shade help you to see the form.
  • Beware of spoiling the model by knocking it over or with paint/ coffee/beer splashes, sawdust, accidental jabs with gouge, etc.
  • Keep all offcuts, you never know when you might need to find exact matches for repairs.
  • Be prepared for disappointments, for example, when the outer "skin" was removed, my wood began to dry and fine splits appeared. However, they don't seem to spoil the finished job.
  • For obvious reasons, put your gouge down before adjusting the vice, mopping your brow, stroking the cat (or even your aching back), adjusting specs, etc.
  • For the safety of the job and yourself, make sure that it is securely gripped so that it cannot suddenly move while you work.
  • Take care if removing a very old stuffed model from a glass case. I have been told that arsenic can be used in the preservation process.


  • Half-round files have a smaller diameter at the tip. You can sometimes make good use of this feature.
  • Use file card to clean files after use. Some woods can corrode the teeth if allowed to linger, especially if the workpiece is still a bit green.
  • It can help productivity if you fix the file card to the bench and work smaller files up against it.
  • You can make better progress by repeatedly slightly changing the direction of the stroke. The idea is to prevent the file running in its own grooves. Finish with the grain, of course.
  • If you examine some flat files, you will find that one edge has teeth whereas the other is uncut and is therefore "safe-edged".
  • From the surplus dealers, very likely at a woodworking show, you might be able to pick up files used by diesinkers. These are made in a wide variety of shapes, some of which are very dinky.


  • If, when using abrasive papers, you find a blemish, probably revealed by the way its crevices retain sanding dust, it is no good just rubbing and rubbing over the problem spot.To reach the defect, you'll have to work on the surrounding area as well. If you can't remove a blemish with say a maximum of twelve strokes of the paper, much as it may grieve you to do so, go back to the previous grade.
  • If you get too hard a shine, gently cut it back with 0000 steel wool.
  • When using felt-type abrasives, (Scotchbrite, etc) use a dowel under the fabric. The teeth of a file can cut through the abrasive backing and damage the job - also the abrasive can also damage the file teeth.
  • A brass brush clears clogged papers.
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