Thursday, February 18, 2010

Woodcarving Merit Badge: Relief Carving Requirement

For more than 5 years I've been using this American flag for the relief carving requirement when my Scouts are working on the woodcarving merit badge. The two final requirements for this must-have merit badge are to complete a simple relief carving and a carving in-the-round. I use a small dug out Indian canoe for the in-the-round carving requirement but I'll present that project later, if I haven't already done so.

A couple of weeks ago I finally put together a small wall display (as seen in the picture to the right) showing the steps for completing this project. For a relief carving, which is carving something on a flat surface, this flag has worked out great with all age groups and I would consider it as a perfect introductory carving to learn the basic cuts. Both 'stop cuts' and 'push cuts' are used in carving the 13 stripes and a stop cut must be made on the right edge of the star square which goes against the grain of the wood.

For the flag we use a pine board that is free of knots and is cut from a 1" X 12" which can be purchased at a reasonable price from any home improvement store. Basswood would be great but that's more expensive and I find that the pine works wonderful for this project.

The new wanna-be carver is given the pine blank with the 50 stars and 13 stripes already traced onto the wood as seen in step number one. When a new carver is learning the craft I find it very helpful and encouraging to have the flag already laid out on the wood which is a good practice to encourage and to ensure success.

For step number two as seen in the next picture to the right I show the carver how to do a stop cut on the right edge of the star cage which is "v" notched against the grain. I then demonstrate how to make a push cut by carving the first stripe using a controlled cut using both hands. By pushing this cut into the newly made stop cut, the student will then understand why a stop cut is just that... because it "stops" the cut. The 50 stars can then be lightly punched out with a large phillips head screw driver and hammer. Kids absolutely love to punch out the stars but not too hard or the board will crack in half.

The final step is carefully using acrylic paint to give the "stars and bars" some color. When dry complete Old Glory with a protective coating of polyurethane then tack on a picture hanger to the rear side and you've got yourself a fine relief carving to be proud about. And best of all this carving will complete the relief  requirement for the woodcarving merit badge and what kid wouldn't want to have that on their sash. As always, have fun and be safe!

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