As some of you know, I have been known to carve a gnome home or two using cottonwood bark. (You can see some of those on my website: woodakoodashoda com.) On a hot, sunny day in the South, I decided to start a village for wayward and homeless gnomes using basswood. I developed a series of articles that are based on the projects from that village, and here is part one.
All the small houses are carved from 2" x 2" x 4-1/2" blocks, the tall houses are from 2" x 2" x 9" blocks, and *tie hobbit hole is from a 3" x 3" x 6" block. I deliberately •eft out a pub and a jailhouse because gnomes have been known to have too many mugs of mead, and with no pub to "go a drinkin'," they don’t need any jailhouse to sleep off a fuzzy head. Also, there are no crooked gnomes. Well, anyway, there are 12 buildings for you to whittle, with a group of three presented in each article. And I'm quite sure that each building can and will be nwdified by you to represent another type of building that you may want in your village. So get to it and build ovlage...
Hobbit Hole, House on the Rocks, and Thatch House Notice that each piece is laid out in approximate thirds (all measurements being plus or minus). Laying out your work in approximate thirds is a basic rule of composition, and the results are pleasing to the eye.
Following the above rule of composition, from the bottom to the roof edge is two-thirds of the piece and the roof edge to the top is one-third. Viewing the body of the building, the top of the foundation is one-third up from the bottom and to the roofline is two-thirds up from the top of the foundation.
Now it's whittling time...
Make a wavy, crooked, deep stop cut around the top of the foundation at a slightly downward angle and remove a sliver of wood all around. Make a wavy, crooked, deep stop cut around the roof edge at a slightly downward angle.
Starting two-thirds down from the roof edge, carve upward at a slightly inward angle to where the above downward angle intersects, removing a big wedge. Starting at the above two-thirds point, carve downward at a slightly inward angle all around to the foundation stop cut. You should now have bulging walls ready for detail.
Starting about one-third down from the top of the foundation, carve upward to the stop cut, removing a wedge; then from that one-third point, carve down toward the bottom at a slightly downward angle. The foundation is now ready for details. For the roof, carve upward all around to form a peak. The main roof is now ready for details.
The foundation is rocks—big rocks. After drawing the joint lines, make deep V-cuts along the joint lines, removing wedges. Deepen each junction with deeper V-cuts, taking off the corners of the rocks. I use a knife (rather than a V-tool) for this work because it leaves a sharper shadow line. Last, vary all the surfaces so that some rocks stick out farther than others. The end result should look rocky (jagged and uneven). When carving rocks, think of diamonds—large facets and no rounded surfaces.
Draw in the horizontal lap board siding. Draw in the door and trim. Make a shallow stop cut down each of the corner boards and around the trim. Now make a deep stop cut around the door and remove a layer of wood. Work from the center back to the edges. Repeat until the door is 3/8" to 1/2" deep. Next, cut in the stair risers. Make a shallow stop cut along each line of siding; then, holding your knife at a slight angle, remove a thin slice of wood. Repeat until the siding is finished.
Right, Back, and Left Views
Draw in the windows. Make a deep stop cut around each window and remove a layer of wood. Work from the center back to the edges. Repeat until the window is 1/8" deep. Make a shallow stop cut along each line of siding; then, holding your knife at a slight angle, remove a thin slice of wood. Repeat until the siding is finished.
Draw in the windowpanes. Triangles work well and smaller is better than bigger. Remove each window segment with a three-point chip carving cut. A chip carving knife is not required. A blade with a slight curve works well. The key word is sharp. For those who like it technical, the magic chip carving blade angle is approximately 62 degrees.
Carve in the rounded dormers. Carve in an off-centered button on top of the roof. The roof texture is meant to be faux thatch and is done with a tight 70-degree V-tool. Draw a line down the center of the roof and then draw lines to divide the roof into eight segments. Continue to divide each segment in half until all the lines are in place. Work from the roof edge to the top up each centerline, removing the line. Last, work from the roof edge back to the wall surface.
Every door and every window has a high point somewhere near the center. Use broad, flat strokes to carve from the high point to the edges, leaving flat facets.
Wash your carving. Wet the piece and scrub with a soft brush. I recommend Procter & Gamble’s Dawn Blue Dishwashing Liquid or Simple Green All-Purpose Cleaner. Dry thoroughly.
After I finish painting, I soak my carving in a mixture of Raw Sienna oil paint and linseed oil. First, I mix a 6" to 8" line of Raw Sienna paint with 32 ounces of boiled linseed oil in a wide-mouth container. I stir the mixture, soak the piece, let it drip, and then pat dry with paper towels.
(Caution: The paper towels with the oil paint and linseed oil mixture are flammable. Immediately and properly dispose of the paper towels outside. Refer to the product labels for proper disposal instructions of the paper towels.) Allow your project to dry, and then apply two coats of fast-drying, clear semigloss polyurethane.
by Tony Erickson
Tony Erickson has been carving for many years and has been on the “teaching trail" for the past 13 years. He is the author of two self-published books and numerous magazine articles on woodcarving, and has taught at many clubs and woodcarving events throughout the United States. Tony and Lucille, his wife of 5O years, reside in South Carolina.