IVY HILL FARM
Big Prairie, Ohio
The basic chip can be combined to make all sorts of interesting patterns. It is no more difficult to carve circular patterns than band patterns. Just make the appropriate guide lines, and follow them. The guide line circle can be drawn on the gourd surface using a compass. Put several pieces of masking tape on the gourd where you want to plce the point of the compass so that it does not make a hole in the surface of the gourd. A compass works better than trying to draw around a pattern because the surface of the gourd is not usually flat, and patterns wrinkle. The next step is to draw a horizontal and a vertical line through the center of the circle. Continue dividing the circle into wedges until you end up with a size on the diameter of the circle that allows chips of the largest size you want to carve. Start carving the chips facing one direction around the outside of the circle. Then reverse the direction on the next round, taking care to interlock the stop-cuts. Continue working into the center, skipping a chip or two if they begin to get crowded. If you are carving an extermely large circle, draw guide lines for a few inner circles with the same center, just to be sure you are working evenly.
Variations on this pattern include leaving a few uncarved rows which makes a pretty contrasting smooth area inside the circles. On a very round gourd, you can place four circles with the bands which weave under each other as shown on the gourd above (and the detail below). Experiment with different size U-gouges -- the same pattern takes on a very different look.
The outlines of the bands are really harder to carve than the chips, since it takes a long extended push of the gouge to carve a "line". Starting and stopping leaves uneven places until the carver develops a steady hand. It just takes practice, and remember that carving always looks more uneven before it is stained because on an unstained gourd, the differences in carving depth tend to cast shadows on the lighter surface. That all smoothes out with staining -- and it looks even better when you apply a coat of paste shoe polish over the stained finish because the glow of the buffed shoe polish draws the eye to the background.
A further note on the topic of staining is a reminder that it is possible to carve some areas of a gourd, stain them, and then then carve additional areas of the gourd to reveal the lighter surface, producing three different colored areas: the dark carving (done first), the medium brown background of the uncut surface, and the light carving (done after staining). Once the gourd has been stained, it is difficult to remove pencil markings, so any carving done after staining is best done free hand unless the guidelines are carved away. (Back to previous page.) (More about chip carving.)