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Holding Relief Carvings

Some of the best ways to hold relief carvings are also the simplest...

In this lesson I show you some of my favourite ways of holding relief carvings and the virtues of holding your work more vertically.

There are various mechanisms for holding a bench surface at an angle, including the 'deckchair' approach. My own tilting bench is more fully described in my Elements of Woodcarving. You must be able to positively lock the tilted bench top in position to make sure it doesn't accidentally crash down. Use the strongest hinges you can find.


| 07 February 2020 17:27

I have two that I bought separately and are both a couple years old. I can see on both that the rod has been slowly "drilling" a hole into the brass block. I still love them though!!! I'll send them an email to see what they say.

| 07 February 2020 17:21

Lucus - The brass block just swivels on the end of the thread and doesn't have a thread as such. I think it may just be dross from the machining; when it was put together and I think it it will settle down after you've used it a while. Veritas pups and dogs are well made; I certainly tighten mine up pretty hard at times.
On the other hand, I'm not an engineer! If you are not happy you should return it to your supplier and request another one.

| 06 February 2020 20:41

Love the Veritas wonder pup or dog. But I always find little metal shavings where the threaded rod meets the brass block at the end. Maybe I'm tightening it a bit too much?

| 23 June 2018 14:32

David - Sorry, they are so common that I was looking for something more special. The clamps are made by Record and I think called 'quick action G clamps'. They differ from the type where you do nothing but laboriously screw the pad in or out in that you can slide the adjusting part up or down the bar before a final tightening of the screw. Hope that makes sense! Try an online search?

| 23 June 2018 01:08

No I mean the blue "C" or "F" clamps. They look sturdier than the ones I have.

| 22 June 2018 23:27

David - Do you mean the tilting bench? It's made by Sjöberg - though I don't know whether they still make them.

| 21 June 2018 16:08

What brand of adjustable clamp are you using in this video?

| 28 February 2016 20:38

Hello Chris and everybody, I have seen a sculptors bench with the top tilting on Dictum, here is the link:
The mechanism of the tilting top seems solid and convenient!

| 23 February 2015 13:07

Heather - Wedges seem to work best at about 5-10 degrees. Make sure they fit snugly to the surrounding 'fence' so you get plenty of friction.

| 19 February 2015 17:18

Hello Chris, simple question what is the angle of your wedges please so I can have a go at making my own.

Thank you

| 24 January 2015 13:22

Jo - I'm not sure what they call it, but it's the only one Sjoberg make for woodcarvers - if they still do make it. It's directly modelled on my own tilting bench which you can see in my book, 'Elements of Woodcarving' and very expensive. A cheaper option would be to make up (or have made up) your own based on specs. in my book, adding the end vice and holes for dogs along the length.

| 21 January 2015 17:20

I Chris which Sjoberg workbench model you have used in this video Relief carving ?

| 27 October 2013 11:25

Paul - With a reminder to everyone to keep comments pertinent to the video itself: I regularly carry tools abroad in my checked in baggage with no problem. You just cannot bring anything sharp (and of course they will be!) into the cabin.

| 22 October 2013 11:30

Hi all, Mark how to you get through airports with your carving gear. I was thinking of bringing my toy to Puerto Plata but afraid it would be confiscated since 9/11 ?

| 29 September 2013 07:09

Robert - The Veritas adjustable vice is lightweight but I would think adequate for that sort of size relief. I would extend the 3" metal plate with an 8" x 1/2" plywood plate and screw into the back of the relief from this; you'll get more support for the work. Best of luck with your carving!

| 29 September 2013 01:27

Would a Veritas Carver's Vice be a good choice for relief carving. I carve panels that are about a square foot. I am wondering if the 3 inch face plate is enough support for the panel.

| 15 August 2013 19:22

Chris, Do you know where I can see a plan or photos for your tilting bench design?

| 28 February 2013 12:39

Thanks, Chris. I followed your suggestions to look it over globally. Because the workbench (on my terrace and therefore no real workshop setup) is square, but often my reliefs are not, I went 100mm one way and 130mm the other. Now I'll get some help from my friend to drill the holes well.

| 26 February 2013 19:10

Ann - Congratulations! Can you add dogs to an end vice? That's really useful. There are no hard and fast rules for where the holes lie. I'd lay a big sheet of paper on your bench top and draw a grid at, say, 120mm intervals with the holes destined for the points of intersection, and see what that feels like. Pretend you are carving. What if the holes were at 150? I think you'll get an idea of what might work for the reliefs you have in mind. Have more than fewer and make sure you bore at right angles to the surface.

| 24 February 2013 12:29

Chris, I've had made for me a good carving standing bench (58cm x 58cm) and have equipped myself with a nice series of bench dogs for when I do relief work. What would you say could be a valid and flexible layout of the holes? Thanks.

| 10 January 2013 17:42

Jeffrey - You'll have to find a Sjoberg bench somewhere for that, and they seem a little hard to find! To be candid, the reason I didn't show the mechanism was because I don't like it - the method of holding is a sort of hinge and depends on a grip to hold the up bench top rather than positive locking one such as I use in my own version. In my book 'Elements', you'll see a 'deckchair' carving stand. I know some carvers who've use this mechanism very successfully to add tilt to their bench top.'

| 10 January 2013 14:40

I'd like to see how to make the lifting mechanism for the tilting table.

| 11 December 2011 06:38

Hmmm, just found the ironing board. It's short, for Asian legs, but has the wheels turning!

| 11 December 2011 06:23

My first attempt has gone down in flames, sad to say. Time to reconsider!

I brought along a bench hook and an 8" Jorgensen pony-type clamp and all the gouges I thought would be needed. No problem there, although I did not bring non-slip mat but the thought had come up to me before hand. I did not bring any honing tools, either, and maybe that will be corrected in the future. The heavy canvas of my tool roll may have taken the 'perfect' edge off the tools I put into it all ready to carve. At least my small cherry board with rubbed in compound!

My plan was to finish grounding a set of small reliefs that are in-process, to get that done in time for the holidays up-coming. Anyway,to shorten this up, the 28" high work desk in my room was the only place to set up. Much, much too low for me to get the right grip, tool angle, and forward pressure. It didn't feel particularly safe, either. Had to sit and that was no fun.

My normal setup is a 16" tall mini-bench on top of my normal height (for me, at 6'2") woodworking bench.

So, I have some noodling to do over what can be done. Since I'm here (south China) for almost 3 months a year, I have great incentive to come up with a solution.

But...maybe I'll take up painting! :-) NOT!


| 05 December 2011 08:53

Mark û I applaud your keenness! I think you are on the right track. Presumably you know what you'll be carving and have your tools. So if you arrive with your work already fixed (fence & wedge?) to a surrogate bench surface (the bench hook as now), you're task is to find some convenient, non-damaging and adaptable way to fix this SBS to the variety of tables you might find in your hotel rooms? Small clamps to the side, sure. How about a non-slip router mat?

| 04 December 2011 17:25

Chris, I have a quandry with holding relief work. Not at home, I've built a maple bench-on-a-bench and find it satisfactory at this stage of my carving. However, I travel overseas frequently for 10 to 14 days at a time. This puts a premium on carving opportunities. I need a way to secure work in my hotel room! I'm experimenting on the current trip with a bench hook and small clamp. Do you have any ideas for this problem?


| 24 October 2011 19:39

Love the lapel mike!

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