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Lora S. Irish is an internationally known artist and author. Lora also contributes a regular relief carving pattern column to Woodcarving Illustrated magazine and is a frequent contributor to Scroll Saw Woodworking and Crafts magazine.
For those who-like me-aspire to be chip carvers, Lora Irish has created a valuable resource. She begins with a brief review of basic chip carving techniques, including the choice of wood, transferring patterns, sharpening and hand positions. While this brief overview touches on all the essential topics, I didn't think it provided enough detail for those of us at the very beginning of our chip carving careers. A few good beginning guides you can consult if you are at the same stage include Wayne Barton's The Complete Guide to Chip Carving and Dennis Moor's Chip Carver's Workbook. Jeff Fleisher also offers a beginner's guide book and pattern stamping kit that will get you into carving practice quickly. The real strength of Irish's book comes after the introduction. First is a practice project to carve a heart border trivet that uses most of the cuts a carver would use in working other designs. This section is liberally illustrated and contains many helpful tips to make the work flow smoothly and effectively, whether the cuts are triangles, squares and rectangles, straight wall cuts, curved or sawtooth borders or free-form. Special features include an illustrated assessment of common chip carving mistakes and tips for applying a vintage finish to the trivet project. Chapter 2 illustrates some layouts often used in chip carving, including some, like the double wedding ring, derived from traditional quilt patterns. This brief chapter will provide a rich source of inspiration for overall layout designs. Most of the book is taken up by chapter 3, which is an extensive set of grids and patterns that can be built up in varying combinations to create endless designs of virtually any size or shape. The patterns are represented by line drawings on grid backgrounds and accompanied in many cases by photos of the resulting carvings, a valuable addition. The patterns are grouped by the number of grid squares on which they are based and range from 3 X 3 to 4 X 8 grids. These are supplemented by illustrations of border grids, fill patterns, straight wall cut grids and a number of other grid designs. Next is a selection of circular grids, centerpiece motifs and some original patterns for trivets, wall plates and clock faces. The book concludes with several practice grids that can be copied and used to create your own designs. Irish's book is a valuable resource for anyone aspiring to excel at chip carving. It is not, as stated earlier, the best initial resource for a carver who is just beginning the carving journey. A little more basic instruction on hand positions and sharpening angles in particular will be helpful to those starting out. However, once the hand positions are mastered and the knives razor sharp, Irish's book is an outstanding next step. Not only will the heart border trivet provide a thorough practice project but the array of designs that make up the bulk of the book is truly comprehensive. With the caveat noted, this book is highly recommended to chip carvers at all levels.