Chapter 1: Tools and Materials

 

Wood
4” x 4” x ¼” close-grained hardwood

Walnut is a great carving wood…my very favorite.
It gives you nice clean edges and it doesn’t break out along the grain.  Requires some hand strength when knife-carving.  Tends to finish the color of dark chocolate…keep this in mind when small children are around!

Mahogany is a little softer, with a range of colors from medium brown to reddish…but proceed carefully since it tends to break out in the smaller details.

Cherry has a beautiful range of colors from creamy to pinkish…but is really HARD and can get chippy.  Make sure you keep your tools sharp.  The rewards are worth every bit of the work.

Basswood is the softest of the hardwoods.  It has a nice close grain and ranges in color from white to yellowish cream.  Nicely suited to snowflakes!

I have chosen basswood for the project illustrations, to provide a strong contrast for the pencil lines.  My own personal preference tends toward the more colorful hardwoods.

 

Drawing supplies:

Compass
Straight edge
Pencil with a good eraser
Drawing paper
Transfer paper

Tools:
Knife
Small shallow gouge
Optional scroll saw (for use with the harder woods to cut the outline)
Optional drill (for use with harder woods to pierce the holes)

A note on the knife:
For this type of carving, which utilizes techniques from both chip carving and relief carving, I use a 1-1/2” fixed bladed knife.  The harder the wood…the shorter the blade.  When I carve cherry, I use a 1” detail knife.

Finishes
Acrylic finish (Satin or Matte) Nothing too shiny, or you’ll lose the dimensional effect in the reflection
or
Hand rubbed oil finish
or
Burnishing

Small screw eyes

Optional beads, pearls or small stones

Safety equipment:
Cut-proof glove and Thumb guard

 

 

Chapter 2: What exactly IS a snowflake?

A snowflake is an ice crystal.  It can take many shapes and forms. 

 

Some fast facts on snowflakes:

Not all snowflakes are six-sided.

Not all snowflakes are perfectly regularly shaped.

Different types of snowflakes form at different temperatures.

 

Chapter 3: Over and Under—Interlaced  Knotwork Basics

 

Start with a straight line:

 

Add an “s” curve that crisscrosses the initial line at least three times:

 

Make “parallels“ to all the lines:

 
Establish the over and under crossing points:

 
Relieve the outline of the design:

 

“Tuck” the crossing points under:

Chapter 4: Let’s get Flakey!

 
Pattern construction:

You COULD skip this step and use one of my pre-drawn patterns…but where’s the fun in that? 

Step 1:
Draw a circle, using the compass.

Step 2:
Place the compass point on the first circle.

Step #3:
Draw a short intersecting line across the first circle.

Step #4:
Place the point of the compass at the point where the line intersects the first circle, and draw another line intersecting the first circle.  Complete this process all the way around the circle, placing the point of the compass at each new intersection.  You will end up with six points of intersection.

Step #5:
Connect opposite points.  This will give you the basic framework upon which to design your snowflake.  Erase the first circle.

Step #6:
Draw an s-curve from the top of one arm of the framework which ends ¾ of the way to the center.  Rotate the drawing and repeat this s-curve on the next…and each subsequent arm of the framework.

 

 

Step #7:
Draw parallel lines for each line of the design.

Step #8:
Establish the over/under crosses of each intersection.  As you work, you will develop a “feel” for the rhythm of the over and under progression. 

Clean up your design and erase all unnecessary lines. 

Admire your work!


Step-by-step carving:

Step #1:
Using transfer paper and a sharp ballpoint pen or stylus, transfer your pattern to the block.

Step #2:
Relieve the outline of the snowflake.  Do NOT completely cut out the outline of the snowflake…you need the rest of the block to stabilize your work and the “arms” are very delicate! 

Step #3:
Relieve the inner spaces of the snowflake.

Step #4:
Relieve the over/under crosses.

Step #5: (optional)
Pierce through the negative spaces using a drill, small gauge or the tip of the knife.

Step #6:
Carefully hand carve or scroll-saw the outline of the snowflake.  Scroll sawing works best, especially if you used pierced-work in your design. You can gently touch up the edges with a sharp detail knife or sanding stick.

 

Finishing suggestions:

I use two coats of a water-based acrylic varnish with a Satin or Matte finish.  Anything shinier tends to obscure the shadows in the design.

Pre-drill the hole for the screw-eye that will be used to hang the snowflake. It will crack for sure if you don’t!

Chapter 5: Just the Tip of the Iceberg!


When I use the darker hardwoods, I like to add some color to lighten them up a bit.  Pieces of glass… Cape May Diamonds (Google them…FASCINATING!)…marbles…pebbles…shells…the possibilities are limited only by your imagination! Just make sure you use a good CLEAR adhesive.