How To Follow A Line Without The Burr Running All Over The Place

By December 4, 2014Power Carving, Techniques
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When power carving following a line with a burr can be an enjoyable experience, or one that absolutely irritates me to no end. There are several things that I need to keep in mind that allow me to accurately trace a line with a burr, and not have it skip, swerve, and trail in the wrong direction.

There are 2 factors that determine how well you can follow a line with your power carving burrs. These are:

  • Speed of the tool.
  • How aggressive you are with each cut.

The Speed Of The Tool

The speed that the power carving tool operates at will greatly affect your ability to follow a line. The high-speed engraver spins up to 400,000 rpm’s. This really makes it easy to trace a line because the burr is spinning so fast it does not get hung up on the wood fibers.

On the other hand my Mastercarver Pro Flex Shaft machine only spins up to 26,000 rpm’s. With this tool it is much harder to follow a line. This is due to the burr trying to grab the wood fibers. This happens with all burrs at any speed, but at the slower speeds the burr has a greater change of grabbing and running away from you.

This is where being aggressive is bad.

How Aggressive You Are

In order to trace a line accurately with a power tool that spins from 20K to 50K you will need to keep these four (4) things in mind. These are:

  • Take very light passes.
  • Let the tool do the work.
  • Slow down the speed you are traveling down the line at.
  • Angle the burr to allow enough of the cutting head to contact the wood to give you more control.

Light passes give you more chances to get the cut right. It may take slightly longer than using a lot of force on the burr, but to maintain accuracy it is vital to take light passes.

Letting the tool do the work will also give you greater amounts of control. I know that the tool is a POWER tool, but that does not mean ram the burr through the wood. Take as much time as you need to let the tool remove the material under it, and you will gain more control over every type of cut you take.

Slow down how fast you are traveling across the line, and you will find that the tool has enough time to remove the material. This goes hand-in-hand with letting the tool do the work. If you rush across a line to quickly you have a greater chance of the burr grabbing the wood and going where you do not want it to go.

When I say “slow down” I am not taking about the tools rpm’s. I am talking about how quickly you try to progress through the carving. Progressing through the carving at a slower pass will allow the tool to do the work more accurately.

Changing the angle of the burr so you have a lower presentation of the burr to the wood will place more of the burr surface on the wood, and give you more control over the cut. A burr at a high angle is harder to control unless you are cutting a deep channel. Cutting a deep channel is like lowering the presentation of the burr because more of the burr is coming in contact with the wood.

Also, you will find that using a burr that has a really aggressive cutting action, such as, a Saburr-Tooth carbide or Foredom Typhoon carbide can make following a line more difficult. These burrs cutting action is so aggressive that they naturally want to grab the wood and run off course. With these burrs it is even more important to take very light passes, and let the tool do the work.

The more aggressive the burr the less detail you should try to create with them. Such burrs are best used for roughing out or doing basic refinement of a carving, and not the high level details of a carving.

Each of these four skills need to be developed. As you power carve keep in mind each of these ideas, and you will have greater success with tracing lines with your burrs.

This was hard for me to do when I first started power carving. The speed of the tool, and how fast it could remove was mesmerizing, and I wanted to carve just as fast as I could. It wasn’t until I slowed down that I gained greater control and accuracy.

How have implementing these four skills helped you achieve better lines with your power carving?

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  • Strick’s Guitars

    Thx for the tips!

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