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Alan, i've done it both ways, and if my engraving were better i'd probably do it your way more often. as it is though, my engraving has something of a 'rustic charm', which i think is accentuated by having the inlay slightly raised and beaten into place. these get a raised inlay central motif, in this case a stook of wheat, which is going to be fun to get to look like anything, and i find the flush inlay looks a bit dead in the the background, while the raised inlay ties it together better.

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so, on to the carving. to do this i need a sharp pencil, a scribe, a flat graver with a 3-4mm tip, a flat needle file, a half round needle file, 240x sandpaper, and steel wool. the most important part of carving knotwork is the layout - i do my layout freehand in pencil directly on the handle, but if you're new to celtic knotwork, it's probably best to layout your carving on a piece of paper, glue it on the handle and scribe through it. i'm carving two bands of knotwork in a pattern George Bain refers to as the Dirk Knot. here you can see the first band drawn on in pencil, and then scribed with a sharp point so it doesn't rub off through handling (carving pale wood is nicer ;cause you can just draw the carving with a fine marker which is far easier to see):


sgian build carving layout.jpg


once you've got the layout where you want it, the next step is to establish the border of the carving - to do this i use a flat graver with about a 4mm point, and cut down from the outline at a fairly steep angle. as i'm right handed, i start at the right hand side of each cut, and work towards the left, with a kind of rocking motion, so the corner of the graver remains in the cut you just made, giving a smooth line. once the whole outline is cut in, i cut in at a shallower angle from the outside, and chip away the outline, until the whole area to be carved stands proud. finally i take a flat needle file, and using the tip, i scrape away at the cut i just made to get the lines smooth and the cut surface even. here it is with the border cut in:


sgian build carving outline.jpg


once you've established the basic shape of the carving, it's time to cut the interstices, again using the flat graver. it's best to re-mark where these will go, working off the carved outline rather than your scribed line, to make sure that the bands will have a relatively even width. there are a lot of wee re-adjustments which go into this kind of carving to make sure everything flows with what you've already done:


sgian build carving interstices.jpg


the final part of roughing out is to carve the overlaps. to do this, i again mark each one individually, tweaking as i go, so the carving flows right. the actual carving of this stage is very simple - just like for the border you cut down at a steep angle, just off vertical, and the cut in at a shallower angle to chip out the wood, and then smooth it with a flat needle file.


sgian build carving overlap.jpg


in that pic you can see that i've also started the process of smoothing the top band, and cutting in the cording. the rounding of the bands is the only point in the process where i use push carving as opposed to chip carving. the most important thing here is to pay attention to the grain of the wood - you want your tool to be pushing the grain together, rather than spliting it apart. all you do here is skive down the corners of each band of the knotwork, and again smooth it all with the tip of the file. finally it gets rubbed down with 240 grit paper.


the final part of the carving is to cut the cording which divides each band of knotwork - i generally do four cord bands, unless the bands are especially wide or narrow, but four cords is the easiest to layout and cut. the first thing you need is a very sharp pencil, and you draw a line down the centre of each band. this first line is critical and must stay as close to the exact centre of the band as you can get it. then cut down close to vertical with your graver on one side of the line, and chip in at a slightly shallower angle from the other. you need very little pressure and a steady hand, as the wood will want to chip out on you - if this happens, stop (hopefully before the chip is fully detached) and superglue it back in place. once you've cut this groove, take the tip of a half round needle file and work it back and forth in the groove to deepen it and smooth it out. now you have split your knotwork band into two narrower bands, you repeat the process, mark the centre, cut to one side of the line, and chip in from the other, and smooth with the file. once you've done this for each band of knotwork, cutting three grooves to form four cords, rub over the whole surface with progressively finer grades of steel wool, and you're done.


sgian build carving finished.jpg sgian build carving finished 2.jpg


i generally use boot polish as a wax finish on ebony, while walnut or maple ould get an oil finish, with or without stain - some nice effects can be had by staining lighter wood before steel wooling it.

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and here it is pretty much done, all glued together and just waiting for the final clean up/polish:


sgian build glued.jpg


i threaded the tang, made a new pommel from myrtle burl, carved the central motif - a hay stack for some reason - from mammoth ivory and copper, engraved the back of the bands with a name and date, polished and etched the blade, added some felt under the front ferrule, and glued it all together.


sgian build glued 2.jpg sgian build glued 3.jpg

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