Operating the Copy Carver

Due to the unique design of the Copy Carver you can literally operate it with two fingers!  As you guide the stylus over your original master the Copy Carver effortlessly removes the excess stock from your duplicate.  

Unlike most commercial duplicating equipment the Copy Carver needs no adjustments while underway.  No thumb screws, table locks or hardware of any sort that need attention during the carving process.  The design of the carriage and swing box allow the Copy Carver to move forward, backward, left, right, up and down all in one fluid movement.  By using the carriage and swing box design we have been able to eliminate the drag and binding that is commonly associated with other duplication equipment on the market.  The other advantage, being constructed of wood is reduced cutting vibration while carving.  The wood frame and overall mass act as a vibration dampener.  You don't get vibration transmission through the machine while carving, to your hand or your copy blank.  Unlike the all metal framed machines I have used over the years that turn your guide hand numb after a few minutes or show signs of frame chatter on your copy from the cutting vibration.  Built per the instructions in the plans the Copy Carver is a pleasure to operate all day long.

Pattern set-up is it's other strong point.  No need for complicated rotating mounts.   No chain and sprocket rotational devices to fail or wear out, or complicated shimming to correct for misalignment each time.  Setup of the Copy Carver is quick and easy - simple by design, resulting in pinpoint accuracy. 

As an example I will run you through the process I use to replicate one of my trout carvings.  The same process can be used for just about anything. And can be adapted to producing two fish at once which I will cover in the "User Tips" section of this site.

The easiest way to use the Copy Carver to re-create your originals is to carve originals designed for use with this machine. In the example shown below I will be recreating a 12” rainbow trout. This method is by far the easiest way to create perfect duplicates time after time, however there are times when you need to duplicate a piece from a finished original. In those instances you will need to make and use pattern mounts, which are covered in detail in the plans.

blankdraw.JPG (109516 bytes)When you need to produce many carvings of the same size and shape this method is quick and easy. To mass produce the 12” rainbow trout used in this example we needed to make a master pattern. A master pattern in this case is an original carving of wood with a base at one end for the purpose of mounting it to the pattern table. I carved a 12” rainbow trout from a piece of basswood 16”long x 4” wide x 2” thick. I simply placed a paper drawing of a fish on the block, traced in the side profile and top profile pattern lines. Using a bandsaw I cut away the excess wood from the pattern leaving the tail attached to the remaining block of wood on the end to be attached to the table. I leave the wood at the base of the tail thick enough to support the fish during the duplicating process.  

I then carve the blank to shape using a flex shaft power carver.  It takes a couple of hours, but I don't mind.  My Copy Carver will replicate two hours of hand carving in a few minutes, over and over again when I need to reproduce this carving later.  I generally only carve the basic shape with very little detail, just an accurate form with emphasis on significant landmarks around the head and fins.  Finish sand the carving and apply two coats of lacquer sealer to protect the surface.

roughoutblank.jpg (27296 bytes)Next, I place the finished master pattern on an identical sized piece of basswood as the master was carved from, align the base of the block to the mounting base of your master tool. Using a pencil trace around the master creating a slightly larger profile pattern of the fish on the block of wood below. 

Note: Pre cutting a profile into the blank prior to carving is not necessary.  With the router bits described in the plans you do not need to profile cut anything, they will take off excess stock quickly and easily.  I have done it both ways, and yes the carving is few minutes faster when the blank is pre-shaped but those 3 or 4 minutes are easily spent at the bandsaw instead, so the time savings just isn't there in the end.  I am demonstrating this method because I know many carvers work in a small shop or a room in their house and if removing wood with a bandsaw helps reduce the mess left behind from grinding off what could have been sawed off then it is a valid choice.  In most cases I run it all on the Copy Carver for my work.  I refuse to use two machines if one will do the job, and besides, I am generally doing a few dozen fish at a time so reducing the mess by 50% is barley noticeable when you look at the other 50% you will have to sweep up anyway.  I would rather push a broom a few minutes longer than fool around precutting blanks.

mastertool.JPG (98610 bytes)Using a bandsaw remove the excess wood from the profile pattern lines.  You should now have two pieces as shown.

drillalignment.JPG (94793 bytes)Next I align the mounting bases and draw a centerline through both.  On this line I will drill two holes in each mounting base in the same positions to be used for securing the carvings to the work table and to insure when I flip the carvings to duplicate the other side everything will stay in perfect alignment. 

drill2.JPG (187691 bytes)Using a drill press drill two 1/4” holes in both pieces 2” apart on the centerline (figure 4). These holes will be used to bolt the master pattern and the wood blank to the table. Measuring from the end of the mounting base mark the hole centers at one and three inches from the end on both pieces.  These holes must be in perfect alignment, otherwise when you flip the pieces over you will loose their alignment to each other. I like to drill the hole closest to the end of the mounting base a little larger to allow for adjusting the master pattern to the blank if necessary.

setupholes.JPG (158413 bytes)Drill a pair of 3/16" mounting holes into the set up table pattern board (outlined in the plans) on the stylus and router center lines, equal distance from the the edge of the set up table, matching those drilled in both mounting bases.  This will insure perfect alignment of your master pattern and wood blank once they are bolted to the setup table.  Always mark the holes in the setup table so you know which master pattern they are for later.  As you do different projects it's hard to recall which master patterns fit what holes.  So take a minute now and ID them with a black Sharpie marker, (ex. 12" Rainbow /  Single / #6.)  I number my master patterns and any setup holes in my pattern set up table.

alignmentcheck3.JPG (159607 bytes)Bolt the master pattern and wood blank to the set up table using four 1/4 lag bolts, 3” long. Then check several points with the Copy Carver for proper alignment prior to carving.

With the Copy Carver Router turned off, move the router cutter along the wood blank, the stylus should not come in contact with the master pattern at this time. The blank should be larger in size. Next guide the stylus over the master pattern and make sure the router cutter will not come in contact with any of the mounting bolts or any other mounting hardware used.  Do this step each time before you turn on the machine.  You do not want the cutter to come in contact with anything but excess wood while carving. 

With all the necessary alignment checks done and both pieces securely fastened to the set up table it’s time to put on some safety glasses and begin carving the first side.

carving.JPG (156641 bytes)While holding the handle of the Copy Carver with your left hand guide the stylus over the master pattern slowly with you right hand index finger and thumb.  (if your left handed flip the position of the router and stylus while building your Copy Carver)  The router can only cut where the stylus travel allows.  Because the stylus is the same size and shape as the cutter, and they both operate in the same plane neither one can go anyplace the other cant.  The router cutter will remove all excess wood in it’s path following your movements. The cutter removes wood quickly and effortlessly, making quick work of duplicating the original pattern.  Because of the design of the Copy Carver swing box and carriage any tendency for the router to push or pull during the carving process is dampened, the cut is clean and steady.  As I said before, you can carve with just two fingers!

Carve one side at a time to a point just below the centerline of your master pattern.

 If you want to duplicate finer detail then install a smaller cutter and matching stylus and go over the master again, and again. Each time with a smaller cutter and a matching stylus.  See the "User Tips" section of the website to learn how to make a matching stylus for any router cutter you have.  I have found it easier to carve the final detail in by hand using common power carving tools instead of the smaller cutter method.  I prefer to use tools for what they are best suited for.....saving time.  For roughing out if I can eliminate three hours of tedious carving to a few minutes, that's good use of a tool.  

For me carving the detail goes quickly with a flex shaft power carver and I enjoy the finish work by hand so I don't use the successive router bit reduction process with my Copy Carver.  I rough out with the Copy Carver in one pass and complete by hand with my Mastercarver, a 1/3 HP 26,000 rpm flex shaft power carver.  (Note: Since I teach power carving I am also a stocking dealer for these systems, so if you have an interest in a high quality flex shaft system give me a call 989-619-6002 and I can set you up with the equipment you need.)

Once the first side is complete remove the mounting bolts and flip both pieces over in the same direction and perform the same steps to opposite side. After the carving is completed bandsaw off the mounting base and finish the duplicate by hand.  Without any rushing my average time for this master pattern duplicate from an uncut wood block is under 12 minutes including setup (after my holes are drilled).  As you will see in the User Tips section I devised a way to double my production and only add 4 minutes to the entire process.  Imagine the same master pattern trout you just saw, except with two fish this time, both joined at the tail by the mounting block.  Looking like an airplane propeller with fish as blades.  As you pass down one side with the Copy Carver you are now doing two fish at once, with only one setup.  It's just working smart....  Once you use the machine and understand the set up process you will develop ways to quickly set up your carvings for multi-piece mass production, no matter what their shape may be. 

Be sure to check out our Copy Carver burr selection by SABURR TOOTH




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