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The Basic Carver's Stop Cut - Marking the Valleys in a Simple Rope Carving
A Veritas carver's knife showing a stop or straight up and down cut on a toothpick rope molding.

A Veritas carver's knife showing a stop or straight up and down cut on a toothpick rope molding.

Photo copyright 2010 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.

The first basic cut in many carving projects is the stop cut, a cut which marks the lines and sets a clean edge for other cuts to meet. The stop cuts for the rope moulding are used to mark the bottom of the 'valley' between the rope lines. Your goal should be to hold your blade so that it cuts straight down into your marked carving lines to a uniform depth. As you are carving a rounded surface you can do this by tilting the knife over a carved piece clamped to a flat surface, or by holding your work piece (if it is fairly small) in a pin vise, and gently rotating the piece against the blade. Either method takes practise to keep the pressure of the knife cut even across the curved surface.

    For an Even Rope Molding
  • You want to start your cuts at the same point and finish at the same point on either side of the curved surface. If you made all your original measurement marks using the edge of your ruler, you should have straight lines of marks on either side of the curve of your work. If not, line all your carving lines up along the same beginning and ending line (an imaginary, or real line drawn to mark the middle of the round dowel or toothpick on either side)
  • Hold your knife at the same angle to your work for every cut. - some people find it easier to make the stop cut and then the first angled cut and move up or down their work finishing both cuts on each mark before moving to the next mark. Some people find it easier to make all the stop cuts (so they can gauge the depth correctly) before beginning to make any angled cuts. Choose whichever method helps you be precise keeping the straight stop cut along all your marked angled lines, cutting to the same depth (about 1/32 inch deep, about the depth of the angled bevel on a scalpel blade)

Make a straight stop cut along every angled line you drew across your work.

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