Friday, May 27, 2016

Muscle Memory and Whittling

When speaking of muscle memory one has to think practice.  In its most basic explanation muscle memory involves both muscles and the brain.  Wood carvers when asked about the learning of their skills, they may respond practice, practice, practice.  Whenever I hear practice, practice, practice; my mind goes to the phrase "practice makes perfect".  When practicing knife cuts and whittling, just be sure that you are practicing them correctly; because with repetition something happens between your brain and your muscles.  If you practice enough repetitions and they're incorrect or result in something that you do not want,  muscle memory may embed your practiced whittling to the point that it may be difficult to change.  The better method of practice is to practice the whittling so that the result is what you want.  This may take some planning.

When whittling Santa pins, it is always desirable to whittle a smiling or a happy Santa.  However, it seems that it is easier to end up with a Santa face that is not so happy.  I learned about this connection between the muscles and brain long ago and then applied it to learning to whittle happier Santa faces.  I had an opportunity to demonstrate whittling, and wanted to hand out what I had whittled.  At that stage of my whittling, my Santa faces some times were not happy.  In fact they might have been scary to some.  So I set out to whittle happy faces as a demonstration.  I concentrated on those knife cuts that resulted in a happy face.  I kept doing the same thing over and over.  After a day of this I realized that almost all the Santa faces I carved were happier.

Oh there's a few with that "surprised" look, but none that are scary.  Practice, practice, practice.

When I whittle the Santa faces now, my muscle and brain memory take over, and don't have to worry to much about the results-------most of the time.

However, I am working on a zombie Santa now!


Deb said...

Tom, love all of your Santa's, what size is the piece of wood you start with?

Deb said...

Tom, love all of your Santa's, what size wood do you start with?

Tom H said...

Deb, Thanks for reading the blog, and your nice comment.
I start with a piece of Basswood that is about 3/4 to 1 inch thick and measures about 7 inches wide by at least 12 inches in length. I use the table saw with the blade set at 45 degrees, and adjust the rip fence to end up with a cut piece from the side of the board that is he triangle shape.

Tom H