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Notes From the 'Net

By Mike Bloomquist, with Doug Evans and Loren Woodard
Email Mike at m.bloomquistATverizonDOTnet or visit his web, Wooden Dreams Woodcarving


OK Gang, let's see what popped out of the digital mail bag this last couple months.  I think we'll start off by broadening our horizon...

What is Black Forest Wood Carving? ...Carving Roughouts?

Sally Nye asked:

Hello list,

Is there a description/definition for Black Forest wood carving?  If a test was given for a Master Wood Carver Guild to give a specific definition for chip carving, high relief etc.  How would the correct answer read for Black Forest?

Does  Black Forest wood carving have a specific geographical region?


To which Old Joe responded:

Black forest is a region in Germany.  Black Forest carving is probably best known for distinctive Cuckoo clock cases, and hunting type scenes or figures.

Old Joe

Old Joe, Plattsmouth NE
WebShots: http://community.webshots.com/user/woodcarver25

Doris Googled in with a travel log...

Hi Sally,

I found this info on a Google search, so there is a definite geographical region.  Most of the history seem centered around the cuckoo clocks, but they did other carving as well.  It is a very interesting area to research.

  "The Black Forest, or Schwarzwald, is a section of Southwestern Germany that borders on Switzerland on the south, on the Neckar River to the East and on France to the West. The Northern gate to the Black
Forest is Pforzheim.
   The Black Forest is named for the beautiful mountain landscape with its dense population of pine trees. It is a region of incomparably unspoiled nature with its forests, mountains and meadows.

  The Black Forest is known for its half-timber houses many of them 300 years old. The craftsmen of the area are well known around the world for their cuckoo clocks and the Christmas season is never complete without a nutcracker from this region. Castles, vineyards and orchards dot the hillsides."


Ivan Whilloch pulled out the Wikipedia:

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

The cuckoo clock was invented in the Black Forest town of Schönwald, Germany, by Franz Ketterer in 1738. Ketterer designed the system of small bellows and whistles that imitates the Cuckoo's call, and added them to a standard Dutch clock.  Later refinements of the design changed the clock's shape to the familiar birdhouse or chalet. The centre of their production continues to be in the Black Forest region of Germany, in the area of Triberg and Neustadt. The cuckoo clock is often wrongly associated with Switzerland, as in the movie The Third Man. This error is probably due to a story by Mark Twain in which the hero depicts the Swiss town of Lucerne as the home of cuckoo clocks.

Ivan Whillock Studio
122 NE 1st Avenue
Faribault, MN 55021

A caution from Tom Pierce:

Having spent several years in the Black Forest, you have to be extremely careful when buying wood carvings.  Make sure they are HAND carved.  Many of the shops sell what appear to be hand carved items, but the really are extremely well done roughouts as we would call them in this country.  Some of the machine carved items are really hard to distinguish.

Tom "Old Age Is Not For Sissies" Pierce
Bellevue, Nebraska
My Web Page http://www.carvertools.com/tpierce

The discussion turned toward "rough outs", and Ivan Whilloch came back with a good description:

Hi Sally,
There are various degrees of roughout.  The American roughout is typically rougher than those used by the professional carvers in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland.  Many are machined down so close to the original that only a thin surface carving is needed to "clean them up."   Other carvings on sale in tourist shops, and even carving shops, are completely machine carved. The burr cuts are so fine a person who is not familiar with the characteristics of hand carving might not detect that it was machine carved. Some manufacturers have workers  who make a few cuts in their machine carvings so that they can be called "hand carved,"  but many others sell them as they come off the machine.  (A carver I know went to Germany and brought back a figure carving. When she proudly  showed it to me,  I didn't have the heart to tell her it wasn't even wood!  The staining was done well enough to fool even a carver!) The vast majority of "affordable" carvings I saw were made from roughouts.  One manufacturer of "collectibles" that are popular in America has workers who carve a bit on their otherwise machine carved pieces.

If you have a question as to whether it is hand done or machine done, put on your magnifiers and look at the hard-to-reach areas.  You often can see areas the cleaning up didn't reach.  Also, in hand carving, stop cuts are generally sharp or they vary in width.  On a machine carving the finest burr, the one used to do the detail, leaves a tell-tale groove in the narrowest areas of the carving.

 If it is a sanded figurine, it is likely machine made, as the master carvers seldom sand their work.  I've visited shops in Germany and Austria with hand carved, machine carved, and cast pieces displayed side by side.  A carver in Italy told me they did have a round seal that they put on the bottom of their hand carved pieces, that is, those that are carved from a block.  The roughout carvings and the machine carvings have no such seal.

Ivan Whillock Studio
122 NE 1st Avenue
Faribault, MN 55021

Then Rip took the thread north to Scandinavia, then back to the North America, and finally dropped us in the Pacific:

Not just in the Black Forest. You'll find machine carved and roughout carved figures in Scandinavia and in Canada, (and probably in other countries).  I bought a 12 figure in St Jean Port Joli for $35. The price alone told me it was not a true hand carved piece.  Later I saw the same figure in several shops...you can bet it was not "hand carved" in the strictest sense of the word.  The popular "Henning" carvings made in Norway are today all machine carved.  My daughter-in-law brought back a hula dancer from Hawaii that they told her was a 'Real Wood Carving'.   It is probably pecan shells pressed into a mold.  As Ivan says, look at them very carefully. 


(Rip, do we get frequent flyer miles with that message? <G>)

In keeping with this issue's well traveled theme, a question from the Philippines.

Holding on to the bark

Ren Te wrote:

Hi all,
I'm a newbie on wood carving. I just bought my tools and want to do relief carving for a start. I have a mahogany trunk and want to preserve its bark as a border on my piece.
But everytime I make a cut, it(bark) just fall off!
Any suggestions on what I'm gonna do? or i might just peel it off completely...
Thanks for the help,
Ren Te from Philippines

Joe Dillet commented:

Hi Ren Te from the Philippines,

Welcome to the List. Even if you would succeed in carving that relief with the bark in tact it would be in danger of coming off in years to come with handling and cleaning. If we are aiming to make our work so it looks good today and many years from now I would remove the bark. If the bark is an important feature than perhaps I would try to reproduce the texture of the bark in the carving.

Joe Dillett
The Carving Shop

And Maricha from Down-Under added:

hi ren te,
when i want to preserve the bark, everytime i carve, i seal the carved section plus the bark and especially both ends of the log, or branch.

Happy carving and welcome to the club. it is an exceptional list. best wishes and happy new year.


And Robert Hillier from England wrote:

Woodturners sometimes leave the bark on , for a natural edge finish .  They find that some tree species lose their bark very easily - there's nothing you can do . Mahogany might just be one of those . Usually it is  better to carve/turn the wood before it gets too dry. Freshly  cut  wood keeps its bark on better  than wood from a wood-pile  where decay has already started . Keep your wood out of the sun , rain and out of reach of bugs and fungi .  Even with freshly cut wood , as it dries , bits of bark might become loose. Turners use super glue to hold  the loose stuff  in place and  this helps to stop the rest of the bark becoming loose later on.

Good luck ,

Robert Hillier,

Poole, Dorset, England

Finally back to The States with  Dick Allen writing:

Usually to best retain the bark is to cut the tree when dormant.  In the US this is during the winter months or late fall to early spring when the sap is not active.  In the case of wood in the Philippines this may be difficult.  Another possibility is to seal or saturate the bark with some type of clear sealer which basically glue the thin pieces together.   We normally cut basswood during the winter which will give the lighter colored wood and will also retain the bark.  This is also done with other species when cutting ovals with bark.  For carving we usually use basswood and butternut but others also use several other woods for various mounting and sign purposes. 

Dick Allen

(Sheesh Matt! I'm getting jet lag writing NFTN this issue.)

And finally, a fungus amoung us...

Help!  My carving wood has mildew!

Maricha asks:

hi folks,
have started sculpting a large tree , Pittosporum , (Pittosporum undulatum Vent. Small hardwood common in wetter areas of coastal new south wales and queensland australia. it is wonderful to carve and am hoping to have a life size sculpture about .  we had to cut the tree down as it was interferring with the pipes of the bathroom and to my great joy it is a joy to carve.  After cutting the wastage with the chain saw to get to the design, all ends were sealed with PVA, and to my horror, mildew is appearing wherever i used the blessed PVA.  at this stage it appears to be on the surface of the PVA coating, as we have had real inclement weather of lots of rain, then extreme heat.  any suggestions would be much appreciated so that this beautiful tree can be saved from mildew.




Bill Smith had the first suggestion.

Hi Maricha even if it does start to change colors just wear a mask when u are carving it as its given its own design to help with your carving as many people try and find the change of color in wood.  Even wormy wood has added char to pieces as well


Peter Watson chimed in with...

Working with green wood Maricha means you need to get rid of as much waste as quick as posible.  I use a large bin liner then to cover the work while you are not working on it. This helps slow down the evaporation. Also Feast Watson make a good fungiside sealer that I use if I am going to let it sit for awhile.  Once you have roughed out as much as you can, it is best to let it dry quiet a lot before final finishing.  To do this I seal it in a bin liner as this acts a bit like a solar kiln in that the heat causes the moisture to evaporate and then it condenses at the bottom so keeping a high moisture content in the air.It has worked for me . There was only one crack developed in the Skateboarder I did and that was there when I started.

Good luck and keep us posted.



Tom Clark broke out the bleach.

Don't know about carving wood but in basic woodworking one can use a VERY dilute bleach/water wash to curb mildew. Course, the wood gets wet when you do that <g>. Not sure if the mildew is happening to the PVA or showing up at the end grain. In either case you'd want to apply the mix and let it sit for a while and then wash it off with more water. The bleach might change the color of the wood. Anywho, after the wash put the wood in an elevated (so it isn't resting on the ground and air circulates evenly) spot with PLENTY of air flow.

Tom (nj)

Joe Dillet offered...

Hi Maricha,

The free moisture must get out of the tree or the mildew will distroy it.  Remove the sealer and allow it to dry to the point where some cracks began to appear. Then try the sealer. If the mildew begins to appear again repeat the process of removing the sealer and allow to dry and reapply the sealer.

Wash it with bleach to kill the mildew.

Joe Dillett
The Carving Shop
645 E. LaSalle St. Suite 3
Somonauk, IL. 60552

As always... I encourage you to try these remedies on a scrap piece first whenever possible.

OK, Gang, until next issue, keep them edges keen, the chips piled high, and be careful as you deboard the plane.

Keep on Carvin'
-Mike Bloomquist->

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