book review was fun, and nostalgic, and fun, and revealing, and
fun, and... well, you have the gist of it, so that's enough of
that. Bringing his latest book, "Ron Ransom's Favorite
Santas for Carvers ", to the local weekly woodchip conference
uncovered a bunch of woodcarving friends who claim a Ron Ransom
Santa as their first. Mine wasn't. My first Santa
was a Harley Refsal pattern from Better Homes & Garden's Wood
magazine, but Ron Ransom was a close second. It was
the pattern with Santa holding the goose from (I think) Santa
Carving : A Carving Primer for Beginning and Advanced Carvers.
It's amazing how the mention of a Ron Ransom project, Santas in
particular, brings about all sorts of personal woodcarving history
with the wood butchers in this neck of the woods. He definitely
gets credit for launching and/or encouraging a lot of beginner
woodcarvers over the last couple decades.
...And how was the book? Fun. A very special, return-to-your-roots kind of fun. In fact, it inspired me to carve a project from the book in time to include pictures with the review... A first! Of course, being the coward that I am, I chose a pattern that wasn't in Ron's gallery so it would not be compared. After choosing the victim... err... pattern, I focused myself on carving it "just like Ron". No messing around with the pattern... No tweaks! Pure, straight up, unadulterated Ron Ransom style. Big mistake... it took me three tries to do it. It turns out (and here's the revelation part) that I had a lot of distractions. All during the carving process Harley Refsal, David Sabol, Pete Ortel, Rick Butz and a host of others from the books, videos, and classes of my woodcarving past kept whispering suggestions in my ear. I know what you're thinking... But you're just jealous because, all this time, you thought those "voices" only spoke to you!
A Brief Tour:
Most Asked Questions
Carving and Painting Santas
As fun as this book was, I have a few of these. First, the chapter is titled "Carving and Painting Santas", but there is very little painting instruction. There are some painting tips given, but they are condensed to a single paragraph under a single picture for each project.
For the fishing Santa with the feline, Ron shows us how to carve the cat, but only offers a tip on mounting the fishing pole in Santa's hand. Then he leaves us on our own to figure out the rest. The separate fish hanging from the pole is a small, mean little item to carve, especially for a beginner. I would have shown it being carved from the end of a stick and then cut free as the last step... maybe even wait until after it had been painted to cut it free, and then touch up the cut mark with paint.
This next item is more of a "heads up" than a nit-pick. Ron Ransom uses a single, straight across cut at the bridge of the nose to form the eye brow ridge. This is part of his style, but if you're not careful this can give you a scowling Santa or worse, a Neanderthal looking Santa. The solution is to pay careful attention to his step where you remove wood off Santa's forehead from the brow up before you do the outline stop cuts for the eyebrows. This moves the nose forward and softens the shadow cast by the brow. Very important. An alternative is to arch the brow up and then down as you cut outward from the bridge of the nose, or drop (droop?) it slightly as you carve outward from the nose. Wish I could tell you who whispered these tips in my ear... think it might have been Tom Wolfe. Anyway, they're safe bets for a friendly looking Santa. Unfortunately, both of these techniques will lead you slightly astray from that wonderful Ron Ransom style, so you should save them aside as "experiments" for later Santas.
Wonderful book and a four thumber for woodcarving beginners, teachers of woodcarving, and seasoned veterans who have a warm, nastalgic place in their hearts for the simplicity of Ron Ransom Santas. If you're new to this art, definitely pick up a copy of this or any of Ron's past books and start carving some history for your own woodcarving journey.
OK Gang, 'till next issue, keep them edges keen, the chips piled high, and always listen for the voices of your teachers.
Keep on Carvin'
BTW, here's my humble carving from this book...
Mike Bloomquist is a carver and carving teacher, and a regular contributor to WOM.
You may visit Mike's web site, Wooden Dreams Woodcarving HERE or email him at m.bloomquistATverizonDOTnet.