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  Easy Woodcarving
By Cyndi Joslyn
Reviewed by Mike Bloomquist


 If there's one thing I've learned from writing book reviews for Matt, it's this: "Do not pre-judge a book by the author's previous work".  Sometimes the book is disappointment... sometimes it's a pleasant surprise.  I have a previous book by Cyndi Joslyn titled Carving Santas From Around The World, but have only used certain elements from it.  At first I thought the Santas would make good Santa projects for beginner students, but the wrap-around pattern and carving-on-the-corner technique put me off as being too confusing for them.  In all honesty, I probably underestimate my beginner students.  Anyway, I remember in the end buying it primarily for the trim patterns she had on her Santas which consists mainly of "tiny doodad dots" painted with a stylus tool (page 8).   Not a bad wood carving book.  Very much worth a look, so you can decide for yourself.

Easy Woodcarving?  It makes a bold promise doesn't it?  Like, "Relax!  You're going to love this... it's gonna be easy!"  Yeah, rrrriiiggght!  As an instructor who loves teaching beginners this title makes you wince just a little when you remember some students you spent most of the class trying to convince of this.  Some never were convinced.  Know what?  In this case, the author delivers.  This second book was a real pleasant surprise.

The Highlights:

There were very few areas of this book that did not have something to get excited about, but we'll try not to just read the book for you.  The first chapter I liked was "Setting up Your Workspace".  The message here echoed something I read in Andy Anderson's book, you don't need much space to get started, but you need a space. Then there are the sewing projects.  You read that correctly, sewing projects.  Sew yourself a tool roll and/or a carving apron. There are patterns.  There are step-by-step instructions.  I've sewed a tool roll, back when I started woodcarving long, loooong ago.  I really, really wish I had done an apron back then. 

The first feature that made my jaw hit the floor was the table on pages 8 and 9, right under "Choosing Your First Tools".  Four columns across the top: Tool photo, What It Is, Why You Need It, & Where You Need It.  Columns 1 and 4 had pictures (remember, still worth a thousand words).  On page 8 the table listed "Five Basic Tools".  On page 9 the table had four "Additional Tools".  It was so simple and so informative and it so absolutely answered that guaranteed beginner's question "What tools should I buy?", that you immediately slapped your forehead and said "Doh! Why didn't I think of that!".  Then there's "Block 1: Round Shapes",  and  a diagram of a circle drawn inside a square, and step #2 says, "Notice how much more wood must be removed from the corners of the block than the sides to create 'round'".  How many times have I drawn that diagram on a scrap of paper or my white board?  How many times have I chanted the mantra to my beginners, "Don't be scared... You gotta knock them corners of first... That's where most of the wood comes off...  You gotta knock them corners off... You gotta knock them corners off..."?  Well, it almost brought tears to your eyes.  Thank you Cyndi.  It's now in print.

What follows is a very good series of simple skill building exercises.  Each of these is followed with a "Applying what you've learned" box... a very, very good feature.  Finally there's a nice collection of first time projects that use at least one, but usually more of the skill building chapters that came before.  I think my favorite was the cypress knee Santa (which could easily be done in basswood) with it's "doodad dot " trim.  Just my two cents worth, but if you swap a circular magnet for the washer in the paperweight in project #5, it would make a real classy magnet for tacking notes and artwork to the fridge

A brief tour:

Part 1: Getting Started
Part 2: Basic Techniques
Part 3: Skill Building Exercises
Part 4: Projects

Nit Picks:

OK, here they come <G>, no one gets out of here without at least one of these!  In her workspace chapter the author recommends shadowless lighting exclusively. I strongly disagree.  When we carve, in a sense, we paint with shadows.   These shouldn't be shadows that are so dark you can't see where the knife is, but they help define the shapes you are creating.  A mix of fluorescent lighting and an incandescent light that can be aimed (clamp light?) is more ideal.  The table of tools is great, but the only V-tool recommended is a 1mm.  This small a v-tool will limit its usefulness to fine incised lines.  A larger v-tool would do fine lines and deep stop cuts dependent only on how deep you go with it.  In the "Making the Basic Cuts" there could have been a little more detail on working with the gouge.  There were plenty of good safety tips here, but "pulling the gouge towards you" should be done by rotating the wrist so your using the small muscles with more control.  This better accomplishes the "small range of motion" that the author did mention.


This is a four and a half thumber no doubt about it.  If I were to write a woodcarving book, one for beginners would be the last on my list, because it would be just too scary.  In her introduction Cyndi set one of her goals as "presenting a more contemporary approach" for the beginner woodcarver.  She accomplished this and a whole host of others.  A extreme "must have" for the beginning woodcarver and the woodcarving instructor looking for fresh ideas and approaches to teaching this art.

OK Gang, keep them edges keen, the chips piled high, and your beginner's enthusiasm. 

Keep on Carvin'
-Mike Bloomquist->

Mike's mugMike 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.