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Three Days in a Bishop’s Wood Carving Class

by Jim O’Harra

On August 10th, 11th and 12th, 2007, I was fortunate enough to take a class with Phil and Vicki Bishop in Martin’s Ferry, Ohio. The class was hosted by Bob and Sandy Barris, who have a great facility for classes at their home and always welcome the opportunity to host new students.  (You may contact Bob at (740) 633-5392 for additional information on class scheduling.)

I thought there might be some interest for those who have never participated in a class to see a typical project from start to finish.  The following series of photos of my project were taken during the three day class. While this article will not be much more than a step-by-step photographic summary of project progress, it may give you an insight of just how a rough out takes its final form and the steps required to get it to that point.

Phil and Vicki will give you as much or as little help as you require, based upon your skill level.  By having two talented carvers instructing you will have ample opportunity to ask questions, observe techniques and most importantly, learn. Alterations to the rough out are encouraged so you will have more than just a copy of the original carving. The Bishops, of Elk City, Oklahoma, travel the country giving several classes per year and are eager to share any new techniques they discover during their travels. You may visit their web site ( to contact them for class information. Their classes are enjoyable, your carving and painting skills will improve, and you will have a finished piece to take home with you. What more could one ask for?

ItchyThe rough out (Itchy) was ordered prior to taking the class and I cleaned off all the fuzzies left by the duplicator cutter. A decision was made beforehand on what the project should depict upon completion and I changed the initial idea soon after I got to class. Sometimes you can plan just a little too far ahead.  Additionally, a titled display base was made at home before the class, which will need to be retitled. All that will remain is for me to glue the carving to the base when the finish is completely dry. Hope you enjoy this walk through of a typical Bishop seminar. 

Now, let’s take a look at the progression of this rough out. The pictures are arranged as they were taken, from the initial choosing of the rough out, cleanup of the rough out, marking major details, outlining those details, setting the form of the carving, detailing, and painting.  I hope this essay will let you see the progress of the carving and perhaps encourage you to “take a class”. I have found, for me at least, that improvements to my carvings come much faster in a class than if left to me to discover by trial and error.

To view the entire series of photos from rough out to finish, click HERE.

Jim O'Harra of Columbus, Ohio, is an occasional contributor to WOM and has been known to frequent seminars conducted by members of CCA. Jim's last article was Carving A Bobblehead in the Nov/Dec 2004 issue.

Jim is also an avid Ohio State University supporter - which only becomes an issue when the Buckeyes engage in athletic battle with "that school up north." Your humble Editor, of course, is employed at "that school up north." and is a life-long supporter of the Michigan Wolverines. Dispute that, we remain friends all but one day each October!

Copyright 2007, All rights reserved. May not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.