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Carving Magical Tree Houses

By Rick Jensen

Reviewed by Matt Kelley

I first encountered Rick Jensen’s bark carvings in detail when I reviewed Carving Found Wood by Vic Hood and Jack A. Williams (Volume 7 Issue 4)   and received even greater exposure to his work when Mike Bloomquist reviewed The Illustrated Guide To Carving Tree Bark, written by Jensen with Jack A. Williams. (Volume 8 Issue 4)  Since then I’ve been fortunate enough to spend some time with Jensen at a Chipping Away event and at the Dayton show.

Rick Jensen is considered by many to be largely responsible for the current popularity of bark carving, and that’s a viewpoint hard to argue against, particularly if you are talking about whimsical bark houses.   He certainly isn’t the only person teaching bark carving,  but if you’re looking for a bark carving evangelist, he is about as close to one as you’d want.

Contents of the DVD include:

  • Introduction
  • Safety
  • Rough Out
  • Windows and Doors
  • Hollowing Out The Back
  • Detailing
  • Applying The Finish
  • A Review

Extras include a tool and material list,  as well as a gallery of excellent bark carvings.

The DVD is a nice complement to Carving Tree Bark,  as it doesn’t repeat a lot of the material in the book.   For example,  instead of covering old ground by discussing the variety of bark available,  Jensen refers views to the book.    He also points out that some of his technique has evolved since the book was written.

The video is really a step-by-step seminar packed into an hour forty-four minutes of video.   The project is a bark house carved from a 6” tall by 4” wide chunk of cottonwood bark - small enough to serve as an ornament or wall hanging.  

Jensen starts out with a safety discussion,  then moves right into the roughing out of the carving.   Jensen uses some pretty good sized tools,  so the rough out moves right along.

After the rough out Jensen moves on to the detail work, particularly windows and doors.  He provides a good demonstration of his method for delicate task of carving window openings.

Once the carving work is finished,  the video moves on to a discussion of Jensen’s somewhat unusual finishing method -  he uses shoe creame wax – no spray finish or regular wood wax.  If you are not familiar with this particular finishing method,  this alone is almost worth the cost of the DVD.

The production values of the DVD are generally quite acceptable.  The videography is pretty good – several cameras were used to shoot the video from different angles.   There are a few shots where the camera cuts to a close up and takes a few moments to auto-focus, but that is a minor annoyance.   It would be nice if the menu had been set up to let you jump to individual chapters, instead of having to fast-forward though to a particular point. 

The nits to pick really have to do with the audio portion of the DVD.  Jensen’s voice is a bit tinny at times - a different microphone setup might help there.   Still,  the only really objectionable issue is that the bumper music between chapters is much louder than the voice content -  resulting in a mad scramble for the volume control whenever there is a chapter transition.

If you’ve been fortunate enough to take a class from Jensen,  the DVD is a good reminder of a lot that was taught in the class.  If you haven’t had one of his seminars,  this is a good, close second.  

The video is typical Jensen: good clear instruction with humor and story-telling thrown in – you won’t be bored watching.   The serious bark carver (or bark carver-to-be) will want this DVD for the home library.

Carving Magical Tree Houses is available for $29.95 from your favorite carving supply house,  in particular the fine folks that sponsor WOM


Copyright 2008, All rights reserved. May not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.