Carvers' Companion
WOM Home
Back Issues


Kid Crafts: Woodcarving

By Everett Ellenwood

Reviewed By Matt Kelley


Get a bunch of woodcarvers sitting around with a cup of coffee in hand, and one of the issues that often arises is the future of woodcarving, particularly with regard to the number of young carvers (or lack thereof.) Go to almost any club meeting or caving show, and likely you’ll find the vast majority of people are baby boomers or older, with sprinkling of 20- and 30-somethings, and relatively few young carvers. Largely gone are the days when a youngster sat on the back step, pocket knife in hand, learning the first steps in carving from Grandfather. The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) does have a woodcarving merit badge, but from my days as a merit badge counselor, I can tell you that badge is not one of the more popular ones.

We’re fighting a battle for attention against organized sports, computer games, and the like. One aspect of this problem is the relative dearth of carving books aimed specifically at young people. The folks at Fox Chapel Publishing, fortunately, have put into our hands a new book that might help turn the tide.

Fox Chapel has launched a new Kid Crafts series, and one of the first volumes is Woodcarving, written by Ev Ellenwood. This is not an adult book dumbed down, but rather built from the ground up for young people. There is, of course, the expectation that the book will be used under adult supervision, at least with preteen and younger children.

At a 128 pages, this book is as thick as your average carving book, but at 8” x 8” is a size better suited to young hands.


  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1: All About Wood
  • Chapter 2: Woodcarving Supplies
  • Chapter 3: Tools Chapter 4: Projects

The Introduction starts out with Look What You Can Carve, a page of project photos designed to catch the attention of the youngster. Also included is a How to Use This Book page and a Note to Adults.

Chapter 1 presents a good overview about wood – the anatomy of a tree, vessels and grain, and the best woods to carve.

Chapter 2 begins a discussion about woodcarving supplies and presents the first of many skill building exercises scattered throughout the book. The concept here is good - it breaks a particular skill down into a step-by-step process that the young carver can practice. The first of the Skills is Gluing Wood Together, something we take for granted but which may be an unknown skill for a young person. The chapter goes on to review sandpaper and sanding, pattern transfer, and finishing supplies and skills.

Chapter 3 is about Tools. As is most appropriate, Safety is the first article of discussion in the chapter, with a good discussion about gloves and thumb guards. The chapter continues with information about caring for tools, measuring and marking tools, clamping tools and a carver’s hook, saws and drills, and carving knives. Included here are an important series of skill builders about various types of knife cuts. The chapter then turns to a discussion of gouges and gouge cuts and ends with an excellent section on sharpening (as you might expect from an Ellenwood book.)

Chapter 4 begins the projects. The first is a soap boat carving project using handmade wooden tools. This project serves as a good reality check for an adult to determine if a young person has the dexterity and maturity to move on to sharp carving tools and wood carvings.

The wood carving projects begin with a simple relief snowman ornament, then a carved wooden whistle, arrowhead, name plaque, a relief eagle head and an in-the-round musical frog. Each has good detailed directions with quality step-by-step photos.

The book concludes with a glossary page and a resource page, which includes three of our WOM sponsors.


In Conclusion

There is a lot to like about this book, and very few nits to pick. I could only really find one - the pages on that nasty “S” word. (That would be sanding.)

Other than that, I found the book to be well written and well designed. If you have a child or grandchild whom you’d like to interest in woodcarving, than this book may be the perfect Christmas or birthday present. If you have no young children or grands, but would like to help spread the art and craft, consider becoming a BSA woodcarving Merit Badge councilor; this publication would be an excellent adjunct to the merit badge handbook.

The book retails at a most reasonable $14.95, and is available from your favorite carving supply store. (List HERE.) The book may also be ordered directly from Fox Chapel or your local book store.

Interested in becoming a Woodcarving Merit Badge Counselor? Contact your local BSA council office for more information. You’ll need to fill out an adult application, which will be processed and screened by the local office. Upon approval to serve as a volunteer, you will be expected to complete BSA Youth Protection training within 90 days. This training can be done through the BSA's Online Learning Center at Remember, never counsel one-on-one and it’s always better to have another adult present.

More information on becoming a merit badge counselor HERE - Woodcarving Merit Badge requirements HERE

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