Notes From the 'Net
By Mike Bloomquist, with Doug Evans and Loren Woodard
Email Mike at m.bloomquistATverizonDOTnet or visit his web, Wooden Dreams Woodcarving


Brrrr! Suddenly it's snowin' again and, as usual, I don't have any of my carvings done in time for Cristmas.  One nice thing about the cold weather coming again... no guilt complex about carving all day while there's yard work to do.  Well, at least not this far North.  Hope you got your list of carving goodies off to Santa.  You have been good, haven't you <G>..

OK, throw another log on the fire and let's look at some Notes From The Net.  No,  not the carving  you think you messed up, another log.  Set it aside and step away from the carving.  There aren't enough BTUs there and you could save it later.

Oh Say Can You See.... Carving Osage Orange

George's question has us revisiting osage orange as a carving wood....

Hey folks,
My names George, and I'm a newbie carver located in Cleveland, Ohio. I've only done some simple projects, mostly basswood items, and have been wanting to work on new ideas. One of my favorite things thus far has been warlking sticks (mostly woodspirit type carvings,) and recently, a friend gave me a piece of osage orange in the shape of a perfect walking stick that he told me to do with what I wanted. Well, the piece has been aging for quite awhile (5 years) and is hard as a rock. I was thinking of trying a draw knife then doing some sanding to get to the darker wood. I had no intention to dull my carving knives down on this piece, so I was thinking of just sanding and polishing and putting a good finish on it.

Any feedback or ideas? I could use some creative input.

Many thanks,

Bob Mau replies...

Using a dremel is more precise than a sanding stick. It should deal with the hardness. Wear a dust mask.
Bob Mau

Steve came in a close second to second Bob's recommendation...

Hi George,
Do you have a dremel tool or something like it? You might consider power carving it.


Joe Dillett recommends hand tools with caveats....

 Hi George,

Osage Orange is hard and does tend to dull the tools quickly, especially if your sharpening angle is below 22 degrees. I have carved it and yes I did needed to sharpen my tools during and after the process. It was well worth the journey. I love getting a feel of the wood and for me chisels are the best way to do that. At first osage orange makes you think that it's fighting back but after you get into it you realize its hard abrasive qualities are its true value, which is the strength. I have found no way to keep the bright gold color. It will turn brown with time.

Joe Dillett
The Carving Shop
645 E. LaSalle St. Suite 3
Somonauk, IL. 60552 [business web site]

Peter adds first hand experience from "Down Under"...

Like Joe said, you won't keep the yellow colour. If you want to remove the sapwood the quickest way would be a sanding disc in a small angle grinder. Joe, I have carved osage orange and don't consider it hard. Try a tool on that maler I gave you and you will see what we deal with in Australia.


Woodcarvings and Wildlife Sculptures

Joe replies to Steve....

Hi Peter,

I know we are blessed here in America to have plenty of delicious softer carving wood. You folks in Australia got to be tough to carve the hard timber that grows there.

When turning Osage orange on a lathe I need to cover my hand to keep from getting burned, stiffen up the angle of my turning tool and still need to sharpen every few minutes. I can't imagine turning that maler. That's awesome hard stuff and very hard on tools.

I hope you are all feeling better. We sure would love for you to come back and visit us. If you do we have your bedroom still waiting for you. You're welcome any time.

Joe Dillett
The Carving Shop

(Don't know about you readers, but I'm curious about "maler" now)

Copyrights and Carving, Part II...

Part I was started by Larry's question and appropriatetly we begin Part II with his summary, which I think was meant to put a looong thread to bed, but...

Good morning all.
I have read with great interest the e-mails on this subject and have placed them in a folder for future reference. I have gone to the Govt. site and read many documents. I read the statement, All rights reserved, in the front of the mags.

Joe Dillet said woodcarvers offer their "materials as instruction" and I treasure that and understand.

Ivan Whillock said seek permission.

Being made aware of the term "derivative" the assumption had been made that if one is given patterns and complete carving and painting instructions Permission to carve a derivative sculpture had been given. After reading these replies, one must assume that these are for instruction and practice only and in my journey that is how they shall be treated.

I dearly love to carve caricature animals and wood spirits in canes and walking sticks. It is very difficult not to carve one which is extremely similar toones that others have carved. Again thank you for your response.


Mush replies...

Good morning, Larry,

I want to thank you for asking about copyright issues. It's a subject that a lot of people just are not aware of...also one that can be confusing. Years ago Wood Magazine offered a pattern for a Santa. Several issues later, because somebody asked about using that pattern to carve Santas for sale, the editors published a statement that went something like this, " If the pattern was one that was generated by the magazine itself, then copies could be made for sale. If it was one submitted by a private individual, then permission from that individual was needed." I believe after that it was clearly stated in the magazine which designs could be carved for sale.

You can never go wrong by asking.


See Marcia's wood carvings

John brings an observation....

Marcia, I know I'm going to get shot down in flames for this but I'm saying this because I believe. I see copyrighted designs that are based on designs almost 2,000 years old. Pictish, Celtic whatever. For what its worth I'll use the originals, the ones carved on stones over much of Scotland, when and if I choose. Originals? Can any of us in all honest create an original design? I have my doubts. If a triangle is used , a circle a zig zag, then the patterns originality - to me- is iffy.

I recently paid for a book of patterns, only to find they were not geometrically accurate. When I contacted the author she advised me that these were only meant as guides and were made before CAD. I've no problem with that but the time I wasted blaming myself of an error could have been better spent. As a beginner I realise others maybe professionals trying to make a living . In no way am I dismissing the time and skill they need rewarded for.

John Archibald

Ivan had this in part one "Part I" but I left out what he was replying to...

In reading the emails I've come to two firm conclusions: "Everything is original" and "Nothing is original."

Some people define original as "different" and argue that no two things are ever alike, even if you try to make them so, thus, EVERYTHING is original. We've had several writers express that point of view.

On the other hand, God was the originator of everything, and therefore everything is a copy of something and therefore NOTHING is original. We've had several email writers express that view.

It proves one of the curiosities of language: you can frame issues to "prove" opposites.

Yes, but . . .

Trouble is, the "everything is original" argument doesn't work as a defense when Disney threatens a lawsuit over your carving of Mickey Mouse. Hobbyists might do fine with the everything is original philosophy--until they try to sell. Then they should know that there are rules that don't accept that concept.

Nor does the "nothing is original" argument work when artists are trying to protect their right to make a living on their work. "Disney copied God's creation of a mouse, therefore I'm justified in copying Disney." "Every artist copies something" won't work in court either, nor in art shows that demand "original work."

New sellers need a workable understanding of the concept of "original work" that would respect the creations of others and would not get carvers into legal trouble for copying.

A workable definition of "originality" for artists has to lie somewhere between the "nothing is original" and the "everything is original" arguments.

Ivan Whillock Studio
122 NE 1st Avenue
Faribault, MN 55021

Woodbutcher asks....

So what's up ? when I use Your book or Tom Wolf or Who ever and teach others to do that type of carving let say on the lawn chairs or caricatures ???? I use several pictures from differend books and mags.  Is this allowed ? or is this wrong ???

Woodbutcher Jan

You are invited to check out my website..

Mush from Maine replies...

Most books have some king of caveat or notice as to how many copies of a pattern may be made "for personal use". Technically, once you reproduce that pattern for use in a class or in any situation that involves making a profit from them, it does constitute a violation.

Jan, how fast can you run? :)

Marcia (aka Mush)

At this point there was a request (plead) to "get back to carving and off laws", Ivan replied sympathetically...

Apologies, guys, but to carvers venturing into selling, this thread can be very important.

Years ago, had I been privy to the thread that just took place, I might have been saved some grief and embarrassment. Unfortunately, I was not given such a "heads up" on copyrights and thus we used some pictures in a cut and paste catalog that we just assumed were OK to use. They weren't. We got sued.

So, whenever someone talks of going into carving on a commercial level, I urge them to get acquainted with the copyright laws. Lawsuits may happen rarely, but they DO happen. Holders of copyrights have the right to protect their property, and so anyone who sells creations that are based on other people's materials should understand that it could have ramifications.

Back then, had we been more aware of copyright law we could have avoided some grief and ill will. Thus, whenever I can, I encourage anyone who wants to sell to become informed to avoid those types of problems.

My advice comes from "been there!"

Ivan Whillock Studio 

Bill moderates and defends the importance of the thread...


Thank you for sharing your experience. You have a way with words and a gift of kindness.

I don't think there is a carver around who has not considered the possibility of copyright infringement for some reason or another.

My fears of being sued ended when I started using totally original resources for all my carvings. By this I mean photos that came from my camera, drawings that came from my hand. I was simply so frustrated with using the photos and resources of others with the constant worry and nagging conscience that accompanies it. Even if copyright infringement was not an issue in a particular design, finding a suitable carving/photo resource in the library or on the internet was so frustrating, time consuming and unprofitable that it was easier to take the time to take my own photos and draw my own patterns.

I might sound like a broken record, but allow me to repeat a previous posting or two with the following:
Admittedly, not everyone can learn to draw, but those with enough aptitude would do well to extend their drawing skills so they depend less on the work of others. Digital photography is one of the best tools for those who wish to begin creating their own patterns. Digital photos (enlarged on a color photocopier) coupled with a light table (even a window) allow you can
trace most anything and end up with an accurate line drawing. From there you can compose your carving pattern.

I train my students likewise to use all original resources in their relief carving. So they bring photos and other resources into the studio which we then use to build an original design. If you wish to see some of the results, go to:

Of course, if you do not intend to SELL your carvings, the issue of copyright infringement fades away. But even if that is the case, a poor carving that is original is still better than a great carving that is a copy.

Blessings and Peace,


Bill Judt
46 Harvard Crescent,
Saskatoon, SK, Canada
bjudt at

(As for me reproducing the thread here and taking up so much space... what Bill an Ivan said)

Charles Trella gives his take...

This has been a very interesting and enlightening discussion. Thanks for the question and all the wonderful responses. I have a feeling that there are a LOT of carvers out there like myself, who are not particularly "artistic" (or have themselves convinced that they're not because they can't draw well). So we tend to work from patterns of some sort. Some of those are patterns from magazine articles and some are from books.

I have a feeling most of us rarely sell our work, but instead give it away as gifts. When we DO sell it may be an occasional one off. In both of these instances I doubt anyone would object - even though we may be technically stepping over the line of the copyright law. The reality is that the economic loss suffered by the original copyright holder is so negligible that it makes not sense for them to carry out a legal action - though they might ask you to desist. Morally - if you didn't claim the design as your own I don't think you've done anything wrong. Likewise, when a carver steps up to displaying their works (on a website) - as long as they give fair credit for the design and are simply showing it as an example of their "carving" skill or accomplishment - again, no harm no foul. If they DID, however, try to imply or claim the design as their own - then morally (and legally) they are crossing the line. Even though the original copyright holder might not pursue them legally because the damages don't justify it.

Now, when a carvers moves into the realm of selling carvings - especially multiples of a given design, you really ought to write the original copyright holder and get explicit permission to do so. Both morally and legally - even though they STILL might not pursue you due to the legal cost involved. Heck - if you're below the radar and not advertising the work on the web, they very well might not even be aware of your activity. But morally - it's just the right thing to do, and legally - the safe thing to do.

Now Larry raised an interesting point in his last email: "I dearly love to carve caricature animals and wood spirits in canes andwalking sticks. It is very difficult not to carve one which is extremely similar to ones that others have carved."

Using the woodspirit example: yes, there have been SO many versions done, in many instances copies of copies of copies etc, that it can be very difficult to carve one without some serious similarities to the myriads of others. However, as long as you DIDN'T take someone else's EXACT pattern and carve it following their STEP BY STEP instructions so as to be identical (or VERY close to it), I doubt you'd run afoul of copyrights. The woodspirit has become a pretty generic subject matter. Even so - there ARE carvers out there who have developed a very recognizable "style" or look even for this common subject matter. I would point to Shawn Cipa as a prime example. Possibly Greg Wilkerson or Colin Partridge as other examples.

To me, the best way to avoid this and to develop our own "voice" as a carver, would be to take photo's (with permission) of any individuals we come across with strong features that might make a good model for a spirit face. From that photo you can use a photo editing package or hand sketching to create your own unique "pattern" that you CAN claim as your own work and design. You can modify the expression or various details of that face to create your own variations (derivatives) from YOUR pattern rightly claim a copyright to that work. That's what I aspire to for my own work eventually. But for now, like most out there, I am learning from articles and other's examples on the web. So I wouldn't claim any as my own design, nor would I seek to produce them in quantities to sell unless I sought permission.

That's my take on it anyway.

Steve asks about another angle...

Here is an added twist....

What about if you see a great picture on a calendar or a greeting card? I've heard from a master scrimshander that if you change the medium, like art from the two mentioned, to say a carving or ivory scrim, that you are legal.

The following is what I was told by one of the country's top scrimshaw artists.....
"Altering something by 10% (or some figure) is enough to comply with copyright. When we do scrim, we change it 100%. Artists can use anything for a model. If you put the photo on a copier, and try to sell the copy as the original, then you've got problems. I've been to some of the best art museums in the world, where they allow painters to make painted copies of masterpieces. They just can't sell them as the originals."

As a scrimshaw artist and gunstock carver, I am faced with this all the time. There are times when I see a great looking picture. And maybe at that time I only want the deer, moose, etc... and then create my own background. Not all the time but occasionally. I don't think there is anything wrong with the concept of being inspired by a picture and then changing it. The one thing I do when I sell a piece of scrim.... I include a card with the information on it that "This scrim was inspired by the Native art from Jack Hudson. Native design by Jack...scrimmed by Steve Lankerd"

Any thoughts?

Best Regards,

Steve Lankerd Sr
Metlakatla, Alaska

Denny replies...

This statement makes it sound like I could make resin casts of a carving done by another artist, and as long as I change the medium, it is OK.

Doesn't sound right to me. I also heard the 10% rule, but was also told it was hot upheld in the courts. I guess if we look long enough we can find something to support any thing we want to support. As far as the old masters, their copyright should have run out a long time ago...


There was still more, but since my cut-n-paste muscles are starting to cramp, I'm going to end it.  For the full, unsensored version see the archives at .  BTW, there were no lawyers or woodcarvers harmed in the creation of this thread. And there was no "flaming" either I would like to add.


OK, Gang, that's all for this issue.  Keep them edges keen, the chips piled high, and be nice to the "Jolly Ol' Elf" when he visits. 

Keep on Carvin'
-Mike Bloomquist->

Please take some time and check out the wood carving lists on the Internet. There is a lot of knowledge free for the asking on all of the list serves.

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