Hello all! It is once again time to expand on several notes that have been posted on the Woodcarver's List. We had many excellent tips posted since the last article was published. I had some major computer difficulties and lost all of the notes that I had saved for my article. However, several members came to my rescue and I was able to gather enough data to put together the article. Thanks to all members who rescued me!
There was quite a thread concerning copyrights on the list that I thought might be of interest to our readers. We had some expert advice offered by an attorney member of the list. The following is a small part of the conversation that took place concerning the copyright laws.
Joe Dillett, one of the professional woodcarvers on the list states; The purpose of the copyright is two-fold. You've mentioned the first is keeping people from copying your work. The second is to keep them from copyrighting your work, which may keep you from producing that design again. Years ago I made a lot of colonial plaques. I copyrighted them. Every year I would add another design to the set. I had 26 designs. An uncarved (cut out and painted) version was showing up on the market with their own copyright symbol. After about 8 years of this, one of their buyers mentioned to me that I must be violating their copyright. I promptly wrote a letter which stopped them from making any more because I threatened a law suit. That was all it took to stop them.
In the U.S. the fee is now $20 and the form is "Form VA" for visual arts. The address is
Library of Congress
Publications Section, LM-455
100 Independence Ave. S.E.
Washington, D.C. 20559-6000
You may download the form off the site. Pictures are not required, however I do send a small photo along with the form. You can also copyright a group of similar items on one form. You can use the copyright symbol prior to sending in the form. Sometimes I use the symbol for a year before I send in the form. The date they receive the form is the date of record.
The copyright is only as good as your pockets are deep, because you have to sue to protect it. I have had five of my designs turn up as Chinese porcelains in gift shops. One of them still had my carved trademark on the base. The attorney said it would cost me at least $250,000 to sue and by the time the suit was heard, they would have saturated the market and moved on.
Ron Eakins, another professional woodcarver on the list writes: I encourage everyone to copyright your work even if you don't plan to enforce the copyright. You never know what may happen with your design in the future.
On commissioned work, I sign, date, trademark, copyright, number and give species. I also provide a Certificate of Authenticity. On Gallery work I only sign it and provide an undated Certificate of Authenticity. The copyright bug requires a date so I leave it off. The copyright only keeps honest people honest.
One of our list members wrote that she thought art was copyrighted when it is completed, marked with copyright symbol and dated?
Another of our list members wrote the following; Does the registration fee cover worldwide - I understood that there was no need to do anything more than add the copyright symbol, date and signature to protect your design/artwork etc.?
Also can someone else give a comment on the following scenario? If taking part of the text from a book and including this in your own writing be called "plagiarism" then is the same true if someone takes part of your (original) design from a carving and includes it in their work - could this not also be considered "plagiarism" ?
Joe Dillett shared further expertise on the Copyright thread with the following comments; The U.S. has agreements with many countries and they do recognize and honor our copyright as we honor theirs. However the countries that we have no agreement with are free to copy anything and we can't stop them. We are also free to copy items from those countries where no agreement exists, although any true artist would not copy anything.
Your question about someone copying a portion of someone's original work, being considered plagiarism would be up to the courts to decide. One has to take into consideration the way it was used. If someone carved a room and on the wall of that room they hung one of your carvings for a decoration. Would the courts view that differently from someone copying the major portion of your design and doing just a slight modification? Yes they would, however even if they copied the majority of your design and only modified it slightly, the courts may view it as no violation depending on the financial impact or other circumstances such as your design being composed from basic forms or similar to a work who's copyright had expired. If you feel your copyright has been violated, you have the burden of proof, showing that it was your original design, they did copy it, and it did hurt you financially. The copyright only serves as a large filing system with a time stamp. A lot depends on how you filled out the form, your description being the most important. I always send in photos, however I don't know if the photos are also kept on file. My copies are sent registered mail to myself, sealed and notarized over the seal, and stored into my lock box at the bank. These are services that the bank supplies at no cost other then the cost of the lock box.
Tim Berry answered a list member's question concerning writing a letter to yourself and mailing it to prove that a design was actually created by yourself with the following advice:
Many persons believe that they can protect their inventions against later inventors merely by mailing to themselves a registered letter describing the invention. This is not true. Your priority right against anyone else who makes the same invention independently cannot be sustained except by testimony of someone else who corroborates your own testimony as to all important facts. It is therefore important that some trustworthy friend witness the facts.
As a final comment to this interesting thread I have included some very interesting insights from attorney Ken Warsh. His expert comments went as follows;
I am an attorney specializing in intellectual property in the USA. I offer the following general comments on copyrights for purpose of education. I cannot offer you advice for your specific situation.
1. Copyright law in the USA is very complicated due to the frequent revisions by the Congress. We wont go into that.
2. Copyright law has largely been internationalized by a treaty called "The Berne convention" which has been ratified by most of the countries in the world. The following generalizations apply to all signatories including the USA (and I believe Canada and Australia). It is as close to a sensible world law as will ever come. (Which is why we won't belabor US law.)
3. You inherently own a copyright in any original writing or work of art. When you register that copyright you are recording your evidence and buying the right to go to a suitable court to enforce it. (it follows that if you want to sue in Australia you record the copyright in Australia according to Australian procedures.) Your copyright covers only your original contribution. E.G. You can retell the story of King Arthur in your own words. You get the copyright in your words, not the whole story.
4. The copyright is not self-enforcing, nor is it enforced by most governments. (China for example is an exception since they can enforce whatever they choose.)
5. The value of the copyright is only as good as your ability to enforce it. If you haven't got the money to go to court to sue somebody you cant enforce the copyright, i.e. your copyright is worthless.
6. I was astonished at the story of the man who bought a new shop with the money he got at settlement. It is not typical. There must have been an insurance company anxious to settle. It is hard to sue someone in another state in the USA or country. It is even harder to sue over a small amount of money. Lawsuits over copyrights or patents are usually a battle between large corporations involving millions. A suit in small claims court would have to be settled under a copyright law of that state, which might or might be slightly different from but not contradictory to US law and the Berne Convention. I couldn't begin to predict the results in any state.
7. Under the Berne Convention you do not have to mark your carving copyrighted. It does help to warn a copier that you hope to keep your rights. You just have to have proof if you are going to sue. Sending a letter to yourself is not the best way to document your creation. Having witnesses or witnessed documents is going to impress the judge more.
8. How much you can copy without infringing a copyright is a matter for the judge to decide. A little is OK. For example you can quote a paragraph out of a book in a book revue. But don't reprint a chapter without permission. Anything in between is risky. If you carve King Arthur in a gold robe, I can paint mine gold too, but I cant make them indistinguishable. Anything in between is up to the circumstances as seen by the judge. There is no absolute rule.
I would impress on any reader that they should get the expert opinion of their attorney concerning legal copyright matters.
In addition to the copyright thread, I felt like a couple of other threads that took place might be of interest to our readers. These threads talked about different carving woods that might serve as an alternative to basswood. The neat thing about these woods are that they are readily available in many different parts of the Us and Canada.
Leland wrote that there had been a tornado go through a rural settlement near his home. Luckily, no one was injured but lots of property damage and downed trees. Today the clean up crew was cutting up a large catalpa tree preparatory to burning it. They were glad to cut it into three foot lengths for me so I was able to rescue the trunk for my buddy and myself. The base of the tree was about 36" in diameter so it was a big one. A good portion of that was hollow. I have good solid wood from about 12" to 20" in diameter.
Ainslie Pyne wrote to him; Mill it down a little further with your chainsaw before storing it for seasoning. You need to reduce the stresses which will develop as the timber dries. This is what causes those radiating checks from the center. Even if you only cut it down through the center of the heartwood this will help enormously. Then expect to see that flat surface develop some interesting shapes as it loses moisture!
She added, there are many excellent woodturning books on the market which have chapters of the seasoning of "found" timber such as you describe. One of these alone would be worth buying for just this chapter - to keep as reference.
Joe Dillett answered that he would mill the log now. It will cut down on the drying time.
I can tell you one thing, Catalpa is a good carving wood. You have to be careful to carve with the grain but it is a beautiful wood and carves well. I have carved Catalpa several times and have a good supply in my wood pile. I recommend that any carver grab Catalpa if you get the chance.
Another wood that was discussed was Poplar. The thread started as follows; Now the big question is ....How does Poplar carve?
Thierry Varem-Sanders wrote that Poplar carves great. In fact, around here it is the poor man's basswood. The grain is virtually identical to basswood, and the color is similar. Many people can't tell them apart actually.
Bonnie wrote that she had carved some Poplar. She said that it looks much like basswood and what I've carved is only a wee bit harder. She did say that at times it seeded to be a bit more stringy though.
Paul wrote that although it looks like basswood only the heartwood carves as sweet. Sapwood of poplar is tough and stringy.
Someone said that Poplar carved a lot like white pine. Robin Trudel wrote that Poplar is harder than pine, is more "stringy" and cannot hold fine detail the way that pine does.
In good eastern white pine, he stated that he could carve a detailed face into an area about &Mac184; inch in diameter. In poplar he gets crumbles.
He further stated that if he were to rate carving woods, poplar would fall well below eastern white pine and northern basswood. He would choose one of the softer maples or birch before he'd pick poplar.
Becky Harris wrote that she likes poplar for small relief carvings, and fairy wings. It's a nice even-grained wood, a little prone to splinter. Can't say how it does for larger projects, but I would think reasonably well. It's usually a nice, light tan color, but I have a couple of small pieces with lovely streaks of sage green and lavender, and one that's streaked with deep umber and slate gray all the way to almost black. That one's going to become dragon wings.
M. Paul Ward wrote that you must distinguish between the heartwood and sapwood of poplar. Heartwood varies in color from white to black, mostly green. Sapwood is always white - the color of pine or basswood..
The heartwood usually is greenish and never holds its green color. It always turns brown. But this green, brown or black colored (and sometimes white) heartwood of poplar is excellent for carving. He stated that he scavenges old furniture parts for pieces. The sapwood, however is terrible for carving. Most frustrating when you put a tool to it.
Joe Dillett wrote that Poplar carves great and looks like basswood, however there is a wide range of hardness. Through the thread he learned from Paul Ward that it's the difference between the heart wood and sap wood. He had thought it was growing conditions. Poplar (Yellow Poplar) grows quite large and is used for lumber (among the species sold as white wood). White poplar is different. It's also from the basswood family. It's those straight trees that grow fast and tall but don't last very long. They are normally planted in rows for wind breakers. If you get these white poplar trees before they get too large (because the center gets very soft), they are almost identical in hardness and in looks, to basswood. Joe stated that he has brought 8 inch diameter white poplar logs into the house, wrapped them in about 4 layers of newspaper (like a gift to myself). and place them in a hot area (the plenum on top of his furnace) and dried them within a year. Very little or no checking. He thinks the reason the yellow and white poplar dry faster with very little checking is because the center is softer and more giving and the outside of the log is tough.
Another wood that often comes to the carver as free wood was Black Cherry. The thread started as follows; A friend had a large black cherry tree blow down last year. He was kind enough to give me the trunk and two large limbs which I've stored in my garage. I'm contemplating whether to carve them or have them sawn into boards. The question is how well does it carve?
The overwhelming answer to the questions was that Cherry carves wonderful. Limbs are not as good as the trunk. The further the heart is off center from the log the more stringy and unpredictable the wood can be (reaction wood). If the heart is close to the center of the limb go for it.
I have all but one of Harold Enlow's carving books. One of his books has a wonderful Indian carving done out of Black Cherry. I would say that if you do carve Black Cherry please consider leaving the wood natural and finishing it with a clear finish. The wood is beautiful.
Another carver indicated that they had carved maple and thought is was nice, a little hard, but nice. They indicated that you need to make sure that your tools are sharp and keep them that way and you should not have any problems carving maple. She further indicated that she liked carving oak as well. While she didn't clarify the fact, I think that shw was probably talking about White Oak.
Several list members talked about the virtues of carving Butternut. During the thread we learned that there is currently a moratorium on cutting living butternut trees on Federal and State land. The trees are dying from a disease but the bugs will get into the tree shortly after the tree has died. The other way for the beetles to infest is if the log is left with the bark on. The majority of the butternut harvested is from private lands but the quantity has diminished greatly in the last few years and will continue to diminish.
The Minnesota Forestry is doing research on trying to find disease resistant trees and any nuts to be used for testing must come from trees that have been exposed to known diseased trees. Isolated trees like in small lots or yards do not meet this criteria.
The butternut will keep in a log form if kept off the ground and some what dry. To minimize the worm infestation, the bark should be removed and the ends of the log need to be sealed to minimize the checking. If the wood is going to be carved green, the piece should be kept out of direct sunlight as much as possible and covered with a plastic bag when not working on the piece. The bag needs to be reversed each day to release the condensed moisture on the bag to assist in the drying.
Another list member wrote that there was absolutely nothing better in the pine family than eastern white pine. However, I think you would find that Western white pine is at least its equal in texture, workability and color. In fact the two woods are extremely similar. Sugar pine is also a wonderful carving wood although it is more strongly colored and has a showier grain than the white pines.
He further stated that we Westerners <grin> have access to much of the carving wood that you easterners do. The only difference is that we get the privilege of paying five times as much for it. <LOL>
Experiment with different woods and let the members of the Woodcarvers List know about your experiences.
Another thread that may be of interest to power carvers was started by Robin Edward Trudel. He stated that a couple of weeks ago he got a request to link his web site to http://www.turbocarver.com
For those of you who aren't familiar with the New England Wood Carver's web site (http://www.tiac.net/users/rtrudel), Robin has made it a firm policy to link to sites whose products he has tested himself. He states that it has caused some hard feelings, but he won't add a link until he's done first-hand business with the folks.
Robin stated that he decided to try the Turbo Carver. He started chatting with the company via Email and decided to purchase one of the tools after he found that it could be operated with a Co2 canister.
He received his newly purchased Turbo Carver, rented a tank and filled it with Co2 and laid out everything on his picnic table to get started. The assembly took him about 5 minutes. He requested the Co2 regulator with the Turbo Carver (an optional piece of equipment) and all he had to do is plug it into the tank and turn the knob on the tank.
He started with a football shaped diamond burr (special tiny burrs) and got to work on a piece of pine. The burr turns at 400,000 rpm so there's little effort to carve with this tool. It feels like writing with a felt-tip marker.
He also did some carving in grenadillo. This wood is very tough, a knife will barely mark it. The Turbo Carver just kept on chugging through it.
Robin's biggest surprise was that there is absolutely no chatter with this tool. He stated that he hadn't even realized that the reason he couldn't do elegant engraving with slower grinding tools was that they chattered so much he couldn't draw sweeping lines. He states that with this tool it's as easy to carve as it is to draw with a felt-tip.
Robin stated that he will be adding http://www.turbocarver.com onto his list of links very soon.
Dan Kersey stated that he agreed with Robin's expert assessment. He bought the NEYTECH High speed carving tool and was very pleased with its performance also. After he purchased his high speed grinder Dan purchased the Power Carving Manual from Fox Chapel and he'll be revisiting it understanding what this tool can do.
He stated the he loves the feel of the tool. Long sweeping curves are very easy. And with no chattering and he doesn't get "white hand" after using the tool for an hour or two. (White hand is the tingling sensation you get after using an electric hand tool for long durations).
Dan stated that using the Co2 tank as a power source was great. He can toss the canister of Co2 and the Turbo Carver in the truck, drive down to his pond and carve to his heart's content and not bother with wires. Then when he gets covered in sawdust he can just jump in the water.
A Missouri member of the list state that he had gone through three of the Turbo Carvers. He said they are a nice starter tool, but if you want to get really serious about the carvings and etchings with such a tool a Paragraphic or Powercrafter is in order. The turbine on the Turbo Carver can not handle the heavy work as it is so small. He did say that he uses the Turbo Carver for a lot of egg carvings and light bone work and to do the enamel coated brass etchings. They are very handy and very light. He stated that the tubing on the hand piece was a bit too light and got blowing holes in it after some hours of use. A trip to the local hardware store and the purchase of 1/8 clear tubing a couple fittings and a little cement and he has not blown a hole in his hoses since. He suggested never overextending the little tool. He said it is a great tool for light work but will wreck the turbine if too much is asked for a sustained period of time.
Tom Norman wrote to the list indicating that Wood Magazine issue 103 Feb/98 had an article about ultra high speed engravers. They compared 4 different models: Ultra-Speed Products (Turbo Carver), Paragraphics Paragrave, SCM 400XS, and Fordom 350K. SCM got best rating, but was not lowest price. Comments for Turbo Carver:"Bargain priced tool for beginners or intermediates." "There's one for every budget".
I would like to remind our readers to use proper precautions when using a grinding machine. Dust collectors, masks, etc. can save your health.
I hope that you have found something in this article that will be of use to you in your carving endeavors. Take time to drop me a note and let me know what you would like to see in future articles. Remember, my article consists of threads that are sent in to the different carving lists. Therefore, if you want an early preview of an upcoming article consider joining the Woodcarver's List, the Woodcarver's Porch, the Stickmaker's list and the Fishcarver's list. Until the next issue, take care and enjoy your carving. -Loren Woodard
For information regarding the various email lists for woodcarvers, visit The Carvers' Companion Links Page, or click the links below.