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The Art of the Automobile:
Vintage Vehicle Carvings by W.W. Fayette

By Matt Kelley


W.W. Fayette with his 1948 Ford Sportsman


As a youngster, William "Bill" Fayette spent hours building balsa wood model airplanes. When he left the Air Force in 1946, the Ferndale, Washington resident turned his hand to auto body repair as a career. In 1979, Bill happily combined his childhood hobby and his job, and started hand crafting relief plaques of vintage automobiles. The result? A steady stream of very detailed, exquisitely finished works of art.

When Bill first sent me a photo of one of his masterpieces, I thought I was looking at a really well made computer graphic. A visit to his web site soon convinced me that he is an artist of uncommon patience and dedication.

Recently I asked Bill to tell the readers of Woodcarving Online Magazine something of the process he goes through with each model. Here are his comments:

WOM: Bill, what kind of wood do you use, and what are the initial steps in the process:


WWF: It is balsa wood - this comes from being a dedicated model airplane builder since the 1930's.

I start with a small drawing then I take it to a blueprint shop. where they do copying of blueprints and . . .


. . . have it enlarged to approximately the size I want the sculpture to be.


WWF: I then trace the drawing on the wood. These are balsa sheets generally 36" long and 8 to 10" wide and anywhere from 1/2 " to 1" thick.


WWF: This gives me the shape I want of each piece. I then cut out fenders, tops w/shield frames, wheels, etc., on my table jig saw.


WWF: Then I start carving. This is when the fun stuff starts. Like the fender: shape the fender by getting rid of all the wood that you don't need inside and out.


WWF: Sand it as smooth as you can get it at this time - be careful, as you want the fender as thin as you can get it. The balsa wood becomes very tender, and breaks easily.


WOM: Bill, tell us about your finishing process.

WWF: To harden the balsa I use a sanding resin. I paint this on the fender inside and out. When it gets nice and hard you sand it out again. That's still not good enough, so more sanding resin and sand it again. You do this 3 or 4 times and then you prime it with automobile primer with a spray gun.


This is when you find out that it wasn't as smooth as you thought it was. Now it is too late to go back and apply more resin as you have contaminated the wood with primer. So you start using a putty to fill in the imperfections.


Click here to go to Part 2