Welcome to the first joint review in the pages of WOM. This review is the result of several email conversations between Editor Matt Kelley, and Mike Bloomquist, President of the Mohawk Valley Art & Woodcarving Association, and occasional contributor to WOM.
Matt: Noted British carver Ian Norbury is the author of a number of excellent carving books; Carving Uncle Sam is his first excursion into a carving presentation on compact disk.
The CD is written in hyperlink format, which means it runs nicely on your web browser. All you need to do is spool up the CD and the click the Index, which opens a splash screen with images of the carving and clickable links to:
There are some 70 videos and dozens of detailed
stills which take the reader step by step through the entire process
of making the stern looking Uncle Sam.
Mike: I like the HTML look and feel of the thing, and the project is broken down nicely. The CD's HTML layout does have one small drawback in design. There is no linked index or table of contents, so you can find your way back to some place where you left off. This is not a simple, hour or two project and I think it needs some landmarks. There is an easy work-a-round to this (now that I've finished whining). Simply, "bookmark" your last step with your browser's bookmarking feature.
Matt: You'll find the graphics nicely done, with reasonably good quality stills and videos. Ian writes that video was shot by a non-professional in order to keep the cost down. This is occasionally evident by momentarily blocked views and occasionally uneven brightness, but these are a minor distraction and a good tradeoff. You will find the video clips provide a clear, understandable and delightful look over Ian's shoulder as he works through the carvings.
Mike: The video resolution and sound quality are excellent, much better than I would expect with the space limitations of a CD. At first I thought the videos were too short in the beginning (and they don't start until Page 3), but that was because Ian was blocking out large parts of wood. It seems like he was saving the limited video space for the important detail work later in the process.
My only big complaint at this point is you never meet Ian face-to-face (no shot or video clip has his face in it). I checked the file contents of the CD, and there are several files I don't think get used. These could have been removed and replaced with a nice intro clip with him talking to the camera. Through his books and a class, I'm a Big Ian Norbury fan. You need to meet this wood carver, believe me.
Matt: Other then that, you will find this CD a useful and enjoyable reference. If you choose to undertake the project, you will find it plenty challenging. If you decide to defer the undertaking, you will none-the-less find this a welcome addition to you bookshelf.
And now for our rating of the CD:
Mike: Remember, this is on a Zero to Five Thumbs Up rating, with 'five' the ultimately perfect instructional book or video. For a first effort this is a plenty good result; I'll give the CD Three Thumbs Up with a high recommendation to purchase.
Matt: This is a good quality CD at a reasonable price. Although planned and produced well in advance of the events of September 11th, this CD will none-the-less strike a cord with American carvers. Toss in the fact that Ian will donate all profits to New York Fire Fighters Relief Fund and you have a real winner. That is enough to tip my vote over to Four Thumbs Up.
Mike: So on
average, Ian Norbury's Carving Uncle Sam CD receives
Three and one-half Thumbs Up, with
a firm recommendation to purchase the CD for your woodcarving
Matt: The special introductory price for Ian Norbury's new CD is $15US or £10UK. The special price is available for a short time and only through Norbury's web site HERE.