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Carving Found Wood

Written by Vic Hood

Photography by Jack A. Williams

Review by Matt Kelley


When this book first came out, my intention was to do an review for WOM as quickly as possible. As so often happens, however, events transpired and the book was set aside for a while. Later, it was shelved in an unexpected place when someone committed a neatness in our library/living room. Finally I performed a search through enough to turn up the missing volume in time to actually write the review for this issue.

Why am I telling you all this? Only to make the point that this book looks as interesting some months after purchase as it did the day I received it.

Carving Found Wood is really two books in one; an excellent photo essay about carving found wood, and a good "how-to" section along for the ride.

Found wood, in the context of the book, is "wood that is carved in its natural or unaltered condition." Materials used by the featured artists include drift wood, cottonwood bark, cypress knees, juniper and cedar, slab wood and bristle cone pine. By their nature these unprocessed woods present protential problems due to embedded sand and dirt, punky wood and pitch, but the finished product is very often worth the effort

The book includes the work of these fine artists:

Their subjects and styles are as varied as their materials:

The result is a wonderful mix of carvings that should inspire just about every carver.

Although all the carvings are good, among my favorites are Carol Jean Boyd's cypress knee carvings and Rick Jensen's cottonwood bark storybook houses.

Each chapter of the book starts with a short biography of the artist, then a page or two of assorted comments regarding techniques, the particular material used and sources of inspiration. As might be expected, the interviews that form the basis for the comment pages varied considerably in content; the authors have done a good job in converting information into a more consistant presentation. The result is an interesting mix of carving wisdom from some the best carvers around.

Being primarily a photo essay, however, the real gems of the book are the photos of the various carvings. Jack A. Williams is at once an excellent photographer and accomplished carver. He is, therefore, predisposed to take photos that show off carvings to good effect, and in this he is quite successful.

With the excellent photo gallery in the book, the "how-to" section is almost a bonus. At 26 pages in length, with 96 step-by-step photos, Vic Hood presents a good instructional essay on carving a mountain man bust in a large chunk of cottonwood bark (42" long x 5 " thick x 6" at the widest point.)

Requiring an assortment of mallet tools, this is not a project for the newbie carver, but should be a good project for someone with moderate experience. A word of caution; Hood does a lot of the work with the bark piece sitting right on his lap; a process highly discouraged for all but the most experienced carver.

One final comment about the book itself; this is a soft cover book, but the publisher has spent a bit extra to provide an oversize cover that folds over into a four inch flap on the front and back covers. This should help reduce wear on the open edges of the book and prolong it's life, particularly given that this is a book you will want to open often.

Now for the rating - given the quality of the text and photos, and the "how-to" section, I'd call this an excellent value and recommend it to any carver. Carving Found Wood, therefore, rates a rare five thumbs up on the WOM value scale.

Carving Found Wood is published by Fox Chapel Publishing and may be ordered from their web site HERE or purchased from your favorite carving supply house. Cover photograph used with permission.