Archive for April 2012

March/April 2012 WOM


Wel­come to Issue 2 of Year 16 of Wood­carv­er Online Mag­a­zine.

Our Front Page pho­to this issue is:

Mark Doolit­tle’s

Coral Reef

Click for a larg­er view; if the image turns into a mag­ni­fy­ing glass, click again for more detail. Close win­dow to return.

Hel­lo carv­ing friends -

Big changes are in the works for Wood­carv­er Online Mag­a­zine and the Carvers’ Com­pan­ion web sites.  Watch this site, the Wood­carv­er List and the Wood­carv­er List Face­book group page for more information.

If you are a Face­book mem­ber, take time to vis­it the Carvers’ Companion/ Wood­carv­er List Face­book group. This pro­vides a place on FB for carvers to post carv­ing pho­tos and to chat about carv­ing; it also serves as a com­pan­ion to the Wood­carv­er List­serv. Come on by for a vis­it! Click HERE or on Face­book search for “Wood­carv­er List”

In this issue:

The Carv­ing of Coral Reef by Mark Doolittle

Part I of Find­ing and Col­lect­ing Cot­ton­wood Bark by Alex Bisso

A vis­i­tor from The Aud Sod by “Ol’ Don” Biurgdorf

Pete LeClair’s Bill


Call For Front Page Carv­ing Pho­tos We’re always look­ing for great pho­tos of great carv­ings for the front page of WOM. If you’d like your pho­to to be con­sid­ered, send it on in. Please include the back sto­ry, mate­r­i­al and fin­ish info, size, etc. Send to womed­i­tor AT

Arti­cles and sug­ges­tions for arti­cles are always wel­come. Feel free to send sug­ges­tions and request. For infor­ma­tion on sub­mit­ting arti­cles for pub­li­ca­tion, click HERE.


WOM Editor Matt Kelley

WOM Edi­tor Matt Kelley

Carve On! -

Matt Kel­ley, Editor


From Pete LeClair

Pete LeClair’s Bill

Pete LeClair’s project this issue fea­tures Bill :

Pete LeClair is a well-known carv­er and teacher, author of three carv­ing books and a mem­ber of the Car­i­ca­ture Carvers of Amer­i­ca. You may learn more about Pete at his page on the CCA web site. Be sure to tour the rest of the CCA pages when you have a moment. In addi­tion, you may email Pete at pet­ele­clair AT Pho­tos copy­right 2001 — 2012 by Pete LeClair.

This pat­tern may be copied for indi­vid­ual use only; repro­duc­tion for resale is pro­hib­it­ed with­out express writ­ten permission.

From Ol’ Don’s Drawing Board

From “Ol’ Don” Drawing Table

Ol’ Don” Burgdorf con­tin­ues his reg­u­lar series of pat­terns for WOM with the A Toast To Me Motherland.

To print the pat­tern, click here; the pat­tern will open in a new win­dow, and should print on 8.5 x 11 paper. For Print­ing Hints, click here.


Ol’ Don” Burgdorf is a carv­er and artist from Hohen­wald, TN. Don’s fea­ture “Doo­dles ‘n Notes for Carvin’ Folks” appears reg­u­lar­ly in Chip Chats, and his pat­terns are now found in each issue of WOM and Carv­ing Mag­a­zine. He has sev­er­al pat­tern port­fo­lios on a vari­ety of sub­jects avail­able for down­load from his web­site. For infor­ma­tion about the port­fo­lios and oth­er cus­tom ser­vices Don pro­vides carvers, click here. Some of Don’s “Chat­ter­ing Chip­pers” pat­terns can also be seen at the Wood­carver’s Porch pat­tern page.

Ol’ Don now has rough­outs avail­able for some of his pat­terns. You are invit­ed to vis­it Ol’ Don’s home page, or email him at ol’­don AT

Copy­right 2011–2012 “Ol’ Don” Burgdorf. This Pat­tern may be copied for indi­vid­ual use; repro­duc­tion for resale is pro­hib­it­ed with­out express writ­ten permission.

Finding and Collecting Cottonwood Bark

Edi­tor’s Note

This is the first in a series of arti­cles writ­ten by Alex Bis­so about find­ing and col­lect­ing cot­ton­wood bark. The arti­cles will be pre­sent­ed over the next sev­er­al issues of WOM. The sub­ject of this first install­ment, although more mun­dane then the parts that will fol­low, is nonethe­less very impor­tant information.


Finding and Collecting Cottonwood Bark

By Alex Bisso

Part I — Obtaining Legal Access to Property and Permission to Collect

The fol­low­ing infor­ma­tion is the result of my many years of col­lect­ing cot­ton­wood bark, most­ly in Mon­tana but some in north­ern Wyoming as well.

There are many loca­tions where spe­cial per­mis­sion is not required to explore the land for bark poten­tial.  These places include:

  • Pub­lic (State or Fed­er­al) lands
  • State, coun­ty and munic­i­pal parks
  • Wildlife man­age­ment areas, often pur­chased from pri­vate landown­ers, by State or Fed­er­al Wildlife man­age­ment agen­cies and set aside to pro­vide man­aged wildlife habi­tat and pub­lic hunt­ing opportunities.
  • Block man­age­ment areas which involve an agree­ment between the Bureau of Land Man­age­ment and pri­vate landown­ers to allow access to land for hunt­ing deer, upland game birds, etc.  Some of these only require sign­ing in at access loca­tions but some require con­tact­ing the landown­ers.  Landown­ers par­tic­i­pat­ing in this pro­gram receive a small fee (like­ly paid from hunt­ing license rev­enues) for each per­son who access­es the land dur­ing the cov­ered sea­son. Access to these pri­vate lands is only pro­vid­ed dur­ing the hunt­ing sea­sons for which the area is man­aged for hunt­ing each year and then the access is allowed for hunters. Of course it is OK to look for large dead cot­ton­wood trees while doing that. Whether it be for deer or upland game bird hunt­ing, one should go and scout the area as a hunter. I have gone a num­ber of times with my son who is a bird hunter and found some good trees in this man­ner. Then it is easy to call the landown­er, let him know that you saw the dead tree while hunt­ing and ask for per­mis­sion to go back and col­lect the bark for wood carving.

In all of these areas it is impor­tant to rec­og­nize that the per­mis­sion allowed to access the area does not include per­mis­sion to col­lect bark or oth­er wood from that area.  In fact some­times any col­lect­ing is specif­i­cal­ly pro­hib­it­ed.  In most of these areas I feel com­fort­able pick­ing up a few nice pieces of bark when I am check­ing the area out.  How­ev­er, before going in the area to col­lect a large amount of bark I make a prac­tice of and strong­ly rec­om­mend con­tact­ing the landown­er or land man­age­ment per­son­nel to obtain spe­cif­ic per­mis­sion to do the col­lec­tion.  Some­times this requires a num­ber of phone calls to even­tu­al­ly find the per­son who has the author­i­ty to grant you the per­mis­sion you need to col­lect.  The state, coun­ty and city parks usu­al­ly have some­one equiv­a­lent to a park super­in­ten­dent who is respon­si­ble for one or many such parks.  Since the land in block man­age­ment areas is pri­vate­ly owned, it is the landown­er’s per­mis­sion to col­lect that is needed.

For state and fed­er­al lands, includ­ing wildlife man­age­ment areas, etc. it could take a num­ber of calls to find the indi­vid­ual who is respon­si­ble for man­age­ment of the area.  This would like­ly be some­one like a state or fed­er­al wildlife biol­o­gist who lives some­where near the area.  A good place to start call­ing is the clos­est region­al office of the agency which man­ages the land where you want to collect.

Note that many pub­lic lands in Mon­tana now have signs which say “no wood cut­ting” and while I could tech­ni­cal­ly argue that col­lect­ing bark from dead trees does not involve any wood “cut­ting” I would not be com­fort­able col­lect­ing a whole Blaz­er or util­i­ty trail­er full of bark with­out specif­i­cal­ly obtain­ing per­mis­sion to do so.  Hav­ing per­mis­sion brings great piece of mind and assures that a good col­lect­ing area is not put at risk.

When pri­vate­ly owned land is involved it is impor­tant to get landown­er per­mis­sion both before you go on the prop­er­ty to scout promis­ing areas and before you go on the land to col­lect bark – each time.  When I get per­mis­sion to check pri­vate land for thick bark, I nor­mal­ly bring along an exam­ple piece of bark, and per­haps a bark carv­ing, to show the landown­er what I am look­ing for, and I let them know why their prop­er­ty is of inter­est (bones, dead trees, very large trees, etc.).  I also ask them where they sug­gest I look.  I nor­mal­ly like to do my first scout­ing on foot but some ranch­es are so large that ask­ing them about avail­able access roads is a good idea.  If I find good bark I then go back to the landown­er and exchange con­tact infor­ma­tion and make ten­ta­tive plans to come back on a col­lect­ing trip. Some­times I also get per­mis­sion to go and
col­lect some of the bark right then in addi­tion to mak­ing plans to come back
at a lat­er date to col­lect more if it is available.

Com­pen­sa­tion – I have not yet had to pay cash to col­lect bark but to main­tain good rela­tions with the landown­er I always give them a nice, fin­ished bark carv­ing when I find and get per­mis­sion to col­lect bark from their prop­er­ty.  If I do not have a carv­ing to give them on my scout­ing trip I always bring one when I return to do the col­lect­ing.  Some landown­ers have 3–4 of my bark carv­ings and I have devel­oped some good friends and rela­tion­ships in this man­ner.   Even after years of friend­ship with a landown­er, my prac­tice is to nev­er go on their land unless I obtain their per­mis­sion for that spe­cif­ic trip.

It should be men­tioned that it is a good prac­tice to vis­it with or at least call the landown­er on the way out of his prop­er­ty to let him know that you are safe and leav­ing their prop­er­ty, and that you closed any gates, etc. that you need­ed to go through.  I also like to give a small carved-egg San­ta or Christ­mas tree orna­ment, or pos­si­bly just a card or cook­ies, to landown­ers that I vis­it repeatedly.

In the next install­ment: Find­ing Cot­ton­wood Bark — or What To Look For

Here’s a peek at what’s ahead:

To give you an idea of scale, note the top of the vehi­cle in the back­ground Click for a larg­er image.


Alex Bis­so with a Cot­ton­wood Monarch.


Alex Bis­so is a wood­carv­er, and col­lec­tor and sell­er of cot­ton­wood bark and oth­er found wood. To view some of Alex’s carv­ings and cot­ton­wood bark sup­pl at Be So Good Wood, click HERE.

The Carving of Coral Reef

The Carving of Coral Reef

By Mark Doolittle

Mark Doolit­tle’s carv­ings are unusu­al and intrigu­ing, reflect­ing strong­ly of his aca­d­e­m­ic train­ing and career. In this arti­cle, Mark pro­vides an overview of the carv­ing process used in cre­at­ing Coral Reef.

Click on each image for a much larg­er, detailed view. If your cur­sor turns into a mag­ni­fy­ing glass, click the image for an even more detail. Close the detailed view to return.

The first step is to obtain a sin­gle piece of wood of the appro­pri­ate col­or, work­a­bil­i­ty, grain and size. For Coral Reef, the Amer­i­can hard­wood “Bass­wood” was cho­sen, a light-col­ored, straight-grained wood that is very work­able, mak­ing it a favorite among carvers. As shown in this pho­to, the size of the “Coral Reef” sculp­ture (24”h x 24”w x 4”d) was obtained by glu­ing togeth­er five pieces of 4” thick Basswood.


The sec­ond step is to obtain the over­all shape of the piece. This begins by cut­ting out the over­all pro­file of Coral Reef using a bandsaw.


After the pro­file is obtained, the shap­ing step is con­tin­ued using rasps, sanders, gouges and rotary burrs to achieve the final three-dimen­sion­al shape of Coral Reef.


The front of the shaped piece.


The final step is to add detail carv­ing that pro­vides a sense of growth like the col­o­niza­tion of mil­lions of coral polyps that build nat­ur­al coral reefs. This “sense of growth” was achieved by carv­ing holes & fis­sures using a vari­ety of rotary bits and hand-held rasps and files. Here is the start of the detailed carv­ing to obtain the desired organ­ic shapes, begin­ning on the small­er “wing”.


The bot­tom of the wings, show­ing the detail that was used to tran­si­tion the carv­ings from the small wings to the stem and larg­er wings of the piece.


The larg­er wing dur­ing detailed carved. Both through holes (called “pierc­ing”) and stopped holes were used to achieve the lace-like organ­ic look. Notice the pen­cil marks on the non-carved sur­face that were used to guide the carving.


The pierc­ing begins at the edge of the piece, as seen here on the right-hand wing.

The inter­nal pierc­ings are final­ly added.


All detail carv­ing is completed.


A three-quar­ter view of the com­plet­ed piece, before wood dyes were used to empha­size the edges of the wings.


Final piece with added edge col­or, fin­ished with polyurethane and final­ly mount­ed on a base made from African Padauk with an inset piece of Ari­zona sandstone.


Mark Hen­ry Doolit­tle earned a PhD in Biol­o­gy from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia at Los Ange­les, and enjoyed a career there in bio­med­ical research.  While work­ing at UCLA, he also devel­oped a keen inter­est in art and wood­work­ing, recent­ly tran­si­tion­ing into a sec­ond career as a full-time wood artist.

Mark’s work is strong­ly influ­enced by his back­ground in biol­o­gy.  His work strong­ly reflects the growth and sym­me­try found in cells and tis­sue, as well as whole organ­isms.  He uses organ­ic shapes and abstract forms to fos­ter a per­cep­tion of bio­log­i­cal grow.

See more of Mark’s intrigu­ing work on his web site: or on his Face­book page: