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: