Archive for August 2012

July/August 2012 WOM


Wel­come to Issue 4 of Year 16 of Wood­carv­er Online Mag­a­zine.

Our Front Page pho­to this issue is:

Rick Har­ney’s

Inter­na­tion­al Wood­carv­er Con­gress 2012

Judges Mer­it Award select­ed by Judge Vic Hood

Iowa Bou­quet

Pho­to: “Ol’ Don” and Sandie Burgdorf

Rick Harney

Rick Har­ney’s “Iowa Bouquet”

Hel­lo carv­ing friends -

As I write this, out­side my win­dow is one of the few real­ly com­fort­able days we’ve had here in south­east Michi­gan all sum­mer (not to men­tion the rest of North Amer­i­ca. There is just a hint of cool north­ern air, a reminder that fall is not far off, and with it the fall carv­ing shows. The next issue of WOM will include a pho­to gallery of the win­ners at Artistry in Wood 2012. It’s one of the issues I look for­ward to work­ing on, because of the qual­i­ty of the carv­ings and photography.

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:

Reviews of Wood­carv­ing Mag­ic and The Art of Carv­ing Netsuke

Part 2 of Find­ing and Col­lect­ing Cot­ton­wood Bark by Alex Bisso

Sor­ta Slim, PHD by “Ol’ Don” Biurgdorf

Pete LeClair’s Hobo Harry


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

From Ol’ Don’s Drawing Table

OlDonFrom “Ol’ Don” Drawing Table

Ol’ Don” Burgdorf con­tin­ues his reg­u­lar series of pat­terns for WOM with the Sor­ta Slim, PHD.

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 2011–2013 “Ol’ Don” Burgdorf. This Pat­tern may be copied for indi­vid­ual use; repro­duc­tion for resale is pro­hib­it­ed with­out express writ­ten permission3

From Pete LeClair

Pete LeClairPete LeClair’s Hobo Harry

Pete LeClair’s project this issue fea­tures that great man of the high­ways and byways: Hobo Har­ry


Hobo Har­ry




Hobo Har­ry Pattern

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.

Finding & Collecting Cottonwood Bark, Part 2

Find­ing and Col­lect­ing Cot­ton­wood Bark

By Alex Bisso

Part 2 — The Bone Hunt — or What To Look For

Scout­ing For Col­lect­ing Areas

When I go “scout­ing” for good col­lect­ing areas, there are two means of trans­porta­tion that I use for this activ­i­ty.  Most often I do my scout­ing from my Chevy Blaz­er as I dri­ve the roads or high­ways – I do not dri­ve any­where with­out keep­ing my eye out for poten­tial col­lect­ing sites.  It is always a good idea to take some extra time on a trip to dri­ve off the beat­en path to scout for bark.  For exam­ple, get off the free­way and dri­ve some local access road sec­tions.  Also take some trips using sec­ondary or state high­ways or roads even though it might be quite a bit far­ther and take much longer – get­ting there can be half the fun and very reward­ing.  If a carv­er plan­ning a vaca­tion that gets them into Mon­tana, Wyoming, North Dako­ta, and some oth­er states in this gen­er­al area would be wise to add a day or so to his or her trip to allow time to do some scout­ing for bark off the inter­state highways.

To get anoth­er, and clos­er, view of the woods along the Yel­low­stone Riv­er, or oth­er rivers, I like to use my canoe to float 3 to 9 mile stretch­es at a time.  This is always great fun as it allows me to explore the banks and islands, fish, and col­lect drift­wood and rocks as I desire.  If I find a large dead tree or oth­er good source of bark, I try to locate some land­marks that will allow me to find that par­tic­u­lar area to col­lect from my Blaz­er.  I usu­al­ly do take a few select pieces of the bark in the canoe as an incen­tive to get me to hunt down the landown­er and seek access to the loca­tion.  I also let my friend and peo­ple I meet know that I col­lect large, thick bark for carv­ing, and ask that they let me know if they ever learn of a place where I might col­lect.  This has paid off a num­ber of times.


The Tell-tail Signs

There are sev­er­al tell-tale signs that might sug­gest an are be more close­ly explored for poten­tial bark carv­ing. The deter­mined col­lec­tor should be on the look out for the fol­low­ing clues:


Bones” are what I call dead trees from which all or most of the bark has fall­en off, which results a tree, whether stand­ing or fall­en, that stands out from the rest because it is bare and white, like a bleached bone.  “Bones” are the first thing I look for, because regard­less of the time of the year, they stand out and indi­cate that at least one tree in that area is dead, and where there is one, there are prob­a­bly more.  Also, all of the bark that fell from the tree to cre­ate that “bone” has to be some­where and that some­where is most like­ly right around the base of the tree.  Even though most of the bark may be old and weath­ered, some that is under the tree, or on the more pro­tect­ed side of the tree, or under the bark that is on the sur­face, or pro­tect­ed by veg­e­ta­tion, might still be very well suit­ed for col­lec­tion and carv­ing.  In any case, “bones” and areas around them are always worth inves­ti­gat­ing, as are trees on which some “bones” are show­ing while oth­er parts of the tree looks fine.



Sev­er­al “Bones” trees in the dis­tance (Click all pho­tos for a larg­er image; close the image to returm)

Stand­ing Dead Trees

Although “bones” are dead trees, not all dead trees have “bones” – and if you can find dead trees that are still cov­ered with bark, you might just have dis­cov­ered the jack­pot for a bark col­lec­tor.  Stand­ing dead trees which are still cov­ered with bark are very dif­fi­cult to find in the win­ter because they can­not be dis­tin­guished from live trees that have lost their leaves.  How­ev­er, while not as easy to spot as the “bones”, in the sum­mer and ear­ly fall, if you look care­ful­ly, dead trees con­trast enough with their live neigh­bors to be noticed.  They are even more notice­able if they stand alone in the mid­dle or edge of a field or are in a row of trees along a ditch line, and not mixed with a lot of oth­er trees in a thick­ly wood­ed area.  Dead trees, whether stand­ing or fall­en, are always worth inves­ti­gat­ing, as are trees which have some live areas but appear to be par­tial­ly dead.

Fall­en and Bro­ken Trees



Fall­en and bro­ken trees are always a find that deserves inves­ti­ga­tion because, if not already dead, they will soon be, and are pos­si­bly a source of good bark.  My best source of bark this past sum­mer was from a large dou­ble trunk tree that had fall­en over on a prop­er­ty where I had col­lect­ed a lot of bark and have main­tained a friend­ship, includ­ing reg­u­lar vis­its with the landowner.

Getting Better

Get­ting Better

Broken Tree

Bro­ken Tree



Under­brush and oth­er foliage can make it very dif­fi­cult to see fall­en trees. How­ev­er, I have found that very often the tops of large dead trees break off leav­ing a 10 — 25 feet of trunk still stand­ing.  Look for these as they are great finds — not only because of the bark on them but because the part that broke off is also there, hid­ing in the underbrush.

Fallen Tree

Fall­en Tree


Fall­en Tree Bark

I noticed this one because a large trunk of the tree had fall­en out­ward, away from the tim­bers and land­ed out in an open, plowed field.  Upon inves­ti­ga­tion, I found that two oth­er large trunks of the tree had fall­en into the tim­bers.  I had to wait over 2 years for the bark on these trunks to start falling off and be loose enough to remove but this was my boon for 2011, both because of the large amount of bark avail­able and because the loca­tion had good access. I missed out on the sec­tion that fell into the field because it was chain­sawed up into large 4″ to 6″ thick disks which were then thrown over the fence along the edge of the field.


New Fall­en Tree 01


New Fall­en Tree 02

Very large trees

While not all very large trees have thick, wide bark and while some trees that are not very large in diam­e­ter do have thick bark, gen­er­al­ly very large trees are the ones most like­ly to have bark that is thick enough for carv­ing.  When­ev­er I am scan­ning a wood­ed area for bark pos­si­bil­i­ties, I am look­ing for some real­ly large trees – those that real­ly stand out from the rest – mon­archs of the area that announce that they have been there 100 years or more.  Areas with these real­ly giant trees are the best areas to look if you want to find some real­ly thick bark.  Even if I do not see any “bones” or dead trees from a dis­tance, if an area has a num­ber of cot­ton­woods that stand out as larg­er that most, it is def­i­nite­ly an area that I want to inves­ti­gate.  The worst that can hap­pen is that I could get to walk amongst some real­ly majes­tic old trees and not find any dead or fall­en ones and that is not too bad at all.


Wood Piles and Drift Piles

These may be drift piles along a riv­er bank or on riv­er island, or piles of trees dozed up by a farmer to clear an area, etc.  In one area where I col­lect the landown­er had allowed a fire­wood col­lec­tor to cut up dead trees from his prop­er­ty for years.  Upon inves­ti­ga­tion I found that at almost every loca­tion where a fall­en tree had been cut up for fire­wood I found a large pile of bark, often mixed with oth­er tree trim­mings that had been removed from the tree.  Some­times pieces of the bark had chain­sawn, but much of the time it appeared that the bark had been removed and piled up before the tree was cut up for the firewood.

Although not a source for a large amount of bark, I have often found very nice pieces of bark in drift piles along the Yel­low­stone River.

There are also areas where I col­lect bark in which the landown­ers had dozed numer­ous large trees into a row, adja­cent to a road or ditch and I have been able to col­lect a lot of nice bark by search­ing through such rubble.

Drift piles along rivers or on islands are poten­tial col­lec­tion spots that should not be passed up. Care­ful­ly look­ing in such piles can often result in some finds of nice pieces of bark for carv­ing.  Since one is not like­ly to find a large amount of good bark in a sin­gle pile, I do not expect these to be very help­ful to sup­ply­ing the amount of bark that I need for my cus­tomers but I do enjoy look­ing through them for select pieces of bark and oth­er good carv­ing woods.  Often they con­tain nice pieces of juniper (my “Jump­ing Juniper” carv­ing is an exam­ple) and oth­er good pieces of drift­wood.  Many of these “islands” are acces­si­ble by foot (the ones in the pho­to are) dur­ing low flow peri­ods and in the win­ter when the small­er side chan­nels are frozen or dry.  A vaca­tion­er pass­ing through this area or a sim­i­lar area could expect to have both fun and suc­cess if they did some hiking/hunting on such islands.  There are lots of these in the Yel­low­stone riv­er from Liv­ingston, MT to 200+ miles east of there.  Pub­lic lands, parks, wildlife man­age­ment areas, fish­ing access areas and road cross­ings all offer oppor­tu­ni­ties to access such islands.


Riv­er Piles 01


Riv­er Piles 02


The Impor­tance on On-foot Searches

I want to stress the impor­tance of doing a very thor­ough, on-foot search  of any areas that look to have bark poten­tial after per­mis­sion, if need­ed, has been obtained to go into an area.

My expe­ri­ence has shown that while scout­ing from a car or boat might iden­ti­fy some good bark sources (as indi­cat­ed by what was found on the “bones” in one of the pho­tos), more often than not, the best bark finds are made when search­ing areas not vis­i­ble from a road or riv­er, but only on foot.  A good exam­ple of this is a dis­cov­ery I made when search­ing deep­er into the woods behind the trees shown in the “bones” photo.


Jack­pot 01


Jack­pot 02

I actu­al­ly missed see­ing this on my way into the woods because where I entered the wood are fair­ly thick and I went in a ways above the top end of the fall­en tree; how­ev­er, as I came out on a dif­fer­ent route I walked right into a jack­pot. “jackpot2”.  It had more bark on this side then and boy did I get excit­ed.  This tree is one of those giants that is a very spe­cial bark find.  It is so large in diam­e­ter that I could not reach the bark near the top of the trunk from the ground.  This will require climb­ing up the root end to get on top of the fall­en tree.


Jack­pot 03

A sec­tion far­ther up the tree which had excep­tion­al­ly nice bark.

On large cot­ton­wood trees you often find the best bark 8–10 feet or high­er up the tree.  The best bark on this tree was a good 20 feet above the ground when the tree was stand­ing.  As you can imag­ine from this pho­to, it takes a lot of work to get bark from such loca­tions off the tree and even to an area where you can get a cart to load the bark on for haul­ing out of the woods.

The bark dis­cov­er­ies shown in the pho­tos BrokenTree, Get­ting Bet­ter, and Reward above also would nev­er had been made if I did not hike back to check areas of the woods that are not vis­i­ble from the near­est roads.


Com­ing in Part 3: Tools Used For Bark Col­lect­ing and Cleaning


Alex Bisso with a Cottonwood Monarch.

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 sup­ply at Be So Good Wood, click HERE.

Reviews: “Woodcarving Magic” & “The Art of Netsuke”

Wood­carv­ing Mag­ic: How To Trans­form A Sin­gle Block of Wood Into Impos­si­ble Shapes
By Bjarne Jespersen

The Art of Carv­ing Net­suke
By Peter Benson

Reviewed by Matt Kelley

In the January/February 2012 issue of WOM, Mike Bloomquist reviewed two books that I would call aspi­ra­tional books for the begin­ning carv­er.  In this issue, I’ll review two books that I con­sid­er aspi­ra­tional for the inter­me­di­ate to advanced carv­er.   Why do I say that?  While sev­er­al of the projects could be tack­led by a per­sis­tent new­bie, the more advanced are suf­fi­cient­ly daunt­ing as to give even a much more expe­ri­enced carv­er pause.

That is not to sug­gest that a less expe­ri­enced carv­er should not pore over these two vol­umes – they are both well-writ­ten and laid-out, and offer a good look at two remark­ably dif­fer­ent but equal­ly intrigu­ing areas of our craft and art.


Wood­carv­ing Mag­ic: How To Trans­form A Sin­gle Block of Wood Into Impos­si­ble Shapes

By Bjarne Jespersen

Wood­carv­ing Mag­ic” By Bjarne Jespersen


We have all seen carved chains, ball-in-cage, and oth­er sim­i­lar carv­ings with inter­locked loops – that par­tic­u­lar style of whit­tling or carv­ing has been around in some form or oth­er of hun­dreds of years.  Bjarne Jes­persen takes that old hand­i­craft, injects it with sci­ence, and turns it into art.

Although not yet that well known in the Unit­ed States, Jes­persen is inter­na­tion­al­ly known as a wood­carv­er with a pas­sion for math­e­mat­ics and geom­e­try.  He uses that back­ground to cre­ate what he calls “mag­ic wood­carv­ings” — high­ly com­plex carv­ings of inter­laced rings and loops, all from a sin­gle block of material.

Inspired by his inter­est in sol­id geom­e­try, “recre­ation­al math­e­mat­ics” and the work of M.C. Esch­er, Jes­persen has spent a good por­tion of his life design­ing and carv­ing a col­lec­tion of inter­lock­ing rings and cages, a body of work that George W. Hart, Chief of Con­tent, The Muse­um of Math­e­mat­ics, describes as ‘beau­ti­ful and intel­lec­tu­al­ly rich.”

This book is a sin­gu­lar vol­ume – while oth­er books may touch upon sim­ple chains and inter­lock­ing carv­ings, I know of no oth­er that starts with two inter­lock­ing rings (the Hopf Link), three rings (the Bor­romean rings) – and then goes on through increas­ing com­plex designs, some of which, like the hoso­he­dral hexa­link, may seem uncar­v­able.  For those will­ing to under­take the work, how­ev­er, Jes­persen offers advice and council.

The Con­tents:

  • About the Book
  • About the Author
  • Fore­word, Introduction
  • Chap­ter 1: Traditions
  • Chap­ter 2: Wood
  • Chap­ter 3:  Tools and Methods
  • Chap­ter 4:  Mock-ups and Prototypes
  • Chap­ter 5:  Prepar­ing Blanks to Carve
  • Chap­ter 6:  Get­ting Started
  • Chap­ter 7:  Flat Rings
  • Chap­ter 8: Cages
  • Chap­ter 9:  Twist­ed Rings
  • Chap­ter 10:  Knot­ted Rings
  • Chap­ter 11:  Cre­ative Geometry
  • For Fur­ther Infor­ma­tion: Index

In all, the book con­tains 29 projects, along with much oth­er mate­r­i­al, includ­ing a good selec­tion of pho­tographs.  Some of the projects are quite do-able even for a mod­er­ate­ly expe­ri­enced new­bie.  A few oth­ers only an obsessed, geom­e­try-lov­ing carv­er with lots of time would even attempt.   The major­i­ty of the carv­ings are quite ele­gant and many beau­ti­ful.  Some, how­ev­er, are so com­plex your first response will be; “No way that can be done,” close­ly fol­lowed by “How the heck did he do that?”

Would I rec­om­mend this book?  Well, cer­tain­ly – it’s one I think many carvers will want in their col­lec­tion.  It’s a great book for those “I need a new chal­lenge” days.   It’s also a great “amaze your friends with what can be carved” book.  Next time one of your buds pro­claims loud­ly, “I can carve any­thing,” – stick this book under his or her nose – after you place your bets!

The Art of Carv­ing Net­suke
By Peter Benson

The Art of Carv­ing Net­suke” By Peter Benson

Net­suke, (pro­nounced “net-skee” ), were devel­oped in 17th cen­tu­ry Japan for a prac­ti­cal pur­pose – to serve as a tog­gle to help sup­port con­tain­ers (sage­mono) that were hung by cords from the sash, or obi, that were part of tra­di­tion­al Japan­ese gar­ments.  These gar­ments, called kosode and kimono, had no pock­ets, and the sage­mono were used to car­ry a vari­ety of per­son­al effects, such as tobac­co, pipes, mon­ey or medicines.

Net­suke have evolved over time from util­i­tar­i­an objects into objects of great beau­ty and artis­tic mer­it.  Most pop­u­lar dur­ing the Edo peri­od, around 1615 to 1868, the art of carv­ing net­suke con­tin­ues today.

Peter Ben­son notes the fol­low­ing in the Intro­duc­tion:  
Although there are many books on net­suke, they are pri­mar­i­ly aimed at col­lec­tors and admir­ers; there is very lit­tle on offer for carvers.  The main rea­son I wrote this book was to redress this issue and to encour­age more carvers to exper­i­ment with what net­suke carv­ing has to offer.

He also goes on to say:

This book is not intend­ed to be an informed instruc­tion­al man­u­al for aspir­ing pro­fes­sion­al net­suke carvers.  My aim is sim­ply to pro­vide enough infor­ma­tion and encour­age­ment to get you start­ed on a new way of carv­ing and to help you gain expe­ri­ence in carv­ing minia­ture pieces.  With luck, some of you will go on to pro­duce your own exquis­ite work, typ­i­cal of the tra­di­tion­al net­suke carvers, the netsuke-shi’s.

The Con­tents:

Intro­duc­tion; The His­to­ry of Netsuke

Get­ting Started

  • Plan­ning
  • Mar­quettes and patterns
  • Mate­ri­als
  • Tools and equipment
  • Mak­ing and mod­i­fy­ing tools
  • Main­tain­ing your tools
  • Safe­ty
  • Avoid­ing and rec­ti­fy­ing mistakes


  • Eyes
  • Scales
  • Feath­ers
  • Fur and hair
  • Uki­bori
  • Adding colour
  • Himo­to­shi


  • Dor­mouse
  • Tur­tle Dove
  • Rab­bit
  • Toad
  • Mon­key
  • Apple
  • Snake
  • Mask

About the author
Acknowl­edge­ments Index


Ben­son spends the first fifty-sev­en of 168 pages on the Intro­duc­tion, His­to­ry, Get­ting Start­ed and Tech­niques sec­tions.  Although not, as he notes, an exhaus­tive study, these sec­tions still con­tain a sig­nif­i­cant amount of use­ful infor­ma­tion.  If you have not tack­led very small carv­ing or used mate­ri­als oth­er than wood, you will find the infor­ma­tion par­tic­u­lar­ly use­ful.  Some of the tech­niques will like­ly be total­ly new to you, such as uki­bori and himotoshi.

Ben­son next turns to the project sec­tion, which includes eight won­der­ful projects.  Each projects has sim­i­lar information:

  • Sev­er­al pho­tos of the fin­ished carving
  • The Tool­box, a list of sug­gest­ed tools
  • A bill of materials
  • Cre­at­ing the Marquette
  • Pro­duc­ing the basic shape
  • A series of steps that vary depend­ing upon the carv­ing, with top­ics such as lay­ing out the piece, rough­ing out, adding detail, adding the himo­to­shi, finishing


Each project ranges from 8 to 12 pages.  These are not exact, detailed, step-by-step instruc­tions, but more of an over-view, but cer­tain­ly with suf­fi­cient detail for an inter­me­di­ate or advance carv­er to pro­ceed nice­ly.  You will find more then enough infor­ma­tion about each project to gain a good under­stand­ing of the tools and tech­niques used.

Final­ly, the book clos­es with an excel­lent pho­to gallery, includ­ing pieces by Ben­son, a selec­tion from the Peabody Essex Muse­um, and a nice col­lec­tion from some of the top net­suke carvers in the world.  The gallery alone is worth a lot of your time and a fair por­tion of the cost of the book.

Like Wood­carv­ing Mag­ic, this is a vol­ume that I think belongs in the col­lec­tion of any seri­ous carv­er, par­tic­u­lar­ly if you have an inter­est in net­suke or minia­ture carv­ings.  For the mod­er­ate­ly to high­ly expe­ri­enced carv­er, some of these projects would be a good, sol­id challenge.

As I sug­gest­ed at the start of this arti­cle, Wood­carv­ing Mag­ic, and The Art of Carv­ing Net­suke are aspi­ra­tional books for the mod­er­ate to advanced carv­er.  Most of the projects in the books are ones I would hes­i­tate to rec­om­mend to a new­bie carv­er, but cer­tain­ly would rec­om­mend both to a more expe­ri­enced carv­er will­ing to under­take the work.  Both books are nice­ly laid out, with good pho­tog­ra­phy, par­tic­u­lar­ly in the case of Net­suke.  The carv­ings in both are fine exam­ples of the carver’s art, eye-catch­ing and at times dra­mat­ic.   These were not intend­ed as cof­fee table books, but the sub­ject mat­ter is cer­tain­ly inter­est­ing enough to share with your non-carv­ing friends over a cuppa.