Archive for March 2013

March/April 2013 WOM


Wel­come to the Carvers’ Com­pan­ion 2.0  and the March/April issue of Wood­carv­er Online Magazine

Our Front Page pho­to this issue is:


Fred Zavadil, Wind­sor, ON 

Best of Show, 2012 Inter­na­tion­al Wood­carvers Congress

Pho­tog­ra­phy by Marc Feath­er­ly, Nor­mal, IL


 I always look for­ward to the issue in which we pub­lish the win­ners of the annu­al IWC com­pe­ti­tion.  The gallery is typ­i­cal­ly a lot of work because of the quan­ti­ty of pho­to, but the qual­i­ty of Marc Feath­er­ly’s pho­tog­ra­phy makes it a plea­sure to see the fin­ished prod­uct.  Dreams is just a exam­ple of what you will see in the win­ner gallery, so don’t miss it.  The win­ners of  com­pe­ti­tions like IWC, the CCA Com­pe­ti­tion and Artistry in Wood are a con­stant reminder that wood­carv­ing is tru­ly Art At The Cut­ting Edge.

In this issue -

Avail­able now:

Ol’ Don’s Draw­ing Table: Just in time to carve for St Patrick­’s Day: Boop-oop-a-doop

Pete LeClair’s Cap­t’n Caylen

Avail­able Soon:

Pho­to Gallery: Win­ners Inter­na­tion­al Wood­carvers Con­gress Report and Gallery

Words from Dan Blair

Part 5 of Find­ing and Col­lect­ing Cot­ton­wood Bark by Alex Bis­so


WOM Editor Matt Kelley

WOM Edi­tor Matt Kelley


Matt Kel­ley



Finding and Collecting Cottonwood Bark, Part 5

Find­ing and Col­lect­ing Cot­ton­wood Bark

By Alex Bisso

Part 5 — Mis­cel­la­neous Haz­ards and Relat­ed Comments


Col­lect­ing cot­ton­wood bark is always hard work and under hot con­di­tions this can be haz­ardous – espe­cial­ly if the job requires haul­ing or car­ry­ing bark con­sid­er­able dis­tances and through high grass or thick brush.  Most impor­tant is to bring and drink a lot of water.  I have also found that eat­ing salty chips help water reten­tion and reduc­tion of cramp­ing.  While these pre­cau­tions have saved me from heat exhaus­tion or stroke, I still have had to deal with severe leg cramps either while dri­ving home or while col­lect­ing the bark on a num­ber of occa­sions.  Once, in a very remote area, my legs cramped so bad that I could not walk through the thick grass to get back to my Blaz­er.  I had to lay on the ground in the shade of a tree for almost 40 min­utes before I could stand up and stum­ble stiff-legged to the vehi­cle.  In spite of more water and salt my legs con­tin­ued to cramp when bent and I resort­ed to sit­ting it the cold water of the riv­er for about 20 min­utes to be able to dri­ve home – and still I had to stop, walk around and stretch the backs of my legs some to be able to con­tin­ue dri­ving.  Because of that expe­ri­ence I try to bring some­one with me when I go to a real­ly remote area.


It seems like every year some­one gets acci­den­tal­ly shot by a hunter.  I do not want to be one of those sta­tis­tics, so when col­lect­ing in hunt­ing sea­son I always wear at least an orange hat or vest.  The only per­son like­ly to be in an area where I col­lect bark is a hunter and I want him to be able to see me clearly.

Ani­mals, Snakes and Insects

Large dead and/or broken/fallen trees that are shed­ding cot­ton­wood bark are havens for var­i­ous ani­mals, snakes and insects.  Besides harm­less game and oth­er birds and deer, I have come across fox, coy­otes, skunks, por­cu­pines, and bad­gers using the areas where I col­lect bark.  To date I have not come across a bear although a landown­er told me that there was one in her yard (adja­cent to where I col­lect) last fall and Fish and Game per­son­nel say black bears reg­u­lar­ly trav­el long dis­tances along the Yel­low­stone riv­er cor­ri­dor where I do a lot of col­lect­ing.  I have fre­quent­ly found snakes, both under fall­en bark or in the space between the bark and the tree while col­lect­ing.  So far they have only been garter snakes, rac­ers and bull snakes.  How­ev­er I have occa­sion­al­ly seen rat­tlesnakes on the roads near where I col­lect so they are def­i­nite­ly a haz­ard watch out for when col­lect­ing bark.

30-MeshGearWorst of all to con­tend with are insects and they def­i­nite­ly demand pre­cau­tions.  One I real­ly dis­like but must con­tend with is ticks – espe­cial­ly in the spring­time.  They are thick in the spring every­where I col­lect.  My typ­i­cal rou­tine for deal­ing with them is:

Pants bot­tom:  Either, 1) tuck my pants bot­toms into my socks, secure with rub­ber bands, and spray all around my ankles and legs with deep woods off or equiv­a­lent or 2) dou­ble up my pants leg so I can spray the insides of them and my socks and then turn them down and spray the out­side.  Shirt:  Def­i­nite­ly a light­weight, light col­ored long sleeve shirt, tucked in secure­ly.  I spray this and every­where else, includ­ing around the edges of my hat and col­lar.  For my neck, face and head I put spray in the palm of my hands and wipe it on to avoid con­t­a­m­i­nat­ing my eyes and glass­es.  Some­times I also wear a pro­tec­tive mesh over-shirt or a mesh head-cov­er.  When I get home, all cloth­ing comes off for a close inspec­tion inside and out.  I have been amazed by the num­ber of ticks I have found inside of fold­ed seams inside of my pants and shirts after being out in tick sea­son.  If you neglect to do the thor­ough cloth­ing inspec­tion imme­di­ate­ly upon get­ting home, you are like­ly to lat­er find ticks crawl­ing on the beds, fur­ni­ture or walls in your housOf course the cloth­ing inspec­tion is fol­lowed by a through body inspec­tion and hot, soapy show­er.  I have also learned that it is best not to bring a dog along for com­pa­ny dur­ing the tick sea­son.  My body has become a sen­si­tive tick detec­tor and I can feel one if it moves any­where on me – some­times even when it is not there!

Mos­qui­toes also can often be too bad for repel­lent sprays alone require the mesh over-shirt or head-cov­er for pro­tec­tion.  In one area this sum­mer they were so bad the riv­er flood­ing that even with these pre­cau­tions, it was intol­er­a­ble to try to col­lect bark.  I quit and swore not to return there until after a freeze.  Bees are anoth­er fear­some insect to expect and beware of – espe­cial­ly paper wasps and yel­low-jack­ets.  They can hurt you and ruin a trip if you do not have some wasp spray avail­able to deal with them so that you can con­tin­ue col­lect­ing.  Oth­er creepy and poten­tial­ly haz­ardous insects to expect include cen­tipedes and spi­ders (includ­ing black wid­ow and brown recluse).  These are often found around fall­en bark, on the bark and between the bark and the trees when it is removed.  I have nev­er real­ly had a prob­lem with these and find that being watch­ful and wear­ing a good pair of gloves is suf­fi­cient protection.

Unfriend­ly plants

Some plants like var­i­ous hitch-hik­ers and cock-a-burrs are just both­er­some but some can be real­ly mean.  The ones that one should be pre­pared for when out in the boonies col­lect­ing cot­ton­wood bark include wild rose bush­es and oth­er thorn bush­es and this­tles as well as locust thorn trees, Russ­ian olive trees, which also have thorns, and sting­ing net­tles.   These plants seem to like the same riv­er-bot­tom areas as large cot­ton­woods and espe­cial­ly like to grown in an area where a large tree has died and/or fall­en down.  Good gloves are help­ful as are stur­dy pants such as Carharts or oth­ers made of tight­ly knit, can­vas-weave fab­ric.  Although they are cool­er in the sum­mer, I always regret wear­ing light­weight pants because invari­ably when I do I wind up with numer­ous thorns imbed­ded in my thighs and legs, espe­cial­ly on and above the knees which have to pow­er through thick areas, etc..  When going through areas thick with sting­ing net­tle, espe­cial­ly in the late sum­mer and fall when it grows tall, it is impor­tant to keep your hands and arms up high to avoid the plants brush­ing on your bare skin.

Since it has been a cou­ple of years since I last “had the itch”, I for­got about a fre­quent­ly present unfriend­ly plant haz­ard to bark col­lect­ing.  Poi­son Ivy is very often found in areas with large cot­ton­wood trees and seems to like both the shady areas under the trees and the very brushy areas around fallen/dead trees.  I know from expe­ri­ence that wear­ing shorts to col­lect bark in such areas is not a good idea and that long sleeve shirts and gloves is a good idea.  Also, don’t leave your pants inside out after col­lect­ing because your wife might get the itch from reach­ing in the legs to turn them right-side out for wash­ing – mine did at least once.  Scrub­bing with a lot of soap in the show­er, soon after get­ting home, to remove any poi­son ivy residue/sap is high­ly rec­om­mend­ed as well.


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.

Copy­right 2013, All rights reserved. May not be repro­duced in whole or in part with­out pri­or writ­ten permission.

36 Things I Learned As A Full-time Carver Of Fish

36 Important Things I Learned As A Full-time Carver Of Fish

By Dan Blair

(Edi­tor’s Note — A ver­sion of this arti­cle orig­i­nal­ly appeared on the FC2 List.)

  • Carv­ing fish is a good way to keep your­self in the chips.  Unfor­tu­nate­ly, almost all of them are on the shop floor and mixed in with a bushel bas­ket (or two) of sawdust.
  • What start­ed as a plea­sur­able hob­by can and will be con­sid­ered a career move if you haven’t giv­en it up after 46 years and the city insists that you must have a busi­ness license to con­tin­ue your efforts in that direction.
  • Your sig­nif­i­cant oth­er will not think you are fun­ny when you announce you’ve nick­named your saw­dust-filled lungs “Hoover” and “Kir­by”.
  • The depth of a cut will be direct­ly deter­mined by how sharp your carv­ing tools are.  The sharp­er they are, the bet­ter and deep­er they will cut into a wood carv­ing.  The same point is true when talk­ing about dull tools and body parts.
  • You will not be reim­bursed by Medicare for emer­gency treat­ment to a severe lac­er­a­tion that you dis­in­fect­ed with an alco­holic bev­er­age and ban­daged with paper tow­els and duct tape.
  • Will I go to Hell for judg­ing oth­er fish carvers in com­pe­ti­tion since the Bible says, “Judge not that ye shall not be judged.”  Should I be wor­ry­ing about that more than I already do?
  • Repairs to an acci­den­tal­ly bro­ken fish carv­ing will take at least 20 min­utes longer to fix and con­ceal than it will take the cus­tomer to show up who decid­ed to sur­prise you by stop­ping by to pick it up early.
  • Sand­ing off the top of your thumb knuck­le on your disc or belt sander does not look seri­ous as long as you keep your thumb tight­ly bent.  It is only when you straight­en it out that it becomes a 1/4″ deep hole that can eas­i­ly cra­dle a lima bean and then begins to bleed profusely.
  • Dog hair does not make good home­made paint brush­es.  (Cat hair, on the oth­er hand …)
  • Nev­er Super Glue a project while wear­ing shorts, and if you do, be cer­tain that your bare legs are not crossed!  It is very dif­fi­cult to go to the bath­room when your legs are crossed and glued together.
  • Being able to carve a rea­son­ably real­is­tic fish does not mean you can also carve the replace­ment leg to an antique French love seat.  And no mat­ter how many times you try, you will not be able to stain free cot­ton­wood to make it look like expen­sive, import­ed French walnut.
  • Your chil­dren will car­ry a grudge into their adult years if you ever used their stuffed-ani­mal toys as an emer­gency source for eye­balls for your fish carvings.
  • House paints and deck stains make poor sub­sti­tutes for paint­ing fish carv­ings, and left over auto­mo­tive lac­quer paint from the local auto body shop is not air­brush ready.  (Strain it two or three times through nylon pantyhose.)
  • Emory boards used by the Ladies for sand­ing and pol­ish­ing their nails work great for touch­ing up some of those hard to reach areas on a fish carv­ing; how­ev­er, in the long run, they will cost you a whole lot less if you go to the store and buy your own.  The same rule applies to those soft facial cos­met­ic brush­es, rub­ber gloves, Q‑tips, rub­ber gloves, pearles­cent fin­ger­nail pol­ish, steel wool, Scotch Brite, sharp scis­sors, and espe­cial­ly… panty-hose.
  • Insert­ing the bar­rel and action of a rifle into a hand carved gun stock is far more chal­leng­ing than insert­ing carved fins into a wood­en fish carv­ing.  And scal­ing a fish carv­ing is far less chal­leng­ing than check­er­ing a gun­stock and forearm
  • Nev­er hold a board on your lap when drilling holes into or through it!  And do not drill it on the din­ing table, the fend­er of your truck, the kitchen counter top, or linoleum floor.  Also do noth­ing on these same sur­faces that requires using screws and elec­tric screw­drivers.  Pow­er tools will always dri­ve a screw at least a 1/4″ deep­er than the screw is long and the board is thick.
  • Nev­er assume you can suc­cess­ful­ly put lac­quer-based clear coat over acrylic enam­el paint if you just apply it in a built-up series of very thin coats until it looks as wet and shiny as you’d like.
  • Why is it that when you tell peo­ple that you carve fish for a liv­ing they auto­mat­i­cal­ly assume you do that only with a chainsaw?
  • And why is it that when you explain that you pre­fer to carve fish in bass­wood or tupe­lo that they ask, “Is that soft like bal­sa wood?
  • My stom­ach can eas­i­ly hold those 44 ounce sodas I buy from the gas sta­tion next door.  My blad­der cannot
  • Mak­ing a good impres­sion is most impor­tant.  The first per­son you should impress is your­self.  It is a mis­take to carve a fish and only then com­pare it to the real thing.  It makes much more sense to look at the real fish first and most, and only then to make the carv­ing look like the fish.  The lat­ter method will help to show you how close you can get where­as the pre­vi­ous method only serves to show you how far off you missed.  If your fin­ished fish carv­ing does­n’t look like the real fish, you did some­thing seri­ous­ly wrong.  Not using good ref­er­ences to impress your­self is most like­ly where your prob­lems first started.
  • Carv­ing stu­dents will remem­ber every­thing I tell them about using my pow­er tools except the rule about not kink­ing the cable on my Fore­dom flex shaft.
  • Apply­ing hun­dreds of spots with an air­brush on a high­ly spot­ted trout or oth­er fish always works well.  It is only one of the very last spots that blows out into a spi­der shape that ruins the entire paint­ing process.  So play it safe and do not add the last three or so spots.
  • Carve more lit­tle fish.  That way, when they don’t come out quite right, you can always add fish hooks to them and tell spec­ta­tors you spe­cial­ize in carv­ing home­made fish­ing lures because that’s where the REEL mon­ey is at.
  • Con­sid­er find­ing a bet­ter source for carv­ing woods than from that stack of pal­lets behind the gro­cery store.
  • Do not shake a glass air­brush bot­tle if you have added a steel ball-bear­ing to help stir up the paint inside.
  • Carv­ing while sit­ting on the toi­let is not a good idea.  The accu­mu­la­tion of chips floats and has a ten­den­cy to clog the toi­let, sew­er line, and sep­tic tank.
  • As a rule… yard sticks are usu­al­ly very inex­pen­sive, fre­quent­ly made from bass­wood, and thin enough to use as a source for fish fins and oth­er thin-wood carv­ing projects like plant leaves, etc
  • Using real rocks on a carved fish habi­tat base will not impress a cus­tomer near­ly as much as carv­ing and paint­ing even poor sub­sti­tutes.  Even a very small child can glue rocks on a board.  Right?  And who would ever believe you could carve a fish, but you could­n’t carve a rock?  Nev­er give them that impression.
  • Deal­ing with the demands of an over-pow­er­ing inspi­ra­tion is like throw­ing up.  You nev­er feel real­ly good again until you get it all out of your system.
  • There are a lot of ways for an artist to be tak­en, but I think one of the very worst is to be tak­en for granted.
  • No mat­ter what I’ve done, there is no doubt in my mind that I could have done it bet­ter.  I still have to fig­ure out why I didn’t.
  • Buy­ing less expen­sive tools costs more in the long run because they even­tu­al­ly end up in the junk draw­er after I replace them with what I should have bought in the first place.  I keep my first air­brush (a Paasche’ H sin­gle action) to remind me that I real­ly should have bought my Paasche’ VL dou­ble action air­brush instead
  • Wood chips and shag car­pet make a very poor com­bi­na­tion and a gar­den rake will not be part of the solu­tion.  Pic­ture your­self on your knees with a pock­et comb and a tweezers
  • Some say rules should not be bro­ken.  I say because some have dared to break rules, the rules have been made bet­ter and stronger.  As a result, so have we.
  • Ralph Wal­do Emer­son once said, “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is not path and leave a trail.”  I have tried to leave a trail for sev­er­al years now and I sin­cere­ly hope some­one is fol­low­ing because it must be very obvi­ous that I have been thor­ough­ly and com­plete­ly lost now for quite some time.


Good luck and good carvin’.…

Dan Blair


Dan Blair is founder and a mod­er­a­tor of the Fish Carv­ing 2 (FC2) Yahoo group.  See more of Dan’s instruc­tion, tips and pho­tos at Fish Carv­ing A2Z, and Fish Alas­ka, oth­er Yahoo groups

From “Ol’ Don’s” Drawing Table

OlDonFrom “Ol’ Don” Draw­ing Table

Just in time for St Patrick­’s Day, “Ol’ Don” Burgdorf presents Boop-oop-a-doop

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’s Boop-oop-a-doop

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 permission.

From Pete LeClair

Pete LeClair

Pete LeClair’s Capt’n Caylen

Pete LeClair’s project this issue fea­tures Cap­t’n Caylen

Capt'n Caylen master A

Cap­t’n Caylen View A


Capt'n Caylen View B

Cap­t’n Caylen View B

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 — 2013 by Pete LeClair.

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