Archive for February 2014

January/February 2014 WOM — Part II


Volume 18 Issue 1 — Part 2 Articles Now Available

Hel­lo, Friends in Carving -

The arti­cles for Part 2 of the January/February 2014 issue of WOM are now avail­able .  You’ll find them fol­low­ing this article.

Before you get to those, I’d look to point out a new fea­ture just added to WOM — see that lit­tle box at the top of the right side bar?  That is a search box, with gives you the abil­i­ty to search back issues of WOM.  Using key word search­es, you can much more quick­ly find, for exam­ple, all arti­cles about the Inter­na­tion­al Wood­carv­er Con­gress, or car­i­ca­ture carv­ing, or pat­terns.  At the moment, search only works with WOM entries from 2012 for­ward; short index arti­cles need to be writ­ten for old­er WOM arti­cles.  Once done, you’ll be able to search issues back to January/February 1997.

In part 2 of this issue — and avail­able now:

Dan Blair on Play­ing With Fire

Review:  Twist­ed Taters by Steve DuBridge

Car­i­ca­ture Name TagsClub Project by Jim Oehmke

In Future issues

Pho­to Gallery:  Gath­er­ing of Wood­carvers Reunion ’13

Pho­to Gallery:  2013 Husky Cup

Pho­to Gallery: Inter­na­tion­al Wood­carvers Con­gress 2013


WOM Editor Matt Kelley

WOM Edi­tor Matt Kelley


Matt Kel­ley



Caricature Name Tags

Look­ing for a fun and use­ful project for your club?   How about these car­i­ca­ture name tags carved by Jim Oehmke for mem­bers of the Friends Carv­ing Club, Port Orange, FL  For your club, each mem­ber could carve their own, or per­haps one or two mem­bers might take on the task for a small fee for each carving.

The name tags were carved in bass­wood using a vari­a­tion of Pete LeClair’s “carv­ing on a cor­ner” method­ol­o­gy.  Names are drawn on with a sten­cil and then burned.  The tags are secured to shirt or jack­et with sev­er­al rare-earth mag­nets on a strip of met­al, which stick to sev­er­al short wood screws set in the back of the carving.

JO Nametags

Playing With Fire

Playing With Fire

By Dan Blair

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

Ever since man’s first begin­ning, he has been total­ly depen­dent on fire.  He has died with­out it and, when care­less, has died with or because of it.  He loves it and fears it almost in equal pro­por­tions.  If you have ever sat in a star-stud­ded and moon-filled night in the woods star­ing into a cheer­ing camp­fire, you know why.  If you have ever wit­nessed the wrath of a for­est fire, you also know why.  Fire can be your best friend.  Or it can be your worst ene­my.  We don’t always get to choose which one it will be.  But in spite of that, I still like to play with fire.

The first time I got caught play­ing with fire was when I was about 5 or 6 years old.  My over-active imag­i­na­tion had me play­ing cow­boys (or moun­tain men) and Indi­ans.  I had my lit­tle plas­tic and lead fig­ures gath­ered around the log cab­in and cor­rals I had made with twigs and sticks.  Indi­ans had attacked and the cab­in was on fire.  Grand­ma smelled my smoke.  The result­ing rep­ri­mand taught me nev­er to play with fire ever.…especially there in the shade beneath the two 50 gal­lon fuel oil bar­rels that kept our fur­nace fired up.  You would think I should have learned my les­son, but.….  Well?  What can I say?  I guess I’m just a slow learner.

As a pro­fes­sion­al out­doors­man with a life-long con­nec­tion to wilder­ness and wild things, I have always con­sid­ered fire to be one of my most wel­comed part­ners.  Off and on, I’ve been a guide/outfitter, a game war­den, hunt club owner/operator, a some­time min­ing camp cook.  I’ve been a ded­i­cat­ed hunter and fish­er­man for all of the adult years of my life and most of the years of my youth.  Need­less to say, I’ve seen a lot of fire.  I’ve kept it close at hand at most times and can read­i­ly recall times when I was most grate­ful for its avail­abil­i­ty.  I can still remem­ber shiv­er­ing through wet and sleep­less nights in the out­doors with­out it.  I know first­hand what hypother­mia feels like and how impor­tant fire is to make it go away.  I guess you could say that Fire and I are just nat­u­ral­ly on a first name basis.  And in some respects, I guess you could even say we have been playmates.

I am a carv­er.  I have been for 47+ years.  A lot of wood has found its way to my work bench.  Sur­pris­ing­ly, very lit­tle of that wood ever found its way to my fire.  On the oth­er hand, fire has often found its way to my wood.  Let me explain.

I tru­ly love the smell of wood smoke.  Espe­cial­ly when I’m cook­ing up fresh fish for shore lunch.  Even more when I have fin­ished a hard day of hunt­ing or fish­ing.  Sup­per is over and done, and the qui­et time around the camp­fire has put every­one in a place of pon­der­ing.  Remem­ber­ing ear­li­er hunt­ing or fish­ing trips  Ear­li­er camps.  Ear­li­er camp­fires.  But I have lived among civ­i­liza­tion and wood-burn­ing stoves and fire­places were not com­mon in my homes or work shops.  I made up for that absence by always hav­ing a camp­fire.  Camp­ing was­n’t com­plete with­out the light and fra­grant incense pro­vid­ed by a campfire.

Some­where along the way of study­ing the Indi­ans and moun­tain men and fur trap­pers of our Amer­i­can West, I learned and was often remind­ed of the val­ue of fire.  I knew the trap­pers could not have guns and traps and knives with­out fire to hard­en the met­al to just the right tem­per.  What sur­prised and impressed me as much was that the Indi­ans also used fire to tem­per the wood of their arrows, bows, and lances and oth­er impor­tant wood­en tools and equipment.

I don’t recall just when it was when I first brought fire to my work bench and applied it to the vari­ety of wildlife carv­ings I was cre­at­ing.  It was prob­a­bly some­where as long ago as the 60’s.  I remem­ber one bass carv­ing that was dark­ened only with fire since I had no wood stain on hand.  It worked.  I remem­ber too, a decoy I had carved to repli­cate an antique pin­tail duck.  I took it in to a local sport shop that kept and sold a large num­ber of col­lectible water­fowl decoys.  When the own­er saw me car­ry­ing my deke into the shop, he said to his cus­tomers some­thing to the effect of “Wow!  There’s an old one!” as he turned to me and added, “How old is that one?”  I unin­ten­tion­al­ly put a dent in his integri­ty as a decoy col­lec­tor by look­ing at my watch and replied, “Oh, a cou­ple of hours or so.

Fire had been a great tool in the pro­duc­tion of that faux fowl.  It dis­tressed the wood, mak­ing it appear worn away in places where it real­ly was­n’t.  It dis­tressed the paint job as well and made it look like time had tak­en it away rather than heat or a steel-wool pad and a wire brush.  And I can’t even count the num­ber of fake shore­bird decoys I repli­cat­ed for dec­o­ra­tors that became instant antiques using fire to dis­tress the wood and to heat the ice-picks I used to poke fake bird­shot holes into the wood­en bod­ies.  (I referred to them as col­lectibles with a head start on antiquity!)

Some­where along the way, I found that I could use fire on Dou­glas Fir to empha­size the dif­fer­ences in the hard and soft grain of the wood.  The soft wood would burn and brush away a lot quick­er and eas­i­er than the hard wood that was the growth rings of the wood.  I could dis­tress the wood with fire like that to cre­ate the impres­sion of waves on water, or the wind-blown or water washed look of drift­ed sand.  With wood­en bases, I could burn the edges before tak­ing a wire wheel to them before stain­ing the edges with dark stain, giv­ing the edge the appear­ance and tex­ture of black wal­nut shells.

Many times I’ve had to agree with some carvers who com­plain that cer­tain woods are not com­pat­i­ble with pow­er carv­ing tools because the bits and burrs and drum sanders tend to leave the wood “fuzzy”.  I nev­er found that to be a prob­lem because a few quick pass­es with my propane torch took care of the fuzzies as quick­ly as Grand­ma singed away the hair or down off chick­ens, ducks, and more than a few of my pheas­ants over the flames from a burn­er on her cook stove.  (My wood fires always smelled bet­ter than Grand­ma’s feathers!)

Last year, as one of the art judges for the Alas­ka State Fair, I saw two pieces of absolute­ly beau­ti­ful wood turnings.…bowls that gave one the impres­sion of com­ing from old Japan.  What impressed me more than any­thing about the bowls was the han­dles on their lids.  I had nev­er seen any­thing quite like it.  BOTH han­dles had been burned, obvi­ous­ly with a torch because the area of the burn had been very lim­it­ed and care­ful­ly con­trolled.  The wood was clear­ly charred and cracked.  What hap­pened next is what impressed me.  The charred por­tion of the wood had been repeat­ed­ly sat­u­rat­ed with super­glue to the point that the char­coal was now plas­ti­cized and com­plete­ly sta­bi­lized.  Total­ly!  (I can’t wait to apply that tech­nique to a project of my own.  My imag­i­na­tion keeps that thought on the back burn­er for future reference.)

One thing I noticed with some woods was that the heat of the flame expand­ed resins in the wood or forced them to the sur­face.  A clear-coat­ing high­light­ed the minis­cule beads of resin and in so doing, made them look like tiny beads of light glow­ing from with­in the wood.  On cer­tain projects, that affect can be tru­ly spectacular.

It goes with­out say­ing that I still like to play with fire to this day.  Like I said, fire is more than a tool, or a play­mate.  It’s a part­ner.  When used prop­er­ly and safe­ly, it has a very impor­tant role in my efforts as a pro­fes­sion­al wood­carv­er.  I don’t play with it under the fuel bar­rels, so I think even Grand­ma would approve of what I do with it now.  I wish I could show her.  I think she would be proud!

Give fire a chance.  It works for me.  I think you may be total­ly sur­prised by what can hap­pen when you are “Play­ing With Fire!”

Good luck and good carvin’.…

Dan Blair ~ FishCarving2 founder/modera


Dan Blair Rockfish

Dan Blair with a 33″ Yel­low­eye Rock­fish Carved From Wood

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

Twisted Taters — A Review

SDCoverIf you have been inter­est­ed in a minor diver­sion from wood carv­ing and want­ed to try carv­ing sweet pota­toes or yams, up until now your only choice for a ref­er­ence was Tom Wolfe’s 1998 paper­back, The Yam Yan­kee.  Now, final­ly, there is a sec­ond book avail­able — Twist­ed Taters — Straight Talk For The Sweet Pota­to Carv­er, Crafter & Hob­by­ist, by Steve DuBridge.

DuBridge start­ed carv­ing ‘taters about 14 years ago, and over the years has devel­oped tech­niques and tips that he now pass­es on to oth­er would-be tater-heads in his new book.



The book includes the following:

  • An Intro­duc­tion
  • Four­Pro­jects
  • The Avi­a­tor
  • Bald Guy
  • Indi­an Chief
  • Medieval Peas­ant
  • Dry­ing Your Tater-head
  • Free-up Details
  • Set­ting The Eyes and Teeth
  • Paint­ing
  • Project Gallery

Scat­tered through­out are var­i­ous tips on carv­ing and pre­serv­ing tater carvings.

So do we need anoth­er book on tater carv­ing?  Well, if you are look­ing for a lot of use­ful tips, some rea­son­ably good step-by-step instruc­tions and a nice pho­to gallery, then this book might be just what you are look­ing for.  (Exam­ples from the pho­to gallery may be found at the end of this article.)

One of the most use­ful bits of knowl­edge is DuBridge’s alter­na­tive method for quick­ly dry­ing a tater-head.  It is inno­v­a­tive and promis­es quick­er, more reli­able drying.

One of his oth­er hints sug­gests a method for deal­ing with grub infes­ta­tion.  My own sin­gu­lar attempt at tater carv­ing turned out well enough, although it took a long time to dry.   It last­ed nice­ly until the fol­low­ing spring, when it became infest­ed with what were most like­ly grain moths.   Had I had this book at that time, I would have known how to deal with the moth lar­va, instead of chuck­ing the carv­ing into the trash as I did.

If I were to pick a nit about this book, it would be that the step-by-step pho­tos could be improved if tak­en with bet­ter light­ing and a neu­tral back­ground.  This is more a styl­is­tic pref­er­ence then any­thing else; the exist­ing pho­tos do the job regardless.

The book, at 34 pages, is avail­able from the Lulu Mar­ket­place at a cost of $24.95.  Click HERE to vis­it the Lulu website.