Archive for December 2014

November/December 2014 WOM — Part 2

Welcome to Woodcarver Online Magazine Volume 18 Issue 6 — Part 2

Hel­lo, Friends in Carv­ing -

Wel­come to Part 2 of the final issue of Wood­carv­er Online Mag­a­zine for 2014.  

In Part 2

2014 San­ta Gallery

Susan Alexan­der’s Let’s Talk Carv­ing #2

Bonus Christ­mas Elf Project from Pete LeClair

San­ta Pat­tern from Lora S. Irish


Just a note — the pho­to gallery from the 2014 Inter­na­tion­al Wood­carvers Con­gress will appear in the January/February issue of WOM.

From all the con­trib­u­tors to Wood­carv­er Online Mag­a­zine, our best wish­es for what­ev­er you hap­pen to cel­e­brate at this time of year.  Mer­ry Christ­mas, Hap­py Hol­i­day, and a won­der­ful New Year!


WOM Editor Matt Kelley

WOM Edi­tor Matt Kelley


Matt Kel­ley


2014 Santa Gallery ’14


San­ta Carv­ing sign by Tim Berry


Welcome to the 2014 Santa and Seasonal Gallery.

We have some great carv­ings in the Gallery this year — a big THANKS to all those carvers who sub­mit­ted pho­tos of their carv­ings.   Plan now to sub­mit pho­tos of your San­tas and relat­ed sea­son­al carv­ing for the 2015 Gallery.   Look for details in the Sept/October 2015 issue of WOM.

To vis­it the Gallery, click HERE for Part 1 and HERE for Part 2.    A link is also includ­ed in the mas­ter Gallery page.


From Pete LeClair — A Christmas Elf

Pete LeClair

Pete LeClair’s Projects

Pete LeClair’s 2014 Christ­mas Elf




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.

Lora Irish’s Santa

Santa Pattern

By Lora S. Irish

Here is a great San­ta pat­tern, com­pli­ments of Lora Irish!


LoraIrishLora S. Irish is a carv­er and designs projects and tuto­ri­als for carv­ing, pyrog­ra­phy and relat­ed art.  Her line art pat­terns and draw­ings site, fea­tures line art designs cre­at­ed exclu­sive­ly by Lora for craters and arti­sans.   Her blog, at, fea­tures hun­dreds of pages of free projects and tutorials.



Susan Alexander’s Let’s Talk Carving Issue #2


It’s the Hol­i­days! My favorite time of year when all carvers are busy carv­ing presents for the peo­ple in their lives, while at the same time the peo­ple in their lives are won­der­ing what they could pos­si­bly buy for their carv­er. I thought it would be fun to help them (and you). I went through all the carv­ing-relat­ed items I own and love and that I thought would be great stock­ing-stuffers (and some items that would nev­er fit into a stock­ing) for your loved ones to buy you this Hol­i­day sea­son. Then I cre­at­ed a Woodcarver’s Wish List as well as a Wood­carver’s Let­ter to San­ta. Sim­ply print them out, fill in the blanks, and San­ta (or his helper elves) will know what carv­ing items you are hop­ing to receive.

The list has 30 carv­ing gifts to choose from, and in case I missed what you real­ly want San­ta to bring you, I left a blank space so you can fill it in. For each gift, I includ­ed an approx­i­mate price. Please con­sid­er patron­iz­ing one of the won­der­ful spon­sors of The Carvers’ Com­pan­ion and Wood­carv­er Online Mag­a­zine. They are sim­ply the best!

Here are descrip­tions of each item on the Woodcarver’s Wish List, with an approx­i­mate price. Please refer to all man­u­fac­tur­ers’ labels instruc­tions for prop­er prod­uct usage.



#1    2” Harley Knife  The Harley knife, made by Del Stubbs, is named after Harley Ref­sal, the well-known Scan­di­na­vian fig­ure carv­er. This knife has an extreme­ly sharp edge. The hard­ness of the steel makes the knife cut effi­cient­ly, and while they tell us it should be used on clean bass­wood, I have per­son­al­ly butchered some cot­ton­wood bark with it. I liked this knife so well I pur­chased two.Approximate cost:       $39 includes a cus­tom fit­ted sheath (which you want). I believe it is only avail­able from:

#2   Helvie Don Mertz, CCA, Sig­na­ture Series 6–2 BH, Mini Mertz II Knife  This Wood Bee Carv­er knife has a long blade that is excep­tion­al­ly sharp all the way to the han­dle for reach­ing into those tight spaces. I dis­cov­ered it at The Inter­na­tion­al Wood­carvers Con­gress this last June. Don Mertz, CCA, had numer­ous Helvie knives avail­able. While all of them looked ter­rif­ic, Don helped me choose this one. I’ve only used it a short time, but real­ly like it because of the blade and also because the han­dle is big, but not too big. This knife is avail­able in a reg­u­lar sized han­dle as well. Approx­i­mate cost:        $38


#3   The Break­through Fish Carv­ing Man­u­al by Mark Fra­zier, 292 pages  This black and white book is a mon­ster. It cov­ers ref­er­ence mate­r­i­al, pow­er carv­ing, mouth, eyes, fin tech­niques, habi­tats, bases, installing eyes, and much more.  Approx­i­mate cost:        $30

#4   Dynam­ic Wrin­kles and Drap­ery by Burne Hog­a­rth, 144 pages  This book deals with the sys­tem of wrin­kles and drapes as influ­enced by move­ment. It doesn’t tell you how to carve the folds and wrin­kles in clothes, but how and why wrin­kles act the way they do, includ­ing their anchor points. It is an invalu­able resource if you are carv­ing clothed fig­ures, or a very old nude. Approx­i­mate cost:        $24

#5   The Art of Carv­ing Net­suke by Peter Ben­son, 167 pages  Peter Ben­son gives us an excel­lent guide on carv­ing net­sukes (minia­tures) includ­ing eye, scales and feath­er tech­niques, tools and nine sweet projects. Approx­i­mate cost:        $28

#6   An Illus­trat­ed Guide to Carv­ing Tree Bark – Releas­ing Whim­si­cal Hous­es and Wood­spir­its from Found Wood by Rick Jensen and Jack A. Williams, 75 pages  An excel­lent guide that also includes a chap­ter, with pho­tos, describ­ing the sev­en species of cot­ton­wood that is grown on the North Amer­i­can con­ti­nent so you can rec­og­nize which type of bark you are carv­ing. Now, that is cool! Approx­i­mate cost:        $15

#7   Relief Carv­ing in Wood – A Prac­ti­cal Intro­duc­tion by Chris Pye, 165 pages  Chris Pye takes you through the process of carv­ing in both low and high relief, illus­trat­ed in detail with col­or pho­tographs and line draw­ings, includ­ing chap­ters on tools, mate­ri­als and set­ting up your work­place. Chris Pye carves for England’s roy­al­ty, and teach­es in the U.S. once a year on the East Coast.  Approx­i­mate cost:        $20

#8   The Artist’s Com­plete Guide to Facial Expres­sion by Gary Fai­gin, 287 pages  While this book does not show you how to carve facial expres­sions, it does explain the eleven key mus­cles of facial expres­sion and how they affect the face in the six basic human expres­sions. I enjoy this book and ref­er­ence it often. Approx­i­mate cost:        $35

#9   Carv­ing Facial Expres­sions by Ian Nor­bury, 64 pages  Illus­trat­ed with 150 pho­tographs and draw­ings, mas­ter carv­er, Ian Nor­bury, pro­vides a range of exam­ples show­ing many human emo­tions. I keep going back to this lit­tle book because every time I read it I learn some­thing new. At his last exhib­it, Ian’s carv­ings sold for over $20,000. Approx­i­mate cost:        $15

#10   Cre­at­ing Car­i­ca­ture Heads in Wood and on Paper – A step-by-step guide for Design­ing & Carv­ing heads and faces by Marv Kaiser­satt, 137 pages  While this book has a very long name, three more words, “The Bible of ” should be added to the begin­ning of the title. It has an immense amount of infor­ma­tion, pro­vid­ed by an excel­lent edu­ca­tor. It is the eas­i­est and most com­pre­hen­sive car­i­ca­ture guide I own. It was once out of print, but for­tu­nate­ly it is now avail­able. Approx­i­mate cost:        $25

#11   Whit­tling Lit­tle Folk by Harley Ref­sal, 137 pages  Remem­ber the Harley knife I rec­om­mend­ed ear­li­er? It was named after the man who wrote this love­ly book which is filled with fun lit­tle peo­ple to carve. All 18 projects are designed to be done with only a carv­ing knife – no oth­er tools required! Approx­i­mate cost:        $17

#12   Bible Dudes by Lau­ra Dun­kle  This sweet lit­tle five page pam­phlet has all the nec­es­sary pat­terns and instruc­tions (for wood sized 1” x 4 ¼” or 1” x 3”) to eas­i­ly carve cute fig­ures that look very much like shep­herds, wise men, and even a Joseph that would be per­fect for a quick nativ­i­ty set that you can carve in your lap, while lis­ten­ing to TV. You’d have to adapt one of the male pat­terns for Mary by delet­ing the mous­tache and beard, carv­ing a small­er nose, and adding a few wisps of hair, but with a bit of imag­i­na­tion, I know you could do it. Approx­i­mate cost:        $6


#13   Carv­ing San­ta Orna­ments by Mark Gar­gac, 100 min­utes  This DVD com­bines two styles of carv­ing – tra­di­tion­al full relief as well as a pierced relief fash­ion, and includes full detailed instruc­tion. Mark’s tech­niques can be applied to walk­ing sticks, cane and bark. Approx­i­mate cost:        $26

#14   Carv­ing Wood­spir­its with Mark Gar­gac  This DVD starts at the rough­ing out stage, estab­lish­ing pro­por­tions in bark, then the set­ting in and detail­ing of the fea­tures, hair and beard of a wood­spir­it. In this DVD and the one above, Mark reminds me of a friend­ly neigh­bor who invit­ed you in to watch him carve. He has an easy atti­tude and before you know it, you’ve learned how to carve a wood­spir­it. Approx­i­mate cost:        $26

#15   Wood Carv­ing Basics by David Sabol, 2-DVD Set  This DVD cov­ers a vari­ety of dif­fer­ent carv­ing styles, includ­ing selec­tion of wood, choos­ing tools, relief, pow­er, and chip carv­ing, as well as fin­ish and paint­ing. Approx­i­mate cost:        $30


#16   12 Pock­et Heavy Duty Can­vas Tool Roll for Palm Tools and Knives  Good, sim­ple, easy, inex­pen­sive method to trans­port palm tools. Approx­i­mate cost:        $11

#17   12 Pock­et Heavy Duty Tool Roll for Larg­er, Long Han­dle Tools  Same as above, but for mal­let, long-han­dled or Euro­pean tools. Approx­i­mate cost:        $13

#18   20 Pock­et Stubai Deluxe Tool Roll  This cus­tom tool roll has 4 flaps on the inside that fold over the tools to insure they won’t fall out. Vel­cro holds every­thing tight after it folds togeth­er. Did I need this tool roll? No. I own the two tool rolls list­ed above. Buy­ing this was a lux­u­ry, plain and sim­ple. But, I love tot­ing my tools in it; and my tools appear to be hap­pi­er trav­el­ing in it. Approx­i­mate cost:        $59

#19   Apron with Suede  I real­ly like this apron. It is long and the suede gives extra pro­tec­tion to most of our vital organs. Approx­i­mate cost:        $25

#20   Palm Pounder  Although this palm mal­let was cre­at­ed to reduce shock when dri­ving carv­ing tools with your hand, which you prob­a­bly shouldn’t do (use a mal­let if the wood is that hard), after carv­ing for 32 hours at The Con­gress using all types of tools, wear­ing this palm pounder stopped the pain I was feel­ing in my palm. So, I’m sold on it. It has an adjustable wrist strap for a com­fort­able, one-size-fits-all fit. Approx­i­mate cost:        $12

#21   Dust-Bee-Gone Mask  Yes, this is expen­sive, but you are worth it. The mask won’t fog your glass­es and works with beards. It is com­fort­able, stur­dy, has an adjustable nose­piece and is hand wash­able. It comes in 3 sizes. I’ve had mine for 6 years, so it has cost me $6/year or .50/month or .12 week. What can you buy for .12 week? Cer­tain­ly not a new lung. Pro­tect what you have. Approx­i­mate cost:        $35

#22   OptiVi­sor  I use this over my glass­es, to carve and paint eyes, as well as find and get rid of the fuzzies that gath­er in cor­ners. The OptiVi­sor comes with dif­fer­ent types of lens plate num­bers (strengths) avail­able. I checked – mine is a #4. You can also pur­chase dif­fer­ent lens plates. Approx­i­mate cost:        $46 Addi­tion­al lens plate:     $30


#23   OCC­Tools Half-Moon Curved Skew Knife  At The Con­gress this year, I met John Vali­ton, a fel­low stu­dent in Tom Gow’s bark class, a good carv­er, and all round nice guy who brought this snazzy tool to my atten­tion. This half-moon skew is sharp, has a nice point and is curved to fit into those tight lit­tle cor­ners where fuzzies breed. OCC­Tools were pre­vi­ous­ly Den­ny tools; now they are made by Mike Ship­ley. Approx­i­mate cost:        $25

#24   Dock­yard Micro Carv­ing Tools  This 5 piece Gouge set con­sists of 1.5mm, 2mm, 3mm, 4mm, & 5mm U‑Gouges which I use over and over again espe­cial­ly when carv­ing small eyes, for the part of the eye by the nose, and the bags under the eyes. Approx­i­mate cost:        $60

#25   Dock­yard Micro Carv­ing Tools  This 4 piece V‑Parting Set con­sists of 1.5mm, 2mm, 3mm 90° V‑Tools & 2mm 75° V‑Tool which I use for carv­ing hair, beard, and wrin­kles in the cloth­ing of small carv­ings, as well as crows feet (around the eyes – not actu­al crow’s feet). Approx­i­mate cost:        $46

#26   OCC­Tool “Real­ly Big” Gouge, #3 – 1” sweep or 25 mm  I use this and the one not­ed below on almost every good-sized carv­ing – whether it is bark or bass­wood. Approx­i­mate cost:        $26

#27   OCCT “Real­ly Big” Gouge, #5 – 1” sweep or 25 mm  I like this and the one above because even the cor­ners of the gouge are sharp and can be used for rough­ing out a carv­ing. Approx­i­mate cost:        $26

#28   The Muf­fer Buffer  The Muf­fer is used on your pow­er drill or Fore­dom. Made in the U.S.A., you use it to buff your carv­ing after it’s been paint­ed or oiled, then waxed. I found out the hard way that you have to be cer­tain it is spin­ning in the direc­tion of the wood grain. Approx­i­mate cost:        $50

#29   Col­wood Super-Pro II Wood­burn­ing Kit  This Wood­burn­ing kit has a Detail Pen as well as a Heavy Duty Pen. Both sides can be used for nor­mal burn­ing, but only one at a time. I’ve had this unit for 4 years, and while I am not a pyro­g­ra­ph­er, I am very pleased with it and how quick­ly it heats up and cools down (10 sec­onds). Approx­i­mate cost:        $180 – depend­ing on the acces­sories that come with the kit.

#30  Razaire 530 Dust Col­lec­tion Sys­tem  I’ve owned mine for at least four years and haven’t had a lick of prob­lems with it. I’m not an expert on dust col­lec­tion, but I’ve been advised that this unite is the small­est, qui­etest dust col­lec­tor, rat­ed 530 CFM, which cap­tures more of the dan­ger­ous “float­ing” dust than units with more CFM’s. It is only 11” x 11” x 6” so it doesn’t take up much room on my work­bench. It is also easy to move at only 7.25 lbs. Approx­i­mate cost:        $340 for the unit.  Stan­dard replace­ment fil­ters: $16  2” Fil­ter Frame to add addi­tion­al fil­ters:        $13



To down­load a print­able copy of the San­ta Let­ter,  click HERE


To down­load a print­able copy of the Wish List, click HERE



Con­grat­u­la­tions to Richard Houlden for sub­mit­ting our first Hum­ble Brag, along with photos!

You may have noticed, I’ve added the word “SAVES” to our Epic Fail­ure and Hum­ble Brag title. I think we all find ways of “sav­ing” our carv­ings from becom­ing epic failures.

If you have an Epic Fail­ure, a Hum­ble Save or Brag, that you’d like to share with oth­er wood­carvers, drop me an email at We’d love to hear your story!

Richard Houlden’s Hum­ble Save and Brag

Before I begin this tale you should know that my sto­ry could have been an epic fail­ure numer­ous times, but end­ed up as a hum­ble brag, thanks to friends and family.

Here in Vir­ginia, it is the Forestry Department’s 100th anniver­sary. The James Riv­er Wood­carvers Club received a request to carve orna­ments for the Governor’s Christ­mas tree. While not a mem­ber of the club, I am friends with a few mem­bers who sent the email along to me.

In my mind, where all my great carv­ings are stored, I decid­ed to carve an elf with his cap being a Christ­mas tree. That way, I would con­nect the forestry theme with the hol­i­day. Isn’t it fun­ny when we believe we have come up with a unique and inno­v­a­tive design and think, “Man, this will be cool! I bet no one has ever carved some­thing like this before.” Nine times out of ten, some­one already has – but so what? It doesn’t take any­thing away from the design we’ve cre­at­ed. To high­light the anniver­sary, I decid­ed to hang a carved sign below the orna­ment that read, “100th.”

Did I men­tion I am a stay-at-home dad with a wife and two boys? Even though that email invi­ta­tion arrived on Sep­tem­ber 12th, “life hap­pens” and I total­ly for­got about it

Fast for­ward to the sec­ond week in Novem­ber. As my wife, Heather, and I are final­iz­ing plans for the hol­i­days, I said, “Oh shoot. Wasn’t I sup­posed to do a carv­ing for that anniver­sary thing at the Governor’s mansion?”

My first thought was to back out. Time was short. They need­ed to receive the orna­ment by Novem­ber 24th. But, my lov­ing and sup­port­ive wife asked, “If you took the next few days and focused a good amount of your time on the carv­ing, couldn’t you get it done in time to paint and ship off?”

She was right. And even if I didn’t fin­ish it in time, I could always put it in my Etsy shop. So, I go to the garage and spend that evening and the next day carv­ing the orna­ment, includ­ing hol­low­ing out the back por­tion. I hol­low out all my orna­ments because the weight of an orna­ment is an issue that needs to be addressed. After all, it will hang on the branch of a tree.

Oh shoot” again. I planned on hang­ing the “100th” sign from the bot­tom of the orna­ment. Since I hol­lowed it out, there is no “bot­tom” to hang the sign from. Do I have time to carve and paint and fin­ish anoth­er one? It’s already Novem­ber 17th!

Long sto­ry short (well not real­ly short) I am dis­cussing my dilem­ma via email with Susan and with­out bat­ting an eye, she writes, “If you want 100th on the orna­ment, con­sid­er paint­ing it (in gold?) on the third (widest) branch from the bot­tom. Paint­ing num­bers is a lot eas­i­er than carv­ing num­bers. You could burn it in, but the tree would have to be a lighter shade of green for the burn marks to show up.”

Short­ly there­after, my wife walked in the door. As we sat down to share the events of the day I told her Susan’s idea. Heather agreed, “That would work and save you a good amount of time in the long run.”

So that is exact­ly what I did.

Let me quote Dr. Seuss, “Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try!” I pulled the forestry department’s red and green logo off the inter­net which shows a stream flow­ing between two tree silhouettes.

Virginia Dept. of Forestry Logo

Vir­ginia Dept. of Forestry Logo

I matched the logo’s col­ors; their green for my tree and their red for the elf’s cap. On each side of the cap I paint­ed a tree sil­hou­ette, and in an effort to tie every­thing togeth­er, I added a blue line along the brim of the cap/Christmas tree to reflect the stream. I was very pleased with this and it arrived at the Forestry Depart­ment a day ahead of their deadline.

I was so hap­py to receive a “thank you” email from the man in charge of gath­er­ing the orna­ments, John Camp­bell Direc­tor, Pub­lic Infor­ma­tion Divi­sion, Vir­ginia Depart­ment of Forestry. Here is an excerpt.

It will be a show­piece on the Gov­er­nor’s tree this year and will adorn the VDOF tree next year and every year there­after. In addi­tion to the beau­ti­ful carv­ing, the per­son­al­iza­tion you added to help us cel­e­brate our 100th anniver­sary is such a spe­cial touch.”

As Dr. Seuss said, “Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try!”

Rich Houlden Elf Close Up Rich Houlden Elf Front View

Rich Houlden Elf Left Side Rich Houlden Elf Right Side



I received an email from a fel­low carv­er, Rich Neely. Here was Rich’s question:

I’ve been try­ing to find some tips on carv­ing a female face. There are some videos on You Tube, but noth­ing I’ve seen tells me how to make a face with dis­tin­guished female traits. Can you rec­om­mend a source such as YouTube videos, books, or chat room dis­cus­sions that will help me out?

Thanks in advance for your help, Rich

Hi Rich, I’ve checked through my carv­ing ref­er­ence library, and the only book I have (but, it is a good one) regard­ing female faces  is Carv­ing Clas­sic Female Faces in Wood – A How-to Ref­er­ence for Carvers and Sculp­tures writ­ten by Ian Nor­bury and pub­lished Fox Chapel Pub­lish­ing Co., Inc.

This is a shout-out to our read­ers. If you have addi­tion­al tips on carv­ing female faces that you’d like to share with Rich and the rest of us, drop me an email at: and I’ll pass it on in our next issue.


Until next time, gen­tle read­er, I wish you a Blessed Christ­mas. May your wood be plen­ti­ful and your tools stay sharp. Take care, carve lots, and always remem­ber to smile.