Archive for February 2015

Susan Alexander’s “Let’s Talk Carving” Issue 4

Susan bio shot Technology – Can’t Live With It – Can’t Live Without It! 



Please refer and follow all manufacturers’ directions.

The last week in January, my internet access, personal computer, iPad, scanner, inkjet and laser printers got into an argument and decided not to communicate with each other. It was like a massive divorce; they were all going their separate ways. I spent over five hours cajoling, and then begging them to acknowledge each others presence.

Hoping for a distraction, I turned on the radio and began reentering the Bluetooth 16 digit Key Code (numbers and capital letters) for the fourth time, when the radio announcer advised, “Although it is true Mercury has gone retrograde, only the “uninformed” believe that this planet has the ability to disrupt communications.”

Yeah – right – you betcha.

It was then that I mentally listed all the reasons I love carving wood so much more than dealing with technology. You can carve any piece of wood, anywhere in the world, without passwords, internet access, programs, inkjet or laser cartridges, key codes, program upgrades, viruses, virus protection programs, scanners, downloads, files, folders, USB ports, driver updates, clouds, backups, bluetooth, and emails I should have, but I swear, never received. It’s just you, the wood and a sharp tool. Heaven!

You wouldn’t believe it, to read the above, but I like technology, except when it doesn’t work NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO, and if I had won the MEGA-MILLION LOTTO I promise you, in a heartbeat, I would have drop kicked every last piece of technology I own out my second-story window as soon as I checked that no one was in the back yard and would get hurt.

And then … as usual … life proves how very wrong I am. Here it is – almost two weeks later – and I am singing technology’s praises. Let me explain.

I was speaking with Carving Illustrated’s 2014 Woodcarver of the Year, (applause, applause) Rick Jensen, about bark power carving when Rick mentioned that air filters (because of different manufacturers) don’t always fit securely into air cleaners. While teaching one of his classes, Rick noticed dust clinging to the wall behind the air cleaners and decided to investigate. Rick then told me something that I thought would be a terrific TIP for this column.

It was February 11 when I called Rick to request his permissions to share his TIP (remember the date – it’s important later on). Not only did he allow me to share his TIP with you, he offered to produce a short video for us!

That evening, Rick asked his wife, Jody, (who just came home from a long day at work), to record his TIP, edit it, and send it to me via their Dropbox. I received the video, downloaded the file to my Dropbox, and emailed the shared link to Matt Kelley, who will do his magic so all of you can see Rick’s air filter TIP, when you click the link below.

Did I mention that I LOVE technology?

I always say that woodcarvers are the best people and it’s true. Now, I want to add that woodcarvers’ wives (and husbands) are just as great. Thank you, Jody, for taping Rick’s TIP for all of us!

You can see Rick’s TIP by clicking: HERE

On a side note … just for the heck of it … I checked the Internet and (I would never lie to you) Mercury stopped going retrograde on February 11. I told you to remember that date.

Life is certainly full of mysteries.

Oh … one more thing … while I chatted with Rick, he mentioned that he and Jody had just shot two videos for Sabuurtooth Tools. You can see them at: Enjoy!


E-MAIL:  Subject – Human Hands

I received an email from carver, Gary Cummins, asking:

Can you recommend any instructional books, articles, DVDs, etc. on the subject of carving caricature and realistic human hands out there?  Tips, advice, etc. would be appreciated. My carved hands either look like a knot of sausages or claws.

The first thing I did when I received Gary’s email is trot down to my workshop and dig through my study sticks. One of my favorites is from Dave Stetson. Dave’s is the only hand study stick I have ever come across. I’ve owned it for years, and can’t recall where/when I purchased it.

Closed Hand Study by Dave Stetson

Closed Hand Study by Dave Stetson

Because I think it is rather useless to suggest an item to a carver without advising where it can be purchased, I went online and searched and searched and searched and came up with nada. I made a few phone calls to vendors – still nada.

Dave’s website, didn’t offer the hand study stick either, so I called him – twice. But, there was no answer and no voice mail available.

Not to be deterred (working hard for you, Gary), I emailed Dave.

Dave called me right back and we had a great conversation. Ends up that he had just purchased a new phone and hadn’t had time to set up his voice mail yet. Bottom line, we are in luck! Dave no longer produces these hand study sticks, but has about a dozen left. [Editor note – make that eleven left.]  If you would like to purchase one, email Dave at They cost $24.95 plus shipping. When he sells the last of them – they’re gone.

Before our conversation ended, Dave asked if I had ever seen the CarvinOnline website. I hadn’t, but afterwards I checked it out. It looks terrific. There must be close to 20 accomplished carving instructors offering carving videos. Their website is:

There is a cost per month, or for three months, or for the year to access the videos. What I liked was that there were a number of free lessons offered by different instructors, so you can actually take a test-drive before you buy. I did notice that there is one lesson offered on how to carve an opened hand.

If you prefer to purchase a book on hand-carving, then Ivan Whillock’s Hand Proportion Made Easy contains information on carving opened and closed hands as well as on the hand’s anatomy. This book is offered from our fine sponsors.

Hand Proportion Made Simple by Ivan Whillock

Hand Proportion Made Simple by Ivan Whillock


Thanks for your email, Gary. One of the reasons I enjoy writing this column is because I learn so very much when researching questions like yours, as well as the opportunity to make new carving friends like Dave Stetson.


E-MAIL: Subject – Eagle Head Walking Sticks

I received an email from carver, Mike Hermann, asking:

Hi Susan, I was wondering where to find walking stick how-to project of an eagle’s head.

Initially, I responded to Mike’s email with two book suggestions. The first book, should he want to carve a whimsical eagle, is one I owned that uses basswood eggs, Carving Wooden Finger Puppets and Cane Toppers 20 Whimsical Projects from Basswood Eggs by Ross Oar. The premise is that you carve a hole in the back of your eagle head carving which then allows you to either mount it on a cane, as a topper, or place (not mount) it on a child’s finger as a finger puppet.

Finger Puppets & Cane Toppers by Ross Oar

Finger Puppets & Cane Toppers by Ross Oar

I wasn’t certain if Mike wanted to carve a realistic eagle, so I found a second book, online, Carving Wild Fowl Canes and Walking Sticks with Power by Russell, $14.95. I don’t have a photo of that, but there was an eagle on its cover.

Since that time, I’ve been thinking about Mike’s request. Perhaps, Mike wanted to carve a walking stick with an eagle’s head for a veteran. If so, Hey Mike – here are two great links.

If you go to: you’ll see a news video about George and Donna Gunning, along with Bert Truman, who have created over 1800 Eagle Canes. They’ll make an eagle’s head cane for any veteran that requests one, free of charge. I had to share this with all of you. It makes me feel proud to be in the company of woodcarvers. Bless George, Donna and Bert!

Then, I found a second website, the Eagle Cane Project. This group’s goal is to provide PRESENTATION CANES to a select group of Post 9-11 Veterans who have received some manner of leg disability from combat related actions.

Their home page is: Their site is very complete and well organized. It offers Eagle Cane Project guidelines, request form, poster, tutorials, and a list of participants and organizations, by state, with their emails, recipients, contacts, links and Eagle Cane News.

It any reader would like to offer additional suggestions for Mike, please email me at (or use the form at the bottom of this article) and I’ll list your suggestion and name in the next issue of WOM.


E-MAIL: Subject – Stylized Carving

I receive at least one email every six months asking for books on stylized carvings. Unfortunately, I could never provide an answer, so this time I went to my buddy, Larry Yudis, of The Woodcraft Shop, for a suggestion. He searched and found, The Art of Stylized Wood Carving by Solomon & Hamilton, $19.95. You can purchase this book from your favorite carving store, or one of our terrific sponsors. If you order from The Woodcraft Shop, this book is Item 912436. Thanks for your help, Larry.  (Link to The Woodcraft Shop in the Sponsor sidebar to the right.)


E-MAIL: Subject – Preserving Wood Carving Statues

Last month, I received an email from Jim Sullivan regarding preserving wood carving statues. I haven’t received any responses from readers, so I’ll run this by you a second time, hoping someone can offer a suggestion for Jim. Here’s the original email.

I own a nativity scene crèche of several carved wooden figures and a carved wood stable. The crèche was purchased in Oberamegau, Germany, in 1958. I think the carved wood stable may be of arolla (Swiss) pine, a type of white pine. It is stained a medium brown and the carved figures (probably from a different, close-grained wood) are unstained. What should be done to preserve the wood from drying out or otherwise improperly aging? Thank you.


E-MAIL: Subject – Power Carving Reference

Last month, I also received an email from a carver who received a flex-shaft grinder/carver for Christmas. He asked for any Reference Books or YouTube Videos that other carvers can recommend for power carving.

We can recommend, Power Carving House Spirits by Tom Wolfe. It is available from WOM’s carving supply sponsors.

Power Carving House Spirits by Tom Wolfe

Power Carving House Spirits by Tom Wolfe


Until next time, gentle reader, may your wood be plentiful and your tools stay sharp. Take care, carve lots, and always remember to smile.



If you have questions for Susan, please submit them using the form below.