Archive for April 2015

Susan Alexander’s “Let’s Talk Carving” Issue 6

Susan bio shot   Gene Web­b’s Indi­an Mask

Please refer to and fol­low all man­u­fac­tur­ers’ directions.

I spent six glo­ri­ous days with Wood­carv­ing Illus­trat­ed’s 2014 Wood­carv­er of the Year, Rick Jensen. He taught two back-to-back, three-day bark carv­ing sem­i­nars. Rick’s projects includ­ed carv­ing a bark house with a spi­ral stair­case, and a San­ta with jin­gle bells on a leather belt.

Rick held his sem­i­nars at Gene Webb’s School of Wood­carv­ing locat­ed in the Smoky Moun­tains in Townsend, Ten­nessee. Rick plans to return to Gene’s stu­dio April 1 thru 6, 2016. As in 2015, both pow­er and edged tools will be used. The 2016 sem­i­nar has a max­i­mum of 10 stu­dents. 9 carvers have already giv­en Rick a $100 deposit to hold their space. If you are inter­est­ed, call Rick at 218–281-5107 for the project’s details.

Rick Jensen, Susan Alexander, Gene Webb in Townsend, TN

Rick Jensen, Susan Alexan­der, Gene Webb in Townsend, TN

As luck would have it (mine, not his), Gene Webb’s per­ma­nent carv­ing sta­tion was locat­ed next to mine, which allowed me to observe him pow­er carve an Amer­i­can Indi­an mask. I’m cer­tain I must have annoyed Gene with a series of ques­tions about pow­er carv­ing. How­ev­er, Gene, who has carved for over 40 years, won numer­ous Blue Rib­bon, Best of Show and People’s Choice Awards, was a true Ten­nessee artist, instruc­tor and gen­tle­man. He kind­ly answered each of my ques­tions with grace and patience.

Mask Front-Gene Webb

Mask Front-Gene Webb

Gene carved his mask in spald­ed maple wood using an NSK and Fore­dom. He took the time to explain which bits he chose to use, and the thought process behind his choic­es. I was fas­ci­nat­ed because I sel­dom have had any luck with pow­er carving.

Gene carved the front of the mask before hol­low­ing out the back, leav­ing some del­i­cate por­tions only ¼” thick – so thin you could see light if you held it up to a lamp.

Mask Back - Gene Webb

Mask Back — Gene Webb

After Gene hol­lowed the back of the mask and carved in a hang­er, he buffed the entire carv­ing, front and back, with dif­fer­ent fab­ric-backed grits of sand­pa­per he mount­ed on a man­drel and loaded onto a Fore­dom. Gene then took a wood burn­er to the mask. I asked him to take a pho­to for us when it was ½ burned, so you could see the remark­able dif­fer­ence burn­ing made to the carving.

Half Burned Mask-Gene Webb

After wood burn­ing, Gene applied a fin­ish, which dark­ened the wood dramatically.

Completed Mask -Gene Webb

The final carv­ing was 15” tall by 6” wide.

I was so enthralled with the entire process that I pur­chased Gene’s DVDPow­er Carv­ing an Indi­an Mask, watched it that evening in my room (after carv­ing for 9 hours with Rick), and the next day went back and pur­chased Gene’s Pow­er Carv­ing a Tree Spir­it DVD. Gene has 19 DVD’s at $22.95 each. Even though I prob­a­bly will nev­er carve a mask, I’ll refer to Gene’s DVD when I attempt to pow­er carv­ing an Indi­an face.

There are numer­ous things I like about Gene Web­b’s DVDs. While they are pro­fes­sion­al­ly pro­duced, they don’t feel staged. Like many things that are done cor­rect­ly – you don’t notice that the sound, cam­era angles and light­ing were well thought out. Gene has an easy way of explain­ing the art of carv­ing. His friend­ly man­ner and expla­na­tions of bits, carv­ing tools and carv­ing meth­ods belies his numer­ous awards and 40 years of carv­ing expe­ri­ence. When I watch Gene’s DVDs, I feel like I’m get­ting great advice from a carv­ing friend and neighbor.

I told Gene I want­ed to tell you, the WOM read­er, how much I enjoyed his DVDs and he said that should any of you decide to pur­chase one of them, if you men­tion my name, you can email him a pho­to of your carv­ing and he’ll cri­tique it at no charge. I know I’ll be tak­ing advan­tage of that offer.

When you have a moment, check out Gene Webb’s web­site at You’ll find a lot of inter­est­ing carv­ing items on Gene’s site, includ­ing bits, books and tools. If you are ever in the area, or would like to take a trip to the Smoky Moun­tains, Gene offers indi­vid­u­al­ized carv­ing instruc­tions for $150/day or $200/2‑day class. Depend­ing upon the sub­ject mat­ter, he also offers week-long class­es. While Gene is flex­i­ble, depend­ing upon his sched­ule, pow­er carv­ing, edged tool class­es (or a mix­ture of both) are usu­ally held the first week of the month.

My trip to Townsend, Ten­nessee has reaped WOM read­ers an addi­tion­al ben­e­fit. Gene has agreed that if a WOM read­er has a carv­ing ques­tion, you may call him at 865–660-1110. Men­tion my name, and Gene will get back to you as soon as he is free. Carvers help­ing carvers!

Fol­low­ing my sem­i­nars with Rick Jensen, I adven­tur­ous­ly signed up for Gene’s 2‑day pri­vate chain saw class. I hope to rough out two projects — one per day — an Amer­i­can Indi­an and a wood spir­it — both from a slab of cedar log. I don’t know whether you should send your good luck wish­es to me or Gene. I’ve nev­er picked up a chain saw before. Best send them to Gene.

Here are a few pho­tos of past masks Gene has carved. Vis­it his web­site to see more of his carvings.

Cedar Mask -Gene Webb

Cedar Mask ‑Gene Webb

Bison Masks -Gene Webb

Bison Masks ‑Gene Webb

Indian Masks -Gene Webb

Indi­an Masks ‑Gene Webb



Sub­ject: Pray­ing Hands – In-The-Round Carving

I received an email from John Mitchell. He’d like to carve an in-the-round carv­ing of pray­ing hands, and is ask­ing if any­one can pro­vide him with plans. If we couldn’t pro­vide him with plans, John said he saw an arti­cle in a mag­a­zine that gave full instruc­tions for carv­ing pray­ing hands, but can’t recall the issue or name of the mag­a­zine. Can any read­er point John in the right direc­tion? Use the form below to email me, or send the infor­ma­tion to and I’ll for­ward it to John as well as print it in my next Let’s Talk Carv­ing column.


Sub­ject: A Dif­fer­ent Perspective

Last month, Shorty Short’s (from Shorty’s Wood Shop) sent us a TIP that sug­gest­ed when we look at a carv­ing we turn off the lights from time to time and have one small light off to the side when exam­in­ing our carv­ing, I received an email from Joe But­ler remind­ing us that look­ing at our carv­ing in a mir­ror will give us an entire­ly new per­spec­tive that will allow us to see what parts of our carv­ing are out of synch. Thanks, Joe. It was good hear­ing from you.

Let me add that when you view your carv­ing in the mir­ror, have a pen­cil with you. While look­ing in the mir­ror, put your fin­ger on the spot that needs adjust­ing. When you turn the carv­ing back to face you, mark that spot with your pen­cil. That way, even if you put your carv­ing down for a day or two, you’ll know exact­ly what needs to be adjust­ed once you begin carv­ing again.


Sub­ject: Win­dow Fans and Fur­nace Filters

Last month, I shared Jan Oegema’s email with you regard­ing attach­ing fur­nace fil­ters to a box fan. First of all, my sin­cere apolo­gies to Jan because I spelled his last name incor­rectly. While I kept a few of his vow­els and con­so­nants, Jan’s last name is def­i­nitely not Omega. It must have been a Freudi­an slip because I have recent­ly begun to study the Greek lan­guage, which, of course, includes the let­ter Omega. Sor­ry about that, Jan.

Not only did Jan accept my apolo­gies, being a great carv­er, he sent me a few more pho­tographs and TIPS to share with you. In this pho­to you’ll rec­og­nize the fil­tered box fan that Jan referred to last month. It is inter­est­ing to see how Jan secured it to the ceiling.

Jan's Filtered Box Fan Ceiling Height

Jan’s Fil­tered Box Fan Ceil­ing Height

I’ll let Jan tell you, in his own words, about the sec­ond batch of pho­tos he sent us. When I first received them, I thought the pho­to below was of a small vac­u­um sweep­er so I emailed Jan for an explanation.

Jan's Floor Polisher

Jan’s Floor Polisher

Here is Jan’s response.

The pic­tures show a floor pol­ish­er NOT a vac­u­um. I con­vert­ed the floor pol­ish­er into a sharpener.

I take the whole pol­ish­er apart and build a case around the motor. Then I take the brush­es out of the round hold­ers and screw a piece of wood on there (as seen in the pic­tures). Glue a piece of leather on the wood (suede side up). From the han­dle I use the switch and the cord and use a used Kitchen draw­er han­dle so I can take it with me on tour. Often I make a sec­ond round set with 200 grit sandpaper.

Parts of Floor Polisher

Parts of Floor Polisher

Jan's Reinvented Tool Sharpener

Jan’s Rein­vent­ed Tool Sharpener

Jan's Reinvented Tool Sharpener

Jan’s Rein­vent­ed Tool Sharpener

I wish I was hand­i­er, but it was cer­tain­ly inter­est­ing see­ing what Jan can do with a floor polisher!

My Warn­ing to WOM Read­ers: Only if you are very famil­iar and schooled and con­fi­dent in your mechan­i­cal and elec­tri­cal abil­i­ties and the type of equip­ment Jan has tak­en apart and put back togeth­er, should you even con­sider attempt­ing what Jan has accom­plished. You know who you are. I know I couldn’t morph a floor pol­isher into a sharp­ener with­out injur­ing myself or set­ting fire to my studio.


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