Please refer to and follow all manufacturers’ directions.
Please join me in welcoming Woodcarvers On-Line Magazine’s newest sponsor, Gene Webb’s School of Woodcarving located in the Smoky Mountains in Townsend, Tennessee. Just go to the right and click on his link and you will be taken directly to Gene’s woodcarving shop where you’ll find tools, carvings, DVDs, bits and burs. Or, you can speak to Gene Webb at: 865–660‑1110.
If you ever saw my studio, you would know my heart is firmly enmeshed in edged tools. I own micro tools, palm tools, European sized and mallet tools, and dozens of knives of all shapes and sizes – from ½” blades to hogging knives. I unabashedly love tools. I see, in each one of them, the raw metal that came from the earth. I can imagine how it was fired, hammered and sharpened. And then the tool came to live with me…forever and ever.
So, the question I have been asking myself this last year is, “Why am I carving less often?”
I realized that the answer is, “Because my hands hurt A LOT the next day.”
Bottom line: Yes. I have seen the doc. Can’t do much about it. I have arthritis. It’s not rheumatoid. Got some meds. Tried miscellaneous home remedies, all of which do some good.
Will it stop me from carving? No. But, is it slowing me down? Yes. DANG IT!!
A while back, I purchased a Foredom and then a RAM thinking I could use power in lieu of edged tools, at least for roughing out a carving. I found power just didn’t work for me. The burs bounced and stuck and jumped and skidded across the carving. I didn’t want to give up. I tried different types of burs, then different sized burs, and finally different amounts of power. My carvings were so ugly, the only reason I kept them was because they were the excellent examples of bad power carving.
This was why I took Rick Jensen’s power carving class last month. I was certain that six days of power carving under Rick’s tutelage had to point me in the right direction. And, boy, was I right! Plus, I can report that I experienced only a minimum amount of pain in the days that followed. Best of all, in addition to power carving, I still used my first love — edged tools — just not as often.
Taking Rick’s class was a blessing. Sitting next to Gene Webb made it a double blessing. While Rick taught us how to power carve a bark house, stairs, rocks and a Santa, I was keeping my eye on Gene as he power carved wood spirits and American Indians. I had the opportunity to learn from two master carvers.
The week I returned home, I thought about this column and that many of you may want to consider power carving for the same reason I was pursuing it. Six days of power carving in Tennessee helped me nail the basic technique, but I certainly am not experienced enough to advise you what bits or burs to start with. So, I called Gene Webb and asked his advice.
My question to Gene was, “What burs would you recommend to a WOM reader who wants to try power carving.” Gene, of course, surpassed what I expected. He provided us not only with which burs to begin with, but carved two wood spirits and took a progression of photos to help us understand each bur’s use.
Here is Gene’s reply:
I think four burs would be best.
These four burs completed the two carvings I am about to show you. These burs will also work on basswood, and walking sticks.
#2 is a super coarse ruby. I used it to smooth them up. 3/32 shaft.
#3 is a double cut carbide dovetail. 1/8″ shaft. I used it on the hair.
#4 is a 1/16′ Sphere Double cut carbide ball. 1/8″ shaft. I used it for the mouth, nose and eye holes.
These are small carvings. One is cotton wood bark, the other is cedar.
These small spirit carvings are signed and dated. They retail for $30.00 and are approximately 2’‘ wide and 6’’ long.
FYI: I already purchased Gene’s cedar wood spirit. The cotton wood bark spirit may still be available.
If you think you may want to jump into power carving, like I did, Gene has put together a carving bur kit that has everything needed to do most small projects. The kit is listed on his website for $105.95 (about a $15 savings, which is the cost of a bur). The kit includes a sander that Gene uses on his carvings, and of course, you can call Gene at 865–660‑1110 when you need advice or get stuck, and he will get back to you as soon as he is free.
And, once more, I want to thank Gene Webb’s School of Woodcarving for sponsoring Woodcarvers Online Magazine. Carvers helping carvers!!
Oh … almost forgot.
The two-day chain saw carving seminar I took from Gene was awesome! I roughed out a cedar wood spirit and an American Indian.
I admit to wounding the chair, but it survived. I came back with a lot of knowledge and all my appendages intact. It was great!
Subject: Praying Hands – In-The-Round Carving
Last month, I received an email from John Mitchell asking about plans or magazine articles for carving praying hands in-the-round. I received an answer all the way from Australia, from John Carriere. Here it is:
Just read your articles in WOM.
I researched my old wood carving magazines and found three articles that John Mitchell might like to look up. All are in the British Woodcarving magazines.
One of them is in the July/August 2001 issue page 22 entitled “Skilled Hands” by Pete Benson.
Another is in the September/October 1997 issue, page 37 entitled “Give Him a Hand” by Derek Oldbury.
The other one is in the May/June 2001 issue, page 17 entitled “Lending a Helping Hand” by Michael Painter.
I hope they can be of assistance to him.
I am working on a large relief carving at the moment. It is a mountainscape about 700mm (2.5 feet) wide by about 900 mm (3 feet) high. It is part of a tree trunk I found on the shore.
I have been trying out a negative ion generator in my studio/workshop. The principle is that negative ions generated from the generator cling to dust particles, making them heavy enough to fall to the floor, thus cleaning the air. A spin off is that there is a very pleasant smell from the negative ions. You might like to look into this as a future tip for woodcarvers.
All the very best to you Susan,
John, thank you so much for taking the time to research your back issues of the British Woodcarving Magazine. Good luck on your mountainscape. Also, please let us know if the negative ion generator actually does help clean the air of dust particles. We all would be interested in that!
If any of our readers now use, or have had any experience using a negative ion generator in their workshop, please drop me an email using the form below, or at SusanAlexanderCarves@comcast.net, and I’ll share your experience with the rest of the WOM readers.
Next month, I’ll show you the “Ultimate Birdhouses” that Howard Atwood carves. They are absolutely amazing! Howard was kind enough to allow me to share, with you, how he modified a specific tool for his birdhouses, with great results. Carvers helping carvers!
Until then, gentle reader, may your wood be plentiful and your tools stay sharp. Take care, carve lots, and always remember to smile.