Archive for August 2015

Book Review — Carving Flat-Plane Style Caricatures

Carving Flat-Plane Style Caricatures

By Harley Refsal

Reviewed By Matt Kelley

Refsal 01The art of flat-plane carv­ing reached its peak of pop­u­lar­i­ty in Scan­di­navia and Amer­i­ca in the ear­ly decades of the 20th cen­tu­ry, but by the late 1970’s most of the lead­ing artists from that peri­od has died, and, in fact, “the tra­di­tion of flat-plane carv­ing had fad­ed to near-extinction”.

It was around that time that Harley Ref­sal start­ing research­ing the his­to­ry of the art, and in the 1980’s start­ed to share that knowl­edge and his skill with carvers in North Amer­i­ca and Scan­di­navia.  He has writ­ten sev­er­al books and authored book chap­ters and arti­cles about flat-plane carving.

In recog­ni­tion of his work, Ref­sal received the St Olav’s Medal from the King of Nor­way in 1996, and was named the Wood­carv­ing Illus­trat­ed Carv­er of The Year in 2012.  It is not hyper­bole to sug­gest that Harley Ref­sal almost sin­gle-hand­ed­ly saved flat-plane carv­ing from that near-extinction.

Carv­ing Flat-Plane Style Car­i­ca­tures is a recent­ly release vol­ume that fea­tures step-by-step instruc­tions for four fig­ures and pat­terns for anoth­er forty-six projects.  Con­tents include:

About The Author

Get­ting Started

  • About Flat-Plane Carving
  • Basic Carv­ing Instructions
  • Paint­ing and Finishing

Carv­ing and Paint­ing Step-By-Step

  • Troll King
  • Troll Queen
  • Java John
  • Mocha Mary


  • 49 pages of pat­terns to carve peo­ple, ani­mals, etc

Refsal 02Although a flat-plane style Tomte carved by Mike Bloomquist sits in my office watch­ing as I write, I am not as famil­iar with this style as per­haps I should be, and so found the infor­ma­tion about the art par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est­ing.  I also found the instruc­tions fair­ly well detailed — the Troll King ran to 30 steps over 7 full pages.  The remain­ing three step-by-step projects build on the lessons in the Troll King and are less detailed.  The many projects in the Pat­tern sec­tion typ­i­cal­ly include a front and side view, with brief com­men­tary on each.

This is a book that, I believe, belongs in the col­lec­tion of any seri­ous car­i­ca­ture carv­er.  Even if flat-plane carv­ing is not your par­tic­u­lar style, under­stand­ing the nuances can’t help but improve your carv­ing.  It may be a chal­lenge for an expe­ri­enced carv­er to pull back from very detailed fig­ures using many tools to this sim­pler style of broad­er, flat planes using only a knife and an occa­sion­al gouge.  The style leads you to “try to say more by say­ing less”; to tell a sto­ry in sim­pler, broad­er terms — a skill all carvers should value.

Carv­ing Flat-Plane Style Car­i­ca­tures is avail­able from many carv­ing sup­ply hous­es (see the Ven­dor side bar) or from book stores.  Please con­sid­er sup­port­ing your favorite carv­ing sup­ply shop.

Notes From The ‘Net

Notes From The ‘Net

Ques­tions and Answers About Carv­ing Gath­ered From Pop­u­lar Carv­ing Groups

 Edit­ed by Matt Kelley


Wel­come carv­ing friends to NFTN, ver­sion 2.0.   In this ongo­ing series we will gath­er the best ques­tions, answers and com­ments from the more active Face­book and mail list carv­ing groups, such as the Wood­carv­er List, Wood­carv­ing 101 — The Joy of Wood­carv­ing, and the Inter­na­tion­al Fish Carvers & Painters Asso­ci­a­tion, and present them here.

Enjoy, and Carve On!


From Wood Carvmg 101

Bri­an Pachol­ka asked:

I want to carve a tur­tle and leave it out in the weath­er. What is the best wood to use and the best way to pre­serve it. Once I put it out, it will nev­er be touched again so I want it to last as long as possible.

Jim Doyle replied:

Not so much the type of wood, but the cut. I always opt for heartwood.

Ron Snow added:

White or Red Cedar, Teak, or Cypress. A few coats of boiled lin­seed oil, thinned.

Per­ry A. Reynolds commented:

Jim and Ron just gave you the best infor­ma­tion for what your seek­ing to do

Ron Snow added:

I sug­gest­ed those woods, espe­cial­ly the Teak and Cypress, because they are almost imper­vi­ous to weath­er and age to a beau­ti­ful gray over time.


From Per­ry A. Reynolds

The Knife and The Tree!

For thou­sands of years the knife has been an indis­pens­able tool. Though at one time made of stone or bone, the knife, in all of its forms, has graced the hand of mankind. The tree is much as man is! It has giv­en man kind warmth, shel­ter, food and raw mate­ri­als nec­es­sary to sur­vive. It is born from its par­ents seed and at first is weak and frag­ile. It suf­fers from cuts and bruis­es and bears the many scars of life. It is prone to dis­ease just as we are and its goal is to bear off­spring to insure the con­tin­u­ance of future gen­er­a­tions. As it grows old it becomes weak­er and then when its time comes it dies and returns to the soil. It is much as we are. So, the next time you carve, think about that knife and that tree and do your best to give both the fit­ting trib­ute that they deserve!

That’s it for this edi­tion of NFTN.    If you see a post on one of the FB groups or Mail List­servs that you think should be pre­served in NFTN, please use the form below to sub­mit your suggestion.

NFTN Suggestions

Sug­ges­tions for NFTN
  • Please enter your name
  • MM slash DD slash YYYY
    Please enter the sub­mis­sion date.
  • Please enter your email address — this is a required field
  • Please enter your sug­ges­tion for inclu­sion in Notes From The Net. Include the date of the post, the name of the per­son who start­ed the dis­cus­sion, names of those who pro­vide the best respons­es. It is impor­tant that you include the NAME of the Face­book group or mail list­serv.. Your email address will only be used to clar­i­fy your sug­ges­tion, if need­ed. Thanks for your suggestion.

Susan Alexander’s “Let’s Talk Carving” Issue 10

Susan bio shot      How To Make A Koozie Sander

When Gene Webb told me he made a large sander out of his koozie, I had to ask him for direc­tions so I could share the infor­ma­tion with all of you and because while I don’t own a large sander, I do own a Gene Webb koozie. Here are Gene’s instruc­tions on how to make your own koozie sander.

(Edi­tor’s Note:  Always wear prop­er safe­ty equip­ment when using any pow­er tool.  Under­take and use this project at your own risk.)

I wore my logo off my koozie, so I decid­ed to try and make a big sander that I could use in my drill. It works great and was­n’t too hard to make.

My koozies have a plas­tic cup built inside it (not all koozies have that). The plas­tic cup makes it durable and is why I chose this type of koozie for my wood­carv­ing school and busi­ness. Now, I can use it as 3” by 4” sander that works pret­ty well in a drill. You have to run the drill slow­ly, with it being that big. 

Webb Koozie Sander 1

All I did was cut out 2 end caps about 1/4 small­er in diam­e­ter than the koozie cup. I need­ed the end caps because when I tight­ened the all-thread bolt with­out them, it squeezed the koozie flat. The end caps help to hold the belt on, and to keep the cup’s shape. 

Webb Koozie Sander 3

The belt took a while to fig­ure out. Final­ly, I used Goril­la tape on the back. Where the sand paper meets, the pres­sure slight­ly expands a small gap, but the Goril­la tape is still hold­ing strong. 

Webb Koozie Sander 2

To make a koozie sander, you’ll need:

  • A cool Gene Webb koozie with a built-in plas­tic cup
  • 80 grit Swiss sand paper
  • Plex­i­glas for 2 small 1/4″ thick end caps 
  • Goril­la tape 
  • One 3/8″ all thread bolt with 2 wash­ers and 2 nuts. 

They can throw in their own cussing as they go.

This koozie sander works great on sand­ing off the burs. You could use the sander in the drill, or strap the drill down and just hold the wood to it.  What­ev­er works best for you.

Webb Koozie Sander 4

Remem­ber – you will have to run the drill slow­ly, with it being that big, and because we don’t know how long the Goril­la Tape will hold, always work slow­ly, care­ful­ly, wear eye pro­tec­tion, and check your koozie sander before and after each use. 

If any­one has any ques­tions about the instruc­tions or the sander, they shouldn’t hes­i­tate to call me at: 865–660-1110.


Thanks, Gene, for tak­ing the time to send us the instruc­tions and the pic­tures, and for spon­sor­ing the Carvers Com­pan­ion.

Like I always say, Carvers help­ing Carvers!



Sub­ject: Ques­tion on Paint­ing, then Seal­ing a Carving

I received an email from Rick Houlden regard­ing an issue he is expe­ri­enc­ing when paint­ing his carv­ings, and then using a sealant.

I dip my carv­ings and some­times I can see some col­or com­ing off onto the paper tow­el when remov­ing excess sealant. Since I work out of my garage that is attached to our home I have nev­er been inter­est­ed in using (can’t think of the name) the fin­ish that is known to be flam­ma­ble on the used rags. I found my cur­rent sys­tem in a carv­ing mag­a­zine, the carv­er not­ed that this sys­tem doesn’t leave flam­ma­ble rags around and also is more cost effec­tive. But it can have issues when apply­ing the sealant over acrylic paints when remov­ing excess sealant from the carving.

I asked Rick what sealant he was using. Here is his reply:

I used the Min­wax Poly­crylic in the clear satin fin­ish it is a water based sealant. I like many carvers lay­er my paints either by blend­ing the col­ors or as with the eyes paint a black dot then inside the black I paint the brown or blue in a small­er diam­e­ter then add a small white dot as the reflec­tive high­light. I have usu­al­ly after dip­ping give the carv­ing a minute or two to drip off the excess but at times need to take a tow­el or paper cloth to remove access sealant. If not care­ful with the way I han­dle the carv­ing at this point I can have small spots of col­or pull off. It doesn’t hap­pen all the time and I am slow­ly per­fect­ing the way I do this but it made me won­der what is if any the com­plete cur­ing time of the acrylic paints. Most seem to believe that is when it is dry to the touch but since in the past I have had some col­or come off this gives me the impres­sion that the lay­ered area may not have been com­plete­ly cured at the time of dipping. 

I have begun to put a sealant coat­ing on the carv­ings before I begin to paint but I know this is not the issue since I have had the col­or show­ing on the cloth even before I began this process. 

I know some carvers say to dip the carv­ing and then once the major­i­ty has drained place the carv­ing bot­tom down on a paper tow­el to allow more run off of the excess. But I many times let the col­or con­tin­ue to the back­side stop­ping at the point where the hol­low­ing of the carv­ing begins.

If you have a sug­ges­tion for Rick, send it to, or fill in the info below, with your com­ments, and it will get to me. I will for­ward your emails to Rick as I receive them (so he doesn’t have to wait a month), and will also share them in my next Let’s Talk Carv­ing column.


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