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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 occa­sion­al 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!

I dug deep into the archives for this par­tic­u­lar NFTN — this con­ver­sa­tion occurred almost ten years ago, on the orig­i­nal email-based ver­sion of the Wood­carv­er List.  The ques­tion and com­ments are still valid almost 10 years lat­er.  Editor


On Get­ting Moti­vat­ed To Carve

This con­ver­sa­tion start­ed with Alex Bis­so noting:

I seem to be at a carv­ing stand­still.  I have not fin­ished a carv­ing since ear­ly last fall when I com­plet­ed a brown trout start­ed ear­li­er last year.  I just can’t seem to get moti­vat­ed enough to either start some­thing new or com­plete some start­ed projects that I told myself I would get done this year.  Can any­one tell me what has worked to get them moti­vat­ed to get back to carv­ing after a dry spell?   

Wood­butch­er Jan  replied:

Get your­self a carv­ing­body Alex.  Invite a carv­er to come and join you at your place one after­noon ‚morn­ing or evening every week and stick to it I had a dry spell last sum­mer for a few months and than when my class­es start­ed I could not wait to get at it again.
Done 5 fair size relief carv­ings this win­ter so far.       

To which Alex respond­ed:  A carv­ing­body: would prob­a­bly be very help­ful.  How­ev­er, I think I am stuck with the body I have!   

And of course Jan had to have the last word:  SMART ALEX!!!!!!!!! I mean Carv­ing bud­dy!  And if THAT won ‘t work COME OVA  HERE and I“LL get you all fired up for carv’n!        

Joe Dil­lett remarked:  I can’t remem­ber my last dry spell but there are times I just need to back away from my carv­ing and pick up a piece of wood to make chips with­out con­cern about what it will become. Just enjoy­ing the smell, sound and feel of a sharp chis­el slic­ing through wood is stim­u­lat­ing. Most often after a few cuts the block decides what it wants to become so I just help it along its journey.

One book I just read, Draw­ing From With­in says that some of the best pic­tures are cre­at­ed when we are not try­ing to cre­ate a pic­ture but just let our mind loose to draw. Maybe some of that is true for carv­ing too?

Mau­ra Coop­er added:  Hi Alex,  I can sym­pa­thize with your carv­ing slump. There was a time when I was almost obses­sive with my carv­ing.  Now I give thanks for com­mis­sions, seems noth­ing moti­vates like mon­ey some­times. When I have real­ly been stalled, there are three things I found would get me back into it.  One was to clean my shop. Seems I just can’t stand it when its just too orga­nized. Anoth­er was to sharp­en and/or hone all of my chis­els. Theres just some­thing about a won­der­ful­ly sharp tool that begs to be used. But the best moti­va­tor that I ever found was to help anoth­er carv­er along.  Per­haps theres a young­ster around who would like a few lessons or a bunch of seniors who you could vol­un­teer to teach a small class for.    

To which Jeff Pretz replied:  Thanks for the ideas Mau­ra, help­ing oth­ers seems to be a great way to do a lot of revi­tal­iza­tion!   

Bing described his expe­ri­ence after return­ing from an over­seas deploy­ment:  Alex I had the same issue once I came back from Kan­da­har Afghanistan it had been by that time almost a year since I had carved any major projects, still trapped in the war. But I went for a walk one day into the Cana­di­an Par­lia­ment build­ings and found myself in sur­round­ed by out­stand­ing carv­ings of all shapes and sizes. When I walked out I was ready to launch out and carve. Now I don’t have enough time in the day to do any­thing but carve.   Bot­tom line is go to a muse­um or some where’s you can wit­ness oth­er carvers or carv­ings could be just as sim­ple as pick­ing up a new carv­ing mag.             

Joe Dil­lett:  Excel­lent sug­ges­tions Bing, espe­cial­ly going to a muse­um. That’s got to inspire anyone.

Loren Woodard com­ment­ed:  As far as get­ting your carv­ing mojo work­ing, good luck.  I think we all go through those time.  I went through one not long ago.  I love car­i­ca­ture carv­ing.  I got out some books on car­i­ca­ture carv­ing and read them thor­ough­ly from cov­er to cov­er, dis­cov­ered a cou­ple of new things I want­ed to try and yahoo, I’m carv­ing once again.  Good luck and get back to carv­ing as soon as you can. You’re too good not to get back on it soon.      

Final­ly, Sandie Burgdorf added:  For­get about all of the old projects that you think you should be fin­ish­ing. Pick a new project that you have been think­ing about but put off because you thought you should do the old ones first.   If you pick some­thing you real­ly want to do, you will actu­al­ly start and work on it. Chal­lenge your­self but make sure it’s some­thing you WANT to do.

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.

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Notes From The ‘Net

Notes From The ‘Net

Ques­tions and Answers About Carv­ing Gath­ered From Pop­u­lar Carv­ing Groups

 Edit­ed by Matt Kelley


I was weed­ing through some old files recent­ly and ran across this ques­tion and series of com­ments that appeared in the orig­i­nal Wood­carv­er List mail group back in March 2009,  Although 8 years old, the infor­ma­tion is still quite useful.

On Taking Photos Of Carvings

Alex Bis­so posed the fol­low­ing question:

I have a recur­ring prob­lem with get­ting good pho­tos of carv­ings.  My stan­dard method of tri­al and error with the light­ing, inside and out­side works some­times but not con­sis­tent­ly.  On my last fish for exam­ple, I took one pho­to (after a cou­ple of tries) using a piece of light blue foam from an old camp­ing bedroll and the col­or and con­trast came out very well.  How­ev­er, when I tried to set up with a cloth maroon cloth back­ground to take more pho­tos, it looked good but my cam­era did not like it at all.  The pho­tos were either too dark or too bright and glarey and the col­ors did not look true.  There must be a way to set up for pho­tos that pro­vides a good back­ground and light­ing for true col­or with­out glare.  Can any­one sug­gest some­thing sim­ple and reli­able that might work. 

Byron Kin­na­man was the first to reply:

Get a pho­to cube.  It’s a white nylon cube that dif­fus­es the light and elim­i­nates glare.  They usu­al­ly come with 4 col­ored back­grounds and come in dif­fer­ent sizes.  I bought mine on eBay.   Sim­ply search on eBay for “pho­to cube”  there’s lots to choose from.   The best thing for pho­tog­ra­phy since the inven­tion of film. 

Alex responded:

Thanks Byron — I will look into the pho­to cubes.  I will prob­a­bly still have ques­tions about lighting. 

Joe Dil­lett wrote:

I think Byron’s com­ment about the pho­to cube is good. Oth­er things that are help­ful is always use a tri­pod. I always put some­thing white in the pho­to, even if it’s in the cor­ner that will be cropped off, so the cam­era has some­thing to use it for white bal­ance. Shad­ows help define depth. I like using one light source, gen­er­al­ly from the side, to show shad­ows. Nat­ur­al out­door light seems to be ide­al how­ev­er indoors the day­light type of bulbs yield good results.    Joe Dillett

Mau­ra Coop­er added: 

As for pic­tures, I just bought a new Nikon and the dif­fer­ence in my pic­tures is amaz­ing.  I also thank god for dig­i­tal cam­eras.  I often take up to 20 pics of the same thing, chang­ing the light­ing, chang­ing posi­tions, chang­ing back­grounds. Then load all the pics into my pc and pick out the best one or two. 

Ron Ram­sey penned the following:

If you want a pro­fes­sion­al look­ing pho­to­graph on a bud­get, fol­low these instructions:
Set up a table or sawhors­es against a wall in a room where you will be able to block out all of the the light or to make the room dark at night. You want to be able to con­trol ALL of the light on your carv­ing.  Too much light in the wrong place will cause the col­ors to be washed out or the carv­ing to have too much glare in some areas.  This why it’s NOT RECOMMENDED TO TAKE PHOTOS OUTDOORS!

Go to a fram­ing store and buy a large piece of medi­um grey poster board.  Bend the poster board so that has a curve at the back and is ver­ti­cal against the wall at the top and hor­i­zon­tal against the table at the bot­tom.  Some thumb­tacks out­side the edge will help hold it in place.

Use a min­i­mum of two lights that have swiv­el bases and adjustable arms.  Use CFL bulbs.  Nat­ur­al light bulbs are bet­ter if you don’t plan on pro­cess­ing your pho­tos on pho­to soft­ware. The bulbs should not be more than the equiv­a­lent of 40 watts incan­des­cent.  The rea­son you need two or more lights is that you will need to direct the light from at least two direc­tions to fill the shad­ows.  You will still be able to get shad­ows to show the detail but there wont be areas that are lost in shad­ow.  Cov­er the light bulbs with semi-trans­par­ent trac­ing paper taped to the lamp­shades.  This is to dif­fuse and soft­en the light.  Pro­fes­sion­al pho­tog­ra­phers have spe­cial lights that work essen­tial­ly the same way.  Exper­i­ment with the adjust­ments of the lights.  Do not point the lights direct­ly at the carv­ing.  I some­times point the lights at the ceil­ing to reflect the light off of the white sheet rock.  The ide­al light­ing will be much dark­er to your eye than what appears cor­rect.  Some­times it appears too dark to take a pic­ture but don’t be fooled. 


If the pho­to appears too dark when you upload it, exper­i­ment with the bright­ness and contrast.
USE A TRIPOD!  Set the ISO at 200 or less, and the high­est res­o­lu­tion your cam­era allows.  Too high of an ISO will cause grainy pho­tos. Set the cam­era on man­u­al and don’t use the flash.  Use the timed release to release the shut­ter so there will be no move­ment.  You will be tak­ing the pho­to at a very slow shut­ter speed and any move­ment will cause blur.  Most dig­i­tal cam­eras will set the expo­sure for you. Use a 10 sec­ond time delay to allow the cam­era time to set­tle down after you push the button.

I pre­fer to take under exposed pho­tos and then work with them with pho­to pro­cess­ing soft­ware.  This allows me to enhance the bright­ness and con­trast and adjust the col­ors and sat­u­ra­tion.  The com­put­er pro­cess­ing can take a bit of expe­ri­ence to mas­ter but it’s pos­si­ble to get qual­i­ty raw pho­tos with the pho­tog­ra­phy tech­niques I’ve out­lined above.  Take lots of pho­tos, upload them to the com­put­er and ana­lyze the weak­ness­es.  Adjust light­ing angle etc. and take lots more.  You will learn what works for you and what doesn’t 

Jeff Pretz  commented:

Very Help­ful for us who are learn­ing to take pic­tures of our carv­ings!  Thank you very much Ron! 

MikeG  added: 

Great idea to write down the set up, flash set­ting, posi­tion (flash, cam­era and sub­ject), type of lens and expo­sure num­ber on the paper, so you will know what going on between frames and lot eas­i­er to fig­ure out from tri­al and errors. Dig­i­tal cam­era are lot eas­i­er than 35 mm. Write down every­thing, no mat­ter what or why. With­out record, you waste more time. Good Luck (Great tip by Ron)

Loren Woodard wrote: 

For my pho­tographs I use a home made light tent.  Lynn Diel had an arti­cle in Carv­ing Mag­a­zine a few issues back that told how to make the light tent.  My best results have come with a light blue back­ground.  I use three lights.  My light tent is wrapped with a bed sheet.  I use a clamp-on light fix­ture on top with a stan­dard incan­des­cent bulb that shines through the top of the light tent and onto the light blue back board.  I then light the front with two light that have 13 watt day­light (flo­res­cent) bulbs in them.  I direct one light on each side of the carv­ing.  This set­up seems to work bet­ter for me than any oth­er method that I have tried.  I too had a ter­ri­ble time with light.  As a mat­ter of fact, I had an arti­cle turned down for a carv­ing mag­a­zine because of the pic­tures.  I’ve worked hard on the pho­tographs and the above worked bet­ter for me than anything. 
By all means, don’t use a bare flash. 

Byron Kin­na­man replied to a com­ment about nat­ur­al out­side light:

I agree that it’s hard to find a soft light day.  Pro­fes­sion­als use col­or cor­rect­ed lights and polar­ized fil­ters on the lights for direct light­ing. Many use umbrel­las for soft non-direct light.  The lights are still col­or cor­rect­ed.   I man­aged to find cou­ple 5000°K CFL lights.  From the pic­tures I don’t think they’re exact­ly 5000°K.  I’d like to find some 5900°K light with­out pay­ing an arm and leg for them.  I also use the pho­to cube which pro­vides a nice soft light.  I pre­fer to use 3 lights.   2 at approx­i­mate­ly 45° and one over­head slight­ly behind the sub­ject, some­times ref­er­eed to as a halo light.  With the halo light slight­ly behind, the sub­ject is sep­a­rat­ed from the back­ground and appears to float.  Many cat­a­logs use that technique.

I’m going to dis­agree with part of what you say.   Nat­ur­al dif­fused sun­light pro­duces the nicest pic­tures.  Note I said dis­used.  The col­ors on a cloudy day pop.  Direct sun­light is not good nor is direct light of any kind.  With sun­light you don’t have to fuss with col­or tem­per­a­ture set­tings. Some CFLs have a green cast to them and can be dif­fi­cult to deal with. I’ve had to mess with the col­or tem­per­a­ture set­ting using CFLs.

Ron Ram­sey concluded:

It’s true that cloudy days can work to get great pho­tos but you have to wait for the right day.  Where I live it’s not cloudy that often  and when it is, it’s usu­al­ly rain­ing or snow­ing.  With the indoor method you can take pho­tos on any day or night.   Col­or casts can be a prob­lem so it’s a good idea to get famil­iar with a soft­ware pro­gram that allows you to change the bright­ness, con­trast, sat­u­ra­tion and col­or hue.  The cloudy day method is a good option but I find I have
much more con­trol over the shad­ows and details by using lights.  That’s why pro­fes­sion­al pho­tog­ra­phers use a stu­dio to take pho­tos of art.  Nat­ur­al light can some­times oblit­er­ate fine details because it is com­ing from all direc­tions at once.  By using adjustable lights you can fine tune the look you want and cause the details to show up.

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.

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  • MM slash DD slash YYYY
    Please enter the sub­mis­sion date.
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  • 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.

Selling Finished Work

Selling Finished Work

By Lora S. Irish

I had a ques­tion post­ed to me on one of my mes­sage boards.  The per­son was ask­ing how to sell their fin­ished works (pyrog­ra­phy) and whether to pur­sue art gallery space or craft show space. Per­haps oth­ers will add ideas to this dis­cus­sion on the Wood­carv­er List Face­book group.

In my expe­ri­ence arts and crafts shows often do way bet­ter for carvers and burn­ers than art gal­leries when you are look­ing for sales for your work.

Art gal­leries have lim­it­ed space for work in their brick and mor­tar store fronts, there is only so much room espe­cial­ly for 3‑D dis­play. This means that as a carver/pyrographers your chances of get­ting space are extreme­ly lim­it­ed and if you do win space the num­ber of items they can show for you is limited.

A gallery will charge up to 50% of the sale price of your work as their com­mis­sion. If they offer you a One Man show or Solo Show the costs of the adver­tis­ing and enter­tain­ment for the affair can also be charged against your sales.

Gal­leries work extreme­ly well for flat work as paint­ings, etch­ing or prints. Prints usu­al­ly have the pref­er­ence as they can be racked and are inex­pen­sive­ly priced for cus­tomer from between $50 to $250. Plus print sales sup­port the fram­ing busi­ness that most gal­leries have.

As an artist you can incur unex­pect­ed costs by work­ing through a gallery set­ting.  Often a gallery will require you to car­ry insur­ance on the full sell­ing price of your work to pro­tect them from pay­ing for the nat­ur­al dam­age, wear and tear that can hap­pen to your work while in their cus­tody.  Also you as the artist are finan­cial­ly respon­si­ble for any ship­ping costs to and from the gallery.

High end arts and craft shows on the oth­er hand are where an artist rents space for the affair and then set up their own small, portable shop front. Depend­ing on the show you might be rent­ing a space inside a large build­ing, a cer­tain size of grass plot or some­times a sec­tion of tent. Check to see if you need to pur­chase elec­tric­i­ty or not … if you need it. You will most like­ly need to fur­nish your store set­tings as tables, table cloths and chairs.

For me the biggest dif­fer­ence between a gallery and an arts/craft show is the atmos­phere. A gallery is qui­et, con­tem­pla­tive, one or two peo­ple at a time and ‘I’m con­sid­er­ing buy­ing’ place. A shows in noisy, bus­sel­ly, some­times hordes of peo­ple and ‘I have mon­ey in my pock­ets’ place .…

If I may be so bold as to throw out a few ideas for you to con­sid­er before your next show:

1. Cre­ate your ‘store front’ care­ful­ly and well before you go to any show.

Make it adjustable by using small­er table units (4′ sec­tions) that can be rearranged to fit any space.

Make it match. Go ahead and invest some mon­ey into a nice look­ing arrange­ment of match­ing fur­ni­ture pieces instead of going to the base­ment and grab­bing some saw hors­es and old ply­wood scraps. The first looks pro­fes­sion­al and prof­itable imply­ing that you have made enough sales to jus­ti­fy the set up. The lat­ter looks throw togeth­er and just cheap so to the cus­tomer you obvi­ous­ly are not a sell­ing artist.

Don’t use table cloths to “hide” struc­tur­al units. Use cloth to give accent and col­or to your pieces. Cloth works won­der­ful­ly as a visu­al divider between items or groups of items.

I once saw a set­up of shelves cre­at­ed with small step 5′ high step lad­ders. The lad­ders were paint­ed bright fire engine red with black trim for the met­al parts. Then white paint­ed boards were slid through the steps to cre­ate the shelv­ing. The craft ware could be set on the shelves, cer­tain pieces fea­tured on the step lad­ders top board or inside the A shape of the lad­der steps and more piece hung from the sides of the lad­ders. Easy to put up, take down and extreme­ly eye catching.

2. Some things small and inex­pen­sive — some things medi­um and afford­able — some things expen­sive and impres­sive — at least three things out­ra­geous­ly priced and just in your face atten­tion grab­bers. As a pyro show artist I would include key rings with quick and easy designs and maybe ribbons/silk flow­ers on the key ring that any­one could afford. Next would be my ‘bread and but­ter’ price range with items that both art­sy and use­ful as your purs­es or as spoon hold­ers or let­ter box­es. Then I would show my ‘com­mis­sion’ area of work as burn­ings of a pet por­trait group along with the orig­i­nal pho­tos that I used. Final­ly I would show a few works that were priced just above my chok­ing lim­it as a framed and mat­ted 12″ x 24″ full col­or drag­on burn­ing or a full dec­o­rat­ed man’s leather vest.

(Chok­ing price is where I still have my fin­gers tight­ly gripped around the work but the mon­ey in your hands that you are wav­ing under my nose smells awful good.)

3. Don’t set a table between you and your cus­tomers. Keep an open area where you are invit­ing them into your stu­dio and shop area. A table becomes a visu­al bar­ri­er between you, them, and what you have to sell. It’s the biggest bar­ri­er for a cus­tomer to cross if they want to buy!!!!

Bring along anoth­er per­son so that you have one work­ing the sale and one watch­ing the wares, and take turns. Often my Michael is a far bet­ter sales per­son than I am as he can brag about his wife far bet­ter than I can.  So over the years he was our pri­ma­ry sales­man at any show.

4. When­ev­er pos­si­ble demon­strate at the shows. Set a small table at the side of your booth; in fact creep it out into the walk­ing path. Have sev­er­al pieces on the table in dif­fer­ent fin­ished stages. Let your cus­tomers see how much work goes into what they are going to buy.

Tell them about your­self, how you are a ‘trained artist’ or ‘self-taught’ artist and a lit­tle some­thing about why you chose burn­ing. Cus­tomers love to take home a sto­ry along with their pur­chased item.

5.  Cre­ate bright­ly col­ored match­ing long aprons!  You can get can­vas aprons at or that can be hand paint­ed.  Use acrylic paints and dec­o­rate the whosits out of them.  They don’t have to match for each per­son in the show booth but should have your name plas­tered bold­ly in the upper cen­ter section.

Why!  Because you want them to remem­ber your name. You want them to go home with some­thing more than “I saw this wood carv­er who does chain saw bears”. What you want is for them to go home and tell the sto­ry that they saw this chain saw carv­er named “Carvin’ Calvin”. Hav­ing your shop name or the name you carve under bold­ly paint­ed on your chest is instant adver­tis­ing and instant recog­ni­tion at the next show they go to.

Plus no show per­son wants to stand all day long in their own booth.  Every once in a while you will want to go for a walk, stretch your legs and check out the com­pe­ti­tion.  Why not adver­tise while you do it … :)

6.  Add some­thing smelly to your craft shop.  I know this one sounds fun­ny but smell is a major fac­tor in catch­ing people’s atten­tion and in get­ting them to remem­ber you!  I learned this one through my favorite quilt fab­ric shop.  The own­er had bowls and bowls of pot­pour­ri every­where in the shop.  Her store smelled like apples and cin­na­mon.  Lat­er when I would root through my quilt fab­ric and come across a piece I had pur­chased at her shop that fab­ric still smelled like apples and cin­na­mon … guess who’s store I thought of every time I went look­ing through my fabric!

As a carv­er at a show I would hide cedar chips through­out the store area.  They smell great and they have a com­mon­ly rec­og­nized wood smell.  As a pyro­g­ra­ph­er I prob­a­bly would use one of the musky incense smells, some­thing mas­cu­line and strong as san­dal­wood or a spice smell as nutmeg.

Smell sells … it’s sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly said to be one of the ways we decide who we will part­ner with as mates, so to me it’s fair game as a busi­ness owner.

7. Remem­ber that most sales made through an arts and crafts show come after the show has closed, not dur­ing the show. So have lots of hand out, fliers and busi­ness cards ready with your name, busi­ness name, address, email, blog url, and phone num­ber clear­ly printed.

I remem­ber one of my first show­ings was a real flop, I think we made all of three sales that three day week­end. But the next week­end the phone rang off the hook with peo­ple would had picked up a busi­ness card at the show and want­ed to set up a com­mis­sion sale.

Stan­dard Dis­claimer:  This is just my expe­ri­ence, oth­ers may have a total­ly dif­fer­ent view.  Please take what you want and throw the rest away.,

Designs Online Since 1997 by L.S.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 many of pages of free projects and tutorials.



Beginner Tool Sets

Beginner’s Tool Sets

By Lora S. Irish

I am a real believe in begin­ner’s carv­ing tool sets for sev­er­al rea­sons.  Usu­al­ly we, Mike and I, sug­gest a basic five or six tool set for around $50 and a bench knife or chip knife as your first invest­ment into carv­ing.  So our begin­ners start with an invest­ment of less than $100.

There are sev­er­al forms of carv­ing where one or two tools are real­ly all you need to start our hob­by as fig­ure carv­ing or whit­tling with a bench knife or high qual­i­ty pock­et style knife — chip carv­ing where a chip knife and stab knife will do every­thing you need.  But those two tools — the bench knife/chip knife and stab knife — will not let you explore relief carving!

A basic begin­ner’s set with round gouges, chis­els, skews and v‑gouges will let a begin­ner try every style of carv­ing. After you have set­tled into your favorite style of carv­ing you may end up using just a few of the tools, so some may seem a waste of invest­ment.  For some rea­son I have nev­er got­ten com­fort­able with the skew chis­el?!? But hav­ing enough tool pro­files at the start of your hob­by gives you so much more vari­ety in carv­ing styles that I believe they are worth it.

I start­ed with wood spir­it walk­ing sticks and a bench knife was all I real­ly had to have.  Yet, some­how, I have end­ed up a relief carv­er and just a bench knife won’t get me very far into this form of carving.

With an inex­pen­sive (notice I did not say a CHEAP craft store set) begin­ner’s set you have at hand the basic tools for any carv­ing you might want to try.  As you devel­op you style, dis­cov­er your favorite vari­a­tion of carv­ing then add high qual­i­ty tools specif­i­cal­ly for your type of carv­ing.  But don’t throw that begin­ner’s set away as one day some­thing might catch you atten­tion and you will be delight­ed that you have them on hand.


This basic begin­ners carv­ing set includes two sizes of round chis­els, a skew chis­el, a straight chis­el, and a v‑gouge.  Also shown are a long-blad­ed bench knife and a large chip carv­ing knife for straight-edge cuts.


Sharp­en­ing stones, strops and rouge are an impor­tant part of any carver’s tool kit.  No mat­ter how much a carv­ing tool ini­tial­ly cost, it is no bet­ter than its cut­ting edge.  Shown here are a Japan­ese wet stone, ceram­ic stones, a pro­filed hon­ing strop, leather strop, and a syn­thet­ic strop.  You can also obtain vary­ing grits of emery cloth at your local hard­ware store for edge sharpening.


Many of the tools that will end up in your carv­ing kit are basic house­hold tools.  Scis­sors, ink pens, pen­cils, and graphite paper are used to trans­fer your pat­tern to the wood.  A T‑square will help you prop­er­ly set the pat­tern to the wood blank.  You will need sand­pa­per is sev­er­al grits from 150- to 320-grit for prepar­ing your wood and for smooth­ing out rough areas in the carv­ing.  You will also need mask­ing tape, dust­ing brush­es, and an assort­ment of small rif­fle files.


For many carv­ings, whether you do 3‑D work or relief carv­ing, will require some means of secur­ing the wood.  Shown here is a basic bench hook or brac­ing board that you can make out of scrap ply­wood.  The front edge of the board drops over the edge of your table.  The back cor­ner brace allows you to push the cut­ting stroke into the cor­ner with­out the wood mov­ing from the pres­sure of the tools. (Plans for the bench hook may be found by click­ing HERE).

Just my opinion.,

Designs Online Since 1997 by Lora S. 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 many of pages of free projects and tutorials.



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!

On Woodburning Tools

On the tra­di­tion­al email Wood­carv­er List, James Nor­ton wrote:  I am a novice wood­carv­er who has start­ed a some­what ambi­tious bird carv­ing. I am near­ing the point where I will be detail­ing the feath­ers, and wish to get feed­back from more expe­ri­enced carvers than myself about the best wood­burn­ing tool.  I am look­ing for a set that allows pre­cise tem­per­a­ture con­trol and that has a vari­ety of tips for dif­fer­ent pur­pos­es. Sug­ges­tions wel­come, thanks in advance.

Faulkner2206 replied:  I find the cole­wood “detail­er” works great for bird’s and is rel­a­tive­ly rea­son­ably priced. Tips are easy to change and you will find you need to use just a few dif­fer­ent tips for most birds.

Ear­land­Barb wrote:  Per­son­al­ly, I think all the major brands that you will find in a wood­carv­ing store are pret­ty much equal. Some pre­fer one, some anoth­er. I am hap­py with my Nib­s­burn­er but I don’t think they are mak­ing them any more. For­tu­nate­ly, I can use Cole­wood tips with it.

Stephen Blak­ley added:  I take class­es from a guy who uses Razor tips.  He believes the tips are bet­ter than the Col­wood.  To do the quill, I pur­chased a Razor tip pen and tip, with an adapter to fit the Col­wood.  He honed down the one tip on my Col­wood  so that it was thinner.

Faulkner2206 replied:  I always hone my burn­er tips, both Cole­wood and Razor. Sharp­en them like a knife for real­ly tight feath­er barbs. Much of this becomes a mat­ter of per­son­al pref­er­ence based on what you get used to.

Byron Kin­na­man wrote:  The trou­ble with mak­ing the tips thin­ner is they burn up faster.

The tech­ni­cal aspects of wood burn­ing tips — any con­duc­tor (the tip is a con­duc­tor) the small­er the cross sec­tion­al area, the high­er the resis­tance, and the hot­ter the tip.  The more frag­ile the tip, the soon­er you’ll have to replace the tip.

One con­sid­er­a­tion is the mate­r­i­al the pen is made of.  You want a pen that does­n’t trans­fer heat eas­i­ly.  This will allow you use it longer than one that made of mate­r­i­al that is know for it’s abil­i­ty to trans­fer heat, like alu­minum.  Plas­tics can be made to either slow down heat trans­fer or speed up heat trans­fer.   Most wood burn­ing pens that are plas­tic are of the slow down heat trans­fer type.   The alu­minum pens trans­fer heat rapidly.

Anoth­er thing to watch out for is hype.  There’s a cou­ple man­u­fac­tures that hype their prod­uct and demand a high­er price.  A cou­ple hype capa­ble of 150 Watts, typ­i­cal wood­burn­ing hap­pens below 30 watts.  2000° tip tem­per­a­ture, what are you try­ing to do?, melt the tip, start a fire?  There are sev­er­al good wood burn­ers out there with­out buy­ing the hype.

Faulkner2206 added:  When burn­ing feath­ers  low heat and sharp tips make for bet­ter birds. Tips are not per­ma­nent, they are expend­able just like glue and paint.

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.

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  • 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.

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.

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    Please enter the sub­mis­sion date.
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  • 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 7

Susan bio shot        Burs for Beginner Power Carvers

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. 

 Gene Webb Burrs 1

These four burs com­plet­ed the two carv­ings I am about to show you. These burs will also work on bass­wood, and walk­ing sticks. 

Gene Webb burrs 3
#1 is a Sabur­tooth, yel­low flame. 1/8th” shaft. I use it for rough­ing out small spir­its, Indi­an, etc.  

Gene Webb Burrs 4

#2 is a super coarse ruby. I used it to smooth them up.  3/32 shaft.

Gene Webb Burrs 5

#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.

Gene Webb Burrs 2

Gene Webb Burrs 6

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!!

Chain Saw Carving

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, 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.



Susan Alexander’s “Let’s Talk Carving” Issue 5


Please refer to and fol­low all man­u­fac­tur­ers’ directions.

We take so many every­day things for grant­ed. While I try to be grate­ful for the many bless­ings life has bestowed on me, with carv­ing and my carv­ing friends high on my list, some of the sim­plest mir­a­cles escape my atten­tion because I did­n’t know they even existed.

Those were my thoughts as I lis­tened to David J. Lin­den, an Amer­i­can pro­fes­sor of neu­ro­science at The Johns Hop­kins Uni­ver­si­ty School of Med­i­cine, being inter­viewed on the radio. When the inter­view con­clud­ed, I ordered his book Touch – The Sci­ence of Hand, Heart and Mind so I could share two facts about touch that he discussed.

The Science of Hand, Heart and Mind by David Linden

The Sci­ence of Hand, Heart and Mind by David Linden

Although Lin­den spoke on sev­er­al aspects of his book, the first of two items that caught my atten­tion was his point­ing out that when we hold a tool, do we real­ize that we are able to actu­al­ly feel what the end of the tool has touched? Stop for a moment and think about this. It was some­thing I had nev­er considered.

Accord­ing to Lin­den, this is pos­si­ble because although our hands have four dif­fer­ent touch recep­tor sys­tems, it is the 350 Pacin­ian cor­pus­cles (that look like a tiny cross-sec­tion of an onion) in each fin­ger that allow us to feel what the end of the tool has touched. The Pacin­ian cor­pus­cles are extreme­ly sen­si­tive to tiny vibra­tions, and each vibra­tion received sends fire spikes to our spinal cord and then on to our brain stem so we can inter­pret what the end of our tool is doing.

While Lin­den used a shov­el as his exam­ple, of course, I was think­ing about a bench knife or a gouge cut­ting into wood grain. In Linden’s words, “When we use a tool, like a shov­el, we can per­ceive tac­tile events at the work­ing end of the tool almost as if our fin­gers were present there. Imag­ine dig­ging into a pile of grav­el with a shov­el and then doing the same with a pile of soft, loose top­soil. You can eas­i­ly dis­tin­guish the dif­fer­ent prop­er­ties of grav­el or top­soil through the shov­el, even though your hands are far away from the con­tact point. Fur­ther­more, with prac­tice, our abil­i­ty to inter­pret this kind of long-range touch infor­ma­tion improves. In this way, the violinist’s bow, the surgeon’s scalpel, the mechanic’s wrench or the sculptor’s chis­el effec­tive­ly become sen­so­ry exten­sions of the body.”

So the rea­son you can feel the dif­fer­ence between carv­ing bark and carv­ing wal­nut is because of the 350 Pacin­ian cor­pus­cles in each of your fin­gers turn­ing the tool’s vibra­tions in your hand into ener­gy and send­ing fire spikes rac­ing to your spinal cord and then up to your brain.


The sec­ond point of inter­est from Linden’s book that I want­ed to share, and that affects each of us, is how we feel pain. Here’s a brief synopsis:

Ever cut your­self – deeply – then said, “Oh *&%# that is gonna hurt!” and wait­ed for the pain to hit? In Linden’s book, he explained the rea­son for the inter­lude between the first pain we feel and the sec­ond pain that arrives afterwards.

The ini­tial pain we feel trav­els to our brain fast. It’s car­ried to our spinal cord and up to our brain by a mix­ture of two types of fibers – A‑delta and A‑beta. The A‑beta fiber trans­mits that first painful elec­tri­cal spike at 150 miles per hour. It tells you to stop cut­ting your­self … or to take your hand off the hot pot. In oth­er words: THIS HURTSSTOP NOW!

The sec­ond wave of pain (that you wait for) is trans­mit­ted by C‑fibers that trav­el at only 2 miles per hour. This pain’s pur­pose is to demand you do some­thing to pro­mote heal­ing – like stop­ping the bleeding.

Isn’t it amaz­ing that elec­tri­cal spikes are trav­el­ing through our body at 150 miles per hour, and we are total­ly unaware of it? And, isn’t it a coin­ci­dence that the author’s last name, Lin­den, is also the name of the lin­den tree, com­mon­ly known as bass­wood? Hmmmm.

Now, if any­one asks why you carve so often, you can smile and tell them that you are improv­ing your mind’s abil­i­ty to inter­pret long-range touch information.

That should work.



Sub­ject: Let the Shad­ows Tell You

I received a very inter­est­ing TIP from a carv­er named Shorty Short.

I am a hob­by­ist carv­er. I use to sell my work on-line by request order. Since my wife died I just carve what I want and give them away. My sug­ges­tion is one of my dis­abil­i­ties that I have dis­cov­ered ben­e­fi­cial. I am almost total­ly colorblind. 

When look­ing at pic­tures or live fig­ures such as birds, rep­tiles or facial fig­ures turn off the lights from time to time and have one small light off to the side when exam­in­ing your piece. Let the shad­ows show you what you need to enhance or bring out. Carv­ing is cre­at­ing illu­sions mak­ing a 1/4″ nose look extreme­ly large. Some­times col­or can mis­guide your desired out­come. Try it and see if it works for you!

Fas­ci­nat­ing! This is some­thing I’ll def­i­nite­ly try. Thank you, Shorty!


Sub­ject: Eagle Head Walk­ing Sticks

In response to last month’s email from Mike Her­mann ask­ing about eagle head walk­ing sticks, I received the fol­low­ing email from “Jake Resid­ing in Ohio – a Iowa Hawk­eye at Heart.

I make eagle canes for wound­ed war­riors. I use a design from WCI spring 2006 issue 34 page 64. It is real­is­tic in design. Maybe he could get a back issue or look for it online. If you would like to see some of the canes I have done go to the site and click on Ohio recip­i­ents. They are list­ed as by Jake Jacob­sen, Myron Jacob­sen and some are list­ed by Huber Heights senior carvers. Mine are done com­plete­ly by myself. They are the ones with a han­dle above the eagle head as I drill through them so they can be mount­ed on the shaft rather than as the cane handle.

This URL will take you to the site where cane pic­tures are dis­played. I have pro­vid­ed canes more than 80+ canes I do not know the exact num­ber as I lost track. When you get there click on Ohio.

As it hap­pens, I have the Wood­Carv­ing Illus­trat­ed issue that Jake ref­er­ences. To make it eas­i­er for Mike to find WCI Issue 34, I took a pho­to of the cov­er and the first page of the arti­cle, so you could see the type of eagle described. The arti­cle, Real­is­tic Eagle Bust,  writ­ten by Pat Miku­la Moor, includes full carv­ing instructions.

WoodCarving Illustrated Issue 34

Wood­Carv­ing Illus­trat­ed Issue 34


Pat Mikula Moore's Eagle Article in WCI Issue 34

Pat Miku­la Moore’s Eagle Arti­cle in WCI Issue 34

Jake, that’s a ter­rif­ic sug­ges­tion for Mike, and you have my sin­cere thanks for all the canes you’ve carved for our vet­er­ans. Bless you.


Sub­ject: Win­dow Fans and Fur­nace Filters

I received an email from Jan Omega out of Ontario, Cana­da. Jan has the great­est sense of humor. I met Jan and his wife once, over 8 years ago, and I still have a small cot­tage he carved. Here’s Jan’s TIP.

As you well know I am NOT much of a read­er (lips get tired) but I read all of your let­ters. WELL DONE !!

I do use the old 2’x2’ x6” win­dow fans in my prepa­ra­tion shop 10’x14’ Have them hang­ing from the ceil­ing and have fur­nace fil­ters taped on BOTH sides so all my air in that small shop gets fil­tered con­stant­ly while I do cut­ting and or grinding

I DO spray “Endust ” on the fil­ters so all dust gets caught and once in a while I vac­u­um the fil­ters and because of the “ENDUST” it comes off easy.

You have your self a great day now you hear.

Two great TIPS from Jan – secur­ing fur­nace fil­ters on a fan, and then spray­ing them with Endust! While I can’t hang a fan from my drop ceil­ing, I thought this was such an inter­est­ing idea that I bought a box of fur­nace fil­ters and attached one to a fan with a bungee cord. Here’s a pic­ture of how it turned out. I still have to attach one to the back.

Box Fan with Filter

Box Fan with Filter


Now, I just have to remem­ber to buy the Endust! Thank you, Jan!! To learn more about Jan, his carv­ing stu­dio, and to see his carv­ing gallery, go to

It’s all about Carvers Help­ing Carvers!


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



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.


Susan Alexander’s Let’s Talk Carving Issue #3

Susan bio shot      Do They All Look Alike?


Please refer to and fol­low all man­u­fac­tur­ers’ direc­tions.

Do your wiz­ards, house and wood spir­its all have the same expres­sion on their face? Do they look as if they are relat­ed to each oth­er and have the same blood line, but not in a good way? Do you need some­thing to spark your imag­i­na­tion to find new and dif­fer­ent faces to carve? Oh do I have a TV Show for you!

First, a caveat: I don’t watch scary movies. I don’t like scary movies, but for the last three years, I’ve been watch­ing Face Off on the SyFy Chan­nel sim­ply because I am amazed at how artists can cre­ate “char­ac­ters” which is exact­ly what we do when we carve faces.

Face Off is a com­pe­ti­tion series that explores the work of spe­cial-effects make­up artists. You can go to to see some of their work from past episodes, but it is best to watch full episodes (also avail­able on their web­site) because it takes you through the artists’ (the series begins with approx­i­mate­ly 10 dif­fer­ent artists) thought process­es, sketch­es, clay mod­els, col­or choic­es, wardrobes, and reviews. Admit­ted­ly, you prob­a­bly would not carve 90% of the crea­tures the artists cre­ate, but watch­ing the cre­ative process is mes­mer­iz­ing, espe­cial­ly when they decide to cre­ate “nature” crea­tures. This is where our wood spir­its, house spir­its and wiz­ards appear – even a few gnomes and dwarfs.

The judges, Ve Neill, Glenn Het­rick and Neville Page are spe­cial-effects mas­ters who have worked on movies such as Star Trek, Pirates of the Caribbean, Beetle­juice, Mrs. Doubt­fire (Ve Neill did Robin Williams’ make­up), Buffy, X‑Files, The Amaz­ing Spi­der-Man, Plan­et of the Apes, The Incred­i­ble Hulk, The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe, and togeth­er have won Acad­e­my Awards and Emmys. When the judges point out the com­peti­tors’ errors, we are all giv­en the oppor­tu­ni­ty to learn from them. The judges also dis­cuss why cer­tain artists fail, which often includes bal­ance and pro­por­tion – some­thing we all use in our carving.

Take time to watch one Face Off episode. Don’t be turned off if they are doing zom­bies or skele­tons. Over­look the sub­ject mat­ter and lis­ten to the judges. We can all pick up a few point­ers, and you will def­i­nite­ly find new expres­sions for your carvings.



Last month, I did a shout-out for fel­low carv­er, Rich Neely, who asked for tips, videos or books on carv­ing a female face.

Short­ly there­after, the cav­al­ry (con­sist­ing of “Ol’ Don” Burgdorf and Don Mertz) arrived full of edu­ca­tion­al infor­ma­tion. I’ve down­loaded a few pic­tures so you have an idea of their offer­ings. I love Ol’ Don’s warning.

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