Saturday, March 7, 2015

Charlotte 2015...

Tom Wolfe Whittling Competition - Day 1
Well, the 2015 Charlotte Woodcarvers show has come and gone however its impact remains.  Folks, this crew knows how to throw a show and has an outstanding membership in support.  I have been going to their show for around 8 years and two venues.  While this competition covers the majority of carving categories it is one of the best for Caricature Carvers given the talent it draws. 
Anchoring this show is the support Tom Wolfe and Case Knives have long provided.  Tom hosts two whittling competitions, one each day, where all carvers are welcome.  In the case of 2015 one of our young talents, relief carver Dylan Goodson, swept both competitions as he applied his relief carving talent to the given block.  In these competitions, which are free, the carvers are handed a block of wood, told the rules (if there are any), and are given 1.5 hours to complete the carving.  Having sat in these competitions I can tell you it will test your mettle and through effort improve your skills.  This competition usually draws a large crowd with high interest.  For the competitors each are given a prize of sorts for use in there whittling adventures and we carvers are grateful to Case Knives, Heinecke Wood Products, and Smoky Mountain Woodcarvers for their longtime support.
It should be noted that the show is free and open to the public.  For competing carvers there is a standard entry fee for the competition which offsets the costs, but in return there are many carving forums held throughout the weekend on a wide range of carving topics and styles.
All in all a great show... and my thanks to a great club for making all of us feel welcome.  Let's hope for many more years!!
Ok, so it's still can't do that much get carvin'!!!!!!

Charlotte Woodcarvers Club

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

A new recipe...

How Much?
A. Filetti - 2015
  As always I am out there ever searching for something new to learn about this art and I was fortunate to be taught a new finishing recipe.  As with all recipes you are seeking to improve your outcome and this was an experiment to do just that.
  The figure pictured here was featured in the previous post and is the completed piece.  The carving is now at home with a friend but the experience was an excellent learning experience.  During the holidays I turned to to see what was available in helping to pick a color palette for painting the figure.  It turns out there are several videos on color theory which provide a whole range of information.  For me I tried to keep it simple using complementary colors (blue and orange) in order to create an attractive piece.
  Put the color study together with a new finishing recipe and you end with a finish as shown.
  The new recipe involves first slathering a 60/40 Mineral Spirits/Boiled Linseed Oil mixture on the entire fixture and letting it dry,  painting it with thinned Acrylics (to allow for the wood grain to show),  sealing it with Deft Spray Lacquer (I prefer Satin or Matte), and then once dry carefully applying BriWax Original (Golden Oak) with a toothbrush and then buffing.  Care should be taken when applying the wax as it will darken the finish drastically (The jeans were painted a denim blue and the shirt a light blue.)  When applied correctly the recipe seems to work well resulting in a warm and attractive finish.  It is my recommendation that if you attempt this you must first try this on a test piece to master the application of the wax.  Also, I do not believe you will get a better result with a substitution wax as the color tends to enrich the carvings shadows.
  I hope this information helps...its darn cold outside but the coffee is what are you carving???

Sunday, November 23, 2014


Line of Action
A. Filetti 2014
Instilling motion into our carvings is one way of creating greater interest.  Motion as shown in the post does not have to be dramatic but rather it must be realistic in nature.  The carving at left demonstrates the subtle line of action and the resulting pose of the carving.
While many instructors teach this method a great reference for this that is used by many carvers is the book Cartoon Animation by Preston Blair  (ISBN 1-56010-084-2).  The book teaches many of the rules of animation (motion) in an easy to understand fashion and is well worth the coin if you can obtain one for a reasonable price,  Amazon is a good place to look.
In the picture included in this post I have taken a picture of the intended line of action as indicated by the pipe cleaner and the resulting roughout.  Motion is something that requires constant attention as it can be easily corrupted resulting in a carving that is distracting rather than pleasing.
In future posts I will speak to design and how stick figures help with design and motion but for now take a look at what you are carving...does it contain motion?  or is it static and straight forward?  It is difficult to break away from static carvings and carving a head that is tilted or tipped takes practice but it is achievable and will teach you about our medium and how the grain of the wood acts in three dimensions.
The days continue to grow shorter and our chores diminish with the approaching winter, now is the time to plan your carvings and experiment with something new.  What will you do to improve your carvings?
The coffees hot and plentiful...grab a cup and start carving!!

Friday, October 3, 2014

This will keep you busy...

Dave Stetson Progression
A. Filetti
So at last year's Artistry in Wood show held in Dayton, Ohio I stopped by Dave Stetson's booth where he was selling two videos.  One was on the carving of an eye, the other Whittling a Head.  Having saved my money for the show the video appealed to me as a way to expand my carving knowledge and so I plunked down my Washingtons and brought home a copy.
To give you a bit of a background Dave is a founding member of the Caricature Carvers of America so he's been carving a long time and is serious about promoting the art form.  Dave has an extensive art knowledge and with this video he does elude to his knowledge of human anatomy.  His artworks have a broad appeal and as was demonstrated by his display of Noah's Ark.  I have several reference pictures of his artwork in my Artist's Morgue as he is willing to tackle a wide variety of subjects and his finishing techniques are distinctive (he likes to say he learned to paint from Michelle).  One technique of his that I use to this day is the use of a "Paper Palette".  I saw him use this while painting a figure and while most folks like to use cups or egg cartons for holding their paints a paper palette enables me to have greater consistency with my colors (it is definitely worth a try...ask about them at your art supply store). 
The video does showcase his talents as he is able to produce the carved head in just 42 minutes of continuous carving and if you get a chance to view the video you will see what a sharp knife should cut like...his knives were surely in Grade 'A' condition as evidenced by the ease with which they sliced through the stock.
In my book Dave falls into the category of a 'commercial' carver seeing as he has business interests in the art form.  This categorization needs to be noted as it does influence ones approach to carving.  An example of this would be that a commercial carver tends to carve and finish their pieces in a way that appeals to customer and on the opposite side of the spectrum would be the recreational carver who carves what appeals to themselves which eliminates outside motives or interests. 
With the aforementioned knowledge I set about whittling a head from the video...and after two tries I had successfully completed a satisfactory carving.  The task is not as easy as one might think as the video is more of a demonstration video and not step-by-step instructional.
After completing this I proposed to my carving friends that we try and create progression of the steps demonstrated and with some good stock of Heinecke Wood products we set about the task.  Now this might seem interesting to you but I should warn you that the result shown above took many hours to complete and is not a trivial task.  Having performed this I can only imagine how long it took Marv Kaisersatt to do his progression (> 20 pieces with specific coloring).
One thing my group tried to do was to vary face shapes along the way as you can see from the picture.  The figure carved is one that is generated from the corner of the block which tends to be a popular teaching method.  It should also be noted that the head carved is what I would refer to as a 'stock' head as it is carved straight forward (no twist, tilt, or tipping), so if you are looking to expand your abilities to create motion in a head this would not be the right tool.
Another thing we can note from the video as that many artists out there vary on their interpretation of human anatomy and what items are present in the human face, we recently had the pleasure of watching a video of some outstanding pumpkin carving however the artists view on the construction of the face differ from what is demonstrated on this video.  My advice would be to ensure you obtain a copy of an anatomy book specifically for artists for reference and also to not rely on a single source for your understanding.  One good reference that is an easy read is Tom Richmond's book on Caricature as its approach to anatomy lessons is easily understandable.
Now as a caveat to my opinion I need to state that I am not one who carves in Dave's style,  this influences my opinion as the purchase of the video was not so I could follow in his footsteps but rather so I could expand my overall carving knowledge.  I am very cautious when it comes to my carving style and try and limit unnecessary influences that might negatively impact what I have learned to date.  This is something each carver must consider especially if you want to step out of the shadows and have your carving be of your own distinctive design.
Overall my opinion of the video is it provided me with substantial value for the price paid and if you are looking to expand your whittling knowledge it is a demonstration in what can be accomplished with just a knife.
On the effort of carving a progression, well lets just say if you do decide you are up to the task ensure you will be able finish as its a marathon not a sprint.

In stepping off my soap box I have only one question to ask...what steps are you taking to expand your carving knowledge? 


Saturday, September 20, 2014

A little something...

A. Filetti 2014
As I learned from a good friend sometimes carving small figures can bring some of the greatest joy.  This figure was started from a simple  1.5" X 1.5" X 4" block while sitting in a lawn chair watching my better half and my niece swim while on vacation. 
The figure was created by first establishing the front profile and then adjusting the side profile to give the figure movement.  The "movement" I am referring to is the minor adjustments that break away from that straight ahead figure.  In the case of Stan he has alternate foot placements, hand placements, upper torso twist, and his head is turned as well.  These small movements help to bring the figure to life.
Once the front profile is roughed in you are on to a series of small cuts.  These figure types require effective use of triangle cuts and improve a carvers cutting skills.  In addition the carver gets a chance to carve a full figure which also helps the carver advance.
Now for those who don't think you can do it,  what do you have to lose by trying...heck for a dollar you get 3 tries and a whole lotta entertainment.
It's a beautiful day, why don't you give this a try? 

Congratulations are in order...I hear through the grapevine that Mr. Steve Brown and Mr. Dale Green have been elected to the Caricature Carvers of America.  Great job guys! 

Sunday, August 31, 2014

A new deal...

Chris Hammack Barflies

So I was speaking with my contemporaries and it was heard through the grapevine that due to the popularity of Chris Hammack's Barflies he was going to offer a subscription.  Rumors being rumors I reached out to my friend for the details.  For those of you interested here are the details Chris has provided:

Here's the barfly details.

Basically, I have lots of people that are carving all the barflys as they come out, so I decided to start a "barfly of the month" club. Starting in October and the first of every month thereafter, for $18.50 I will send them a brand new barfly and go-by sheet every month. I have the first six already carved. I'll attach a photo of these six to a separate email. And once a year I will send them a free one if they are a member of the club. Also, these barflys will only be available to club members. They can also order more than one, study casts, or finished castings of these barflys once they are out. They will only go on my regular website for sale to everyone after they have been available to the BTM members only for a year or so.  That's the program! Should be fun to carve and they will be all types of different subjects as you will see in the picture. 

All I need to sign them up is the following;
Address to ship to
Credit card number
Name on card
Expiration date on card
Authorization number on back of card
Zip code card is billed to 

That's it! They can send me the info at: 
Chris Hammack
PO box 2424
Stephenville, TX 76401

Or email me at my personal email.
Or call my cell. 254-485-0668

I hope this information serves you well and you are able to enjoy the menagerie that can only come from the talented mind of Chris Hammack.

Summer is ending and fall begins favorite time of the year.  No lawn mowing and more time to enjoy carving.  Carpe diem (and a knife too!)

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Knife Notes...

Knives: Shipley WK-2 New Generation, Helvie - Hammack Detail,
Original Denny 1 7/8", Dunkle Detail
For the unknowing we Caricature Carvers enjoy a good much so that I believe the majority of our carving budget is spent on knives, yes even more than wood.  As such I thought now would be a good time to revisit the marketplace and post my observations.
As stated in previous posts our knife marketplace shifted considerably in the last 10 years due to the sale of Ron Wells, Denny, and Helvie knives to Mike Shipley(Wells, Denny) and Rich Smithson (Helvie).  This shake up did not affect other knife makers such as Dunkle who still remains in the family. 
With these changes came a measure of skepticism...would the new owners be able to maintain the quality and loyalty the previous owners had so enjoyed??  Here's my thoughts:

Dunkle - No change here, John Dunkle provides a wide variety of knife shapes with very colorful handles.  While John has worked hard to not endear himself to the caricature carving collective his knives do have an undeniable quality when it comes to use in detailing and knife maintenance.  These knives have a nice flat grind that enable an easy pull and limit the chance of curruption to the cutting edge as they are the easiest to strop to the point of being almost foolproof.  The downside to these blades is that they are ideal for triangle cuts and stop cuts however they lack versatilty when it comes to whittling and rolling cuts.  John's offerings have several shapes that are perfect for initial detail knives for those new to caricature carving and are easy to maintain.  The more experienced carvers tend to limit these knives in their collection due to lack of versatility and that these knives tend to be priced at the top of the market.

Drake - Gil Drake has worked hard to gain a greater foothold in the market with his distinct gouges and the beauty of his handles.  Gil's knives do add a beauty to the toolbox and the knives are of good quality, versatile, and they come in a variety of blade and handle knife shapes.  These knives tend to be priced at the upper end of the market.

Helvie - Rich Smithson worked closely with Ken Helvie when purchasing this knife brand and has put an extensive effort and investment into the caricature carving world by forming a close relationship with some of the leading carvers in the art form.  Rich has demonstrated his pyrography ability through the application of this art to what he call his "Signature Series" knives.  He has also held knife handle carving competitions that encourage caricature carving while raising money for charities.  Of note is the signature series and how Rich has worked with the carver he has partnered with to create a knife that the feature carver has designed.  Of note is my recent purchase of a Chris Hammack Detail knife.  This knife's blade shape and handle are of a traditional shape however the grind is quite unique in the fact that the rounded bevel runs down the center of the length of the leaving a very thin spine.  This makes the knife quite flexible and also enables it to easily accomplish either large or small rolling cuts.  If this is your desire this is a knife worth purchasing.  Please understand that this style of knife is not designed for great abuse and requires special care when maintaining the blade...all the work is worth it though.  My hats off to Chris for the design, and for Rich being willing to take the risk.  For our community we should take note of the series designs but also understand that each model varies based on the designer.

Shipley (OCCT)  - Mike procured first the Denny brand and then went on to procure the Wells brand as well.  For many a caricature carver this was a dark time as Mike had taken over two of the most revered knife brands and the workhorses of our art and skepticism was high.
So let's start with what I believe had the most loyal following...the Wells brand.  Ron had produces the ultimate workhorse in knives that came with the probably one of the best grinds out there topped off with it's distinctive walnut handles.  The handles were somewhat oversized but allowed for folks like me to custom carve them for a custom and most reliable fit.  The steel utilized was excellent but not highly polished as some others are today.  I have to admit the first time I used an original I was overwhelmed at the carving ability of the tool, so much so that I ensured I bought an extra to preserve that quality for me for a long time.  Mike has had his hands full with not only the takeover of a single knife company but having to absorb both.  At the time of this writing I have to say that I believe the Wells identity when it comes to knives has been lost.  Of note here is my recent purchase of an OCCT New Generation WK-2 which is advertised as having a flatter grind that would make for an easier pull.  I have to admit I read into that statement that this would be a knife that hearkened back to what Ron had created but sadly I do not find that to be the case.  The knife is of excellent quality however it did not turn out to be what I had hoped for...a knife that Ron would have made.  I think the identity was lost to the influence of the Denny purchase and I can only hope that somehow what was lost will be recovered.
On the flipside is the Denny style which Mike had procured first and worked tirelessly to ensure it maintained its heritage.  For us carvers seeing the copper rivets go by wayside (I believe to the cost of copper) was distressing but that was the limit of the concern shown.  The 1 7/8 detail knife (1-7SK) still offered today is my go-to knife and the one knife I would recommend for beginners to first place in their toolbox and keep for a lifetime.  These knives still have outstanding versatility with an improved grind.  They allow for easy modification to fit the carvers desire while maintaining the most reasonable price point (< $25).   Mike should be commended for his efforts here as these are tools worth recommending.

Now some of you might be asking yourself what knives should a caricature carver stay away from.  For me that is easy and it is strictly due to their design.  I would not recommend a carver try and use a Flextool or Murphy (bench) knife for this style of carving.  These knives have a heavy spine and do not produce the quality of cut needed for this style.  This does not mean that they do not have their place in the carving world but rather they do not have a design that I could recommend for caricature carving.

So that's my latest perception and opinion.  It would be worthwhile to hear your thoughts on the subject

Fall is approaching fast...grab a block of wood,a sharp knife, a beverage and a seat on the lawn while you still can and carve something!!