Monday, December 28, 2009

Designing in clay... a further step towards creating more carvings of my own design  I am taking the carving advice given to me by three well respected carvers (Marv Kaisersatt, Fred Zavadil, and Joe You) and am starting my next design in clay.
   This summer I had the pleasure of seeing a local artisan (Phillippe Faraut) work clay in his studios, he is an amazing artist and most happily shared some of his techniques.  So the wife and I trekked to the local Ceramics supplier and picked up some tools and 100 lbs. of clay.  I spent some of my most recent free time building two sculpting stands and with the recent holiday stretch I have been able to take some vacation and got around to creating this gentlemen on the left.  I am by no means an expert when it comes to working in clay and would only rate myself as a rookie.  Using the knowledge gained from my studio visit and employ some of the recent knowledge I gained by studying anatomy I was able to create him quite simply and yes I now know what a "Zygomatic arch" is and it's location.
The clay being utilized is VERY pliable and easy to mold without having some of the 'memory' and stiffness found in other clays.  It is true though that if I would like this to be permanent I would have to have it fired (unlike some other products that can be baked).  Since clay is not the final medium but rather wood then permanence is not a factor.  You may have noticed that the piece is not completely finished but can be easily completed in a matter of about an hour.  The progress shown in the picture took about 3 hours of fun time.
    As far as the design goes I did nothing special to prepare but knew the headshape and basic essence of the face.  I let caricature and anatomy steer me the rest of the way.  Once completed I will transfer a side profile to a block of my finest basswood and let the chips fly...I'll try and post pictures as progress is made.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A look into another carving mentors world...

For all of you who know Marv Kaisersatt's work the CCA Website is hosting a slideshow of the infamous apartment.  If you know me you know how much I admire this man's work and the effort he puts forth.  The images show only a portion of his work.  I have on a couple of occasions been able to have a couple of conversations with him and he has been a big influence in the creation of "my style of carving".

So if you have a chance, DO check this out as it will give you some insight as to the artistic effort he puts forth. 

I would send a personal thank you to Marv for all he continues to give to the rest of us, our art has been forever blessed by your contributions.

Friday, December 11, 2009

CCA 2010 Seminars...

...the CCA has announced the instructors for their annual seminar to be held in Converse, Indiana in 2010.  More information can be found at the following link:


Stay warm out there!!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

...and a one, and a two...

...and a three!  The carving at left was carved this Fall and is destined to be given as a present to a nearby friend.  It was carved in a class given by Mr. Eldon Humphries, here in western NY.  This humorous character is one of Eldon's designs (he has got a quite a few good designs he is currently working with).  This class was very enjoyable and Eldon is a good instructor and each carver left with a well completed carving. 
   Having said all this, I must be honest and say that this carving is really not "my style".  I was shown the carving prior to deciding on the class.  Now this might have you asking "why would I spend the money on a class that is going to carve a figure I personally would not normally carve?".  The answer is quite simple though.  My artistic skills are the composite of all types of knowledge from all sorts of places, media, and instructors.  I attend classes in the hopes that I will learn a new technique, or techniques I would care not to repeat.  The more methods I have at my disposal the greater of variety of carvings I can produce.  So when you are contemplating your next course ask yourself "what can this instructor offer me?"  Once you have an answer to that you can determine whether or not you would be getting your hard earned monies worth.
  As for this class and this carving...I learned to simulate ruffles and scrolls.  Something that will come into use in the future, as for the carving I am sure my friend will cherish it as it truly represents the eccentric individual he is. 

Friday, November 27, 2009

How do I...

  Inspiration can come from just about anywhere,  however, when we are inspired we often find that we just don't know how to go about it.  A nice assortment of reference books can assist with this. 
  In the picture shown at left is Andrew Loomis' "Fun with a Pencil" a great instructional drawing book that was purchased off of Ebay.  Also in the picture are Cartoon Animation which I use to help me design motion into my carvings,  Tales from the Crypt which has great physcal detail of the human body especially when it comes to expression, and the last book is Warner Brothers "That's all Folks" which is a wonderful history of the Animators and how their work and efforts grew with time and effort.  These books as well as a whole lot more provide me the basic information I need to create the effect I am looking for.  So next time you are at your library browse through the drawing and animation books as well as books about the things you know (I grew up reading Tales from the Crypt comics and watching Bugs Bunny).  For more immediate results you can always do a Google image search too.
  Enjoy the holiday weekend...carve something!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sketchy Sundays...

  Sundays are my day!!  I work all week and have a sizeable piece of real estate that requires my attention regularly, but Sundays are mine!  OK, they are really only mine because the "spousal unit" is working.
  When this golden opportunity came about I wanted to make sure a portion of the day was dedicated to my love of Caricature Carving.  I also like a nice breakfast too, something I do not get everyday.  So every Sunday morning I get up and head down to the local diner and tuck myself away in the farthest corner booth and break out my sketch pad.  Over the last few years I have been working to break away and not just carve what everyone else is carving but rather to try and be able to carve what I would like to carve ( please understand this is my desire and in no way should be construed as a slam against those who love to carve the "standards")  .  Even if you are not looking towards designing your own carvings, if you draw at regular intervals, your carving skills will improve.  All you need is something to draw on and my personal favorite a Ticonderoga #2.  If you'd like to take it a little deeper, then I would recommend you visit your local art store,  pick up a simple sketch pad, a kneadable eraser (the gray blob in the picture),  and some Prismacolortm Col-Erase pencils (blue works well).  The visit to the Art store will not break the bank.  If it's truly an Art Store (not a major craft chain store) you should take some time to browse,  there are a lot of neat tools and methods that can come in handy.
  For something to draw pick a copy of someones sketches and just start copying (a sketchbook from Bobby Chiu at is shown in picture).  This practice will help you overcome one of the biggest issues we face...overcoming our subconcious tendancy to see things as a "whole".  When we look at someone we tend to see their face, rather than seeing the parts that make up the whole.  Being able to break this down allows us to accentuate a feature appropriately to the point of Caricature.  Besides, doing it is just plain fun. It does not have to have a purpose, just let it be enjoyable.  Sure some days will be better than others, but who cares?  You are doing it for yourself and in doing so you are nourishing your artistic soul. 

   Ok, maybe thats just a little TOO DEEP...just go out there and enjoy the journey!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Daddies got a couple new babies!!

  Well I had been saving my pennies and with my visit to the Hickory show I could not pass up the chance to add a couple of babies to the collection!  When it comes to knives a Caricature Carver / Whittler can never have enough (and I of course am no exception to the rule).
   When it comes to knives most folks buy standard knives and just buy varying lengths and shapes.  The upsweep knife is gaining popularity with the carving community for its ability to provide a nice clean cut.  The two featured above are well made (really like the comfort of both handle shapes and Ralph's teardrop fits well in the palm) and perform as you would expect with a good amount of flex in each blade. 
  The only drawback to an upsweep is if you are not paying attention you can cut yourself deeply by pressing against what "you thought" was the spine.  It's a painful lesson and you only have to do it once to learn a valuable lesson (put your glasses on!).  I did it while checking out some beautiful knives at a show,  my embarassment could not be understated...DUH!
  At one point or another carvers learn that to get a proper clean cut with a knife you have to utilize a slicing cut.  That is to say that, on a draw, the knife is pulled through the grain while the blade is also being pulled across the grain. If you are unsure about this, grab your knife and scrap and give it a shot, do a few draw cuts and watch your hand motion it should not only be a pull but rather a "slicing" pull where the blade is also shifted in the direction of the hand you are using (to the right for right-handers and vice versa).  While a slicing cut can be using a standard blade,  the upsweep blade accomplishes this much easier and this ability is greatly enhanced when performing "scissor" or "push" cuts.
  The upsweep knife enhances the ability to achieve beautiful cuts in tight places and at least one deserves a place in a Caricature Carver's toolset.  These two already have an "official" place in my box and I am sure they will get a lot of use!

TIP:  When watching a demonstration from your instructor most students look at the wood to see where the "cut" is taking place.  Change your thought process and watch the carvers hand you'll learn a lot more about carving watching how they make their cut rather than the cut itself.  Remember the "cut" is only good for that particular portion of the carving while the "method of the cut" can be used over and over again.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

It was just two months ago at our September club meeting we were each handed a wooden spoon to try our hand at carving.  Not necessarily relishing the thought, I set it aside, as I prepared for the competition at Hickory.  It wasn't that I was unwilling to participate it was just the same old question what am I going to carve.  This question haunts quite a few carvers who just don't want to follow the leader and would like to be able to carve their own designs.  Given my tendancies I decided to do it and just give it some time to percolate.  I came across a fantastic drawing and decided to modify it somewhat and give it a go.  The spoon would be carved as a relief and then I would wood burn for effect.  This is not a normal practice for me but I decided that since I had nothing invested in the project (other than time) that I would push myself to try different techniques.  So I decided to wood burn and practiced shading techniques by just varying the teperature of my pen and the type of stroke I was using.  For the sky it was a series of dots burned at differing temperatures and spacing. 
   Overall I would not say this is a masterpiece by any means, but as a positive, I did try different techniques (relief and burning) and therefore have just that much more experience.
   So if your club prompts you to participate in an event, take the chance, participate, don't worry about the result but rather enjoy the journey.  The result will take care of itself and in the long run you will become a better carver who has a much wider range of experience that you will be able to use in the future.

  Now, pick up that knife, give it a good stropping and carve something...anything.  You'll be the better for it!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Show Alert...

Bruce Henn's 2008 display (he is one carver worth meeting!)

Well it's November and that means its time for the Dayton Carvers Guild's Artistry in Wood show held at the Dayton Exposition Center located at the Dayton airport (click on the link at the right to find more particulars).  This year they will be featuring a Spit-N-Whittle which will be sponsored by Woodcarving Illustrated where carvers will be on hand carving and available for questions.  As far as demonstrations go I would check out Don Mertz whittle-doodle demonstration.  The man can carve wonderous things with only a knife.

For those who have never been to Dayton its something every carver should attend at least once if possible.  To describe the goings on,  its held in a large arena where vendors and carvers have there wares on display for sale.  While the carvers are competing against each other and it is a tough competition, each carver and vendor must rent space for their displays and each must apply for a space.  The carvers offset this by selling their carvings.  If you are a collector this is the primary show to go to as the diversity of carvings is quite vast.
It also can be a good show to attend for the purchase of Christmas gifts. If you are a carver it gives you a chance to see other's work, ask questions, and learn.  It also gives you the chance to mingle with many vendors (visit the Heinecke booth on Saturday if you want wood it goes extremely fast), compare prices, and tools available.

If in the future you are considering a display the overwhelming opinion is this is a fantastic weekend.  It has been mentioned by many participants that the only dissenting comments related to the Saturday night dinner.  Since I have not experienced this personally I will reserve comment.

As for the carvers displaying their works, they are a cordial if not jolly bunch of folks and your interaction with them will be for the majority a pleasant one.

Having said this it's now up to you to get up and go, it truly is worth at least one visit, if not many more. 

As is customary a portion of the proceeds from the show support a local Dayton charity.  Bravo Dayton Carvers Guild, Bravo!!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Continuing my discussion of basic Caricature Carving tools,  its on to the gouges.  While Caricature Carvers do have a bias towards knives we also use gouges.  Before getting into a discussion of sweeps and types its important to show the different styles of gouges. 
As you can see on the left there is quite a variety of styles (Intermediate-size and back-bent gouge styles not shown) each having their own merits.  The full-size gouges are generally used on larger pieces and can be used by hand or in combination with a mallet. 
The palm-size and micro gouges are most commonly used by Caricature Carvers and since we generally use a large variety of types (sweeps) with multiple sizes the compactness of these tools allows for greater portability and ease of use when carving smaller figures.
  Each of the styles above is used for a specific cut and its angle to the wood while performing the cut is different.  Carvers should experiment with each and should practice inverting tools and making cuts (quite handy on nose bridges!) as well as learning to use each tools cutting surface in different ways.  An example of this would be to make a cut just using the side of a V-tool.  Having this knowledge gives the carver that many more options.
  I cannot stress enough the importance of learning to keep your tools sharp and protect the cutting surfaces.  Dropping a tool or allowing a tool to glance off another can cause damage to the cutting surface and the object here is to keep the perfect edge.
  While the tools shown in the picture above only represent 3 manufacturers these styles are made by several tool makers and its up to you to make the best decision possible before buying.  When considering manufactures its important to compare like styles, sizes, and sweeps as this will give a good indication of how the manufacturer generally makes its tools.  Some manufactures incorporate a considerable amount more steel in the stem of the tool.  It also important to inspect the tool for balance.  This meaning to look at a gouge to ensure the the metal is even and balanced throughout,  you do not want to buy a tool that has more metal on one side than another as it will not cut properly.  IT'S YOUR MONEY, BE CHOOSY!!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Even a blind squirell gets a nut (once in a while)...

  One nice thing about attending Woodcarving shows is that there are usually plenty of items being raffled off in order to benefit the club.  The Catawba Valley Woodcarvers were no exception with about 30 items being raffled off (along with about 15 door prizes for competitors).  Well the man above showered his blessings down upon me and my one ticket came up gold!
  To give you a little background, the toolbox was carved and assembled by a gentlemen in the Carolinas well known for his Chip Carving abilities as well as overall woodworking skills.  I met Frank about 4 years ago when I traveled down to Charlotte for the first of many Woodcarving competitions I would attend.  Turns out he is originally from about 20 minutes east of the old hacienda and happens to know the great-grandparents of my grandchildren,  needless to say it truly is a small world.  I had chided Frank earlier in the day that the box did not have a large enough place for a Caricature Carver to keep his knives (joklingly of course) and while I do love his work and this box is gorgeous I believe I will turn his good deed into two, and raffle it off at our local clubs meet next spring.  Great job on the box Frank and we appreciate your donation. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Headin to Hickory!!!

   It's that wonderful time of the year,  the Catawba Valley Woodcarvers show at the Convention Center in Hickory, NC.  The show is in conjunction with a woodworking show benig sponsored by Klingspoor.  It draws a fair number of carvers and has some good talent represented.
   For me it's a time to get together with friends and see what is new in the world of Caricature Carving.  I hope to get together with Allen Goodmen and check out his knife offerings (been saving my pennies).  Its also a chance to add to my woodcarving collection, I hear there are some Hobos and Santas that will be passing through.
   If your in the area drop in,  it's free, and they even hand out free apples!! 

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

New Roughouts for 2010...

It's Fall so it must be the time for Phil & Vicki Bishop to release their new Roughouts!!!  ..and here they are, it looks like they got themselves a crop of new Bottlestoppers.    Phil & Vicki are a great resource for a wide variety of Roughouts of outstanding quality.

For more info visit their website:

Friday, October 23, 2009

Gouge Sizes and Sweeps (no we're not talking brooms!)...

  Understanding gouge sizes and sweeps can be confusing.  Woodcraft and Pfeil have made it simple.  To see Pfeil's Tool Chart go to the link below:

  Please understand that tools can vary by manufacturer but usally are pretty close to one another on sweeps.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Roughout vs. Cutout...

Q:  What's the difference between a cutout and a roughout? 

A: It's as simple as 3 dimensions or 2.

    A cutout is simply a block of wood where 2 dimensions of a pattern (front and side) are cut from a block usually with a bandsaw.
   A roughout is formed from a duplicator where the excess wood is cut away with a router.  This method removes a greater amount of wood.

  When purchasing either of these it is typical to receive multiple pictures or a copy of the pattern showing both views.
  Both Cutouts and Roughouts are available from individual carvers, instructors, and retailers.  If you are buying in person take the time to inspect the wood and pick the best one.  There is no guarantee that you won't find a surprise in the wood, but a careful inspection usually will eliminate most of the issues.  Also pay attention to the color of the wood, the color should be pale.  Be on the lookout for knots (can appear as tiny blemishes on the wood but when cut into can be much larger).
  As for price, that will vary greatly so it will be up to you to decide if it's a good deal or not.  Carving from a cutout or roughout is a good way to get started in the hobby and its even easier  when a companion book or DVD is followed.  Also ask other carvers, they can usually point out a good source for these items.


Sunday, October 18, 2009

A carving owed...

  The small carving at left is truly a carving owed.  This one will be going to my friend "Big Dave", as I am the recipient of a carving he gave me last year in Charlotte.  You might ask how this exchange came about, quite simply I had started collecting the carvings of some of my fellow woodcarvers work and I was looking to purchase a neat little shelf sitter Big Dave had on display.  I really wanted to have one of his carvings in my collection and this particular carving really jumped out at me.  So, I asked him "hey Dave, how much for this shelf sitter?"  He looked at the carving and looked at me and said "I'll trade you,  you can have it and when you get around to it, give me one of yours".  What can I say, I am in the big fella's debt and it is a larger burden than you might think.  What can I give Big Dave that I think he would like and yet would represent my style in his collection.  I have given alot of thought and decided that it truly had to be an original and one in a style that represents me.  This twisted face is something other than the standard expression and is me striving for expression and movement, something I want to have in all of my designs.  The carving was left unpainted as I just couldn't see painting a carving that carried its shadows so well that it stands on its own without it. 
    In case you are just joining this carving community I should say that carving exchanges are quite common and it is a great way to being your own wood carvng collection.
    So this carving will be heading south where he will now take up residence with a good friend and fellow carver.  I sure hope Big Dave enjoys him...

Friday, October 16, 2009

When was your last Tetanus booster?

October, 2006 for me!!

  Of course with any type of wood carving comes the risk of injury and carving injuries are usually the result of a momentary lapse in judgement.  Its usually occurs when the carver disregards what he knows to be safe in order to get that one last cut in, or when he becomes distracted.  That being said lets talk a little about safety so that you can spend more time carving and less time figuring out how you are going to explain the $50 emergency room co-pay to your other half!!
  One rule to understand is that a large number of injuries come from the carver using dull tools.  The use of dull tools causes the carver to exert a greater amount of force which in turn results in accidents.  Make sure all tools being utilized are "Wood Carving Sharp" (I will define this furtherin an upcoming post) before and during use.  Trust me a cut from a dull blade hurts a lot worse than one from a sharp one.
  Use safety equipment.  This means a carvers glove (I have in case my primary fails),  the glove is worn on the opposite hand as it usually holds the wood being carved.  A thumb guard can also be used if desired.  The other item is VetWrap made by 3M,  this is sold usually at a farm store in 4" wide rolls.  The roll in the picture has been cut down to a 1" width.  VetWrap is not made for stopping a sharp blade but is worn on the carving hand to diminish the chance of minor cuts while padding the hand to prevent blisters.

 Safety Tip:  Employ the "Line of Fire" rule.  This meaning to keep any appendages(fingers) from being in line with a cut.  That way if you slip there is a good chance it will not result in injury.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Why Caricature?

Caricature is as simple as it is defined at left (definition from, yet even with the simple definition it can be reason for debate as it can be a delicate balance between the realistic and cartoon.
Many a discussion has been had in the Caricature Carving world related to this, with seldom an agreement.  As with most things in the carving world it is open to interpretation which does not put limits on individual feelings.
It seems caricature was really derived from early published political cartoons as can be seen in articles on Wikipedia.  As far as the woodcarving world goes, Caricature Carving is seeing steady growth in popularity.  This growth can be attributed to many carvers through the years including the likes of  the Tryggs (father CJ, and sons Carl Olaf, Nils, and Lars), Emil Janel, Andy Anderson, and of course, Harold Enlow.  Please forgive any omissions but these are some real big-hitters when it comes to this style of figure carving.
In the years since I have been carving (15-20) three major items of note stick out for me,  the first being the creation of an organization for the promotion of the style,  the Caricature Carvers of America.  This group holds an annual competition for just this style.  The second for me was Peter Ortel's "Love" taking the first Best-Of-Show awarded to a Caricature Carving at the Affiliated Woodcarvers 2000 Congress, the show being the premier US Woodcarving show for non-birds. An image of this carving can be seen on their website ( .
The third is related to my own personal taste and that would be the one-piece creations of Marv Kaisersatt.  If you have yet to see one, just do a google search for him or even better yet you can see a good portion of them on the Affiliated Woodcarvers website.  He has consistantly won many awards over the past 10-15 years.

In writing this I feel I would be remiss in leaving out others who are well known and have had a large influence in the past 10 years.  The one receiving the least credit but who has shared much would be Tom Wolfe.  He has published many a book sharing his secrets in such a way as to allow many a carver to find enjoyment with this form of art.  Many a time I have seen a version of one of his hounds or his Civil War soldier.  I have had the pleasure of meeting this gentlemen and participated in many a Whittling Competition he has sponsored.  Others who have contributed much with their designs, teaching, roughouts would be Phil & Vicki Bishop (excellent teachers and roughouts),  and Pete LeClair (the man with a thousand faces), and Gary Falin (the man has a way with eyes).  There are many more out there who are sharing with us and I look forward to discovering what each has to teach.  Strike up a conversation with a Caricature Carver, they have much to teach and they don't mind sharing (albeit sometimes for a cost)

One trait of Caricature Carvers is that they do like to express their sense of humor in many ways.  It makes for exciting dinner conversation thats fer sure! (Be wary as they do like to celebrate your birthday) 

Getting back on the topic of Caricature, a good example of Caricature can be found in one of the US's most irreverent publications, MAD magazine.  Tom Richmond does art work for MAD and has a fantastic blog that discusses the art of Caricature (  Tom posts frequent updates and usually is good for a chuckle at least once a week.  He also has published a tutorial on drawing in the Caricature style in several segments.  Much can be learned from what he is sharing.

I was recently asked, "why Caricature Carving?".  I have given the question much thought and I would have this observation,  when someone observes a bird or fish carving they remark on how it appears often by critically comparing it to animals they've seen, but when you watch a person looking at a Caricature Carving they often just smile.  At that moment, your art has affected someone in a positive way.  The memory of that image is often enough to keep you carving for years...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

West Falls Products (Ross Oar) sold

   I am writing this post due to an unfortunate set of circumstances.  While I have not met Ross Oar personally, I do know of him and had recently seen his excellent work at the Erie Co. fair.  Universal admiration for Ross and his work is evident when talking with the caricature carving community.  Ross has recently suffered the loss of his wife Barbara .  Please keep Ross in your thoughts and prayers at this very difficult time.

   Ross has recently decided to sell his business (West Falls Products) which include the OarCarver pocket knives we are familiar with, to the very capable Bob Stadtlander.  The link to Bob's website follows.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Knife Collector? betcha I am...

    It seems a common trait among caricature carvers / whittlers is that we are really a group of knife collectors.  It is something I believe is hard for us to resist.  Of my ever growing population of tools the one I cannot do without is a good sharp knife.  I think most of us feel the same way as we even have modified our pocket knives in the hopes it might allow us to whittle when given a moments chance.  If knives are a caricature carvers vice, then it could be stated that our bias could be found by just asking which knife is our favorite. 
  As a collector I feel I am a little behind as I only have about a bakers dozen.  I am sure I am only considered an amateur given this tally, but I promise to do better. 
    At left I show a few from my collection,  these are some of the more popular knives out there.  In my travels it would seem that the Wells/Shipley is the most popular,  while a Helvie can be found in most toolboxes (comfortable handle),  the Denny is a good all around knife that comes with a rounded spine,  the Dunkles come in many shapes and sizes, and the Butz detail is one of the most flexible out there (mine came unsharpened).  Other brands are available (Lyons, Ferguson, Cape Forge, etc.) so a carver really has options.  There are also custom knives being made out there as more carvers are experimenting in creating there own. 

   For many of us, we simply started with an inexpensive bench knife.  The one shown below was sold at a

local lumber yard for around 10 dollars.  The knife itself is of good quality, it was the first-time carver who was the issue with this tool.  I grew up with a father and stepfather whose pocket knife was one tool always on hand.  My father had me stripping bark off of sticks at an early age and my stepfather bought me my first pocket knife when I was in high school.  My stepfather was a butcher by trade at the time and had him an Arkansas water stone he taught me to sharpen on.  He tried to explain the method behind the sharpening but it really did not strike home.  He taught me the "dime" method of sharpening.  This method has the sharpener holding the spine of the blade about the thickness of a dime off of the stone while sharpening.  This was to maintain the bevel and allow the knife to keep its edge while doing the utilitarian jobs I required of it, all the while maintaining its sharp edge.  Of course in this cursory training I did not learn of the ever important 'wire edge'.  So I purchased the above knife and a block of Basswood and off I went.  Needless to say time has taught me better.  If I could impart one piece of wisdom to the new woodcarver, it would be to simply learn what "woodcarving-sharp" is and how to sharpen, tune, and maintain your knife for the style of carving you plan on undertaking.  Understanding this will make for a more enjoyable carving experience.  These are subjects I hope to cover in better detail in the future, but for now let's just say I could have done it better.
    You might ask that if I have learned so much about knives why I have so many different brands.  I would say that I am always looking for the next great knife.  After all of the years carving I am finally developing a style thats my own and with that style I require knives of different shapes and sizes.  One of my traits is that I REALLY LIKE a rolling cut, this being where I curl and slice with the knife as I cut,  and for me the best knife to do this with is a knife with a rolled spine.  Some of my knives come that way (Denny), but others I modify when "tuning" to my style.  It should be noted that modifying a blade will change its properties, in the case where I am taking metal off of the spine of the knife I am weaking the blade and it will tend to flex more.  This is something to take into consideration as breaking a tip on a knife can become a common occurance. 
    Blade shape is another consideration when buying a knife, so knowing what you will use it for can help you decide if it truly is the knife for you.  Each shape and style has different capabilities so understanding what you need is important.  When unsure the best advice I can give is to attend a show where vendors will allow you to try several styles and shapes.  I say vendors as plural because I would not recommend you listen to just a singular opinion, after all its about your hard earned dollars.
    What about the metal?  Many will tell you a certain type of "tool" steel is important for a good knife.  I am definitely not a metalurgist nor will I ever claim to have a vast knowledge in this arena.  But I would say that when you find a large number of carvers using a particular brand you can bet its a good one and it has stood up to the beating carvers can give their knives.
    In closing let me say that you will find strong opinions when it comes to knives and a particular brand or shape of knife.  If your budget is tight, I would recommend you listen to the opinions, but ultimately try as many as you can before making your decision.
    As for my collection, well lets just say I hear Mr. Allen Goodman is making some mean knives...hmmm, I wonder if I skip lunch for a week, will that be enough????

Note: for a more detailed look at a greater selection of knives, check out Don Mertz's (Woodbee Carver) April 2009 thread.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Upcoming Event...

It's October and that means it's time for the Catawba Valley Woodcarvers' annual competition held at the Hickory, NC convention center, October 31st. This is held in conjunction with Klingspor's Woodworking Shop Extravaganza. Its a good time and is usually well attended. The caricature division this year will be judged by the honorable Mark N. Akers and Arnold Smith, two well respected carvers in their own right. See attached link for more information.

Monday, October 5, 2009


Schiffer Publishing has just published the new book from the Caricature Carvers of America, Carving an 1880s Western Train. Got my copy today direct from the publisher. (I would check to get the best price)
ISBN: 9780764333811, Cost from the publisher about $17.00
Can't wait to get to it!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

...and in the beginning God created Basswood

To understand Caricature Carving you must start with the most commonly used wood, Basswood. Basswood is of the tree genus Tilia, or as it is most frequently called, the Linden tree. To us woodcarvers it supplies us with Basswood. This tree is found across North America and Europe and in the states is most likely planted as a specimen such as the gorgeous tree shown in my neighbor's yard. The tree grows in a triangular shape. This tree was photographed today and is showing the stress of the approach of fall as we are experiencing nightly lows in the lower 40's. To better understand the tree there are actually 30 trees in the genus, that's a lot of flavors and I can't begin to understand what grows where. For more information check out the Wikipedia link

Not that we really need to know which of the trees supply the best wood, there is already a preferred origin of what is commonly thought the best, that being the far north of Wisconsin and Minnesota. The wood emanating from this region in some fashion benefits from cold weather as it easily distinguishable from others with its white color and clear grain(block shown on left). Wood from other regions tend to be yellow in color and harder to carve. The lesser woods also have streaks and defects within the grain (block shown on right).

The alternative to Basswood is Butternut, which due to a disease affecting this species is becoming rare. Butternut is considered an excellent carving wood as well, however, it is seen in the Caricature category less frequently than seen in Realistic or Relief carving.

No matter what, the best advice when it comes to wood is to buy the best you can get. Over time you will be able to distinguish the difference and get more enjoyment from carving.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Hello World!

Cpl Agar, F-Troop, Woodcarving by A. Filetti, 2006
Well off we go on another adventure!! It seems I have this ability to ramble on and on, so I thought I'd put it to good use and start a goes nothing!

I have been woodcarving as a hobby since around 1990 and have been enjoying it ever since. The hobby itself is relatively inexpensive but can take you in many directions and down many different paths. I chose "Caricature Carving" as I enjoy the humor and reactions to the carvings of this type. Caricature Carvers themselves enjoy a good joke and are some of the most enjoyable folk to be around. In fact the competitions, whittling contests, carving classes are some of the best times I've had as the social aspect of these events will leave you with a comfortable smile. Thats not to say we don't have our disagreements, but I'd say they are fewer than most and are usually related to a dispute of methods. Caricature Carvers are a giving group who are usually willing to share their methods and help a fellow carver anyway they can. I am blessed that I have many carvers I call friends
from many states far and wide. They come from many walks of
life, each having their own story to tell. The comeraderie adds to the enjoyment of this hobby as chewing the fat while doesn't get any better!

I hope to expound on this journey I have chosen and hopefully weave a tale worth telling. Along the way I hope to share news about this hobby and maybe inspire someone to pick up a knife and create something. As my stepfather Harry was fond of saying "let's do something today, even if we do it badly"!