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"!