Well, actually I did … some months ago. Somewhere along the trail of elebenty million web pages about woodcarving, I came across one carver’s advice. He says that every time he gets a new knife, he gets used to how it handles by carving a round ball on the end of a stick. Having acquired a few new knives (more about tools next time), I took his advice. I bought a big block of basswood several decades ago and used a minuscule part of it for some model ship building. I found that block and ripped off a few 3/4 inch square sticks and started carving. Carving round balls, as opposed to almost square balls, ovoid balls, kidney shaped balls, and other odd shapes is indeed a good way to get the feel for carving. One can learn very quickly about working with grain, “carving downhill” as the carvers say.
No, I didn’t carve any balls in cages. Did one of those in teenage years. I moved on to caricature faces. Don Mertz, the “WoodBe Carver” featured an entry on his blog by a fellow carver named Don Worley. Worley uses “No-see-um” characters as a way to teach beginners to carve faces. These characters don’t see because they have no eyes, sparing the newbie the need to learn delicate details at the very beginning. Learning to carve those 5 characters was very enjoyable. I’ve found carving to be one of those activities that is almost zen like. Pick up the knife, start making chips, and lose track of time.
Since then, I’ve carved a lot more “no-see-ums” characters, most of them “seasonal” for the time of year that approaches in about three weeks. That old block of basswood is nearly gone and new stock has arrived. Guess I’m hooked. I’ll show the “seasonal” carvings after they are in the hands of the intended recipients.