Woodcarving – Get busy already

OK. Enough talking about woodcarving. Do something.

a neat pile of 4 3/4 inch wooden ballsWell, 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.

photo of 5 caricature faces with no eyesNo, 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.

10 Responses to “Woodcarving – Get busy already”

  1. Michael Says:

    Oh great, Bob, thank you very much indeed… Owing to your posts about woodcarving, I now have three carving knives. As if I didn’t have enough projects and not enough time for woodworking anyway…

    but seriously, thank you for these rather inspiring posts! Now I only need some basswood to start the production of christmas presents :)

  2. Bob Says:

    Proceed with all due speed directly to Heinecke Wood Products. They have the BEST carving basswood. If you have not shopped them before, don’t be surprised that they don’t have an online ordering process. Call them or email them with your order. They will ship quickly and then follow up with an invoice via snail mail. Honest folks, good service, great wood.
    Oooops, forgot that you are in Germany. I don’t know a good European basswood supplier.

    Still envious of your shed!

  3. Al Navas Says:

    Hi, Bob – I *love* the no-see-ums! They are terrific!!! I think I resemble at least one of them :) I might try my hand at this. But I cannot do it without even going through the basics. So, first things first…

    This has been a terrific series – and I missed much of it, until now. Thanks!

  4. Michael Says:

    Hi Bob,
    As requested, I found and ordered some basswood with all due speed. Meanwhile I have found out, that beech is not really the ideal wood for carving.

    By the way, you haven’t accidentally googled no-see-ums, have you?

  5. Bob Says:

    Oh yes Michael. Beech is a lot harder. It looks great and is wonderful for many purposes, but not so much for carving. Glad you found some basswood. It will make the carving much more enjoyable.

    You, and Google, are right. The insect no-see-ums is what most Americans think of when hearing the term.

  6. John Says:

    Nice carving! If I ever start carving again I am going to invest in some carving gloves. They would be cheaper than the four stitches I had to get in the E.R.

  7. Bob Says:

    Good to see you here John. (Cute puppy you found.)

    Info about tools and safety coming up next.

  8. Russ Says:

    Hi, Bob. I love checking in on your blog from time to time – I find the information and topics in your posts interesting and inspiring. It seems like we share some of the same interests – boat building, model boat building, neanderthal woodworking, hand tools and woodcarving – but you actually seem to complete projects, while I have heretofor only read up on them – rarely, if ever, actually making a cut or creating any sawdust!

    But that hopefully is changing! I recently took a carving lesson, bought a flexcut detail knife, a small palm gouge and approx 5 board feet of basswood peices in assorted sizes, and made a strop out of some scraps of wood and leather.

    I am trying to carve some balls, and hope to move on to some no-see-ums. I looked at the link you provided, but unless I am missing something the wasn’t much in the way of step-by-step instruction. Is there another link or maybe an article somewhere that might help?

    Thanks again for the inspiration!

  9. Bob Says:

    Hi Russ,
    Good to hear you are getting started. You’re right about there not being step-by-step instructions for the no-see-ums. By the time I carved them, I had tried a few other simple things I found on YouTube. (link below), One of the secrets to these simple carvings is that they are carved on the corner of the stick. That gives plenty of wood for the nose … the part that sticks out the farthest on any face.

    There are lots of carvers making YouTube videos, but the most prolific (over 1000 videos in 3 years), ant the one most interested in new carvers is Gene Messer. Find his channel at: http://www.youtube.com/user/whittler0507

    A good starter is his “5 minute wizard.” at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l9sObqxmYJY


  10. george chaisson Says:

    my brother recently passed and he left me a small round ball carving about 2in in diameter it is delicately carved. i almost think it is alien