Wednesday, April 19, 2006


By Christina VanGinkel

Carving wood is not a hobby for everyone, but it is something that more people might enjoy if they were to give it a chance. I have seen carvings both large and small that appealed to me. Some of my favorites were actually made by my very own sister. She no longer does much carving due to arthritis, but the pieces she did before she had to give up a hobby she enjoyed so much are exquisite examples of just how detailed carvings can be.

While I myself have never been able to pick up the knowledge or discover the talent in my own hands, that some people can pick up the tools devoted to carving and turn out pieces that are so lifelike that you often do a double take when seeing them, believing them to be real instead of a copy, is amazing. My sister often carved birds, and one piece she did years ago was of several songbirds perched on a branch. An art studio in Escanaba Michigan purchased it and several others of her pieces the first time they saw them, as taken with her work as I and other family members were. The manager of the studio said he had never looked at a carving before of birds that made him want to reach out to touch the birds, as incredibly lifelike as they were. What he did not know until after he purchased them though, was that these were the first carvings she had made. He thought she had been at it for some time, but in all reality, she had only just then been testing the waters per se of this formidable craft.

If carving wood is something that you think might be something that you would enjoy, pick up a copy of a book or two such as The Beginners Handbook of Woodcarving : With Project Patterns for Line Carving, Relief Carving, Carving in the Round, and Bird Carving, by Charles Beiderman and William Johnston. This book has information that will be appealing to both novices and those who already know the basics. It includes tips on everything from the tools of the trade, to exhibiting your work, and everything imaginable in between. The book is laid out in a manner that makes it easy to understand, which in the world of woodcarving can mean the difference between being a book that is useful and one that is no good. There is a lot of information to be gleaned from within the pages of this book, and you will find yourself going back to it time and again.

If you decide that this might be just the hobby you have been looking to try, pick up a beginner's woodcarving kit like the one offered from the Smoky Mountain Woodcarvers. Inexpensive as far as woodcarving kits go, at just over thirty dollars, it contains all of the essential tools that any beginning wood carver might need. It also comes with a First Projects book, to provide plenty of ideas of what to do with the tools. Some wood to get you started is also included. If after researching this kit, it sounds like a good place to start, but you think you might want a bit more as far as the tools offered in the kit goes, they also have a deluxe kit. The deluxe kit from Smoky Mountain Woodcarvers retails for closer to forty dollars, and comes with a v-tool and a gouge in addition to the pre-sharpened bench knife, a leather strop to help you keep the edge on the 1 1/2" blade of the knife, and a container of strop abrasive.

Woodcarving is a hobby that can offer you the perfect outlet for your creativity, and even open doors to events such as juried shows and recognition in the art world if that is something that might be of interest to you. While woodcarving might not be the perfect hobby for everyone, unless you try it, you might never know if it is something that you can be as good at as my sister is. After trying it, you might wonder how you ever lived your life without expressing yourself in such a creative way.

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