Painting Tip


Several people have offered painting tips on Facebook so I thought I would expand the tip about a holding device. A handle can be used to hold a small carving while carving and/or painting. Some have suggested carving a handle-shaped stick or some other form for ease in holding a carving. I found some cheap tool handles that were probably meant for files or replacement screwdriver handles. Flea markets and yard sales are good for these items. I cut the heads from drywall screws and other assorted self drilling screws. I made sure each one would fit in the pre-drilled handle hole and used epoxy glue to set a screw in each handle. If the hole is larger than needed, you will have to support the screw so it remains in line with the handle until the glue sets up. That’s not a big deal but it will be a better experience using the handle if you can easily screw it into the carving.

img_4042Using different sized screws is not necessary but can be helpful if you have a small base on your carving and a large screw will cause the wood to split.


I happened to have a big chunk of pine, 3.5″ X 3.5″ X 21″ (90mm X 90mm X 533mm), that had seven holes conveniently drilled so I could use my handles. Each hole also had a pilot-hole in the bottom. This allows me to invert the handles for storage when they’re not in use.



I took a class with CCA member Tom Wolfe where painting was part of the instruction. Tom used the same concept but instead of a heavy chunk of pine, he had a short log with angled chainsaw cuts to form a rough dome shaped top. That allowed holes to be drilled at angles around the top. I don’t remember how many holes were in his base.  If I have carvings that cause my base to tip, I add a clamp at the bottom to increase it’s size.


fullsizerender-4 By the way, the carvings pictured were inspired by an article by Dave Stetson in the Winter issue 2016 of Woodcarving Illustrated Magazine.

Knives designed by Mertz

Don Mertz, a member of the Caricature Carvers of America, has a history of collaboration with the Helvie Knife company ( Over the years they have produced a successful line of custom knives that suit Don’s whittlecarving style. Don’s work can be viewed at I own several of those knives but since the blade style was different than the one I use, I’ve delayed giving his a try. The other day I decided to see what I could or could not do. The pictures show the project I chose and the knives I used. They are in Don’s Signature series as numbers 2, 4 and 6. There are many more knife choices on the Helvie site. I did not succumb to the urge to grab my usual knife and a gouge or two because this was a whittlecarving challange.

I thought a reasonable challenge would be a project offered by Dave Stetson, also a CCA member. It was in the Summer issue 2015 of Woodcarving Illustrated magazine. Dave’s advice is to make no cuts that would leave flat surfaces or sharp shadows. In other words, a soft smooth appearance. I, like Dave, would normally use gouges to achieve that look. My results were not exactly like Dave’s, but then I have trouble matching his results using the tools he recommends. I’m still reasonably happy with my result. I’m not ready to toss my straight edge knives but I know I have more options if the circumstances need the Mertz touch.

I used a block of Basswood one and a half inches square (38mm) by 3 inches long (76mm). I used Johnson’s Feed n’ Wax as a finish on the raw wood.




Carved Thread Spools

Most of the work on the Wizard was done with a carving knife. Some early roughing out was done with a gouge. I want to thank Don Mertz for his carvings that were the inspiration for this Wizard.

This is supposed to be a hobbit. Most of the work was done with a knife. This guy was also inspired by the carvings of Don Mertz.


These guys preceded the Hobbit and Wizard. I figured if I could do these guys, I could do more detail.














2016 Class, Lebanon, TN

These are pictures of my class projects from the Woodcarvers Roundup held in Lebanon, Tennessee, March 2016. Each of the five week-days was a different project with a new instructor. The projects were all done from basswood (linden) rough-outs. The instructors provided an assortment of their own designs so we could choose a project that suited our carving experience level. There were 60 students with 12 in each class. The instructor’s names are shown in the caption.

Sitting Santa by Gary Falin (CCA).


Witch by Mitch Cartledge (CCA).


Old Ernel by Chris Hammack (CCA).


Smiley by Rich Wetherbee (CCA).



Sleeping Santa by PJ Driscoll (CCA).

Feudin’ Families Chess Set

Here are some pictures of my attempt to recreate a chess set by Mitch Cartledge (CCA). The pattern was published in issue 44 of Woodcarving Illustrated Magazine. It was a challenging project and required a commitment of 4 weeks time.IMG_8034



The Green Family




The Red Family



Bottlestopper Corks

Sometime this month a Facebook post asked about methods for attaching corks to carved bottle stoppers. I didn’t comment because, as you will see, a simple reply would not provide all the details some people would like. This post will describe my method, which is far from the only way to make a bottle stopper. You can also purchase pre-drilled corks with dowels from carving supply vendors.

I use #8 corks. These are 1 1/8 inches long with the top being 7/8 of an inch in diameter and the bottom 3/4 of an inch in diameter. I visit the local wine-making supply store to buy them. There are many sizes to choose from. Here you can buy them by the piece so you can choose the ones you like. Avoid corks with cracks, large openings or missing sections. You can find corks at hobby stores but they will be more expensive and packaged in assorted sizes. The ones I’ve seen in hobby stores are usually in good condition so if you only need a couple, that might be the way to go.

Block in drilling position.

Block in drilling position.

I have a drill press and recommend using one for drilling corks. I learned the hard way that you should not hold a cork by hand when drilling. Using a clamp to hold a cork will compress the sides and cause the hole to be distorted. I made a simple holding devise that will minimize pressure and not apply pressure unequally. Remember mine is for #8 corks but you can modify the dimensions if you use another size. I cut a block of wood 2 inches by 2 inches and about 2 and 3/8 inches long. Basswood scraps are great for this. Locate the center of the top and bottom surfaces of the block. Secure the block in a clamp for drilling a 13/16 inch hole in the center of the top. The hole should be 1 inch deep. I used a Forstner bit to keep it neat. Mark that end so you know it’s the top. If you’re going to use more than one size cork, mark this end with “#8”.

Block, push stick and corks.

Block, push stick and corks.


Brad-point bit on left. Forstner bit on right.

Brad-point bit on left. Forstner bit on right.

At the center point on the bottom end, drill a 13/16 hole 3/4 of an inch deep. If you plan to use a second sized cork, change the drill size for the bottom hole. Experiment to determine the size. Mark that end with the cork size. Don’t worry about the alignment of the top and bottom holes they shouldn’t meet anyway.  To create a passage between the top and bottom holes, switch to a 3/8 inch drill bit. The bottom of each of the larger holes will have a mark for the center left by the bit. Drill the passage hole at that mark.

I smoothed the sharp edge of the top hole so it doesn’t leave a mark on the cork.  Test fit the cork. It should fit snugly in the top hole. If the cork is wedged tightly in the hole, there probably won’t be enough cork to protruding to work it loose.  Now it will become clear for the need of the passage hole. I whittled a scrap to look like a dowel with a handle so I could push the cork free. It should be a loose fit in the 3/8 passage hole, just don’t put a sharp point on the end.

Cork in drilling position.

Cork in drilling position.

To prepare the cork for drilling, locate the center of the top surface. There are several tools made for finding the center of a dowel or cut a paper template. Secure the cork in the block. Make sure the top of the cork is parallel to the bottom of the block. Hold the block with a clamp and position a 3/8 inch brad-point drill bit at the center point of the cork. Slowly drill into the cork. It’s been my experience that drilling fast tears the cork. I like to drill this hole 5/8 of an inch deep. I use a 3/8 inch hardwood dowel to connect the cork to the carving. The length of the dowel should be slightly shorter than the combined depths of the holes in the cork and the carving. This allows space for glue trapped at the ends of the dowel.

As for the hole in the carving, my advice is to drill it before the carving is shaped. If you’re using a rough-out or a completed carving that has no hole, the drilling will be trickier. I would discourage holding the wood in your hand when drilling. Find a soft material or two sandbags, something that would conform to the carved shape. When held with a clamp, it should immobilize the carving for drilling. You will have to do your best to adjust the carving so the hole will be perpendicular to the surface that will meet the cork.

Predrill hole for dowel

I test-fit the cork, dowel and carving before using glue. I use a two-part epoxy. Oh, don’t glue the cork before you carve your masterpiece.

March 2015 Class

In March of this year I attended a five day class in Lebanon, Tennessee. The event is called the Renegade Woodcarvers Roundup. For the first time, this year’s class was followed by two classes on the weekend. I took the polymer clay sculpting class. The expectation for the class was to learn to develop ideas in clay that could become a model for a woodcarving. We used a product called Super Sculpey. Our instructor, Rich Wetherbee (CCA), provided everything we needed. We began Friday evening with a introduction to the basics. We learned about making wire armatures to support areas of the sculpture that would succumb to gravity. Also, we worked the clay with our hands and metal sculpting tools. We got down to business Saturday morning. All ten students completed at least one project. The completed projects were baked in a kitchen oven which permanently hardened the clay. Here are some pictures of my completed project. I wasn’t thinking about a project to carve but just having fun with the clay. I don’t know if I’ll do it in wood. My second project is still in progress.




The other class, being held at the same time, was a carving design class. Ten students each collaborated with Chris Hammack (CCA) to develop a pattern for a figure to be carved from a 4X4X8 inch piece of basswood. Everyone had a very unique project. I was really attracted to the project developed by Chris and Willie Thornton. I asked Willie if I could make a copy of his pattern and brought it home to work on it. I modified it a little but kept the same concept. It was a challenge but I enjoyed working on it. Here are pictures of the progress.

Baby in Chair IMG_7387 IMG_7388 IMG_7390 IMG_7391IMG_7393IMG_7392

IMG_7421 IMG_7422 IMG_7423 IMG_7424 IMG_7425 IMG_7426 IMG_7427 IMG_7428