Golf Ball Carving

My very first instructional article was the result of an invitation from Chris Whillock the Editor of Carving Magazine. The article appeared in the Spring issue (#29).  Included in the article were several examples of the hundreds I have carved since 1993. To see them and many more examples, click here.

The magazine is no longer published so I am sharing the following text and photos that were created for the article.

Click on the pictures to enlarge them.

Tools for this project

Tools for this project

I use a carving glove that has rubber dots which ensure a good grip on the ball. I used a carving knife with a straight cutting edge.  #11-9mm and 7mm gouges.  A #5-7mm gouge.   #9-3mm and 6mm gouges.  A #3-2mm shallow gouge.  A 3mm V-Tool.

Depending on the project, I add or substitute other tools.

Step 1

Step 1

Step 1.  I always start with a center line.
I use a compass with a ballpoint pen.
Notice the lines to mark the top and bottom of the ear, also done with the compass.

Step 2

Step 2

Step 2.  The eye line is cut with a #11  9mm gouge.

Also remove material in front of the ears

Front view

Front view

Step 3

Step 3

Step 3.  Use a knife to cut above and below the ears. This process will be used several times for this project and I’ll refer to it as a shadow-cut.  The cut is perpendicular to the surface and extends back under the ball cover. The cover is not cut. The ear cut is about 1/16 of an inch deep and serves as a stop cut.  The relief or removal cut will produce a triangle shaped wedge with the inside of the cover forming the third side.  Sometimes all cuts meet and the wedge will come out with the blade.  The knife should never be used to pry the wedge loose. The tip could break off.  I have a 2mm shallow gouge that’s too small for carving but it’s great to remove material from shadow-cuts.

Step 3bStep 3c

Step 4

Step 4

Step 4.  Use a #11  4mm gouge on the forehead to define space for a little hair and the top of the eyebrows.

Step 5

Step 5

Step 5.  Use a #11  9mm gouge to establish the bottom of the nose.

Notice the shadow cuts below the ears.

Step 6

Step 6

Step 6.  Mark the width of the nose and use a knife to raise the wings.

Note the small space marked near the center line to reserve space for the septum.

Step 7

Step 7

Step 7.  Use the #11  4mm gouge to define the sides at the top of the nose.

Reserve space between the eyes for the bridge of the nose.

Step 8

Step 8

Step 8.  Using an inverted #5  7mm gouge, shape the wings of the nose. Use the first cut as a stop cut and the second cut to remove some of the cheek as the gouge meets the stop cut.

Use the #11  9mm to shape the nose above the wing.

Step 9

Step 9

Step 9. Use the #11  9mm to prepare the area for the eyes and reduce the cheek material.

The cheeks will continue to be shaped as adjacent areas are developed.

Use a knife to smooth the nose.

Don’t for get to reserve that space between the eyes.

Step 10

Step 10

Step 10.  Make a stop cut to form the outside mustache line from the corner of the nose wing.

Remove material from the face to make the mustache protrude.

Use the point of a knife to extend the wing line up onto the nose.

Remove a tiny sliver of material to create the shadow.

Step 11

Step 11

Step 11. Better view of previous step.

Step 12

Step 12

Step 12. Front view of Step 10.

Step 13

Step 13

Step 13. Use a knife to round the tops and bottom of the ears.

Use a #9  3mm micro tool to form the inside of the ear.

When using this tool, do not pry or twist. Straight in and out will do the job.

Use the 2mm shallow gouge to remove the material if it remains inside the ear.  This can also be considered a shadow-cut.

Leave space between the cuts for the small flap of skin that protects the opening of the ear.

Step 14

Step 14

Step 14.  Remove the ridges on the ears with small knife cuts.

Use the knife to make a stop cut behind the flap and remove the material with the 2mm gouge.

Step 15

Step 15

Step 15.  Begin the eyes with a 3mm v-tool making “S” shaped cuts that will form the top edges of the upper eyelids.

Trace the cuts with the point of a knife to make a stop cut.

Remove a slight bit of material above the lid to deepen the shadow.

Step 16

Step 16

Step 16.  Follow the first V-cuts with parallel cuts below to form the bottom edge of the upper lid.

Once again trace this cut with the point of a knife for a stop cut.

This time remove material below the stop cut.  This will begin to form the eye ball.

Step 17

Step 17

Step 17.  Use the same 3mm V-tool to establish the top of the lower lid.  Don’t make the cut connect with the outside end of the upper lid.   To remove the flat area on the eyeball, make a similar stop cut along the lower lid line.  Round the eyeball into the stop cut.  Remember to remove more in the corners of the eye to make the eyeball look like the surface of a ball.

Step 18

Step 18

Step 18.  Use the 3mm V-tool to add lower lid lines, bags, eyebrows and a little hair.  Use a knife to make a tiny shadow-cut at the top end of the hair.  This will also form the top of the head that has no hair.

Step 19

Step 19

Step 19.  To create an iris/pupil “suggestion”, I use the #9  3mm micro gouge.  Remember it’s fragile.  I usually have my heads looking to the side. I place the gouge on the eyeball so it touches, but doesn’t cut, the lids.  This will be a stop cut.  Straight in and straight out.  This is the first side of a three-sided chip.  The other two sides are made with the point of a knife inserted along the lid lies and meet at the corner.  I resort to my 2mm shallow gouge to remove the chip in pieces.

Step 20

Step 20

Step 20.  Draw the line for the lower edge of the mustache.

Step 21

Step 21

Step 21.  Cut a fairly deep stop cut angled slightly behind the front of the mustache.  Remove material below the mustache.  Leave a flat area in the center to provide for the lower lip.

Step 22

Step 22.

Step 22.  Use the #5  7mm gouge to open the mouth.  If the stop cut was deep enough, the chip will fall out.  Otherwise, repeat the cut.

Step 23

Step 23

Step 23.  Use the #11 4mm to shape the lower edge of the lip. Continue this cut to the stop cut at the mustache.

Step 24

Step 24

Step 24.  Using a knife, remove the sharp ridges and shape the lip.  Scoop out the area below the ends of the lip using a knife point that reaches the stop cut.  A similar cut would be made with the #5 gouge.  This is done to begin shaping the chin.

Step 25

Step 25

Step 25.  Continue rounding the chin between the ends of the mustache.

Step 26

Step 26

Step 26.  Considering the previous shadow-cuts were practice, you may choose to add a shadow-cut between the jowl and chin. This is a larger cut and is done with a single arch, not two stop cuts.  Work carefully.  Don’t use the knife to pry.

Step 27

Step 27

Step 27.  Add hairs in the mustache with the 3mm V-tool, making short random strokes. The hair that hangs over the mouth should have an uneven (nibbled) look.

Step 28

Step 28

Step 28.  I used a #9  6mm gouge to cut the nostrils.  I could have used the #5 gouge but, in this case, I liked the #9 better.  The important thing is to make both cuts symmetrical.  I use the V-tool to cut my initials and date in the back cover.


Here are some pictures of the finished carving.

Completed view 1 Completed view 2 Completed view 3 Completed view 4 Completed view 5 Completed view 6

Knife cover

Swedish Mora Knife

Swedish Mora Knife

I just purchased a knife that comes from Sweden. A Mora. It’s blade is 3 1/8 inches (80 mm) long. I first saw this knife in use when I took a one week class in March led by Harley Refsal, a CCA member. During that week Harley showed us how he uses it for a special purpose, which isn’t carving. Actually he doesn’t cut with it at all. You’ll have to ask Harley if you want to know more. Anyway, being a person who always needs a new tool, I ordered two. One for myself and one for a friend.

To my surprise, it arrived with an extremely sharp edge. Considering my friend’s safety, I  decided to make a blade cover for him. There have been several articles in carving magazines for making wooden covers and then cleverly carving them into keepsakes. In case you missed the articles, here are the steps I used to make the cover.

I started with two scraps of basswood 2 1/4 by 5 3/4 inches (58mm by 122mm). The pieces were about 3/8 inches (9mm) thick. Because the blade was extra large, the wood was large, too. I added the extra inches to the length to allow more room for creativity. The surfaces that will be glued should be smooth and flat so no gaps occur.


I traced the profile of the blade onto the middle of one piece of wood. Then I used a carving knife to make a “stop” cut just inside the profile lines. A #3 gouge was perfect for relieving the wood inside the “stop” cuts. I tapered the area so the “cutting edge” side was very shallow and the depth of the other side matched the thickness of the back of the blade.


Many test fittings were made before the recess was perfect. Test the progress by placing the blade into the recess and covering it with the second piece of wood. If the second piece rocks on the blade, more wood must be removed. The goal is to have the blade squeezed slightly between the two pieces of wood, specifically at the thickest part of the blade. The final test should be made by clamping the pieces together as if they were glued. Insert the blade into the opening; too tight and the force required to remove the blade may cause an accident, too loose and the cover could fall off or become loose after sharpening several times.
Carefully spread a thin coat of wood glue on the surface with the recess. Because the glue may squeeze into the recessed area, don’t spread glue too close to it. Clamp the two pieces. Before the glue dries, insert the blade and remove it immediately. Check for glue on the blade. CAREFULLY remove any glue and repeat this step until no glue appears on the blade. Allow the glue to dry. Do NOT leave the blade in the cover while the glue drys.
Before adding your design, you have to reserve the area that contains the blade. Position the blade on the outside surface of the wood by aligning it with the opening. Once again trace the blade profile onto the wood. Because my design was the same on both sides of the cover, I just did my sketch on one side. Make sure your design does not come too close the the profile line. You can remove the scrap with a scroll saw, band saw or simply carve it away. Please don’t leave the knife in the cover while you shape the cover.

I’ll point out a couple of design considerations I used for my cover. I wanted a “push point” in my design so it was more natural to hold the knife with the sharp edge downward and the thumb could push the cover to loosen it. I created this with the boot on the figure. Of course the obvious position of the figure suggests the sharp edge is toward it’s bottom. The other precaution I took was to protect the hat on the figure. Because of it’s shape, and it’s location at the end of the cover, I wanted to add some protection. I used the extra length of the wood to carve some stones that would more than likely receive the impact from a fall.


Someone asked me why the figure is lying on stones. Must be for drainage.




Here are a few more examples of wooden knife covers.


I hope you understood this and are able to put it to good use.

Dim Bulbs

A friend of mine, Rod Beamish from Indiana, showed a bunch of really cute carved ornaments to me a few years ago. I’ve carved a couple dozen of them myself since then and thought I would pass along some tips to encourage others to try carving “Dim Bulbs”.

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The following description will not be carving instructions as much as tips and shortcuts for those who already know how to carve a corner face. Most corner faces are done for practice or demonstration. When finished, you just have a face on the corner of a scrap of wood. This project will allow you to practice and have something “useful” when you’re done. I’m going to describe the process to prepare the wood and offer some tips to shape the wood before actually carving a face.

I used Rod’s blank to create my own cardboard pattern. The pattern is for 4 ornaments. That’s done to allow more wood to grasp while working on each small ornament. You could increase the number of ornaments on the blank but at some point you’ll cause a problem for yourself. If you have ever carved a walking stick or cane, you know how unwieldy a long stick can be.  Click here to link to a PDF for Dim Bulb Pattern.

Cardboard pattern Cardboard pattern

Take special care when making this pattern so each ornament is the same width and the edges fall in straight line. This will help when it’s time to draw a center line. Trace the pattern onto two adjacent sides of a piece of wood. Allow about a quarter of an inch of scrap wood on both sides of the pattern. Make sure the pattern is centered on both sides of the wood.

Pattern on one side Pattern on one side
Pattern on adjacent sides

Use a band saw or scroll saw to cut the pattern on one side of the wood. Make one cut on each side of the pattern so you have three pieces of wood after this step.

First side after cutting First side after cutting

Some people will leave a small section of the line uncut on each side of the blank. That way the scrap will remain attached to the blank for cutting the adjacent side. I prefer to use a one-inch piece of double-sided carpet tape to hold each scrap piece onto the blank while I cut the adjacent side.

 After first cut on adjacent side
 After first cut on adjacent side

Making the cuts on the adjacent side will produce the completed blank. If you used the “incomplete cut” method on the first side, return to the that side and carefully finish removing the scrap pieces. If you use the tape method, pull the scrap from the original side and remove any tape still sticking to the blank. You will have a blank with 4 corners.

 Blank with all scrap pieces

Now is the time to mark a center line on all four sides of the blank. I have a useful tool made by Dave Rushlo. It holds a pencil and is adjustable. It’s great for drawing a center line on blocks of wood or anything where you need a line drawn parallel to a flat surface.

Blank with center line Blank with center line

The center line defines the widest point of each ornament so as you round three of the four corners to form the back, you’ll leave the line and follow the directions below. The center lines, to the left and right of the fourth corner, define the boundaries for the face. The center line also helps when transforming the square area at the top of each ornament into a cylinder in preparation for the “threads”.

A line should also be drawn between each ornament. This serves as a reminder to reserve enough wood for the “threaded” cylinder as you form the bottom of the ornament above it.

 Line at top of each ornament. Bottom of ornament drawn for visual aid

You can start with any of the ornaments but I recommend shaping the backs and tops of all of them before carving the faces.  I choose a corner of the blank that I think has the strongest grain for the noses or a corner free from blemishes. I like to remove some wood from each of the three corners I intend to round over. That way I don’t remove a nose by mistake.

Another tip I can offer is when rounding a corner, remove the center third of the area between it’s left and right center lines.  Note the red lines in the photo. Then remove the ridges (the red lines) formed by those cuts trying to use the “thirds” method again.

 Using the “thirds” method to help with symmetry.

This should create a balanced and more rounded area. You’ll still need to make many more smaller cuts to smooth the rounded quarter before repeating the process on the other corners.

 Back corner rounded.
 Top view of back corner rounded.

You’ll have to carefully cut off the center lines on the back of each ornament to remove the original saw cuts and make the adjacent quarters blend. Remember, the center lines are located on the widest dimension of the ornament so the more wood you remove at that line, the thinner your ornament will become.

 Front view of top ornament after rounding back three corners.
 Front view after rounding back three corners.

The area for the “threads” should just be roughed out. Remember there is a small bit of wood in the center of the top of each ornament. It represents the contact point between the ornament and the circuit in a real light socket.

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IMG_0922 Faces and cylinders carved
IMG_0923 Adding “contact” point to top of cylinder
IMG_0924 Lines drawn for “threads”

Add the “threads” after the ornaments have been separated. To do this, I draw a lite pencil line for guidance.  I like to start at the top of the cylinder above the center of the face. It would be great to finish the thread-cut right below the starting point but that doesn’t always happen. The threads would never work for real but the suggestion of real threads is more convincing if you see the beginning and the end of them as you view the face.  On the back my threads are almost horizontal. I use a 3mm # 11 or  #9 to cut the threads. I have a Dockyard brand tool that size.


Cutting the Cutting the “threads”

After painting, use a small awl or large needle to make a pilot hole in the center of the contact point.


Add a small screw eye to allow hanging.


IMG_0950 IMG_0949 IMG_0948 IMG_0945

Click here to view more Dim Bulbs in my Flicker account.

I hope this provides enough detail to get your creative juices flowing. Happy carving.

Man in the Moon

Recently I was given a copy of a current special issue of Woodcarving Illustrated magazine. It’s title is Whittling, 30 Easy Patterns. Even as an experienced carver, several projects caught my attention. One in particular was a scrap wood crescent moon with a face. The article was prepared by Dave Stetson (CCA). I liked it for it’s simplicity and the way Dave broke the project into ten simple steps. If you get a copy of your own, you might notice the printing error. Some of the steps are pictured upside down. A casual glance would miss that fact. You can see the corrected article at  Look for the Man In The Moon article.

Anyway I used the picture in step one to create a cardboard template and cut out 8 copies. I made mine 3/8 ” thick. The work went fast and I soon had six finished moons. I started to think about different faces with different expressions. I lightly traced around my template on a tablet sheet. Then I started enlarging noses, mouths and eyes. I left simplicity with Dave and just tried lots of variations. Dave’s moon didn’t have ears so mine were without ears. I could have created more variations if I used mustaches and beards but everybody knows the man in the moon doesn’t have hair except when he’s a Santa lookalike. I’ve painted them Turners Yellow with Gold Oxide shading, White for the teeth and eyes and Red for lips.     Here is Dave’s original and my variations.

Moon 1 Moon 2 Moon 3 Moon 4 Moon 5 Moon 6 Moon 7 Moon 8

Home shop dust collection

Late last year I decided to invest in a real dust collection system for my shop. Unfortunately my shop is too small for a REAL dust collection system so I just bought a Jet DC-1100VX-CK with a 4 inch hose port. It’s on a wheeled base and, despite its steep price tag, still can’t roll over its own cord any better than the numerous vacs I’ve owned. My old Ridgid shop vacuum just couldn’t do the job and my table saw already had a 4 inch port for dust collection. The new equipment works very well when attached to the table saw.

I also have a Delta 14 inch bandsaw. I attached the DC-1100 to the existing port that came with the bandsaw using several connectors to get from 4 inches down to 1 and a quarter inches. I never felt the port was engineered or sized well enough to do the job but was confident the DC-1100 would be strong enough to help justify its cost and carry the dust away. That would have been too easy.

The poor placement of what is basically a hinged flange next to where the blade passes through the saw table has open space all around it. Dust continued to collect in the chamber that holds lower wheel even when connected to the Jet. Dust also escaped from various openings in the cabinet including around the port. At that point I felt the 4 inch system was no better than my old vac.

Google was my next resort. I found several people that were trying to solve the same problem with their bandsaw. I never knew there were so many variations of 14 inch bandsaws. No one with a solution had my exact configuration. The closest one opened a 4 inch hole in the back of the cast iron housing that protects the lower wheel. I was all set to do the same when I discovered a metal box covering the drive belt blocked access to my cast iron housing. My only choice, if I wanted a 4 inch port, was to locate it on the door covering the lower wheel.

I used a 4 inch plastic flange as a template to draw a circle on the lower door. I drilled several holes inside the circle being careful not to damage the wheel. I used a reciprocating saw with a hacksaw blade to remove as much of the metal as I could. Actually I stopped just short of ripping my wife’s arms off as she held the door. I left the door attached to the housing with the hinge as I cut the metal. I then used my hand drill with a small grinding stone on a shaft to remove more metal closer to the drawn circle. It wasn’t perfect but I basically had a 4 inch opening with a rough edge that is hidden by the plastic flange.

You can see, in the pictures below, I was able to incorporate the original bandsaw port with the new 4 inch port. The combination of the two ports do a much better job of collecting the dust. The finer particles are carried away. The dust that is not drawn below the table by the blade, still collects on the table but all in all I’m satisfied with the new arrangement.

Delta Band Saw

Flange with connector to "T"

Flange with connector to “T”

4 inch connection to 1 1/4 port

4 inch connection to 1 1/4 port

original saw port

original saw port

small flexible hose easily disconnects for table clean-up

small flexible hose easily disconnects for table clean-up

 Cast iron housing blocked at back

Cast iron housing blocked at back

Tool Sharpening

I recently heard from a friend about a carver in Maryland. His name didn’t ring a bell so I Googled him.  His name is Jim Calder. From the info on his website,, he’s an accomplished carver worthy of the title on his site, the Wood Wizard. You can visit his site for more info and pictures if you like but I want to comment on something that caught my attention.  Jim’s history includes a mentor named Norbert Munson. He mentions a sign in Mr Munson’s woodworking shop that I think will be a discussion starter. The sign stated “Sandpaper is for fools who can’t sharpen their tools.”. Wow! Does that hit a nerve? It calls to mind another saying I heard. “Only fools speak in blazing generalities.”, which in itself is a blazing generality.

Sandpaper can actually be used to put an extremely sharp edge on a tool. Maybe Mr Munson wasn’t familiar with modern high-tech sandpaper. Of course he was referring to sanding a project after using carving tools. That would be “carvers” who use dull tools for half the project and then sand the rest of the way. For me, sanding the surfaces chewed by dull tools takes more time and effort than carving all the way with sharp tools.

What about a carving that requires an ultra smooth surface to convey a life-like image?  I’ve seen spectacular award winning carvings that would have been much less impressive without a smooth surface.  I’ll bet those award winning carvers know how to sharpen their tools anyway.

I think Mr Munson was trying to shame carvers into learning to sharpen their tools. Imagine an artist not knowing how to sharpen a pencil. Too bad it isn’t as easy to learn to sharpen carving tools. Rarely do  carving tools arrive from the store with a usable edge. Maybe that’s why I can’t convince carving buddies to buy a new tool.

My style of carving does not require a finished surface that is free of obvious tool cuts. As a matter of fact, I have to try hard to not carve the tool cuts away. Sharp tools leave a smooth surface ready for paint or stain. Sanding, no matter how fine the sand paper, leaves the wood surface rougher than the surface made by a sharp tool. You can test that statement if you have a sharp tool. A surface made by a sharp tool will actually reflect light. Try that with sandpaper. I know some carvers that hide the surface with something that resembles house paint. In that case, I guess the surface of the raw wood doesn’t need to be cut with a sharp tool and any “chewed” surfaces can be filled with paint.

I’ve read about the stone carvers in Italy requiring the apprentices to sharpen tools for a year before they could begin to carve. In our society of instant gratification, who can delay the impulse to carve by spending time learning to sharpen tools? I’ll have to confess that my carving experience was no different than those of my carving pals. My first carving tool was a pocket knife that could have been sharper. My first real carving gouges arrived with a very sharp edge. Harold Enlow sold them that way in the late 70’s. I was able to keep them in working order with a leather strop.  I carved without giving much thought to sharpening until 1989 when I actually met Harold and carved with him for 3 days. He pointed out the problem with my tools and something clicked that made me begin to perfect the art/science of sharpening.

I’ve sharpened lots of tools since then. Some of them have belonged to friends. It was great for my learning curve but did nothing for theirs. I started with bench stones and still use them when my motorized sanding belt is too aggressive. There are many methods of sharpening. That tells you there is no one right way to sharpen. It seems like a new device appears every year. Of course it’s always the answer everyone’s been looking for. The magical way to sharpen so you won’t have to actually learn to sharpen. Some are really expensive and, guess what, you still have to learn how to sharpen.

I won’t try to teach sharpening in a blog posting because that just won’t work. Many books and articles have been written on the subject. If you don’t have someone to teach you personally, I would recommend watching an instructional video. I gained confidence by watching Harold. In any case, you’ll never learn unless you practice. How many swimmers do you know that never got wet?

As I wind this post down, I’ll tell of another personal experience related to sharpening. For years I avoided taking a class from a well known and extremely talented carver. He had the reputation of expressing his displeasure of a student’s dull tool by throwing it. I had the opportunity a couple of years ago to take his class in a local venue. By then I was pretty confident in my sharpening skill to risk experiencing his displeasure. The class was very gratifying and a real treat to see this man carve. As he visited my station and used my tools to demonstrate the instruction, he announced that I won the prize for the sharpest tools. What more can I say? It was a very good day.

I’ve come a long way from the thought of “carving with sandpaper” but if you’re still reading, I’ll end with another thought. How do chip carvers, who don’t know how to sharpen, finish their work with sandpaper?

Carved Chess Set

For the last three summers our grandson and I have collaborated on a project while he spends two weeks with us. The projects are always made of wood. The first one was a helicopter. Last year it was a robot. Both were non-motorized. This year the project was a chess set. He has just turned 8 and chess is his latest interest. He knew it would be a big project so, to reduce the effort and improve the “sales pitch”, he said the design should be plain. It should not be fancy or elaborate. The eyes would be painted on and the hands would not have fingers. His contribution, in addition to design suggestions, would be painting. I would just do the carving. I figured I needed to carve four pieces each day to fit around our other plans for the two weeks. Oh, and another little detail, his plans included a board with room for storage in a drawer. I have no idea when the board and drawer will appear.

I began by using graph paper with quarter inch squares to develop patterns for his approval. The rooks came first and were just in a traditional castle format. His idea for the knights was a toy soldier in a uniform similar to the Queen’s guard (England). The kings and queens were stiff figures with mitten hands. The pawns were to be dogs on one team and cats on the other. I found a dog pattern from Harold Enlow’s chess set and copied it. Reminding my grandson of the specification for plain and simple, I convinced him that 8 copies of the same dog and same cat would work. I’ll have to admit I also used my influence to convince him of my design for the bishops. A compromise was struck and there would be two male and two female bishops. He thought his mother, a minister, would like that. I think she liked the concept but not the unflattering rendering of the women. The pictures that follow show the progress of the project.

Future basswood chess pieces

Cardboard patterns were made from the original drawings

Cardboard patterns were made from the original drawings

Painting takes place while more pieces are carved

Two kings and a very sober queen

A pair of kings and a grinning queen

First Bishop

First bishop. Another angle.

Woman Bishop

Unpainted Pawns for the black team

Pawns for the white team in progress

Presenting the white team

Presenting the black team

Ready for battle

Chris Hammack Design Class

Chris Hammack Design Class

If you have looked at my post showing the wood carving instructors I’ve had, you know I’ve taken a lot of classes. Especially when you consider I’ve had some instructors multiple times. I was so inspired by the unique class I’ve just finished, I want to share a little of my experience. The class was five days with caricature carver Chris Hammack. Chris has been carving professionally for many years. Chris is a great addition to the Caricature Carvers of America (CCA). Both times I’ve carved with Chris in the past, the class has been in a more traditional format. That format is where a project or a choice of projects have been provided by the instructor. This time Chris was waiting for his seven students with a block of bass wood four inches thick, ten inches wide and four feet long.

Chris (on the right) and Randy developing a sketch. Notice the block of wood.

He also had a few supplies in addition to his Helvie brand knife. He brought a lined spiral binder, a pencil, a Sharpie pen and some scissors. We arrived with our tools and ideas for a project.

Chris had sketches of his earlier projects.

Chris visited with each of us to discuss our ideas and develop a pattern. He explained the technique for sketching the figure. This included a front and side view. The student cut the paper pattern, transferred it to the wood and used a band saw to cut the blank.

Sketch of my first figure.

Blank of my first figure

By lunch time, everyone was making the chips fly.

Progress by lunch the first day

Progress by lunch time first day. Some of our projects were multiple figures and some had the heads carved separately. As the additional pieces were needed, Chris would assist with another sketch and the process would repeat.

My first figure at 5 PM, day one.

The block after each of us had our first blank

Because of the small class size, Chris spent plenty of time with each of us, sharing his thoughts about proportions and details as well as brainstorming about project features. We talked about what makes a successful and entertaining caricature carving. I was impressed by the six other projects and amazed as I watched them take shape knowing they had just been ideas a few hours earlier. Although none of the projects were completely ready to be displayed at the end of the fifth day, we knew what was needed to add the finishing touches. We all had a great time, got to make new carving friends and endured good and bad jokes. We were also fed very well by the club that hosted the class.
The Eastern Woodlands Carving Club is located in Converse, Indiana. EWCC is everything I think a carving club should be. They are unique in having their own building. The leadership is able to maintain the building and a variety of programs to keep the local members active. They offer space for basket making classes and wood turning. The first floor has space to accommodate four carving classes at a time. It has a fully equipped wood shop, three restrooms, and a kitchen where hot lunches are prepared by volunteer members. I’ve carved at EWCC seven times and have had delicious lunches each time. My first visit was in 2007. I was treated so well, I make the trip from Pittsburgh at least once a year. The membership is about 200 including myself. I wish I lived closer so I could help with the many events they host.

During the first two days of our class, another class was being held on the other side of the first floor. Richard Wetherbee from Colorado Springs, Colorado was working with students carving their choice of a realistic mountain man or a caricature of a bear playing a washtub bass. Rich is one of the founding members of the CCA and an excellent carver. I had never met Rich but was delighted to make his acquaintance. We enjoyed Rich’s company for the remainder of the week.

We had two special visitors during the week. Rich Smithson spent the day with Rich Wetherbee. Rich is the owner and operator of the Helvie knife company. He donated a knife to be raffled with the proceeds going to the club. Luck was with me that day. Thanks again Rich.
Friday, club founder and resident CCA member, Tom Brown stopped in to say hi. Tom’s health keeps him from being out and about very much so it was nice to see him this trip.
I’m including pictures from our class with each student’s project represented. Some are from earlier in the week but you can tell they are all works in progress. You should be able to get the idea behind the project.

Catcher having words with the umpire

Bob Folk’s umpire

Catcher to umpire

Bob Folk's catcher Bob’s catcher

Jack Shelton’s musician to be accompanied by a howling dog.

Frank Witt’s fisherman and dog. They both have worms. The dog is skidding along pulled by his front legs.

Jerry Childres’ Pirate

Close-up of Jerry’s Pirate

Jim O'hara's old timer who is mad at his truck

Jim's cat

Jim O’Hara’s Old Timer about to shoot his broken down truck. The cat is not happy either.

Randy Hurst is ready to paint his troubadour.

These are the three figures in my project. They’re using a GPS to find their way.

Chris is a great instructor and easy to spend a week with. I’ll definitely be watching his schedule for another design class. I recommend his design class for anyone who has been carving for a while. Check with Chris if you’re not sure about your skill level. Contact him at Check my separate post of my painted project.