Dave Stetson’s Zoom Class: Heirloom Santa Carving

Dave Stetson’s Zoom Class: Heirloom Santa Carving

In July of 2020 I attended a carving class conducted by Dave Stetson of Scottsdale, Arizona. Dave is a founding member of the Caricature Carvers of America. I have taken three Zoom classes with Dave and have learned a lot. I recommend Dave’s classes either in person or on Zoom. Dave offers a wealth of information on design, including human anatomy, carving techniques and painting. He has been teaching for many years and is genuinely concerned for the student’s comprehension and learning experience.

This class was based on a woodcarving roughout developed by Dave. Not all of Dave’s classes use roughouts. Depending on the subject, and the level of difficulty, a single block of basswood may be the only requirement. A roughout will reduce the amount of wood removal and therefore reduce the time required to complete the project. This class required 12 hours of instruction time. That time was divided into six two hour sessions. Painting the completed project was included. Because the class was held via Zoom, students could ask questions during the sessions. The other advantage for the student was each session is recorded and was available for review after the class. Dave also encouraged students to email pictures of problem areas so he could offer advice before the next session.

I am including several photos of my project showing my progress.The total height of the figure and base is eleven and a half inches (29.5cm). The design included enough wood for options to place Santa’s hat on his head or in his left hand. Santa’s right hand was designed to hold a walking staff to be carved separately.

This is the “roughout” provided for the class.

CCA Class 2018

On August 24th, 25th and 26th of 2018 I attended my 10th Caricature Carvers of America class in Converse, Indiana. This annual event is hosted by the local club, the Eastern Woodlands Carving Club and is held in the building owned by the club. The students are divided into three groups of 13. Each group spends one day with each of the three instructors. The venue is ideal for the event and lunch is provided by the EWCC members. This year’s instructors were Dennis Thornton, Ron Dowdy and Jim Hiser, all CCA members of course. All of the projects were from basswood roughouts designed by the instructor. I was able to complete my projects and paint them after returning home.

This is Jim Hiser’s Santa.

This is Ron Dowdy’s Firefighter.

Here is Dennis Thornton’s Traveling Turtle.

Caricature Class with Tom Richmond

Caricature Class with Tom Richmond

On June 9th, 10th and 11th of 2017 I participated in the Tom Richmond Caricature Workshop held in the Pittsburgh area. I was the odd duck in the workshop because of my background, or lack of one, in drawing. For the last 40 years I have been a woodcarving hobbyist. I have no formal training in drawing or sketching but really like the art of caricature and the humor it provides. The other students ranged from seasoned live caricature pros to professional cartoonists/comic book artists and animators.

I met Tom several years ago in Pittsburgh and watched him in action. I knew he had a lot to offer so when I saw on his blog, TomRichmond.com, that he would be hosting a workshop 8 miles from my house, it seemed like a sign to make the leap. When I contacted Tom to tell him of my interest and experience, he assured me I would benefit from the class and would not spoil it for the other students. Although I must have been a challenge for Tom, his encouragement and individual direction gave me confidence to improve as the workshop proceeded.

As Tom hoped in his opening remarks, I am now seeing faces in a new way.  It remains to be seen if I can apply the vast amount of this new insight to my carvings. I’m excited to make this happen.

I’m also glad I had the opportunity to see the many aspects of Tom’s profession. I appreciate the skill and effort required to produce the art we see every day in political satire, advertising, graphic novels and comics.

Tom’s vast knowledge, skill, humor and willingness to share make him an invaluable asset to the industry. I would encourage caricature carvers, who are ready to expand their skills, to make an effort to attend Tom’s workshop. I still have many hours ahead to perfect the techniques from the class but I know it’s possible. I felt a lot of pressure during the drawing exercises, but that is what it takes if you’re serious about learning.

Click here to get a better sense of Tom’s workshop content and availability.

Here are the participants in the Pittsburgh workshop.

Here are some shots taken during an inking demonstration.


The students are checking their photos, not checking email.


Tom explained the process to produce the artwork for a MAD Magazine feature.

Tom used a laptop and drawing pad to project his drawings while he described his techniques.

2016 Class, Lebanon, TN

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).

2015 Class, Lebanon, TN

In March of 2015 I attended a five day class in Lebanon, Tennessee. The event is called the Renegade Woodcarvers Roundup. For the first time in the Roundup’s history, the week of carving classes was followed by two classes on the weekend. One class was a design and woodcarving class. I took the other class on polymer clay sculpting. The expectation for my 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.


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’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 chrishammackart.com. Check my separate post of my painted project.

Instructors I Have Had

Time spent with these instructors have lasted from ninety minute seminars to two weeks. I’ve taken multiple classes from many of the instructors.

  • Georg Keilhofer
  • Harold Enlow
  • Ronald Rondo
  • Jeff Phares
  • Phil Bishop
  • Vicki Bishop
  • Harley Schmitgen
  • Floyd Rhadigan
  • Steve Brown
  • Gary Falin
  • Jon Nelson
  • Gerald Sears
  • Peter Ortel
  • Dennis Thornton
  • Tom Wolfe
  • David Sabol
  • Mark Gargac
  • Pete LeClair
  • Vic Hood
  • Mike Shipley
  • John Burke
  • Wayne Shinlever
  • Bruce Henn
  • Keith Morrill
  • Desiree Hajny
  • Joe Schumacher
  • Dave Stetson
  • Mark Akers
  • Chris Hammack
  • Allen Goodman
  • Marvin Daniels
  • Mitch Cartledge
  • P.J.Driscoll
  • Steve Prescott
  • Don Mertz
  • Harley Refsal
  • Sandy Smith
  • Richard Wetherbee
  • Janet Cordell
  • Joe You
  • Ryan Olson
  • Dale Green
  • Dwayne Gosnell
  • Rodger Stegall
  • Jim Hiser
  • Ron Dowdy
  • Butch Clark