Carving from a pattern


In March of 2015, ten students collaborated with Chris Hammack (CCA) to develop their own pattern for a figure to be carved from a 4X4X8 inch piece of basswood. Everyone had a very unique project. I was not one of those students but 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 refined 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

This project has been recognized by the CCA with a Merit Award during the March 2017 Roundup Class. This award also encourages the recipient to enter the project in the annual CCA competition in August. Here’s the Merit Award and ribbon.


Here is the third place ribbon from the CCA Competition. The category was “Group Mixed” because of the ladybug and baby.



Clock Peddler Project, Part 1

This post is the first in a series of three that will take you through the steps I took to produce a carving of an old-time clock peddler. (Part 2, Part 3) My cousin is a clock collector. He also repairs and re-conditions clocks. When I visited him and his wife in May of this year, he showed a cast figure to me. It appeared to be a copy of an original woodcarving. He asked if I would be interested in reproducing it in wood. As you will see the figure was very interesting and well done. Thinking since it was carved from wood originally, I said yes. He offered a rough slab of basswood that was at least 20 years old. I did some quick measuring and decided it would work.

During the carving I became more and more skeptical of the original method used to make my model. I am now convinced it was never carved from wood but fashioned from clay and cleverly made to look like wood. The fine details, such as the threads in the stockings, the flowers decorating the back-board holding the clocks and the fine details in the clocks, including the roman numerals could not have been added by carving into wood. The original artist is not identified but I would welcome any information dealing with the origin of this model. I did my best to reproduce the figure and used artistic license to deal with some details that required magical powers I do not possess.

This post will cover the preparation of the wood, including surfacing, trimming  and adding scrap pieces to accommodate the pattern. It will also show making the pattern, applying the pattern and cutting the blank on the band saw.
The second post will show many photos taken during the carving progression.  The third and final post will show the completed carving, both without and with the stain.

Clock Peddler Project, Part 2

This is the second of three posts showing a carving I made of an old-time clock peddler. (Part 1, Part 3) Here you will see many photos taken of the project as it evolved into a finished carving. I also show a picture of my tools and my carving bench. the project is mounted on a carving arm and held in place with a carving screw. My carving tools are designed for use with a mallet but only the very early stages required the mallet to remove larger amounts of wood. The remainder of the cuts were done by simply pushing the tools. You will also see a measuring device used to transfer dimensions from the model to the project. The first picture shows my mallet, a carving screw, two dividers, a carving arm and a plastic scale.

Clock Peddler Project, Part 3

This is the last of a three-part series of posts to document my project to carve a clock peddler in basswood. (Part 1, Part 2) These are pictures of the completed carving. you may notice the finished base is smaller than the project as it’s seen attached to the carving arm. When I applied the pattern to the wood I allowed extra stock on the base to accommodate the carving screw. After removing the screw, I trimmed the base. I’m including shots before the stain was applied because the shadows on the raw wood give a different perception to the details. The stain I used is from Germany and was developed for basswood carvings. The color is Pearwood. It is a water based stain that contains wax and ammonia in addition to the pigment. It’s applied with a brush and buffed with a special brush and cloth. The carving is 13 3/4 inches (34.9 cm) tall, 5 1/4 inches (13.3 cm) wide and 4 3/4 inches (12 cm) deep.

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 from 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 challenge.

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 Howard’s Feed n’ Wax as a finish on the raw wood.




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.

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.