No See-ums were created by Don Worley of New Carlisle, Ohio in early 2008. He has taught several classes on these fun caricature carvings as well as numerous individual carvers. Don has been active in the Dayton Carvers Guild of Ohio and has been co-chairman many years for the annual Artistry in Wood. He is my good friend and a friend to carvers near and far.
Don Worley is pictured here standing behind his table display at the 2006 Dayton Artistry in Wood Show. His table is laden with caricatures carved on the corner of bass wood blocks. A few of his other caricature carvings can be seen to the side of the main display. In an earlier year Don had carved all the characters of the Beetle Bailey cartoon strip. Most recently he had written an article for Woodcarving Illustrated Issue 43, Summer 2008, (page 10) tips and techniques entitled “Cutting triangular blanks.” He developed a jig to cut on a band saw triangular blanks for carving Mark Gargac’s Olde World Santa (WCI Holiday 2007, issue 41.
Armed with these triangular blanks and a caricature creativity it was natural for Don to originate the No See-ums using the triangular blanks as the foundation for carving caricature faces without any eyes. This clever idea was admired by other carvers who asked Don to teach how to do these simple and yet eye appealing caricature faces. Any carver who tries one becomes addicted to doing several since they are simple to do and simply fun to do.
Triangular blanks are cut from one and a half inch or two inch square blocks of basswood at a forty five degree angle and then cut into lengths between two and three inches long. The beginning cut for the original No See-um with eyes hidden is to cut the nose approximately in the center of the blank using a knife or a deep gouge equal to about half the size of the nose one wants to carve. From this central point the rest of the face with hat can be drawn with pencil and then carve following the guidelines to release the face giving it character. Once started, No See-ums seem to create themselves as each new carving takes on a personality of their own. The best way to experience this phenomenon is to try your hand at carving some No See-ums.
Don Worley taught me a few of the basics for carving No See-ums and here are examples of my interpretation of these fun little caricatures. They lend themselves to inspiring one’s imagination and with each new creation there is that inner tranquility of “Woodcarving is more the journey than the destination.” The “Journey” continues with each new possibility. Thanks to Don Worley for introducing the carving world to No See-ums. Don can be reached by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.