Posted by: woodbeecarver   in Carving Projects


A commissioned carving project of a carpenter nonchalantly holding his hammer while tapping its head into the palm of his other hand is carved out of a seven-inch-tall block of basswood with the words “HAVE HAMMER ~ WILL TRAVEL” incised into the base of the carving.

The carpenter is showing his age by his white hair and beard while his muscular frame tells of his strength of being up to any job that comes his way.  His nail apron is full of nails signaling that he is available at the drop of the hat to travel on to the next job.



The photos above show the carpenter from various angles in his finished state with artist oil paint thinned with boiled linseed oil to provide the polychrome finish. The next series of photographs depict the progressive stages of development in the carving process beginning with a block of basswood two inch by three inch by seven inches tall.  The base is one inch tall making the figure six inches tall on top of the base.


The first step in the process is to carve a notch around the base at the inch mark and then begin to carve the corners at the top to begin shaping the hat and head area.  The angled center line drawn on the top of the hat/head shaped dowel is to indicate the direction the face will be looking.


The shaping of the hat/head dowel uses knives designed for roughing to basic shape with their slicing tip portions of the cutting blade.  The second photo visualizes the carving of the top of the cap to its basic form and the beginning of thinning below the cap for where the face will be carved using the two knives in the photo.  The cap is carved first so that the head can be carved as going up into the cap.  The two horizontal pencil lines represent the Rule of Three division for body proportions ~ the first unseen line is at the top of the shoulders; the middle line represents the waist and the next line represents the mid knees.


The arms and hands are draw in the area between the shoulder and the waist with the right hand holding a hammer and the opened left hand palm is receiving the tapping of the face of the hammer.  Wood is removed above and below the arms/hands/hammer drawing using an extreme scimitar shaped blade that also is beginning to open up the area for the legs and tops of the feet. The second photo shows another scimitar shaped blade on the left for making of finer slicing cuts to compliment the more aggressive slicing cuts of the extreme scimitar blade.


The two photos above reveal a little more progress being made using smaller scimitar shaped knives to take finer cuts that are evident in the front and profile view.  Whittle by whittle the parts of the body are being thinned and shaped as the basic form begins to take shape.


In these two photos above the feet, legs and arms are getting closer to the size for a natural look.  The wood between the legs and between the arms and the chest trunk are made with repeated slicing cuts at narrow angles to each other from the front to back and back to front until an opening appears.  Then it is a matter of slowly slicing the legs and arms to natural shape. Notice that the head is begining to be shaped from the tip of nose back and up under the bill of the cap to lay a foundation for the eyebrows, eyes, nose, mouth mound, beard and ears.  Notice also that the hands for been carved to basic form with the planes and angles of the fingers in a boxy form awaiting the final carving of the details.  Ninety percent of carving a figure is to carve it to its basic form and then the final ten percent of detail carving will fit into the basic form and foundation.


The photo on the left shows the facial features have received the final detail carving while the hands and shoes await detailing.  Smaller scimitar knives are used for detail carving.  Compare the photo on the left with the one on the right to imagine what details were done between the left to make the finished carving of the right.

The use of imagination is so important during the carving process where the carver sees with imagination what needs to be done to create the final look. Imagination envisions the initial design of the project in the mind and that image is used in the removal of wood to begin shaping the wood to look like the mental image. It is a back and forth ~ yin and yang ~ of the creative tension between imagination and acting out imagination or mind and hand working together. The more that the carver exercises this tension the more the unexplainable creates the art that becomes a serendipity happening.  That is why this old carver says over and over, The more one carves the better one carves,” by allowing the “force be with you,” or the “muse of creativity” or the “accident of art” that happens unplanned and is a surprise.  Which leads to another saying, “If it can be imagined, it can be.”  And that is why one carves to BEE CARVEFUL.







This entry was posted on Thursday, August 6th, 2020 at 1:06 pm and is filed under Carving Projects. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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