JIM HECKER – A Carving Friend

   Posted by: woodbeecarver   in Carving Friends



Jim Hecker  is a carving friend from Minnesota who carves in a very unique style that comes from his Scandinavian roots. Recently he finished two carvings of his Grandpa Peterson.  In his own words he talks about this unique carving style and the process he used during the carving process.

I would call my work “Scandinavian Style Figure Carving.” Some of my planes come out pretty flat, but others not so. The “flat plane style” seems to have many variations. Harley Refsal pushes the flat planes to the extreme, teaching that a cross section of a leg should look like an octagon. On other Scandinavian carvings the flat planes are very minimal. I have seen Mike Shipley’s  Ozark carvings referred to as flat plane style. So there is quite a range of what is called flat plane carving. One constant is that we leave the tool marks showing. The biggest influences on my carving style have been Harley Refsal, Bill Jaeger – resident carving instructor at the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis, Mike Shipley, and Bruce Futterer  So I think it would be accurate to say that I carve figures “in the Scandinavian Style.”

GRANDPA PETERSON  was a very satisfying carving project. My Grandpa Peterson emigrated from Sweden and became a farmer in Southwestern Minnesota. He died when I was nine years old so I rely on old photographs to refresh my memories of Grandpa. I used some small black and white photos to help me create the patterns for my carvings. They show the kinds of clothes and hats he wore and his suspenders were standard attire. The figures are six inches tall and I band sawed the front and side profiles out of 2” x 2 ½” basswood blocks.

I posed holding a pitchfork and my wife Sue took some photos to help me get the hands right. (Sue gets the credit for all my carving photographs.) I asked my mother about clothing colors. The hayfork was carved separately and inserted in a hole drilled through the hands. Where the hands come together there is one spot where the drill started to break through. This was a good reminder to drill any holes through hands first and then shape the hands around the holes. I carved the glasses on the face using a technique similar to one I observed on carvings by the Swedish master,  Axel Petersson Doderhultarn.  I mixed some paint colors in an attempt to make the lenses look like glass. The buttons were created by drilling holes in the shirt and inserting carved round pegs or toothpicks, which are then cut off to protrude just enough to cast a shadow. This is a method I learned from Harley Refsal and later discovered was used by Swedish carvers Carl Johan Trygg  and his three sons. (I learn a lot from studying actual carvings and photos in my carving books and on websites.)  The moustache and hair were textured with a small v-tool; all the rest of the carving was done with knives. The hat brim on the pitchfork carving got too thin and broke off on one side. I repaired it with super glue and then soaked the entire brim with super glue so it wouldn’t break again. The carvings are painted with thinned acrylics and the pattern on the cap was added with a Sharpie ultra-fine permanent marker. The final finish is Minwax paste Finishing Wax. The payoff for my efforts came when I took my two “Grandpas” to a family reunion. My cousins all looked at them and said, “That’s Grandpa.”

Thank you very much Jim for telling us about your Grandpa Peterson carvings and introducing us to your “Scandinavian Style”  of carving

This entry was posted on Tuesday, September 20th, 2011 at 9:11 am and is filed under Carving Friends. 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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