Posted by: woodbeecarver   in Noggins

PENCIL NOGGINSPENCIL NOGGINS are carved faces on wooden pencils using slicing cuts with the tip end of a sharp knife.  Wooden pencils are normally made out of Western Cedar which tends to crumble when the knife blade is forced into the wood.  Thus it is necessary to make every cut a slicing cut.  Think of a slicing cut as when one slices bread off a loaf.  The cutting edge of a sharp knife is made up of little teeth very similar to the teeth on a hand saw.  A saw does its work when it is sliced through the wood. The most efficient cut with a knife is a slicing cut whereby the cutting edge is moving through the wood in a slicing action.

Carving on pencils was every school boys activity fifty years ago when school boys could carry a pocket knife to school.  It only became natural for wood carvers to carve faces and other designs on pencil, perhaps as one of the carver’s first carving project.  I have been carving pencils for thirty five years.

Being primarily a knife carver, the WOOD BEE CARVER prefers wooden pencils rather than the plastic composite pencil that others carve using small gouges and V tool.  Some of my early carved pencils were done on the small diameter or regular sized pencil.  Fatter pencils made out of wood are hard to come by, but occasionally they have been found at flea markets over the years.  In fact that was where the supply of pencils came from over the years in order to keep the cost within reason when selling carved pencils.

EARLY CARVED PENCILSThese pencils were carved around 1985 on the regular size wooden pencils.  The subjects include the traditional “wood spirit” face on the two pencils at the left, Indian faces on the pencils in the center and the last pencil on the right was carved with faces all the way down the pencil like a totem pole.

PENCIL TOTEMTotem Pole Pencil was carved as an example of various kinds of faces that could be carved on a wooden pencil.  It was done as an entry into a carving show competition and retained as a relic of Whittle Folk Art.  All the faces were carved using a very small pocket knife blade and primarily the tip end of the blade using a slicing cut with every cut.  As a relic from an earlier stage of carving ability, this pencil serves as a bench mark to compare the growth and improvement in carving ability.  It is always good to save our earlier carvings to show where we have been and where we are going on the wood carving journey.

SANTA PENCIL NOGGINSSanta Pencil Noggins are carved all the way around the pencil and include Santa’s hat with the ball tassel on the side.  Once again in order to get the fine detail it is necessary to use the tip end of the knife blade utilizing the slicing cut with every cut.  The finish on the carved part of the pencil is either Deft brushed on using an artist brush or Howard Feed-N-Wax wood preserver or cream shoe polish (neutral).  For the curious, these pencils sell for ten dollars each at the woodcarving shows  where I participate.  They are available at shows as a novelty of carving or a souvenir of the show.  Certainly, carving pencils is not a source of livelihood, only for the love of whittling and carving.


For the love of this folk art every carver should try carving a pencil, for the fun of it and for the adventure of traveling the road less traveled that is sometimes called, “One of these days I am going to carve ……….”  Do it now and never be afraid of making a mistake for there are no mistakes in carving, only learning experiences.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, September 30th, 2008 at 6:12 pm and is filed under Noggins. 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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