STUDY using Go-Bys

   Posted by: woodbeecarver   in Tu Tor Plus, Tutorials

Go By Study Go By Study Go By Study

A “Go By” is a term applied to the use of a carved object, partially carved object, a photograph or a drawing that is studied and looked at during the carving process to guide the carver.  It is an instructional aid and a visual guide to help see what is being carved.  The key word is “see” with the mental eye to get a fix on how a carving that is being carved will begin to look as the wood is being shaped.  Yoga Berra in noted for his Yoga-isms like “you can observe a lot by watching.” A Go By helps the carver to see if the carver will observe and imagine what cuts were used to carve the Go By to its present form.  This “observation to see” is not a quick process but does require a thoughtful and methodical visual analyzing of the parts and sum total of a Go By.

Using photographs of carved subjects in various stages of the carving process is the basis for this Go By Study.  Take a look again a Photo # 1, # 2 and # 3 to notice that there are five Go By examples in the three views in the photographs.  Example A depicts the first step in carving a figure in a square block of wood using the Whittle-Carving method of carving only with a knife.  The simplest definition for carving is to shape a piece of wood with a sharp carving tool in a slicing action by rounding square corners and flattening round surfaces. Example A has had the  corners at the top of this six inch tall block of basswood rounded into a dowel shape.  Also the base has been established by making notch cuts on the four corners and then connecting the corner notches with a notch from corner to corner. In Photo # 2 of the top view, notice that there is a center line drawn across the top of the dowel shape.  This is to indicate the direction that the face will be looking as well as a guide for carving Example B.

Example B shows the next step of carving the top of the brim and crown of the hat using slice and roll cuts.  The center line is used to keep both halves of the hat equal.

Example C shows that the head is carved to its basic form as fitting into the hat. Begin by making notch cuts around the bottom of the hat brim all the way around.  As more wood is removed the head is shaped so that it appears to fit into the hat.  Once the head is carved to its basic form without any detail, then the top of shoulders are established.  The Rule of Three divisions are indicated by dividing the space between the shoulder and bottom of feet into three equal proportions, which are: Shoulder to Waist; Waist to Mid Knees and Mid Knees to Bottom of Feet. A line is drawn on all four sides on the block at Shoulder, Waist and Mid Knees.  These proportional lines help in drawing in guidelines for the arms, legs, and whatever else is needed to help in the layout design. Working from the shoulders down the major landmarks are opened up using notch cuts to form a groove or ditch to outline those parts of the carving that stand out the furthest of the stair stepping shaping of the body structure.  Example C shows the section from the shoulders to the waist that has been rough shaped to basic form.  The area below the waist still has the grid markings and guideline exposed.

At this juncture of study, one can now study Examples C, D and E to observe the progression of the face being carved as well as the hands holding an ear of corn and the clothing details developing with Example E showing the completed carving.

Go By Study Go By Study

Photos # 4 and 5 focus in on the hands holding the ear of corn in the Examples of A, B and C.  Every part of a carving is carved to its basic form, as in the example of the hands being carved first as a boxy form.  Ninety five percent of any carving is to carve to proper form which provides a good foundation in which to carve the last five percent in the detail carving.  Carving to form is like baking a cake.  Detail carving is putting icing on the cake.  To put icing on a half-baked cake is the same as trying to carving in details before the form is properly carved.

Go By Study                            Go By Study

Photos # 6 and 7 are of the beginning of a cowboy, Example A, standing beside a cowboy carved to basic form, Example B with a front and profile view.  Study these two examples by imagining how Example B can be carved in Example A as an exercise in being able to “see” inside the block of wood.


The final four photo Go By Study begin with Photo # 8 that show partially carved Old Geezer with hands behind his back; Gandalf with a crystal ball and walking staff; a Sea Captain with hand thrust inside his coat and hand holding a map; and a Hobo with crooked walking stick and hand holding one suspender. Notice the difference between faces carved to form and faces carved in detail along with hands carved to basic boxy form around items being held.

Photo # 9 shows two Hillbilly’s, a Railroader holding a lantern and a Civil War Soldier. Faces are carved to form, hands are boxy and two still have the Rule of Three lines exposed.  Study each with an imagination of how each can be carved to completion.  Seeing in the imagination and carving in one’s imagination goes a long way in guiding the actual carving process.

Photo # 10 shows a Tennis Player, Man with umbrella and pipe and a Hobo with cigar, walking stick and gunny sack.  Their faces have all been carved to completion while the rest of their features are carved only to basic form.

Photo # 11 shows a Cowboy carved to basic from, a Hobo with his bindle tied to his walking stick, a Pirate whose head and face are carved while the rest of the block is divided with the Rule of Three and feature guidelines drawn.  The second Pirate is an example of carving a head too large to go with the body that is carved to basic form for study purposes.

A lot more could be said about each Go By, but the purpose of this Study is to learn to “see” while trying to figure out the answer to any questions one might have while studying a visual Go By.  All too often a learner will want everything spelled out leaving nothing to the imagination.  Carving is an “imagination” partnership with exercised ability making some of the best lessons the ones that one figures out on their own through trial and error.

The WOOD BEE CARVER has espoused his motto since the mid 1970’s that says, “Would be carvers would be carvers if they would carve wood.”   The best way to learn at carving is to carve and the more one carves the better one carves.  To “see” a carving in one’s imagination is to be able to “see” it in the block of wood and “see” it while the wood is being shaped with a cutting tool and “see” it to its finish.  A Go By can help to “see” and one can “see” by taking the time to look a Go By over and over and over.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 30th, 2013 at 2:19 pm and is filed under Tu Tor Plus, Tutorials. 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.

Leave a reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.