Posted by: woodbeecarver   in Survivor Students

SURVIVOR STUDENTS - Leverett StudioCharlie and Doris Leverett hosted a three day Whittle-Carving class in their North East Alabama carving studio July 24, 25 and 26, 2009.  Participants gathered for a group photograph are (left to right – front row) Mike Lancaster, Charles and Doris Leverett, Tommy Hartline, and David Wilson, (back row – left to right) Don Mertz, Jason Garrard, George Walker, Chris Stevens, Harry Rutland, Frank Miller and Hugh O’Neal.

Whittle-Carving is carving using only a knife which presents a challenge to carvers who have used a knife as a secondary tool.  In the simplest of definition, “Whittle-Carving is rounding square corners and flattening round surfaces in wood using slicing cuts with only a knife.”

The first project was to carve a ball in a one inch square end of a six inch piece of basswood.  Carving by rounding the square corners or “turning the corner” as one student coined a phrase teaches the efficiency of using slicing cuts, the direction of cutting with the grain of the wood and carving an object to the basic form.

“Form follows function and detail follows form,” was repeated often to learn to carve first the form before any attempt to carve any details.  The project was to carve the form of a ball out of a square block of wood and not a specific kind of ball which would have required carving in the details to make it a golf ball, basketball, baseball, tennis ball or Que ball.  Only the form of a ball was the goal.

The ball project became then a teaching aid to illustrate how the human head can rotate side to side, up and down and be at an angle of any of the previous motions.  The lesson being that the carver can learn to carve the human head in any position by using the ball rotation example to design the carving project.  This exercise is described in “Whittling Exercises ABC’s” under “Navigation” in this web log.


Following the “ball” exercise, the next project was to carve the basic form of a three inch tall Whittle Folk Monk using a paper template to mark the notch cuts that would give direction to the form of a monk.  Once again slicing cuts were stressed with the simple definition for carving being to “round square corner and flatten round surfaces with slicing cuts.”


While the monks being carved to form take a rest, the next project was to carve the angles of the three divisions of the face using the corner of a pyramid shaped block of wood to illustrate the shape of the face.  Using the Rule of Three of Facial Proportions: hairline to eyebrow; eyebrow to bottom of nose; bottom of nose to bottom of chin, the students learned to shape the angles for the forehead, nose, mouth mound and chin.  Once again the emphasis was placed upon the form rather than details of the face.


Moving right along, the next project returned to the ball carved on the end of a square stick to begin shaping a face within that ball.  The Rule of Three was used to carve the angles and divisions for the forehead, nose, mouth mound and chin.  Next project was to divide the area under the ball as the rest of a human figure using the Rule of Three for Body Proportions: shoulder to waist; waist to mid-knees; mid-knees to bottom of feet. Each student drew pencil guidelines within these three divisions to design the human figure to be carved to form. Once the design was determined each student began to carve the basic form of their design.


The students gathered to receive more instruction on carving a face to form with some introduction on carving the details of the eyes, nose and mouth to illustrate how a proper form provided a good foundation to receive the details.  “Whittling Exercise – Eyes” under “Navigation” in this web log gives the same instruction.   The students then returned to their carving projects continuing to carving on their monk and other full figure by getting ready to carve the details of the face when appropriate.


Each student learned a lot about Whittle-Carving during the three days of intense carving the various projects that fulfilled the saying that “Carving is Agony and Ecstasy but Ecstasy always follows the Agony.” In the end, the Survivors of the class enjoyed a good time of carving, learning, friendship, laughter and encouragement in the fine art of woodcarving.  Most importantly, everyone was appreciative of Charlie and Doris for hosting the class.  So it is appropriate to conclude this posting by taking a look at some of the carvings that Charlie has carved over the years.



Charlie and I first met in 1995 at the War Eagle Seminars in War Eagle, Arkansas and renewed our friendship at several of those seminars over the years.  He is an excellent carver, a mentor to other wood carvers in his area of Alabama and teaches at the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, NC.  His wife Doris is an artist with photography and they both support the arts in many ways.  I deeply appreciate their friendship and thank them for hosting this Survivor Class in Whittle-Carving.

CARVINGS BY HUGH O’NEALCARVINGS BY HUGH O’NEALThese two photographs show carvings done by Hugh O’Neal since the class and demonstrates that Hugh has captured the essence of Whittle-Carving by adapting his own style and signature to these carvings.  Well done, Hugh and Thanks for sharing these photographs.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, July 29th, 2009 at 2:03 pm and is filed under Survivor Students. 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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