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Here's My Woodcarving!

by Doug Sullivan
Hoddles Creek, Australia

My wife and I retired 6 years ago and we spent 12 months deciding just what we would do after selling our bicycle shop business. After much consideration, we decided on a 'Tree Change' and moved away from suburban Melbourne (yep, we're true blue Aussies) and settled in Hoddles Creek. HC is a quiet little place that no-one ever knows where it is. No surprising really as it is well off the main highway, has a Primary school with just 40 or so kids, a cricket ground and a CFA station. That's all.

We weren't specifically looking for a property with a large shed but when the property we bought came with a well constructed 20m x 12m shed, I was just a little bit pleased. You see, I've always wanted to try my hand with wood but our old home of 30 odd years had a workshop that you couldn't swing a cat in (am I allowed to say that?). It was just 2m x 3m. Suddenly having 240 sq metres was like being in seventh heaven. I proceeded to fill it with lots of tools and machines, some of which I had optimistically bought for my old 'workshop.' I made some bad decisions along the way and sold several almost new (but cheap and nasty) tools and machines that just weren't worth having. I replaced them with better quality (sometimes second hand) items. I learned the hard way that cheap is cheap for a reason. Happily, I always try to buy when there are good deals to be had and I never lost money along the way. In a couple of instances, I actually made a profit.

I played around with my new toys and finally decided to try my hand at carving. I jumped in and bought a set of 25 Pfiel carving chisels and watched a few YouTube videos.

My first attempt was an 'exercise' piece (seen below) carving blossoms. It serves no real purpose and my wife wants me to mount it horizontally on the wall with a hook under each blossom to put keys on. It's a bit rough and inconsistent but whenever I make mistakes on a piece of woodwork I just explain it away by saying I wanted a rustic look. You can get away with a lot saying that.

My next piece was carved out of a piece of an Ash tree that had to be felled because of rot. I found a picture on the web of a Tudor Rose and copied it on to the wood. This was never meant to become a finished piece. I just wanted to explore different techniques and get a feel for the chisels. But part way through, I found myself getting quite involved in it. I finished it and applied a light oak stain to the background and then a bees wax finish on the whole piece. I'm fortunate here because my wife now keeps bees and this gives me a modest supply of wax to use. Again, I have called this a 'rustic' piece of carving.

After the Tudor Rose, I thought I would try something easier like this Celtic Cross. Big mistake! I thought the geometric design would be simpler but, in fact, it was very hard and my cross was nowhere near the image I copied. Lots of detail work and sharp corners in the pattern. Several times, my clumsy hand broke little corners off which had to be glued back on before I could proceed. I nearly gave it up as a bad idea.

I saw a video of some gloves being carved and gave it a try myself. This is carved out of soft pine in one piece. The background is larger than perhaps it needed to be because I originally wanted the gloves to be a little offset. An irretrievable error made me align them and so the lower glove is hard to see. A dark stain on the background to highlight the gloves and then a clear satin varnish to seal the work.

And lastly, my Grape Spirit. Hoddles Creek is in the Yarra Valley which is renowned for its wine so it was an easy choice when I saw the book Relief Carving Wood Spirits by Lora S. Irish to try one of her carvings. I actually got impatient when I ordered her book. I couldn't wait to try this carving and had it finished before the book arrived. So it isn't nearly as good as it might have been. Sigh.....now I'll have to do another.

I'm really enjoying this hobby and, once I've taught myself some seriously bad habits, I'll get some lessons.

You can email Doug at yvtt@iinet.net.au .

Would you like to see your carvings in this column? We invite you to SEND US PHOTOS of your favorite woodcarving projects along with captions and a brief history of your woodcarving. (Email photos at 800x600 resolution.) Receive a $50 store gift card if we show your carving work in a future issue!

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