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How Does an Old Guy . . .?

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  • How Does an Old Guy . . .?

    teach a young woman to carve? I've been asked by a friend to give some woodcarving tips to a daughter-in-law that has started carving. A photo of her practice projects shows that she has acquired some experience with basswood, knives, grain direction, etc., so the "tips" maybe what comes next? What other forms of carving should she try? Are different tools required?
    As a really old guy, my experiences may be "way down the line," meaning the result of years of trying various types of carving, woods, and tools. She doesn't need to know all that in order to settle on a form of carving that will provide the gratification she's looking for. Put yourself in my place. How would you approach teaching her the next step?

  • #2
    Not much help here but has she looked over the various videos on YouTube to see what styles are common; Gene Messer, Doug Linker for example will show a couple of degrees of flat plane, the spoon carving/Kuksa videos will show practical items that can be produced and there are videos on chip carving and fine arts.

    Since I am still in the novice stage let me recommend based on what I found successful. Purchase two knives; a Mora 122 2.4" blade or similar bench knife and a 1.25" detail or bench knife, tri-stone or diamond grit sharpening setup and a strop. With that minimal tooling she can go in any direction and will then be able to decide what if any gouges she might need.


    • #3
      I want to know which style of carving she finds most appealing.
      Not all tools work for every carving style.
      If she has already picked a starting point style, so much the better.
      Selection of tool types is all that much easier.

      I would hope that she becomes really proficient at keeping tools "carving sharp."

      Then it's practice. Lots of carvings. Learning the wood.
      That's all rolled up as experience, not much you can add.
      Brian T


      • #4
        Probably the vides are the best idea, several different styles out there to study from & try. Can actually seer the action, not just words.
        . . .JoeB


        • #5
          I guess the question is what is her focus or what dose she want to learn, you are skilled in most all, in the round, relief , chip carving and so on. I always ask, what do you not know That you want to know how to do? Then I know if I can help or I need to point them to someone else.


          • #6
            First, be sure she wants help. I have been asked to help people draw only to find it offended them. Then, I like what Randy said about asking what they would like to know how to do. Maybe take carvings she has already done and ask if she is happy with them or if she would like to try for more. Let her lead you.


            • #7
              Yes, (to several commenters) I plan to start from where she describes her own stage of learning.


              • #8
                If she really does want help, I'd start with critiquing what she's already carved, work with what she already chose to do and how she can improve her technique, then steer her towards expanding her horizons with smaller projects in areas where she expresses interest.


                • #9
                  Hi Pallin,

                  You could go the teacher and pupil route. If so, then, review the basics. The carving cuts--stop cut, push cut, etc. Make sure she knows to wear a glove and to be conscious of which way the knife will go should the wood break or the knife slip. Cover the grain and how she can use it to her advantage to hog off wood. Can she carve a ball from a square? Carve faces when she has all the basics down. Let her carve pine, poplar, aspen, cedar or a fruit wood even if only for a short time to understand it's not only grain but the wood itself and the experience of the shaving or chip coming off an aromatic wood. And for sure, let her carve a piece of green wood to see what happens a day or so later.

                  Can she sharpen? Does she know about stones as opposed to scary sharp and sandpaper? Can she draw? Can she set up a pattern on a block of wood--and use the grain to her advantage and the strength of the carving? Do a laminate with opposing grains--like a caricature pointing or holding a lamp. And review the different types of carving. At least let her carve a sign--letter carving and relief carving at the same time.

                  I know this is a lot but I figured I throw it all out there and you can use your best judgement.

                  But here's something else to think about--you could just be a mentor. You know how we overthink a carving or doing something? Maybe in this case, you could just have a two member club and spend time carving with each other from time to time. You carve your project, she carves hers.Let her know she can ask you a question when she's having a hard time--or maybe you will see her doing something that you know an easier or better way of doing it. OR show her something you're doing and explain how you doing it. If she's not nearby, maybe do it virtual--email, video, etc.--and point her in the direction of information on-line. Point her towards this forum. Tell her to check out the various FB pages for the different types of woodcarving. It's just a matter of encouraging her and providing help as needed. And letting her know help is as close as Googling it.

                  Enjoy and let the wood show you the way.

                  Bob L


                  • #10

                    I have had to sit and think on this a bit and recall my own experience. Our woodcarving group has new carvers make a round peg with a knife and then a curved fish with knife and gouges. Sounds like your carver is beyond that stuff. Now after that they handed me a cutout for a boot toothpick holder. I set it aside found a trout pattern grabbed a hunk of African mahogany and headed for the bandsaw. When I finished up my first trout some old codger came over and suggested I do a chip carving of a cross. I set it aside and grabbed a big hunk of basswood then carved my first nude. Without explaining first that I’d rather go to the dentist than chip carve. Then someone suggested I try relief carving, as pretty as those can be I knew I’d rather eat dirt. So I carved a golfer.

                    Now as I craved that trout that guy who handed me an old boot would stop buy and talk about things he’d tried when carving fish. He’s the one got me started using transparency sheets. The old codger who thought I’d like chip carving a great insights about women’s breasts. And even that relief carver came around and held a chunk of dowel rod so I could sort out my golfers grip. Along the way they taught me to strop and sharpen tools. Discussed different kinds of wood they’d worked with. Explained about bandaids and glues. Despite my unwillingness to follow the program they saw what I needed and provided it in a kindly and supportive manner while simultaneously giving me crap the whole time.

                    Have no idea if this helps you with your question but hope it can.
                    Last edited by Nebraska; 06-25-2020, 06:47 AM.
                    Living in a pile of chips.


                    • #11
                      Pallin...I am teaching a class at our local library, (When they finally get around to re-scheduling it), in beginner wood carving. We are targeting those 16 and up. I am planning on using Bob K.'s Simple Santa as the project. I am subscribing to the K-I-S-S principle and only using a knife for the project. I feel the introduction of too many tools can overwhelm a newbie.

                      Each student will get a practice stick and a Santa stick where I have pre-laid out the pattern.

                      I start with carving a ball on the top of the practice stick, and then graduate to the cuts we will use on the Santa...Stop cuts, V-cuts, and then carve a practice nose on the 4 corners. Of the 4 nights we carve, I use the first night to talk safety and do the practice cuts, 2 nights to carve, and the last night to paint.

                      One thing I have to keep reminding myself with students is that their projects will not turn out like a seasoned carver, and you have to temper your teaching to understand that fact.

                      I have to really resist the temptation to pick up their project and carve what it needs, but rather explain what they should do and have them practice that task.

                      It really takes a lot of patience!
                      Last edited by tbox61; 06-25-2020, 02:22 PM.


                      • #12
                        Hi Pallin
                        Lots of good advice here!! My two pennies worth would be to follow the KISS principal. Ask her what she wants to carve. Have a chat about the best way to do that so that she gets to buy into the methods and is a part of the decision making process rather than being "TOLD" what to do. Do it in small steps that she can take onboard and get good at it to build confidance. Above all make it fun for her to have a go at.

                        You could show her some of your work and just explain how you worked your way around the problems in doing it. Showing the different cuts you made and why you did it that way. Show her a couple of disaster jobs and have a bit of a laugh about it as you explain what went wrong and why.

                        Last I would pick something that is a step above her existing expertise level so her interest is kept sparked up.

                        I used this approach to teach guys how to do chlorine gas dosing equipment servicing. It works. Getting their participation in the project is everything. They learn so much faster that way and what they learn tends to stick as they can relate to it from personal experience rather than info from a book or a video. Books and video has a place as well but one thing at a time. Books and vids she can do whenever she is of a mind to. Her time with you will be hands on putting stuff to practice.

                        Hope this is of some help.



                        • #13
                          The initial meeting went very well. We talked mostly about the practice stick carvings she's done to date and what she learned from the process. I also showed her some examples of other simple carvings, avoiding things that took months to complete. Since she's visiting from out-of-state, this will be a brief bit of instruction/help.
                          Last edited by pallin; 07-03-2020, 09:38 PM.


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by pallin View Post
                            The initial meeting went very well. We talked mostly about the practice stick carvings she's done to date and what she learned from the process. I also showed her some examples of other simple carvings, avoiding things that took months to complete. Since she's visiting from out-of-state, this will be a brief bit of instruction/help.
                            Phil, a good beginning is often all it takes. You can now serve as a resource for advice as she progresses.


                            • #15
                              Off to a good start then Pallin. Good one.