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Personal Carving Output

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  • Personal Carving Output

    Back in 2007 a thread was started about how many carvings each WCI member had produced over time. Here's link if you're curious: Your Current carving number? - Woodcarving Illustrated

    It got me to thinking about the rate of our production - how long does your typical carving take? Of course this depends on the size and complexity of carvings as well as the ability to keep motivated. Carvers who do commissions are a special case.

    Some of the discussions of Works in Progress give us a starting and ending date, so I searched through some of my own projects and found the following: Thirteen relief carvings with durations ranging from 2 weeks to 10 months - average project time: 4.6 months. The longer the project, the more idle time. There are, of course, projects "I never got back to."

    JoePaulButler's recent "Just Carvin'" series is another interesting (and productive) example. How are you doing?

  • #2
    Phil, It is funny how everyone that looks at a carving, asks how long it took to do it. I have never kept track of how long it takes. Now I just tell them that it took about 20 years, because that is how long it took me to acquire my skills. At one time, I had a clock set up so I could turn it on when I started, and off when I stopped. I seemed to always forget to do one or the other, so gave up on the timing. I just enjoy the experience of each project that I complete.
    If I took the time to fix all my mistakes, I wouldn,t have time to make new ones.


    • #3
      For myself, I do not think about production rate time. Big and hard to do work take major time, other easy ones can be done fast, wood type also has a factor meaning ebony is going take major longer than basswood. Another factor in trying new styles there is the time factor in the learning curve. Plus if the carving is very large compare to the very small has a major factor in time. How much detail is also a factor in production time. Add work that needs full pre-planning. Plus sanding is also a time issue. If I carve the same thing over and over, I can learn to produce that item fast. I tend to lean more toward quality of work much production. The fact is I really have no idea how much work I have produced at one time I had a portfolio of it which was lost by a PR person. Another time the computer ate my pictures which at the time had no backup... the only thing I really remember is the good work that was created. Plus like you stated those works were not finished and for me a lot of it was destroyed because it was not really that good. There were a few times production rates were an issue because of high demand, but that was when I hired other artists to help...then it comes to point of whose work is it?
      . Explore! Dream! Discover!” aloha Di


      • #4
        Originally posted by Tom Ellis View Post
        Phil, It is funny how everyone that looks at a carving, asks how long it took to do it. I have never kept track of how long it takes. Now I just tell them that it took about 20 years, because that is how long it took me to acquire my skills. At one time, I had a clock set up so I could turn it on when I started, and off when I stopped. I seemed to always forget to do one or the other, so gave up on the timing. I just enjoy the experience of each project that I complete.
        Ok Tom second time right at the same time... mind Reading is a superpower that also gives you a type of teleportation.. cut it out... rolling on the floor laughing
        Last edited by DiLeon; 10-13-2021, 01:29 PM.
        . Explore! Dream! Discover!” aloha Di


        • #5
          Yes, I recognize the error in taking the starting post and ending post dates as a measure of duration. As I sit here typing, I can see the idle projects on my workbench. If I had an accurate measure of the time spent on a carving project, it would be shocking and perhaps disappointing.


          • #6
            I can't tell you. If it wasn't for a few pictures, some carvings, I have totally forgotten about. Some turned out to be really quick and easily done, others collect dust. Some got stuck at the drawing stage (this is never going to work!) etc. Some were never finished. How should I estimate those?

            Carving time: Varies from zero per month to 6 hours per day. As usual, hafting a new crooked knife blade is always time well wasted!

            Carving results from 10 sets of drawings and plans (maybe a lot of time in those) :

            Three die.
            Three become the "Living Dead."
            Three finish up well enough for paint.
            One turns out exactly how I imagined it would look.

            I think this saves(?) time:
            I've been trying to do carvings in pairs, two at a time.
            Back and forth from one to the other, I think the technical quality
            of my carving skill improves.

            I'm at a very tedious stage of carving some caterpillar detail on the butterfly story poles. Hour after hour makes a lot of chips on the bench, on the floor and in my clothes. Progress? You would not notice if you looked.

            Brian T


            • #7
              Interesting questions, Phil.

              I opened my ETSY shop in Nov 2012. Since then I've sold 624 carvings on ETSY. Some of these are multiples (Santa plus an Elf, etc...). Many are repeats. For example, I've sold over 50 of my stackable snowmen on ETSY (WCI Issue 53 Holiday 2010, Page 69). I've also carved and given away maybe 20/year to friends and family, or donations for fund raisers. This is probably an average of 90/year. How long does each take? Well, the simple ones like my little robin (3 inches long) take about an hour, including painting (not counting drying time). More complex ones like some I have carved at (and after) the Woodcarving Rendezvous in Tennessee, have taken 16 hours of carving time. A lot depends on the amount of detail, as well. Texturing Santa's coat fur trim, for example, takes quite a bit of time. Many of my carvings are under 10-11 inches tall, and are animal or human caricatures. I don't do the detailed sculptures that Ed (Nebraska) does, and I don't do the spectacular relief carvings that Phil (pallin) does. The little animals and birds I do are representative of the critter, not a realistic miniature with detailed feathers/fur.

              If I count prep time, such as sawing out blanks on the bandsaw, drilling holes in a block for a bottle stopper, and deliver time such as driving to the P0st Office, packaging and shipping, etc., I figure I make less than the minimum wage.
              I'm not selling carvings to try to make a living, so that's ok - I make enough to buy more wood, the occasional tool, and so forth. If I didn't sell them, I'd have to add on a room or two to store them all.

              I do get great mental satisfaction from carving - being able to have my hands produce what my mind wants. I do a fair amount of commission work - such as the bottle stopper of Osceola I just finished https://forum.woodcarvingillustrated...bottle-stopper The buyer and I corresponded back and forth several times before we settled on a design that she wanted and I felt I could make.

              My actual rate of production has dropped off a bit in this last couple of years, due to my wife's medical problems - I've spent more time as her care-giver and way less time at the workbench. That's ok, though - signed up for it 54.4 years ago and haven't regretted a moment of it.

              My FaceBook Page:
              My Pinterest Page:
              My Instagram Page:
              My ETSY Shop:


              • #8
                I spend between 4-6 hrs. a day at my carving process. Most of my carvings are done on 4" wide x 1" thick basswood. easier to hold onto. I start off will a picture/image I find on the internet, use a program called "Sangit" to screen capture it. When I get ready to carve it, I print off an 8-1/2" 11" picture of it, then I put that picture on my light table & redraw it again. This I find helps me get acquainted the all the parts of the image. Once satisfied with what I've done and any changes that I might change or add, I then scale the 8-1/2" wide drawing down to 41%, this gives me a picture of ±3-1/2". This operation usually takes one of my afternoons.

                When I get ready to go to the wood I make a reverse image of the 3-1/2" drawing, the reverse image in print to a "YUPO" medium paper, which allows me to rub the image onto the wood. I freshen up the image on the wood where needed, then I use a power handpiece with a 1/32 dental drill to cut the pattern into the wood. This can take another afternoon depending on the complexity of the drawing.

                After that, it is off to the carving and painting, which on the complexity again can take 3-4 days. I have purposely tried slowing down myself, smaller cuts, upon the tip of the blade more. As I have mentioned before, my folks had a small meatpacking plant and I started using a knife when I was six & speed was paramount with your knife skills.

                I've done some large in-round carvings that took a ±month to do. But I agree with Tom enjoyment is the key time factor
                . . .JoeB


                • #9
                  It is certainly a concept that I would think most ponder from time to time. It would certainly be easier if I kept something even vaguely resembling a regular schedule. One of our local carvers could give a pretty good estimate of the hours a piece took as he carved the same hours (1pm to 6pm) six day per week didn’t carve on Sundays.

                  Carving is just one of my hobbies and when I do carve it is seldom for more than a couple hours. I did loosely keep track when I carved Einstein roughly 50 hours. The small 6” to 8” trout take about 7 hrs.

                  I started first carving March 2016 and after reviewing photos on my iPad believe just started my 68th piece. So averaging about one per month.

                  Like Claude I too sell my carvings, and also figure if I can break even on tools and wood I’m happy. I love to carve enjoy the challenge of taking on new projects and trying to make each one somehow better than the last.

                  When I started carving I looked around our house a decided how may areas I would like to see decorated with my carvings. So as I create new keepers the old carvings are sold or given away. Honestly one of the things I love most about commissioned work is they already have a shelf to go to in a home where they will be treasured.
                  Last edited by Nebraska; 10-13-2021, 04:43 PM.


                  • #10
                    In the last nine years I have produced 78 carvings. That works out to be 7/10 of a carving per month. I'll sometimes go quite a while between carvings (right now I haven't carved since July), and I don't carve more than about an hour at a time. I've given quite a few away to family, for charitable auctions, etc., but don't sell them. Production has never been a factor of interest to me, a carving takes as long as it takes. Benefit of it being a hobby!


                    • #11
                      For adout year after I retired I had a web site and did craft shows and with word of mouth I was in the shop almost every day for 6 to 8 hours trying to maintain a inventory and doing commissions. I was able to pay for the supplies and tools but at the end of the year the cost of doing shows and travel was come out of the wallet not sales. Since then I have carved 3 or 4 days a week when I have a project. Hours very with the job. Like others I am happy if I can support my tool habit and pay for the supplies. I carve because I love carving. The hours are all well spent and bring satisfaction and peace of mind.
                      We live in the land of the free because of the brave! Semper Fi


                      • #12
                        I carve what I see in the wood. A prediction made by my grandmother, 60 years ago. I can't "time" anything. If I don't see it in the wood then make many pages of drawings, the subject never leaves my mind.
                        Brian T


                        • #13
                          I finish an average of one a week as i get older i get slower tho (and hopefully better) I don't see wood carving as a timed event


                          • #14
                            An interesting point. My latest project is small relief animals and they can take about 8-12 hours each. I started booking up the time simply out of interest. I have no interest in selling my pieces so make them for my own enjoyment.

                            Time it takes is really irrelevant unless you are looking to charge out your time. For me it is just a fun thing.

                            Think Randy has got the right handle on it all hehe.


                            • #15
                              I've never thought of carving in terms of hours. When I was working it was a safety valve to get rid of pent up energy, anger, and frustration. Now at 76 and limited in mobility it's a cherished hobby that I know could be taken away at any time. I just try to enjoy each second, each minute, each hour that I get to spend on it. As I understand it the "Good Lord" doesn't subtract the time that we spend carving from our days here on earth!"