Celebrating 50 years as a Wood Carver.
My career as a full time artist started over 50 years ago as a painter, sculptor, and ceramic artist. It took 3 years before I found my passion in wood carving, even though I still toy with ceramics. My last exhibition of paintings was in 1970. Immediately after leaving College, I met an old lady at my first exhibition who told me her father was a wood carver and she would sell me his woodcarving tools if I was interested. So I bought my first set of carving tools in a nice wooden box, along with a sharpening stone and a mallet.
The steel was of first class quality. For the first few years, my carvings were with mallet, chisels, and hand sanding. First with 80, followed by 100, followed by 150, and finally with 220 grit. Carving and finishing was time-consuming and laborious, foam sanding pads came on the market and helped to improve the finishing.
It was at a wood show in Canada that I first saw electric tools for wood caving. I bought an angle grinder, a band saw, a Makita 12″ electric chainsaw without a safety kick-back bar. This chainsaw is one of 3 that I still own, the other two are a 14″ Stihl and an 18″ Stihl.
These chainsaws were great for cross-cutting logs, removing sap and rough carving. The 14″ Delta band saw was a work horse, cutting boards from short logs, cutting shapes and trimming unwanted wood. All major shaping was done by the 4″ or 4 1/2″ angle grinder. I have always kept both in the workshop. The 4″ for its lighter weight and smaller surfaces and the 4 1/2″ most of the time.
The chisels were used for areas where the angle grinder could not reach. The angle grinder looked like it was designed for my organic forms and sure saved me hours and hours of labor on sculptures, trays, bowls, fish and birds.
I normally do not allow visitors in the workshop when I am working, mainly for safety reasons. Unnecessary distractions could lead to accidents. The disadvantage of the angle grinder is dust, fine dust. For this, a quality dust mask was necessary. I still own a dust collector from my old high ceiling studio but my current studio is a remodeled 40 foot container. The ceiling is too low for the air-bag. An assistant was hired to help with labor and hand sanding. In the early years, a piece of broken glass was used to scrape the wood surface prior to hand-sanding, I learned that from a friend who was a wood turner.
One day a young man visited the studio on the pretext that he was visiting my assistant. He came regularly for long hours and many times. I did not like it but I did not protest. After many visits over a period of about a month, he announced that he was opening his own carving studio and he would copy my technique, which he admired. Today, he has a vibrant production, mainly small craft items and his work is available in select retail stores. He is now creating free-form sculptures. He is an excellent copier.
It was at another Canadian wood show that I discovered the Dremmel tool, the die grinder, and the 3M sanding rubber disc pad. What an interesting tool for sanding and fine finishing, helping to get rid of sanding marks and a mighty time saver.
There was an issue with the design, the sanding discs were self-adhesive, with the heat created from the friction, the sanding self-adhesive pads did not last for long and it became an expensive routine. It was not long before 3M discontinued the sanding disc pads. I was able to find two cases in a country hardware store in the USA and bought them. I redesigned the disc pads and still use them to this day, giving me an enviable silk smooth finish and saves me many hours of labor.
There was an incentive group visit to Anguilla and I was asked to make 75 leaf trays for them. I was able to speak to one of the leaders of the group and I informed them of the flaw in the disc pad. I was informed 3M had discontinued production and the production line was already dismantled.
Some changes were made to the transformed disc pads which means the 20 I have left would last much longer, about twice as long. The sanding disk is one of the most important tools in my workshop today. I wished I would have been able to sell the idea to 3M and save woodcarvers a lot of time by preserving a precious but wasted invention.
Congratulations on 50 years as a woodcarver! It sounds like since you started, there have been a lot of technological advances that helped you. The angle grinder sounds very useful. You would definitely need a mask to protect you from the Dust. Thank you for sharing this very interesting story of your life as it pertains to your wood carving career. I think your wood carvings look great and you are very talented.
Thank you Chuck, the angle grinder is a great asset, but also a dangerous tool,, as are other modern tools. A good reason for not encouraging visitors when working.I also work in an open space, which helps with the problem of dust Best wishes. Best wishes
Hi Courtney, I always visit art shows and admire the completed carvings but never thought about the details that go into such beautiful work. I have a feeling though that working with wood you would have to be careful in case it chips along the wood making an unwanted groove and spoils the design. Keep on producing your wonderful designs. I look forward to more information on these.
Thanks JJ, we do make mistakes, but I have learnt over the years to turn the mistakes into designs, and it has worked wonders.Best wishes and look forward to hearing from you again.
All your works I have seen portrays high level of professionalism and it is only normal that it is as a result of years of experience. Congratulations on your 50years experience as a woodcarver, that is massive. I really learned quite a couple here. The intruder seems to have gotten well with copying your works. Also, you talked about some tools ti which I do not know about at all maybe because I’m not in that line of work. All in all, this is great to read on
Thank you for visiting; as I write there are new and more dangerous power tool being developed for wood carvers; but they sure save a lot of time.we must pay heed to safety instructions.
Thanks for sharing such an important and informative post about woodcarving. Firstly I wanna congratulate you at your 50 years as a Woodcarver. You have shared your all memories of woodcarving. By reading your post it is very clear to me that carving and finishing was time -consuming and laborious, foam sanding pads came on the market and helped to improve the finishing.I think your wood carvings look great and you are very talented.
Thanks again. I’ll share this post with my friends and family.
Thank you, and thank you again for sharing; Can you believe the finishing takes muck longer than the carving?
Congratulations for 50 years as a wood carver! It looks like you have a great passion for wood carving and it’s very nice that you’re able to share your passion in the form of a blog. I’ve had a little bit of wood carving experience from my school years. There was a construction class that I took where I learned how to use a variety of tools and made a few things. Although most people who took the class eventually went into something around house framing and like making cabinets. Did you ever think of using your skills in an industry such as cabinet making and applying design skills into parts of houses?
Sorry but my appreciation for functional things is limited; strictly in the artistic field. I create some craft items for bread and butter. You should revisit the craft. Good luck.
Hello Courtney—Happy 50th!—Reading your post reminds me of how much work goes into a piece. Your fifty years experience is evident. Your works are beautiful. They have certain simplicity but are also elegant. My favorites are sleeping beauty and Caribbean curves. I’ve spent more time on your website than many.
Thanks so much for the opportunity!
Thanks Nathaniel, you should think of owning one some day. Form and emotion are my watch words. Continue to view and enjoy. Best wishes.