Back in August I started getting an itch to try something new. Something really new, something completely unrelated to computers (which have been my passion for almost 20 years now). Somehow (I don’t recall the details) I stumbled across whittling and woodcarving, and I’ve discovered that I really enjoy it.
I started by picking up a book or two on whittling from the library, and learned the basics of carving “whimseys” (interesting projects without a practical application, like chains or a ball-in-cage). I’ve since carved a few of them, and several decorative spoons, but I’m still exploring the domain. It’s almost like learning to read, or to program computers, where an entire world appears that you never knew existed. There’s so much to discover!
After quite a bit of research, I purchased my first big power tool, a bandsaw (a Grizzly G0555), and I’ve been very pleased with it. My first Welsh love spoon (here) was done without a bandsaw, and although I learned a lot from the process, I also learned that I’d rather focus on carving the piece, than outlining it.
Aside from the bandsaw and a simple electric drill, my tools are all hand tools. I use a Flexcut detail knife (which I absolutely love) for most of the work, and resort to some inexpensive chisels and gouges (that I picked up at Michael’s) for things like carving the bowl of a spoon, or feathers. (Eventually, I’d like to pick up a beginner’s set of real chisels and gouges, so that I can experiment with relief carving.) Also, I picked up a woodcarver’s saftey glove shortly after carving a big slice of my hand on accident.
So far, I’ve only carved basswood (a very cooperative hardwood, perfect for novice woodcarvers), but I’m starting to eye some of the harder woods, like cherry, walnut, and oak. I’ve also started learning about wood toxicity (scary!) so I’m being very picky in the woods I’ll carve!
Ultimately, there is something extremely satisfying in taking a plain block of wood and shaping it with your hands into something remarkable. The entire process is incredibly therapeutic and meditative. As I carve, or sand, I find myself pondering parallels between woodcarving and just about everything else. It’s a great time to slow down and reflect, something that I haven’t been very good at in general.
For the curious, I’ve got my current gallery available as a public Backpack page: Woodcarving by Jamis Buck. I’ve also got a YouTube video of me carving a small spoon, in fast-forward: Carving a decorative spoon. Just keep in mind that I’m still new to this art, and be gentle!