re-using, recycling, and redeeming old wood

Posts tagged “gifts

106 Rustic church on a Hill

How does you critique or evaluate a carving, especially your own? One thing to try is to ask questions. Another is to make observations. So, here is one of my pieces. First question, do the textures seen in this view work together?

A second question, do the colors compete or support each other?

One could also ask, is the flow or movement in the piece?

An observation is that the church seems to fit the piece of wood, neither too large or too small for it. If the rule is thirds, then the church is about one third, stairs one third, and rocks one third.

Another observation is to note the repeat of color, red steps and red in the windows, brown cross and trim, around the windows, and in wood work. Perhaps there could have been some yellow lower down or in and open window to tie in the roof.

For some reason the cross titled to the side seems to work. It adds some movement to the entire piece. What do you think?

I know it has been a while since posting, but as you can see, carving continues. Hope yours has too.

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures,

he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.” Ps 23


# 41 Wood Carving: Little Hobo

Hobo 1

The little guy really turned out nice. I like many things about him.

Hobo, side view

One thing I do enjoy about this Hobo is his color.  I was really pleased with the way the colors worked together.  Also, the wash of paint allowed the wood grain to show through this piece very nicely.  I might have added a little more rosy coloration to his checks, but his face is cute enough to make up for that lack of color.

Hobo 3

The next part about this carving to like is the movement created by the position of the legs, hands, feet, and coat.  Their positions give the piece a more dynamic, rather than a static, stationary feel.  The eye is invited to follow the lines of the carving, to find the interesting points along the way.

Hobo, gotta love the toes

Hobos aren’t really a “cute” topic.  They represent economic hardship and difficulty in life.  But I am a fan of “Freddy the Freeloader” ala Red Skelton.  Red’s portrayal of a hobo was “cute.”  It is that character I looked for in this carving.  So, you will notice the “cute” toes sticking out of the shoes.  I also like the scrunched face, a little character being a little character.

Hobo coat tails

The block of wood for this carving was 4″ x 2″ x 2″.  The figure was not roughed out.  The image was drawn on the square block and the roughed out by hand.  This method has its advantages.  One advantage is demonstrated in the coat tail.  As you can see in “Hobo coat tails” there is a nice sweep to the coat, as if it were caught in the wind.  This is the result of have had “extra” wood in the back of the carving with which to play.

A “cute” smile

On this last picture and on “Hobo coat tails” you can see how great a paint wash looks.  You can see the color, but the wash allows the grain of the wood to come through in a pleasing way.

“A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.”  Proverbs  22:1

#35 Wood Carving: Egg heads – pilots, Santas, penguins, sailors

WWI pilot, 2″ basswood egg

One early carving medium which caught my attention and efforts was the basswood egg. Actually I went to the craft stores and bought a number of eggs which crafters use.

Nor’easter coming








The paint work crafters do on them can be gorgeous, however, I learned quickly that craft store eggs are not ideal for wood carvings. Most of the eggs I found years ago, haven’t looked lately, were, as I discovered through painfully slow experience, turned out of birch or maple. That means they were hard, hard, and hard. I had seen someone carve an egg.

Black Father Christmas, 2″ basswood egg



I had looked through some books on egg carving and thought it would be enjoyable. After the first few eggs and hours and hours into the work, I began to wonder if it was worth it. The time it took to cut the maple or birch eggs was far greater than I had anticipated.

Ye ‘onorable Judge ‘is-self.







Then I found basswood eggs. What a difference. I have gone through an “egg” stage. For a while I was carving 100 to 200 a year.

The eggs shown here are a small sampling of what one can do with basswood eggs. Enjoy.

Penguin elf

WWI pilot, side view

Fireman Fred

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.”  Proverbs 3:5,6

Black Father Christmas, side view


#33 Wood Carving: Cottonwood Bark – The Water Barrel


Bark house - the water barrel

Bark houses are a delight to carve.  The colors, contrasts, and creative opportunities make carving cottonwood bark a great medium.

The Water Barrel – stairs and bench

Following the flow of the bark is one key to making a pleasing looking bark carving.  In “The Water Barrel,”  one interesting feature was a large wing of wood plunging off to the left.  One method I have used to enhance such a piece is to pierce the wood under the house to allow light through.  In this carving, I chose to add rocks, stairs and a bench.  The shadows under the bench, created by the stairs and the rocks add visual interest.  I like how the outer skin of the bark which has been left on the carving draws the eye up to the house.

The Water Barrel – Front door and wall




Bark carving is both interesting and challenging.  This can be seen in the view of the front door and wall.  The door ended up being recessed because of the fault lines running through the piece.  At the same time those fault lines needed to be kept visible to add more interest to the piece.  Because of the faults the surface finish chosen was block or “stone” rather than clapboard.  This allowed for working around the faults.

Details can be added at any time in the carving.  However, some details need to be anticipated.  The water barrel in this carving was planned for.

Side view of bench and stairs

The sides of the house, both the bench and the barrel, needed extra wood.  In the rough out stage, the house was not completed to the base so that these details could be added in toward completion.

The same planning needed to go into the chimney.  Wood needs to be left on the roof anticipating where the chimney may go.  Position the chimney where it will add to the over-all design of the piece.

Chimney detail

Rocks and piercing on “The Water Barrel”

Even though much of the base wood has been left, some piercing has added to the eye appeal of this carving.  Note the contrast created by the light, rust colored inner wood and the skin gray.  I find this one of the most appealing features of bark carving.

The Water Barrel – the back

One more picture.  When carving bark and doing a lot of piercings, the view from the back of the carving can be nearly as interesting as the front.

One more comment on this post.  Did you notice the quality change in the photos?  I love wood carving.  Not so adept at picture taking.  Learning as I go.  The early photos were taken in the basement under indoor lighting.  The pictures at the end were taken in the sunlight.  I needed a better picture of the barrel.  Of course, that means I should take all my photos in the sunlight.  And that means I would need to commandeer not only the entire basement, the whole garage, but also a corner of the living room where we find the best sunlight.  Hmmmm.  may be plan B.  Until next time. Shalom.

“The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light .” Romans 13:12


#30 Wood carving: Seals, Nature and The Zoo

Seal, six inches high, acrylic paint

Seals. I have seen them in Lincoln Park Zoo. They show up in circuses and shows. There are several books I remember from my childhood where seals were the main characters.

Early stages, cleaning blank

Carving awaiting paint

One of the things that attracts me to seals is their smooth, clean lines. There is

something about their glide through the water, the effortless twists and turns, that make them eye-appealing.

A harem of seals.

Of course, their sounds, barks and other interesting vocalizations helps to draw one to them.

Seal, another view of early stages

So another idea for carving.

Carving Tip:  You will notice the seal awaiting paint.  The base utilizes some of the features found on the wood when the carving was planned.

The dark part of the base is a bit of the basswood bark.  The carving was arranged so that this bark feature would remain.

“Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so.”   Gen 1  New International Bible.

Close up of finished seal.


#29 Woodcarving: Scandinavian flat-plane

Scandinavian flat-plane carving.

“The Scandinavian flat-plane style of  woodcarving is a style of figure carving. The figures are carved in large flat planes, created primarily using a carving knife. Tool marks are left in the carving and very little (if any) rounding or sanding is done. Swedish-born American artist, Emil Janel was considered by many to be the one of the best of this genre.” (Wikipedia)

Scandinavian flat-plane ala Harley Refsal

One of my favorite Scandinavian style carvers is Harley Refsal. He has followed well in the tradition of Emil Janel.

Refsal Scandinavian flat-plane: The Farm Wife

Shadows and clean lines make a visually pleasing presentation for a flat-plane piece.

Farmer side view 1

Farm wife side view 2

A minimum of cuts used to create the shadow lines requires long, smooth strokes of a very sharp knife.

Farmer side view 2

Farm wife side view 1

The paint job also adds to the appeal of these flat plain carvings.  A light wash of color allows the wood grain to come through as can be seen in the side views above.

Out looking at his crops.

Looking too.

Facial details, “Crops look good, Ollie.”

“The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”  Psalm 19:1


#28 Wood carving: Cotton wood bark houses and buildings

One of the joys I have in carving is cottonwood bark. The bark of the cottonwood tree is a delightful carving medium.

Bark house 11 14 10 a

It can grow up to six inches thick on certain Plains trees.  Most of the bark I work with is from two to four inches thick.

Bark house 11 14 10 b

Another great feature of the bark is its color.  The outer part comes in many shades of gray, maybe black or I have even found pieces that have been bleached white by the sun and other conditions.  The exterior coloring is also varied by the amount of moss or lichen which may cover the piece.  While there is great coloration on the exterior, the interior coloring always takes my breath away.  Tones of color from rich, deep reds to light browns and even yellows make cutting into any piece an adventure.

Bark house 11 14 10 c

In the next months I will post many more bark carvings,

Bark house 11 14 10 d

take note of the color variations.  Added to the coloring is the growth layer variations which are exposed in different ways with each new cut.  If you have not, let me encourage you to pick up a piece of cottonwood bark and give it a try.

Bark house 11 14 10 e

Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music…  Psalm 98:4