Extreme Carving

What do your think of when you hear the word ‘carving?’

Whittling?  Carved figurines?  Life size sculptures?  Perhaps you think of the carvings on a favorite piece of furniture.  In an age of fabrication technology and mass production, there are still many craftsmen who apply skill and years of experience to create one-of-a-kind carvings.  If you look around, you will likely find many examples in your environment.  In addition to carved statues and art objects, you will find carvings on furniture, jewelry boxes, ornamental woodwork and more.

Wood carving covers a broad range activities; shaping wood using a cutting tool with one or two hands, using a cutting tool and mallet, even axe and chainsaw carving.  It has been around for thousands of years and in has been practiced by almost every world civilization.

Unfortunately we have fewer historical examples since wood sculpture doesn’t survive the ravages of time as well and metal or stone sculpture.  But that hasn’t held back skilled artisans from choosing wood as a medium.  Wood has unique properties; in addition to being relatively light and easy to shape, it adds warmth and texture to carvings.

As with any art form, wood carving requires learning the basics of design, material selection, tools and techniques.  A carver begins by shaping a block of wood to ‘rough out’ the desired form and then follows with finer tools to add the details.  Once the piece is complete, it can be sealed with various finishes or painted depending on the artist’s preference.

Consider the photos accompanying this article showing a work of art by Randall Rosenthal.  (These pictures were posted on sawmillcreek.org.)  They show all the steps mentioned, but he takes carving to a whole new level.  Rosenthal (shown working above) jokes, “My wife told me to go make money.”  From a solid block of wood, he creates the illusion that it you are looking at a real box of money instead of a piece of wood and some acrylic paint.  He perfectly recreates the look of worn money, transparent tape and a dilapidated cardboard box.

Randall Rosenthal’s work is inspiring.  If you are looking for a hobby that is fun and rewarding, consider carving.  It doesn’t require a big investment in time or materials to get started – just a knife, a piece of wood and an idea.   You can begin with a detailed pattern and instructions or just start removing wood and watch your vision emerge.

The satisfaction derived from shaping wood with your own hands is unique.  Dive in and soon you will be creating amazing works of art.

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