Carve Like a Master

Photo courtesy Acanthus Workshop LLC

Photo courtesy Acanthus Workshop LLC

Very quickly after getting serious about woodworking I realized, if I wanted to make more than simple projects with square or tapered legs, I needed to develop my skills in two major areas beyond joinery. Not that there’s anything wrong with simple forms, but I wanted to push my skills well beyond the boundaries pieces like that could offer. In order to step things up, I had to learn how to turn and (more importantly to me) carve.

As a cabinetmaker who loves 17th and 18th century furniture, being able to carve ball and claw feet, flame finials and acanthus leaves is a huge part of exploring the styles associated with the timeframe. Enthusiasm is a huge asset for learning a skill, but nothing beats watching a master at work – for me that wasn’t an option because few exist in this country today.

Photo courtesy of Acanthus Workshop LLC

Photo courtesy of Acanthus Workshop LLC

After more than three decades of carving wood, I decided I might actually be able to teach the subject to others. I had lots of fun the past few years watching people who had never carved anything in their lives become budding woodcarvers right before my eyes. The basic skills are certainly learnable by most people (I mean, come on, I learned it – most likely you can too).

Taking a hands-on class is a great way to get started carving, but watching properly constructed videos works too. That’s why I filmed a couple for Popular Woodworking Magazine a couple of years back. I was going to put links to the digital downloads of “Cabriole Legs Simplified” and “Carve a Ball & Claw Foot” but they’re not is the store at the moment.

MaryMayBut that doesn’t mean you can’t still watch a master carver at work. Starting tomorrow, Mary May is going to be teaching a webinar as part of Popular Woodworking University (check it out here). The great thing about an online course like this is you get to interact with the teacher (in this case Mary May). There is a message board where you get to ask Mary questions about the techniques she’s covering in the videos – and Mary will actually answer!

The subject of this particular webinar is one I found particularly useful for carvers of all levels – carving a traditional fan. Even though fans are usually associated with period furniture, the skills you learn creating a low relief carving of this type carry over to many other styles. That’s why I’m excited about Mary’s online course. The only thing you need is a desire to carve, Mary will provide the rest. This is your chance to learn some great universal carving techniques from a very gifted carver. The course begins tomorrow (but you can sign up through the end of the week at least) so there’s still time to get your carve on.

If you didn’t pick up on the link earlier, you can check out Mary’s online course by clicking here.

— Chuck Bender

And look for an article from Mary on the basics of carving in an upcoming issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine. You can also check out Mary’s website by clicking here.

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