Unprepared For Woodworking

I’ve been a “cabinetmaker” for many years. I’ve built furniture and boxes, done a little turning and there’s been a fair amount of carpentry over the years as well. But one thing I’ve tried unsuccessfully is carving. I chalk it up to being unprepared for the project. This is actually one of the stories that gets the ‘Popular Woodworking’ staff reminiscing with open laughter.

A number of years ago, I decided to build a variation on a cuckoo clock for the magazine. I opted for a more modern and simpler (read inexpensive) approach, using a battery-powered mechanism, and without the traditional moving parts. I’m not sure why, but I decided to opt for a bear coming out of the little window at the top, rather than a bird. I really can’t remember why. So I picked up a little chunk of balsa and an Xacto knife and went to work. How hard could it be?

Somewhere in the middle of the project, the bear started looking more like a pig. Rather than try and improve my carving skills, I decided to rationalize the image and make it a pig – with wings! (When pigs fly, etc…¦). I was quickly in need of even more rationalization when the flying pig started to look more like a bat. Let’s just say that I know where the clock is today (well hidden), and thank goodness I had to look very hard to embarrass myself in public with these images.

Back to my initial point. I can’t carve. I’d like to, and I’ve even picked up some carving tools, figuring it must have been the knife that caused all the trouble. Not so much. My next step is to maybe read a book or something. And finally we’ve reached my point. We have a whole category dedicated to books on wood carving (over 40) in the Woodworker’s Bookshop. Some deal with more whimsical subjects, while others focus on fascinating geometric designs and classical forms. I’m not sure if there’s one on carving bears, pigs or bats, but I know I should take a look.

I’m still a firm believer that you can learn things from books. With this many places to learn all in one place, I’m willing to give it another try. But this time I’ll wait until I’m happy with the result before I go publishing it.

- David Thiel

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