Gazette Archive 1/15/00
A book review: By Lee Grindinger
Title: Woodcarving: Two Books in One
Teaching anyone to carve through a book is an enormous undertaking. Carving is a craft of touch and this skill is learned from practice. The best instructional books supply the reader with the technical information needed to begin practicing and developing touch. Woodcarving, by Antony Denning has a terrific format. The book actually comes as two books in one. It is bound with a die cut spiral and the lower "techniques" section can by flipped independently of the upper "projects" section.
"Techniques", the lower section, describes methods of work. Chisel sharpening, clay modeling, lay-out tips and roughing-out are among the topics discussed. As you work through the upper "Projects" section you can refer to the techniques without flipping back and forth.
"Projects", the upper section, begins with a simple carving and progresses through a series of projects, each different and a bit more difficult. The scope here is much more tuned for U.K. readers. A jousting shield is one of the projects, a full round carving of a hobby horse is another. All are stand alone carvings.
The format of this book is terrific. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the content. The discussion of chisel sizes is good as far as it goes but it is woefully incomplete. The two major sizing systems are discussed (Sheffield and Swiss) but nowhere is there to be found a complete full scale size chart of both systems. A pity that the novice is not given more guidance here.
The discussion about sharpening is, again, good as far as it goes, but fails to discuss the "whys" of secondary bevels and the use of dry, oil and wet stones. Learning to put a truly sharp and durable edge on a chisel is the first and most important lesson any novice can learn and this topic is not given the gravity it deserves. The techniques section should describe chisel strokes, chisel selection and practice steps to learn how chisels cut and how grain configurations affect how wood cuts. Sadly, this discussion is absent.
The choice of projects is equally poor.
The scope of projects include a duck decoy as well as a hand
held mirror. The mirror contains the most traditional of ornaments,
the acanthus foliage and the duck decoy is done almost entirely
with files and rasps. Both topics are compromised by the author
trying to cover too much ground. The book would be much more
useful if one style or the other were focused on and thoroughly
explored. Radio stations don't intermingle classical with heavy
metal music for fear of losing both audiences. There is a lesson
here. A full round statue of the "Birth of Venus" is
another of the projects and should not be included in a book
for novices. Let's face it, if a carver is truly capable of such
work would they be reading a book about how to carve?
Editor's Note: Sterling Publishing has graciously donated several books for review which are passed on to our members free of charge in exchange for thoughtful, honest reviews. Thank You!