Woodworker's Central
Woodworker's Gazette
Gazette Archive 12/17/98

A Book Review: by Sue Martin

Title: Understanding Woodcarving in the Round
Contributers to Woodcarving Magazine
Published by Sterling Publishing Company, Inc.
387 Park Avenue South
New York, NY 10016-8810
ISBN:1861080913 Softcover $14.95 (Can. $20.95)

This volume features a series of articles from the last few years of the British
Woodcarving Magazine. The articles are classified as either 'Project' or 'Feature', and are mostly from British carvers, with a few others (an Israeli carver, a former US Army Major, and some Australians) thrown in.

The volume has excellent full color illustrations, and the 'Project' articles have step by step instructions with photographs of the individual steps described. As they are described as projects they are presumably there to be copied, but there is rather a broad range of carvings classified under that heading. It might have been nice if these had been graded according to skill level and equipment needed. It would be easy enough, for instance, to make the bird carvings, and boxes, in Terry Lovitt's 'Bird in a Box' article, which features nature boxes containing carved and painted birds - though the painting might offer more challenges.

Other straightforward projects include Roger Shroeder's Puffin, in 'Puffin Away', the frog in 'Leap of Faith', Ray Winder's Humpback Whale in 'Shave the Whale', and the mounted rat head trophy (should you happen to want one) in 'What a Rat' by Sara Wilkinson. However Rod Naylor's article 'Decorative Duplicate', which features a fragile and detailed carving in ebony is also labelled simply 'Project'. This is a copy of a resin casting, made using a 'Dupli-Carver' and clearly requiring a high level of skill along with the expensive equipment.

The second of two articles on Australian Arthur Clark and his massive set of Barrier Reef carvings ostensibly illustrates how to carve a giant clam out of a mango tree trunk. The illustrations in this article all look like either tree trunks or clams, with no real pictorial clues as to how to get from one to the other, and Clark's article, while interesting, doesn't give any better idea. If you had an Arbortech (a tool which features in many of the articles) and a giant hunk of wood you might be better off trying for Lee Dickenson's 5 foot mouse - a much more clearly illustrated project in the article 'Mighty Mouse'.

In general this book might best be bought as a source of ideas and inspiration rather than as a real project book. The articles are generally well-written and interesting, and the features are varied. The volume is well-illustrated, and (mostly) particularly good at showing the stages and sections of the individual projects, and displaying unusual techniques and effects. Most of the articles also clearly explain how and why the particular variety of wood was chosen, which is also handy.

Virtually all of the carving shown is figurative - with some ecclesiastical pieces, some human figures, a lot of animals, and even more birds. Apart from the proliferation of rodents, there are a number of sea creatures. The barrier reef feature has a turtle, coral and cod, the feature on Australian sculptor Silvio Apponyi has a squid, and there is an octopus (but also a helicopter) in the feature on the Scottish 'beginner' carver Lesley McKenzie. Some of the carvings are absolutely beautiful - I particularly liked Apponyi's Netsuke-like animals - and some of them are completely hideous to my mind. Presumably this means there is a good range of possibilities for the intending, or experienced, wood carver.

Sue Martin

Editor's Note: Sterling Publishing has graciously donated several books for review which are passed on to our members free of charge. Thank You!

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