Saturday, April 25, 2015

Good stuff...

Basswood bundle from Wilcox Wood Works
While visiting the Charlotte show I took time to peruse the vendors displaying their wares.  Two of these suppliers are a wonderful addition to the knowledge base.
The first being a little outfit out of Stanley, NC...Southern Carving & Leather.  These folks were displaying an array of leather items of particular interest were their strops.  one of which truly stood above the rest.  The single handed strop is two sided having both cow & pig leather strops firmly adhered to a healthy block of wood.  The strop was extremely reasonably priced at $10 and I would highly recommend this product.  (actually thinking of adding a few to my stockpile).  While I found no website the product can be obtained by contacting them at 704-215-9955 (number found on strop).

AUTHOR'S NOTE:  I prefer the tighter grain of pig leather used in combination with Aluminum Oxide powder...this combination keeps my knives highly tuned.

The second vendor is another fine addition as well....Wilcox Wood Works.  I met Rod & Muriel and at the show and Rod was kind enough to answer a question regarding basswood coloring and whether or not the clearer wood was from the interior of the log...the answer is that the color is not a true measure of where a particular block of wood has come from in a log.  This company is located out of Minong, WI and sells basswood, butternut, and pine.  For me the basswood is of high quality and comes in a variety of sizes which also includes board sizes of all starting at 1/4".  This supplier is another worth a look (my order was as expected and delivered in a timely fashion) and can be checked out online via the link posted on this site.
Having all this fine wood and supplies it is a day to be filled with carving.  C'mon get that lawn work done and whittle something while waiting on that grill!!

Friday, March 27, 2015

What a little color will do...

Best of Imtermediate Tom Wolfe Category by J. Butlin (2015)
For a little over a year now I have been coaching a couple of carvers and helping them through the steps necessary to advance their caricature carving skills.  One of whom is my friend Jim.  Jim has been carving for several years now and has taken quite a few carving classes with a variety of instructors.  These classes were on a range of topics and not limited to carving caricatures.  That actually has served Jim well when it came to finishing one of his latest pieces for the Charlotte show.  In the case of the dog in question I had provided guidance on a couple of recipes I learned, one in a standard style and one developed by Mitch Cartledge.  With the recipe and a little encouragement Jim was able to create an award winning piece (he won a Tom Wolfe carving) that has a tremendous finish.  Not surprising in this is that Jim has in the past carved and painted duck decoys and that skill served him well when it came to having the patience to apply the finish in the correct fashion. 
These days more often than not you will here carvers state that they either hate painting or do not want to paint at all.  That being the case I believe us experienced carvers need to start providing better guidance and instruction. 
For most carvers learning the art and attending classes the painting instruction most often does not involve the student selecting and preparing their paint.  This has lead to far too many carvings being covered with excessive amounts of paint with no wood grain being shown.  You might ask why having the wood grain showing is important...well it simply is to show that it is a woodcarving and not a piece of resin

A long standing finishing recipe for caricature carving is:
  1. Ensure carving is free of dust and grime and all cuts are clean cuts with a sharp tool - no shredded wheat(this will help ensure uniform absorbing of the paint colors)
  2. Wet carving-some folks will scrub with Simple Green (this step is optional however carving must be completely painted while carving is still wet)
  3. Paint complete carving with thinned acrylics (depending on the color being used paints are thinned at different rates with reds being the most thinned and white being the least)
  4. Antique the carving (tinted boiled linseed oil...per one gallon of oil add a one inch strip of Burnt Umber oil paint)
  5. Sealant - matte finish (Deft spray lacquer is tried and true but can be hard to locate)
  6. Wax - Feed-N-Wax provides the right amount of sheen
  • When applying the finish ensure you use and care for some quality brushes (round brushes are recommended)
  • For a palette I would use a Paper Palette (thanks M. Stetson) found at art and hobby stores (comes in a pad like drawing paper)
  • A helpful tool to have is a hair dryer, this can expedite the drying of the paint.
  • A test block....always have a carved scrap nearby to test your color for transparency before applying on the carving (remember tint is hard to remove but can be added gradually)
  • Have your "magic eraser" (Tom Wolfe speak for knife) on hand to eliminate bleed over should it occur.
  • Practice...Practice..Practice...AND...thin that thinner...NO REAL THIN!!!
  • Relax and enjoy your hobby (very important)

Ok so I made it sound simple...yes, but with practice and the right color selections you will advance your skills producing a nicely finished product.

My congratulations go out to my friend Jim Butlin, outstanding job my friend!!

Well, I got Jim to paint...what's your excuse??? C'mon spring might show up soon and then you will be having to mow the lawn again...carve while you still have the time!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Charlotte 2015...

Tom Wolfe Whittling Competition - Day 1
Well, the 2015 Charlotte Woodcarvers show has come and gone however its impact remains.  Folks, this crew knows how to throw a show and has an outstanding membership in support.  I have been going to their show for around 8 years and two venues.  While this competition covers the majority of carving categories it is one of the best for Caricature Carvers given the talent it draws. 
Anchoring this show is the support Tom Wolfe and Case Knives have long provided.  Tom hosts two whittling competitions, one each day, where all carvers are welcome.  In the case of 2015 one of our young talents, relief carver Dylan Goodson, swept both competitions as he applied his relief carving talent to the given block.  In these competitions, which are free, the carvers are handed a block of wood, told the rules (if there are any), and are given 1.5 hours to complete the carving.  Having sat in these competitions I can tell you it will test your mettle and through effort improve your skills.  This competition usually draws a large crowd with high interest.  For the competitors each are given a prize of sorts for use in there whittling adventures and we carvers are grateful to Case Knives, Heinecke Wood Products, and Smoky Mountain Woodcarvers for their longtime support.
It should be noted that the show is free and open to the public.  For competing carvers there is a standard entry fee for the competition which offsets the costs, but in return there are many carving forums held throughout the weekend on a wide range of carving topics and styles.
All in all a great show... and my thanks to a great club for making all of us feel welcome.  Let's hope for many more years!!
Ok, so it's still can't do that much get carvin'!!!!!!

Charlotte Woodcarvers Club

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

A new recipe...

How Much?
A. Filetti - 2015
  As always I am out there ever searching for something new to learn about this art and I was fortunate to be taught a new finishing recipe.  As with all recipes you are seeking to improve your outcome and this was an experiment to do just that.
  The figure pictured here was featured in the previous post and is the completed piece.  The carving is now at home with a friend but the experience was an excellent learning experience.  During the holidays I turned to to see what was available in helping to pick a color palette for painting the figure.  It turns out there are several videos on color theory which provide a whole range of information.  For me I tried to keep it simple using complementary colors (blue and orange) in order to create an attractive piece.
  Put the color study together with a new finishing recipe and you end with a finish as shown.
  The new recipe involves first slathering a 60/40 Mineral Spirits/Boiled Linseed Oil mixture on the entire fixture and letting it dry,  painting it with thinned Acrylics (to allow for the wood grain to show),  sealing it with Deft Spray Lacquer (I prefer Satin or Matte), and then once dry carefully applying BriWax Original (Golden Oak) with a toothbrush and then buffing.  Care should be taken when applying the wax as it will darken the finish drastically (The jeans were painted a denim blue and the shirt a light blue.)  When applied correctly the recipe seems to work well resulting in a warm and attractive finish.  It is my recommendation that if you attempt this you must first try this on a test piece to master the application of the wax.  Also, I do not believe you will get a better result with a substitution wax as the color tends to enrich the carvings shadows.
  I hope this information helps...its darn cold outside but the coffee is what are you carving???

Sunday, November 23, 2014


Line of Action
A. Filetti 2014
Instilling motion into our carvings is one way of creating greater interest.  Motion as shown in the post does not have to be dramatic but rather it must be realistic in nature.  The carving at left demonstrates the subtle line of action and the resulting pose of the carving.
While many instructors teach this method a great reference for this that is used by many carvers is the book Cartoon Animation by Preston Blair  (ISBN 1-56010-084-2).  The book teaches many of the rules of animation (motion) in an easy to understand fashion and is well worth the coin if you can obtain one for a reasonable price,  Amazon is a good place to look.
In the picture included in this post I have taken a picture of the intended line of action as indicated by the pipe cleaner and the resulting roughout.  Motion is something that requires constant attention as it can be easily corrupted resulting in a carving that is distracting rather than pleasing.
In future posts I will speak to design and how stick figures help with design and motion but for now take a look at what you are carving...does it contain motion?  or is it static and straight forward?  It is difficult to break away from static carvings and carving a head that is tilted or tipped takes practice but it is achievable and will teach you about our medium and how the grain of the wood acts in three dimensions.
The days continue to grow shorter and our chores diminish with the approaching winter, now is the time to plan your carvings and experiment with something new.  What will you do to improve your carvings?
The coffees hot and plentiful...grab a cup and start carving!!

Friday, October 3, 2014

This will keep you busy...

Dave Stetson Progression
A. Filetti
So at last year's Artistry in Wood show held in Dayton, Ohio I stopped by Dave Stetson's booth where he was selling two videos.  One was on the carving of an eye, the other Whittling a Head.  Having saved my money for the show the video appealed to me as a way to expand my carving knowledge and so I plunked down my Washingtons and brought home a copy.
To give you a bit of a background Dave is a founding member of the Caricature Carvers of America so he's been carving a long time and is serious about promoting the art form.  Dave has an extensive art knowledge and with this video he does elude to his knowledge of human anatomy.  His artworks have a broad appeal and as was demonstrated by his display of Noah's Ark.  I have several reference pictures of his artwork in my Artist's Morgue as he is willing to tackle a wide variety of subjects and his finishing techniques are distinctive (he likes to say he learned to paint from Michelle).  One technique of his that I use to this day is the use of a "Paper Palette".  I saw him use this while painting a figure and while most folks like to use cups or egg cartons for holding their paints a paper palette enables me to have greater consistency with my colors (it is definitely worth a try...ask about them at your art supply store). 
The video does showcase his talents as he is able to produce the carved head in just 42 minutes of continuous carving and if you get a chance to view the video you will see what a sharp knife should cut like...his knives were surely in Grade 'A' condition as evidenced by the ease with which they sliced through the stock.
In my book Dave falls into the category of a 'commercial' carver seeing as he has business interests in the art form.  This categorization needs to be noted as it does influence ones approach to carving.  An example of this would be that a commercial carver tends to carve and finish their pieces in a way that appeals to customer and on the opposite side of the spectrum would be the recreational carver who carves what appeals to themselves which eliminates outside motives or interests. 
With the aforementioned knowledge I set about whittling a head from the video...and after two tries I had successfully completed a satisfactory carving.  The task is not as easy as one might think as the video is more of a demonstration video and not step-by-step instructional.
After completing this I proposed to my carving friends that we try and create progression of the steps demonstrated and with some good stock of Heinecke Wood products we set about the task.  Now this might seem interesting to you but I should warn you that the result shown above took many hours to complete and is not a trivial task.  Having performed this I can only imagine how long it took Marv Kaisersatt to do his progression (> 20 pieces with specific coloring).
One thing my group tried to do was to vary face shapes along the way as you can see from the picture.  The figure carved is one that is generated from the corner of the block which tends to be a popular teaching method.  It should also be noted that the head carved is what I would refer to as a 'stock' head as it is carved straight forward (no twist, tilt, or tipping), so if you are looking to expand your abilities to create motion in a head this would not be the right tool.
Another thing we can note from the video as that many artists out there vary on their interpretation of human anatomy and what items are present in the human face, we recently had the pleasure of watching a video of some outstanding pumpkin carving however the artists view on the construction of the face differ from what is demonstrated on this video.  My advice would be to ensure you obtain a copy of an anatomy book specifically for artists for reference and also to not rely on a single source for your understanding.  One good reference that is an easy read is Tom Richmond's book on Caricature as its approach to anatomy lessons is easily understandable.
Now as a caveat to my opinion I need to state that I am not one who carves in Dave's style,  this influences my opinion as the purchase of the video was not so I could follow in his footsteps but rather so I could expand my overall carving knowledge.  I am very cautious when it comes to my carving style and try and limit unnecessary influences that might negatively impact what I have learned to date.  This is something each carver must consider especially if you want to step out of the shadows and have your carving be of your own distinctive design.
Overall my opinion of the video is it provided me with substantial value for the price paid and if you are looking to expand your whittling knowledge it is a demonstration in what can be accomplished with just a knife.
On the effort of carving a progression, well lets just say if you do decide you are up to the task ensure you will be able finish as its a marathon not a sprint.

In stepping off my soap box I have only one question to ask...what steps are you taking to expand your carving knowledge? 


Saturday, September 20, 2014

A little something...

A. Filetti 2014
As I learned from a good friend sometimes carving small figures can bring some of the greatest joy.  This figure was started from a simple  1.5" X 1.5" X 4" block while sitting in a lawn chair watching my better half and my niece swim while on vacation. 
The figure was created by first establishing the front profile and then adjusting the side profile to give the figure movement.  The "movement" I am referring to is the minor adjustments that break away from that straight ahead figure.  In the case of Stan he has alternate foot placements, hand placements, upper torso twist, and his head is turned as well.  These small movements help to bring the figure to life.
Once the front profile is roughed in you are on to a series of small cuts.  These figure types require effective use of triangle cuts and improve a carvers cutting skills.  In addition the carver gets a chance to carve a full figure which also helps the carver advance.
Now for those who don't think you can do it,  what do you have to lose by trying...heck for a dollar you get 3 tries and a whole lotta entertainment.
It's a beautiful day, why don't you give this a try? 

Congratulations are in order...I hear through the grapevine that Mr. Steve Brown and Mr. Dale Green have been elected to the Caricature Carvers of America.  Great job guys!