Whittling and Woodcarving

It is not on any list that I hand out to students. But E.J. Tangerman’s Whittling and Woodcarving got me started as a woodcarver. My rather ragged copy is a 1962 Dover edition of the 1936 publication. By today’s standards, it’s light on actual technique and long on ideas and illustrations. But the book launched a craftsman journey and changed my life.

Today there are easily a dozen titles I’d recommend to starting students for better-illustrated books with better descriptions of techniques. But in 1968, this was what was available to me for the grand price of two dollars.

My tool kit was that book, a pocket knife, a small boxed set of Millers Falls carving tools, a Speedball fishtail gouge, a C clamp, and an improvised carver’s hook that allowed me to carve at the kitchen table. With this little kit, I carved walnut trays, candlesticks, wooden jewelry, my first eagle, and many other pieces. Then, in the fall of 1969, an Ottawa crafts gallery took a chance on me, and I sold my first pieces. Soon after, my eagle was included in a gallery show with other carvers. I was on my way.

Carving is rarely trendy, and If I wanted more attention, I might have stuck to painting ( which I was also experimenting with at that time). I think carving matched my temperament better. But I had no premonitions that the tiny kit of tools would grow into an entire workshop. Or that carving wood could become such an essential part of my life.

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