Wood swells and shrinks with humidity despite careful construction, drying, and sealing. We call this movement, and most commonly, we see it across the width of a plank or piece of wood. This is why you sometimes see splits in panels of wood. Wood remains a living item despite being cut, resawn, planed, shaped, and coated.
Every craft has a few tools that seem so insignificant and ordinary that we pass over them when discussing how we work.
This is an original Black and Decker Workmate from the 1980's. For a while in the '80's it was my only carving bench.
Lots of us have small shops either through design or necessity. In my case, I deliberately downsized as I shifted from doing larger maritime work like quarterboards and transoms and started focusing on ship and boat portraits. Whatever reason you have for smaller quarters, I encourage you to rethink the conventional wisdom that large is always best.
Everybody should have a tool in their kitchen or their shop that they purchased because it promised to do multiple things well. It will teach you humility and the cost of human stupidity.
Smoothing curly grain or decoratively knotted wood can always be an issue in carving. Cabinet makers have tricks with scrapers and planes, but they generally are not working in the tight spaces that a carver has. This spoon was a particular issue.
This winter, I have been enchanted by my new bandsaw. What? A bandsaw, enchanting? If you are a woodworker, yes, delighted and enchanted.
Christmas list for the shop:
You can't carve without removing wood. And removing wood can be as delicate a process as lightly slipping the gouge through the wood or propelling it forcefully. Apply too much force in the wrong situation, and you have lovely kindling.
Inelegant, unattractive, and probably never seen on a photoshoot for Fine Woodworking - it's a nail board.